The Biblical prophets knew that everything is temporary in our world. In every event threatening the lives of the people, they saw the coming of the Lord who judges this world in order to establish the final world.
Joel speaks when the land is invaded by locusts. The people are looking at their ruined fields and their lost crops. Joel looks beyond: The day of Yahweh is exceedingly great, terrible and dreadful—who can endure it?
Along with the promise of freedom from this plague, God also promises a happy age in which there will be neither grief nor fear. A day is announced when God will give the Spirit of the prophets to all his children: for the church, Joel is the prophet who announced Pentecost, as Peter said on that day (see Acts 2:17).
1This is the word of Yahweh that came to Joel, son of Pethuel.
The attack of the locusts
2Hear this, you elders!
Listen, all you, land dwellers!
Has such happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? 3Tell it to your children, then your children to their children, and then their children to the next generation.
4What the cutting locusts left, the swarming locusts ate. What the swarming locusts left, the hopping locusts ate. What the hopping locusts left, the destroying locusts ate.
5Wake up, drunkards, and weep! Wail, drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine withheld from your mouths. 6A nation numerous and mighty has invaded my country.
It has the teeth of a lion and the fangs of a lioness. 7It has destroyed my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and left white their branches.
8Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth, grieving for the husband of her youth.
9Grain and drink offerings are not found in the House of Yahweh. The priests who minister before Yahweh are in mourning.
10The fields are in ruin, the earth mourns, for the grain is destroyed; the wine fails and the oil dries up.
11Grieve, O you farmers; wail, O you vine growers, over the barley and the wheat, for the harvest of the field has perished. 12The vine withers, the fig tree wilts away; pomegranate, palm and apple—all the trees of the field dry up. Oh, how joy has faded away among all these people!
13Gird yourselves, O priests, and weep; mourn, O ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! For the House of your God is deprived of grain and drink offering.
14Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land into the House of your God,
and cry out to Yahweh, 15“What a dreadful day—the day of Yahweh that draws near and comes as ruin from the Almighty!”
16Has not the food been taken away from us before our very eyes, and joy and gladness too from the House of our God?
17The seed under the clods lies shriveled; the granaries are in ruins, the barns are broken down, for the harvest has dried up. 18How the cattle groan! The herds wander and moan, for they have no pasture. Even the flocks of sheep suffer. 19To you, Yahweh, I call. Fire has razed the open pasture; flames have burned the trees. 20Even wild beasts cry out to you for the streams have dried up, for the pastures have been devoured by fire.
1Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all dwellers in the land tremble, for the day of Yahweh is coming.
Yes, the day is fast approaching—2a day of gloom and darkness, a day of clouds and blackness.
A vast and mighty army comes,
like dawn spreading over the mountain, such as has never occurred before nor will happen again in the future.
3In front a fire devours,
behind a flame consumes.
The land ahead that appears like a garden soon becomes like a desert,
nothing escapes their onslaught.
4They look like horses,
they gallop along like chargers.
5With the clattering of chariots,
they leap over the mountains;
with crackling like burning stubble,
they charge—a mighty army arrayed for battle.
6Before them nations are appalled,
and every face turns pale.
7They attack like warriors;
they scale walls like soldiers.
Marching in line, they move onward
without swerving from their course,
8without jostling one another, everyone of them marches straight ahead;
amid a hail of arrows they run,
they press without breaking ranks.
9They rush upon the city;
they leap over the walls;
they break into the houses,
like thieves enter through the windows.
10Before them the earth shakes
and the heavens tremble,
the sun and moon grow dark
and the stars lose their twinkle.
11Yahweh thunders before his army,
his vast and mighty forces.
The day of Yahweh is exceedingly great, terrible and dreadful—who can endure it?
Return to me with weeping
•12Yahweh says, “Yet even now, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning. 13Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to Yahweh, your God—gracious and compassionate.”
Yahweh is slow to anger, full of kindness, and he repents of having punished.
14Who knows? Probably he will relent once more and spare some part of the harvest from which we may bring sacred offerings to Yahweh, your God.
15Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly.
16Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room.
17Between the vestibule and the altar, let the priests, Yahweh’s ministers, weep and say: Spare your people, Yahweh. Do not humble them or make them an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples: Where is their God?
18Yahweh has become jealous for his land; he has had pity on his people. 19Yahweh has given an answer; he says to them, “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil which will fully satisfy you; never again will you be scorned by the nations.
20I will drive far from you the enemy from the North and pursue him towards a land of drought and desolation: his vanguard to the Eastern Sea, his rearguard to the Western Sea. Its stench will rise everywhere. See that I do great things.”
21Fear not, O earth! exult and rejoice for Yahweh has acted magnificently! 22Do not be afraid, beasts of the field, for the desert prairies are green again, the trees are with fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded their riches.
