Joel 2

The Word Made Fresh

1Blow the trumpet in Zion
and sound the alarm on my holy mountain.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
2It will be a day of shadows, gloom,
clouds, and thick darkness.
Like a dark night upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes,
whose like has never been seen before
nor will ever be seen again in the ages to come.
3Fire will burn ahead of them and behind them.
In front of them the land is like the garden of Eden,
but behind them it is a barren desert.
Nothing escapes them.
4They look like horses and charge ahead like warhorses.
5With the sound of chariots rumbling
they leap over the mountains.
They devour the stubble like the crackling of fire.
They are like a powerful army gathered for war.
6Ahead of them the people are afraid, their faces ashen.
7They charge like soldiers and scale the walls.
Each one stays on its course, never veering from its path.
8They don’t bump into each other, but each stays to its own course.
They race through defenses without slowing down.
9They charge into the city, running along the walls,
climbing through the windows of the houses like thieves.
10The earth and even the skies tremble at their approach.
The sun and moon are darkened, and the stars disappear.
11The LORD speaks at the head of his army; their number is uncountable.
Unnumbered they obey the LORD’s command.
The day of the LORD is a great and terrible day;
who can survive it?
12The LORD says, “Return to me with all your heart,
fasting and weeping with grief.”
13Tear open your hearts, not your clothing.
Return to the LORD your God, who is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and filled with undying love,
and who draws back from punishing.
14Who knows if God will not relent and leave a blessing?
Bring the grain and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
15Blow the trumpet in Zion.
Declare a sacred fast, and call together an assembly.
16Gather the people and sanctify the congregation.
Assemble the elderly and gather the children, including infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and let the bride come from beneath her canopy.
17Between the entrance and the altar
let the priests who minister to the LORD weep.
Let them pray, “Save your people, LORD;
don’t let your heritage become a mockery,
a joke among the nations.”
18The LORD became jealous for the land and pities the people.
19The LORD told the people,
“I am sending grain and wine and oil to you, and you will be filled.
I will no longer allow you to be a joke among the nations.
20I will take the army of the north far away from you
and herd them into a dry and deserted land
with its head in the eastern sea
and its rear in the western sea.
Its stench and foul odor will waft overhead.”
Yes, the LORD has done great things!
21Let the field animals be not afraid,
for there are green pastures in the wilderness;
the trees are fruitful, fig trees and vines produce abundantly.
22You animals of the fields need not be afraid,
for the pastures there are green.
The trees – fig tree and vine – bear much fruit.
23Citizens of Zion, be glad! Rejoice in the LORD your God!
For God has sent the early rains to support you.
The LORD has poured rain down for you,
the early and late rains as it was before.
24The threshing floors will be covered with grain.
The barrels will overflow with wine and oil.
25I will repay you for the years stolen by the swarming locusts,
my great army which I sent against you.
26You will be satisfied with plenty to eat,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God
who has treated you fairly.
My people will never again be shamed.
27You will know that I am with Israel,
that it is I, the LORD your God, and none other,
and my people will never again be put to shame.
28Afterwards, I will pour my spirit out on all who live;
your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams
and your young men will see visions.
29When those days come I will pour out my spirit
even upon the slaves, men and women.
30I will reveal wonders in heaven and on earth,
blood and fire and thick columns of smoke.
31The sun will be darkened and the moon turned blood red
before the great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.
32Then everyone who calls on the LORD’s name will be saved.
Those who escape will be on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem,
and those who are called by the LORD will be delivered.


1-14: Using the imagery of a vast swarm of locusts, Joel moves now to describe the “day of the LORD” that is coming, an apocalyptic day of world judgment and destruction in which the armies of God overrun the earth, leaping and scaling buildings like locusts. That this is no longer intended to be a description of a locust plague is made evident by the devouring fire that goes before and behind them, the quaking earth and the trembling heaven that accompanies the onslaught. God’s “army” is relentless and unstoppable.

15-16: Again, the prophet calls for the trumpet to be blown. Now a vast assembly of the people is called, including even infant children and newly married couples on their wedding night.

17: The priests are summoned to raise intercessory prayers for the people, asking God to spare them because they are God’s people and pointing out to God that if they are destroyed other nations will believe God is powerless to help them.

18-27: Joel imagines God’s response to the people’s supplications. God will restore the land’s productivity. The punishing army sent to enforce the Day of the LORD will be diverted to other “parched and desolate” (figuratively speaking) places. The land where God’s people dwell and the wild animals that live there need not fear. The people (“children”) can rejoice because God will send the rains in due season, a bumper crop will result, and the people will enjoy a plentiful harvest.

28-29: After the Day of the LORD, God’s spirit will be poured out and the people, all the people, will be changed. Men and women alike, young and old, slave and free, Gentile and Jew will be filled with God’s spirit. Think of the implications of these verses on the apostles’ understanding of the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), or on Paul’s understanding of the gift God gave the world in Jesus (Galatians 3:28 — “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”).

30-32: These verses are quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:19-21), and Jesus tells of similar events by which God will warn the nations of the coming Day (Mark 8:24-25). We should not fall into the error of trying to figure out what historical events might match the description Joel gives: he is simply using fantastic imagery to speak of the unimaginable things God might do to redeem creation when the time comes. Such is the nature of apocalyptic literature.


When the world is shattered by war among the nations, God is still there above the fray, gently but forcefully nudging things toward the future God has planned. Whatever befalls us, do not despair for God is there, working behind the scenes and in true hearts.