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Old Testament - Joel

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By Danaf
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So, here’s the thing. I have been sitting at the kitchen table trying to write the final exam essay for days. Literally. It is a few days before and I am still scratching my head and I just now realized why. You see, I have not written a “paper” in thirty years! That’s not an excuse, it is just a really, really, long time. Sure, I have written presentations, ad campaigns and marketing materials for clients, etc. but I have not written and actual term paper since circa 1986. I could easily put together a complex science fair project proving that more expensive golf balls really do go further, or read the lines of Judas for the upcoming eighth grade play, quote “To Kill a Mockingbird”, I could knock any spelling test out of the ballpark but choose one of your essay questions and use no other sources other than my brain and the Bible, that’s a tall order. But here goes, my first shot at re-entering the world of academia.

I suppose with age does come wisdom, or at least the yearning for more. I have discovered that the second time around I am really here to learn, to think, to have conversations about the material studied. It is not just to reach an end goal of credit hours and graduation. Having said that, I wanted to know more about Joel even though you didn’t ask for it or particularly want it. Some of the additional facts I have learned will creep into this paper and I apologize but it just feels as if my understanding of the passage may not be complete without them.

We begin by understanding what little we know about Joel. Joel is credited with writing the twenty-ninth book of the Bible, and the second book of the Minor Prophets. Joel was the son of a man named Pethuel. He was believed to have lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. Joel 1:13-14 indicates that Joel was preaching to the people of Judah. He made reference to the elders and the temple. This shows us that he was familiar with the center of worship in Judah.

Joel is one of the most difficult books to date because unlike the other prophets he made no mention of the ruling king at the time. This would suggest according to some that he prophesied following the days of the only ruling queen, Athaliah (835B.C). She died leaving a son Joash who was too young at the time to rule as king. Joash was “brought up” by the priests until he came of age. It would make sense that Joel’s prophesying began while there was no “official” king to speak of. As time went on Joel did prophesize during the reign of Joash and Uzziah. This would in turn date Joel’s writings around 835 B.C. This was a time when the ”nation was coming off of a reign plagued with ungodliness” causing God to come down on Judah.

In the selected passage, Joel 1:1-20 an account of what is happening across the land is being told. Joel uses repetitiveness, a poetic, style of writing and a great deal of imagery to portray the severity of what is at hand and what the people must do to change and renew their life and land. The writing tells of a plague of locusts that has come upon the land. Due to the damage done by the locusts severe famine and drought throughout the land are to follow. All that the people have to sustain themselves has been wiped out. Joel must convey to the nation the necessity to lament and repent for their recent behavior. For their recent past and current unfaithfulness to God. This invasion destroys everything—the fields of grain, the vineyards, the gardens and the trees.

Repetitiveness is used here to stress that everything has been eaten. There is nothing left as some form of the locust has destroyed it.
4 What the cutting locust left,
 the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
 the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
 the destroying locust has eaten.

In the following verse parallelism is used as a cry for the drunkards to awaken and see the devastation. Devastation that will hit them particularly hard as there will be no living vines, nothing growing and no way to produce anymore wine.

5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep;
 and wail, all you wine-drinkers,

Imagery can be seen once again as the strength of the locusts are compared to the power and destructiveness of a lions’ teeth:

6 For a nation has invaded my land,
 powerful and innumerable;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
 and it has the fangs of a lioness.

The use of the poetic devices used to portray the destruction and desolation is used to awaken the people from the “spiritual stupor” they have apparently become stuck in once again. Joel appeals to all the people and the priests of the land to fast and humble themselves as they seek God’s forgiveness. If they will repent and be sorrowful, their crops, water and blessings will all become plentiful once again. Do not just pretend to be sorrowful but rather mourn the loss of not only your fields and crops but the distressed nature of your relationship with God Do this in such a way as a young bride would mourn the loss of her husband.

8 Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth for the husband of her youth.

Using poetic rhythm, Joel shows how the whole nation mourns this great destruction. It is almost as if you can actually hear the ground mourn for the lack of water.
The priests mourn,
 the ministers of the Lord. 
10 The fields are devastated,
 the ground mourns;
for the grain is destroyed,
 the wine dries up,
 the oil fails. The lamentation begins in the following verses. Joel calls upon the religious leaders to begin the repentance and lead the nations. Knowing the importance of turning back to the Lord he goes so far as to tell them exactly how to begin repenting:

13 Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;
 wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come; pass the night in sackcloth,
 you ministers of my God!
Grain offering and drink-offering
 are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Sanctify a fast,
 call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
 and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
 and cry out to the Lord. All leading us to the “Day of the Lord”. A day seen as that of judgment. Will the people repent and restore their relationship with the Lord, or will their disobedience remain causing them more pain and suffering? It is stated that the animals groan and cry. If they can see the harm being done, will the people see? 15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
 and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. 
16 Is not the food cut off
 before our eyes,
joy and gladness
 from the house of our God?
17 The seed shrivels under the clods,
 the storehouses are desolate;
the granaries are ruined
 because the grain has failed. 
18 How the animals groan!
 The herds of cattle wander about
because there is no pasture for them;
 even the flocks of sheep are dazed.
19 To you, O Lord, I cry.
For fire has devoured
 the pastures of the wilderness,
and flames have burned
 all the trees of the field. 
20 Even the wild animals cry to you
 because the watercourses are dried up,
and fire has devoured
 the pastures of the wilderness.

The audience for the writing of Joel would be his countrymen. Not just the elders, but also the drunkards (v5), the priests (v9) and the farmers (v11). Will they heed the warning sent by God through the locusts or will they continue to struggle and fall only to receive another, perhaps harsher warning from God?

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