Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Books of Joel and Amos
ALL he tells about himself is that he is “Joel the son of Pethuel.” (Joel 1:1) In the book bearing his name, Joel says so little about matters other than his message that even the time of his prophecy can only be estimated—about 820 B.C.E., nine years after Uzziah became king over Judah. Why is Joel so reticent about himself? The likely reason is that he wants to emphasize the message and not the messenger.
Also in the days of Uzziah, Amos, a resident of Judah and “a herdsman and a nipper of figs of sycamore trees,” is commissioned to be a prophet. (Amos 7:14) Unlike Joel, who prophesies in Judah, Amos is sent north to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Completed about 804 B.C.E. after the prophet’s return to Judah, the book of Amos is written in language that is simple but picturesque.
“ALAS FOR THE DAY”—WHY?
Invasion by the caterpillar, the locust, and the cockroach is what Joel sees in vision. The invaders are referred to as “a people numerous and mighty” and as “powerful men.” (Joel 1:4; 2:2-7) “Alas for the day,” sighs Joel, “because the day of Jehovah is near, and like a despoiling from the Almighty One it will come!” (Joel 1:15) Jehovah counsels the inhabitants of Zion: “Come back to me with all your hearts.” If they do, Jehovah will “show compassion upon his people” and will put far away “the northerner”—the insect assault. Before the coming of his great day, though, Jehovah will “pour out [his] spirit on every sort of flesh” and will “give portents in the heavens and on the earth.”—Joel 2:12, 18-20, 28-31.
The nations are challenged: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning shears into lances” and prepare for war. They are ordered to “come up to the low plain of Jehoshaphat,” where they will be judged and crushed. “But as for Judah, to time indefinite it will be inhabited.”—Joel 3:10, 12, 20.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14—What is “the day of Jehovah”? The day of Jehovah is the time of the execution of Jehovah’s judgment upon his enemies, resulting in destruction for them but salvation for true worshippers. For example, just such a day came upon ancient Babylon in 539 B.C.E. when it was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. (Isaiah 13:1, 6) Another “day of Jehovah” is near, when he will execute divine judgment upon “Babylon the Great”—the world empire of false religion.—Revelation 18:1-4, 21.
2:1-10, 28—How has the prophecy about the invasion by insects been fulfilled? There is no record in the Bible of an insect invasion of the land of Canaan of the magnitude described in the book of Joel. Therefore, the assault Joel describes is apparently pictorial of the time in 33 C.E. when Jehovah started to pour out his spirit upon early followers of Christ and they began preaching the message that tormented false religious leaders. (Acts 2:1, 14-21; 5:27-33) It is our privilege to share in a similar work today.
2:32—What does it mean to ‘call on the name of Jehovah’? To call on God’s name means to know that name, to respect it deeply, and to rely upon and trust in the bearer of that name.—Romans 10:13, 14.
3:14—What is “the low plain of the decision”? It is a symbolic place for meting out God’s judgment. In the days of Judean King Jehoshaphat, whose name means “Jehovah Is Judge,” God delivered Judah from surrounding nations by confusing their military forces. Hence, the place is also called “the low plain of Jehoshaphat.” (Joel 3:2, 12) In our day, it represents a symbolic location in which nations will be crushed like grapes in a winepress.—Revelation 19:15.
Lessons for Us:
1:13, 14. Genuine repentance and acknowledgment of Jehovah as the true God are essential for salvation.
2:12, 13. Genuine repentance is heartfelt. It involves an inward ‘ripping apart of our hearts,’ not an outward ‘ripping apart of garments.’
2:28-32. Only he “who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe” on “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” How grateful we can be that Jehovah pours out his spirit on every sort of flesh and has young and old, male and female, share in the work of prophesying, that is, declaring “the magnificent things of God”! (Acts 2:11) As the day of Jehovah nears, should we not abound in “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion”?—2 Peter 3:10-12.
3:4-8, 19. Joel prophesied that the nations surrounding Judah would be called to account for mistreating God’s chosen people. True to those prophetic words, the mainland city of Tyre was brought to ruin by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Later, when the island-city fell to Alexander the Great, thousands of its military men and prominent people were killed and 30,000 of its inhabitants were sold into slavery. The Philistines experienced like treatment at the hands of Alexander and his successors. By the fourth century B.C.E., Edom lay desolate. (Malachi 1:3) These fulfilled prophecies strengthen our faith in Jehovah as the Fulfiller of his promises. They also show how Jehovah will deal with nations that persecute his worshippers today.
3:16-21. “Heaven and earth certainly will rock,” and the nations will experience Jehovah’s adverse judgments. “But Jehovah will be a refuge for his people,” granting them life under paradisaic conditions. Should we not be firmly determined to stay close to him as his day for executing judgment upon the wicked world draws near?
“GET READY TO MEET YOUR GOD”
Amos has a message for the enemy nations round about Israel and for Judah and Israel. Destruction is in store for Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Moab because of their cruel treatment of God’s people. The inhabitants of Judah are in line for destruction “on account of their rejecting the law of Jehovah.” (Amos 2:4) What about the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel? Her sins include greedy oppression of the poor, immorality, and disrespectful treatment of God’s prophets. Amos warns that Jehovah will “hold an accounting against the altars of Bethel” and “will strike down the winter house in addition to the summer house.”—Amos 3:14, 15.
