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Asbury Bible Commentary – II. Plague of Locusts and Drought (1:2–20)
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II. Plague of Locusts and Drought (1:2–20)

Under the kind of influence indicated above, Joel describes and interprets the calamities of his day. This is no ordinary catastrophe. It is so great that nothing like it has happened in the lifetime of those now living in the land nor in the memory of their forefathers (v. 2). The consequences are monumental. They should be told and retold in succeeding generations so that these events will never be forgotten (v. 3).

Joel 1:4 describes a total destruction of vegetation by locust invasions repeated over a period of more than one year (2:25). Under four different names, which likely describe the life cycle of locusts, successive waves of devastation are identified. To those who have experienced such a phenomenon Joel's description will not appear as hyperbole, although similes are used to describe the ferocious strength of the insects (v. 6). Locusts are capable of accomplishing in a literal fashion that which Joel describes (for examples of this type of invasion see Driver, 84ff.).

The nation is called upon to lament as a prospective bride would mourn over a bridegroom snatched away from her. Priests and farmers despair and wail over the total destruction of crops and vegetation. All of the people are hopeless (vv. 8-12).

A calamity of this magnitude calls for repentance. Even though there is no mention of idolatry in Joel, the connection between deity and the fertility and productivity of the land is assumed. Here it is recognized that Yahweh is in control of the physical well being of people and land. Therefore, catastrophic kinds of natural phenomena indicate that God is displeased with his people. They obviously have been unfaithful to him (cf. Hos 2:8-13). The cure is repentance. The priests are to lead the way in a national fast. People and elders are to be assembled in the temple in order that together they may cry out to the Lord (vv. 13-14).

The situation is so bleak and dismal that it brings to mind the old and familiar concept of the day of the Lord (cf. Am 5:18-20). As with Amos, the Day for Joel is dreadful. For him the times are so severe that he sees them as ushering in that time of judgment that had been predicted for so long. The day . . . is near (v. 15). As he views the destruction around him, Joel sees famine on every hand. Even seeds are destroyed. Storehouses and granaries are emptied and despoiled. There is no food for man or beast or wild animals. The water supply has dried up in drought. It is as though fire had destroyed everything (vv. 16-20).