JOEL, BOOK OF
An inspired book of the Hebrew Scriptures written by “Joel the son of Pethuel.” (Joe 1:1) Virtually nothing is known about this prophet’s life. From his references to Judah, Jerusalem, and Jehovah’s house there, it may be inferred that he prophesied in Judah and perhaps resided in Jerusalem. (1:9, 14; 2:17, 32; 3:1, 2, 16-20) The fact that he mentioned “the low plain of Jehoshaphat” (3:2, 12) implies that he wrote his book after Jehovah’s great victory on behalf of King Jehoshaphat. But the exact period involved is in question.
Time of Writing. Scholars variously assign the book of Joel dates from before 800 B.C.E. to about 400 B.C.E. Regarding their arguments in favor of a late or an early composition for the book, The International Standard Bible Encyclopædia (edited by James Orr, 1960, Vol. III, p. 1690) observes: “Many of the arguments adduced are of a negative kind, i.e. consideration of what the prophet does not mention or refer to [including the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, a Judean king, and the ten-tribe kingdom], and the argument from silence is notoriously precarious.” Similarly, whether Joel quoted other prophets or was quoted by them cannot be established with certainty. A date after the Babylonian exile would be indicated if Joel (2:32) quoted Obadiah (17). On the other hand, not only Obadiah but even the much earlier prophet Amos (compare Joe 3:16 with Am 1:2) may have quoted from Joel. This would mean that Joel wrote his book no later than the time of Uzziah (Am 1:1), perhaps about 820 B.C.E. Though not conclusive, the place occupied by the book of Joel in the Hebrew canon between Hosea and Amos seems to favor the earlier period.
Authenticity. The Jews did not question the canonicity of the book of Joel but placed it second among the “minor” prophets. It also harmonizes completely with the rest of the Scriptures, as is evident from the numerous parallels between Joel and other Bible books. (Compare Joe 2:2 with Zep 1:14, 15; Joe 2:4, 5, 10 with Re 9:2, 7-9; Joe 2:11 with Mal 4:5; Joe 2:12 with Jer 4:1; Joe 2:13 with Ex 34:6, Nu 14:18, Ps 86:15, and 106:45; Joe 2:31 with Isa 13:9, 10, Mt 24:29, 30, and Re 6:12-17.) The fulfillment of Joel’s prophecies furnishes yet another argument for its authenticity. As foretold, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom experienced Jehovah’s judgments. (Joe 3:4, 19; for details, see EDOM, EDOMITES; PHILISTIA, PHILISTINES; TYRE.) On the day of Pentecost in the year 33 C.E., the apostle Peter showed that the outpouring of God’s spirit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. (Joe 2:28-32; Ac 2:17-21) Later, the apostle Paul applied the prophetic words found at Joel 2:32 to both Jews and non-Jews who call upon Jehovah in faith.—Ro 10:12, 13.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF JOEL
A vivid prophecy emphasizing Jehovah’s vengeance and his mercy
Written possibly about 820 B.C.E., nine years after Uzziah became king and about a century after Jehovah’s great victory over Moab, Ammon, and the inhabitants of Seir in the days of Jehoshaphat
Locust invasion to strip the land; the day of Jehovah is near (1:1–2:11)
The coming plague will be talked about for generations
The vegetation of the land will be stripped so that grain and drink offerings will cease at Jehovah’s house
Priests are told to mourn and cry to Jehovah for help
Jehovah’s day is marked by a destructive invasion of “his military force”
Israel invited to return to Jehovah; His spirit to be poured out (2:12-32)
The inhabitants of Zion are invited to “come back” to Jehovah; he will restore their prosperity and protect them from “the northerner”
Jehovah will pour out his spirit on his people, and he will give portents in the heavens and on earth before his “great and fear-inspiring day”
Those calling on Jehovah’s name will escape during his great day
The nations will be judged in “the low plain of Jehoshaphat” (3:1-21)
The nations will be judged for mistreating God’s people
They are challenged to prepare themselves for war against Jehovah and to come down to the low plain of Jehoshaphat; there they will be crushed like grapes in a winepress
At that time Jehovah will be a refuge for his people
Egypt and Edom will become a wilderness, whereas Judah will be inhabited and produce abundantly; Jehovah will reside in Zion