Who wrote it?
The book of Joel states that its author was the Prophet Joel (Joel 1:1).
When(ish) was it written?
Joel was likely written between 835 and 800 BC.
Why was it written?
Judah, the setting for the book, is devastated by a vast horde of locusts. This invasion of locusts destroys everything—the fields of grain, the vineyards, the gardens, and the trees. Joel symbolically describes the locusts as a marching human army and views all of this as divine judgment coming against the nation for her sins. The book is highlighted by two major events. One is the invasion of locusts and the other the outpouring of the Spirit. The initial fulfillment of this is quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as having taken place at Pentecost.
Some Key Verses
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.
– Joel 1:4
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.
– Joel 2:25
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
– Joel 2:28
A Quick Summary
A terrible plague of locusts is followed by a severe famine throughout the land. Joel uses these happenings as the catalyst to send words of warning to Judah. Unless the people repent quickly and completely, enemy armies will devour the land as did the natural elements. 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 respond, there will be renewed material and spiritual blessings for the nation. But the Day of the Lord is coming. At this time the dreaded locusts will seem as gnats in comparison, as all nations receive His judgment.
The overriding theme of the book of Joel is the Day of the Lord, a day of God’s wrath and judgment. This is the Day in which God reveals His attributes of wrath, power, and holiness, and it is a terrifying day to His enemies. In the first chapter, the Day of the Lord is experienced historically by the plague of locusts upon the land. Chapter 2:1-17 is a transitional chapter in which Joel uses the metaphor of the locust plague and drought to renew a call to repentance. Chapters 2:18-3:21 describes the Day of the Lord in end-times terms and answers the call to repentance with prophecies of physical restoration (2:21-27), spiritual restoration (2:28-32), and national restoration (3:1-21).
Whenever the Old Testament speaks of judgment for sin, whether individual or national sin, the coming of Jesus Christ is foreshadowed. The prophets of the Old Testament continually warned Israel to repent, but even when they did, their repentance was limited to law-keeping and works. Their temple sacrifices were but a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice, offered once for all time, which would come at the cross (Hebrews 10:10). Joel tells us that God’s ultimate judgment, which falls on the Day of the Lord, will be “great and very awesome; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). The answer is that we, on our own, can never endure such a moment. But if we have placed our faith in Christ for atonement of our sins, we have nothing to fear from the Day of Judgment.
What does this mean?
Without repentance, judgment will be harsh, thorough, and certain. Our trust should not be in our possessions but in the Lord our God. God at times may use nature, sorrow, or other common occurrences to draw us closer to Him. But in His mercy and grace, He has provided the definitive plan for our salvation—Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is no time to lose. God’s judgment will come swiftly, as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and we must be ready. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Only by appropriating God’s salvation can we escape His wrath on the Day of the Lord.
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Joel 1:1-16, 2:12-14, 2:26-32, Acts 2:1-4, 2:14-21. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
In Joel 2:13 the prophet Joel speaks of “tearing your heart, not just your clothes.” In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 Paul distinguishes between “worldly” grief that leads to death, versus “godly” grief that leads to repentance. What are the areas in your life where you’re prone to making external change, rather than pursuing heart change?
If you have children, what is your strategy for passing on a spiritual legacy in their lives? If you do not have children, how can you have spiritual influence on someone younger than you?
In your group, please take a few minutes to pray for people to continue to come and hear the Gospel, and take steps of obedience in their faith. Pray also for people you interact with on a regular basis, who don’t yet know Jesus, that they might have the opportunity to hear about Jesus as well.