Despite various punishments already meted out, the idolatrous Israelites remain obstinate. Amos tells them: “Get ready to meet your God.” (Amos 4:12) For the Israelites, the day of Jehovah will mean that they will “go into exile beyond Damascus,” that is, to Assyria. (Amos 5:27) Amos faces opposition from a priest of Bethel but remains undeterred. “The end has come to my people Israel,” Jehovah tells Amos. “I shall no more do any further excusing of them.” (Amos 8:2) Neither Sheol nor high mountains can shield them from God’s judgments. (Amos 9:2, 3) Yet, there is a promise of restoration. “I will gather back the captive ones of my people Israel,” says Jehovah, “and they will actually build the desolated cities and inhabit them, and plant vineyards and drink the wine of them, and make gardens and eat the fruit of them.”—Amos 9:14.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
4:1—Who are pictured by the “cows of Bashan”? The high plateau of Bashan, an area east of the Sea of Galilee, was known for its excellent breeds of animals, including cows. The area’s rich pastures contributed to this. Amos likened the luxury-loving women of Samaria to the cows of Bashan. These women undoubtedly pressured “their masters,” or husbands, to defraud the lowly ones to facilitate their own taste for riches.
4:6—What is meant by the expression “cleanness of teeth”? Used in parallel with “want of bread,” the phrase could refer to a time of famine when teeth remain clean because of the lack of food.
5:5—In what way was Israel ‘not to search for Bethel’? Jeroboam had set up calf worship in Bethel. Since then, that city had become a center of false worship. Gilgal and Beer-sheba too must have been locations of apostate worship. To escape the foretold calamity, Israel needed to stop making religious pilgrimages to these places and start searching for Jehovah.
7:1—To what does “the mown grass of the king” refer? It likely refers to the tax levied by the king for the upkeep of his horsemen and animals. This tax had to be paid “at the start of the coming up of the later sowing.” Afterward, the people could harvest their crops. Before they could do that, however, a locust swarm formed and devoured their crops along with the other vegetation.
8:1, 2—What did “a basket of summer fruit” signify? It signified that the day of Jehovah was near. Summer fruit is picked toward the end of the harvest season, that is, toward the end of the agricultural year. When Jehovah caused Amos to see “a basket of summer fruit,” it meant that the end was near for Israel. Therefore, God told Amos: “The end has come to my people Israel. I shall no more do any further excusing of them.”
Lessons for Us:
1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6. It was with regard to his anger toward Israel, Judah, and the six nations surrounding them that Jehovah says: “I shall not turn it back.” Jehovah’s judgments are inescapable.—Amos 9:2-5.
2:12. We should not discourage hardworking pioneers, traveling overseers, missionaries, or members of the Bethel family by urging them to give up their full-time service for a so-called normal way of life. On the contrary, we should encourage them to keep up their good work.
3:8. As one feels afraid when hearing a lion roar, Amos felt impelled to preach at hearing Jehovah say: “Go, prophesy to my people.” (Amos 7:15) Godly fear should move us to be zealous preachers of the Kingdom message.
3:13-15; 5:11. With Jehovah’s help, the lowly herdsman Amos was able to “give witness” to people who were affluent and therefore complacent. Jehovah can likewise equip us to declare the Kingdom message regardless of how challenging a territory might be.
4:6-11; 5:4, 6, 14. Despite the Israelites’ repeated failure to “come back” to Jehovah, they were urged to “search for Jehovah, and keep living.” As long as Jehovah patiently allows this wicked system of things to continue, we should exhort those in it to turn to God.
5:18, 19. “Craving the day of Jehovah” without really being ready for it is foolish. The situation of a man doing so is like that of someone who flees from a lion only to encounter a bear and then runs away from the bear only to be bitten by a serpent. We would be wise to “keep awake” spiritually and to remain in a state of readiness.—Luke 21:36.
7:12-17. We should be fearless and bold about declaring God’s message.
9:7-10. Being descendants of faithful patriarchs and of those delivered out of Egypt as God’s chosen people did not prevent the unfaithful Israelites from having a bad standing with God like that of the Cushites. Gaining an approved standing with the impartial God depends, not on having a certain lineage, but on ‘fearing him and working righteousness.’—Acts 10:34, 35.
What We Should Do
The day for executing divine judgment upon Satan’s world is near. God has poured out his spirit upon his worshippers, equipping them to warn mankind of the coming of his day. Should we not have a full share in helping others come to know Jehovah and ‘call on his name’?—Joel 2:31, 32.
“Hate what is bad,” exhorts Amos, “and love what is good, and give justice a place in the gate.” (Amos 5:15) As Jehovah’s day nears, it is the course of wisdom to draw close to God and keep ourselves separate from the wicked world and its corrupting associations. To that end, what timely lessons we can learn from the Bible books of Joel and Amos!—Hebrews 4:12.
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Joel prophesied: “The day of Jehovah is near!”
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Like Amos, we should be fearless and bold proclaimers of God’s message