23Sons of Zion, be glad! Rejoice in Yahweh your God, for he has sent you the blessing of autumn rain and showers—the autumn and spring rains as in the past. 24The threshing-floors will be full of grain, the vats overflowing with new wine and oil.
25I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, the powerful army I sent against you. 26You will eat and be satisfied, and you will praise the name of Yahweh, your God, who has done wonders for you.
27And then you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, I, Yahweh your God, no other! Never again will my people be shamed.
I will pour out my spirit
•1In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on every mortal.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
2Even upon my servants and maidens,
I will pour out my Spirit on that day.
3I will show wonders in the heavens,
and on earth blood and fire and columns of smoke.
4The sun will darken and the moon turn to blood
at the approach of the great and dreadful day of God.
5Then all who call upon the name of Yahweh will be saved.
For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant,
as Yahweh has said;
in Jerusalem some will be saved—
those whom Yahweh will call.
The final battle and salvation
•1In those days and at that time when I reestablish Judah and Jerusalem, 2I shall let all the nations gather together and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I shall uphold against them the cause of Israel, my people and my heritage. For they have dispersed them among the nations and divided my land. 3They cast lots for my people; they gave a boy for a harlot, and a girl for the wine they drank.
4And you Tyre and Sidon, and all the districts of Philistia, what are you for me? Will you take revenge on me? If you want to do that, swiftly and immediately will I take reprisals against you! 5You who carried off my silver and gold and my finest jewelry to your temples!
6You sold to the Greeks the people of Judah and Jerusalem removing them far away from their own land. 7But now I am going to summon them from wherever you sold them, and I will return your deed on your head. 8Yahweh says: I will sell your sons and daughters to the Judeans who will then sell them to the Sabaeans in a distant land.
9Make this known among the nations, proclaim the holy war, call the warriors, let men of war advance! 10Hammer your plowshares into swords, your sickles into spears! Let the weak say: I am a warrior! And the meek: I too will fight!
11Come quickly, neighboring nations, and assemble! 12Rise up, O peoples, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, nations.
13Bring a sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread for the winepress is full and the vats overflow, so great is their wickedness!
14Multitudes and more multitudes in the Valley of Verdict! The day of Yahweh is near in the Valley of Verdict! 15The sun and the moon become dark, the stars lose their radiance. 16Yahweh roars from Zion and raises his voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth are shaken. Indeed Yahweh is a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the Israelites. 17You will know that I am Yahweh, your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place, and foreigners will never pass through there again.
18On that day the mountains shall drip wine and the hills flow with milk; all the streams of Judah will run with water and a fountain will spring from the House of Yahweh, and water the valley of Shittim.
19On the other hand, Egypt will be devastated and Edom will become a deserted wasteland because they committed violence against Judah, and shed innocent blood in their country. 20But Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem through all generations. 21And I shall avenge their blood and not leave it unpunished, for Yahweh dwells in Zion.
• 2.12 Return to me with your whole heart: an invitation to penance. In times of hardship, public fasts were proclaimed in Israel. People would wear mourning clothes, or they would replace their clothes with sackcloth, or they would not comb their hair and cover their faces with ashes. In the Gospel, Jesus will not say that these signs of physical penance, like fasting to express sorrow and to accompany prayer, are useless (see Mt 4:1 and Mk 2:20), but will make it clear that these external signs of penance are not everything, nor are they what is most important.
• 3.1 Joel announces the Day of Yahweh, a term indicating God’s coming Judgment, and the salvation of the elect, at the same time.
I will pour out my Spirit on every mortal. Already in the days of the Old Testament God communicated his Spirit to the prophets and to saviors (see Is 11:1 and Jdg 11:1). Here, however, it is a decisive sign that the Spirit will be given to all believers. They will dream dreams and see visions. In those remote days, such were normal means of prophetic communication. Through these words Joel announces what Isaiah did when he said: All your children will be taught by God (Is 54:13 and Jer 31:31).
I will show wonders in the heavens. The wave of prophesy will accompany many signs indicating a grave crisis in the world. The image of the sun turning to darkness expresses both chaos in nature and impossible situations in the life of humankind.
Then all… will be saved (v. 5). This will be a time when people will not be able to avoid a decisive choice: to retain their former lifestyles or to invoke the name of Yahweh which means to surrender their lives and hopes to him and rely on his powerful intervention.
It seems that these three factors were present for the Jewish people in the years following the resurrection of Jesus and before the destruction of the nation. Peter quotes this text on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17).
• 4.1 We can apply to this chapter what is said concerning Zechariah 12–14. The prophet uses a crisis in which the Jews were harshly oppressed to emphasize that God is the Lord of history.