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In this chapter a further account is given of the judgment of the locusts and caterpillars, or of those who are designed by them, ( Joel 2:1-11); the people of the Jews are called to repentance, humiliation, and fasting, urged from the grace and goodness of God, his jealousy and pity for his people, and the answer of prayer that might he expected from him upon this, even to the removal of the calamity, ( Joel 2:12-20); a prophecy of good things, both temporal and spiritual, in the times of the Messiah, is delivered out as matter and occasion of great joy, ( Joel 2:21-27); and another concerning the effusion of the Spirit, which was fulfilled an the day of Pentecost, ( Joel 2:28-29); and the chapter is concluded with the judgments and desolations that should come upon the land of Judea after this, for their rejection of Christ, though the remnant according to the election of grace should be delivered and saved from the general destruction, ( Joel 2:30-32).
Ver. 1 . Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain , etc.] This is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to blow the trumpets for calling solemn assemblies to meet in Zion, the temple built there, called from thence the holy mountain of God. Here the trumpet is ordered to be blown with a broken quivering voice, a tarantantara, to give notice of approaching danger by the locusts, or those enemies signified by them, and to prepare for it, and return to God by repentance; let all the inhabitants of the land tremble ; at the judgments of God coming upon them, and the alarm of them: for the day of the Lord cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand ; the time fixed by him to punish a wicked people, and to pour out his wrath and vengeance on them; the day of his visitation, not in love, but in anger.
Ver. 2. A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness , etc.] Alluding to the gloomy and thick darkness caused by the locusts, which sometimes come in prodigious numbers, like thick clouds, and darken the air; so the land of Egypt was darkened by them, ( Exodus 10:15); historians and travellers relate, as Bochart F30 has shown, that these creatures will fly like a cloud, and darken the heavens at noonday, cover the sun, and hinder the rays of it from touching the earth; though all these phrases may be expressive of great afflictions and calamities, which are often in Scripture signified by darkness, as prosperity is by light; (see Isaiah 8:22 9:1); as the morning spread upon the mountains ; as the morning light, when it first appears, diffuses itself in a moment throughout the earth, and is first seen on the tops of the mountains F31 ; so these locusts, and this calamity threatened, should suddenly and at once come, and be spread over the whole land; and which could no more be resisted than the morning light.
The Vulgate Latin version renders it, in connection with the next clause, “as the morning spread upon the mountains, a people much and mighty”; but the accents will not admit of it; though it may seem a little improper that the same thing should be as a dark day, and: the morning light; wherefore Cocceius understands the whole of the day of Christ, which was light to many nations, and darkness to the wicked Jews: a great people and a strong ; numerous and mighty, many in number, mighty in strength; so the locusts are represented as a nation and people for might and multitude, ( Joel 1:6); an emblem of the Chaldeans and Babylonians, who were a large and powerful people: there hath not been ever the like, neither shall any more after it , [even] to the years of many generations ; that is, in the land of Judea; otherwise there might have been the like before in other places, as in Egypt, and since in other countries. Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, account for it thus; that it was never known, before or since, that four kinds of locusts came together; as for the plague of Egypt, there was but one sort of them, they say; but it is best to understand it of the like not having been in the same country: and such a numerous and powerful army as that of the Chaldeans had not been in Judea, and made such havoc and desolation as that did; nor would any hereafter, for many generations, even until the Romans came and took away their place and nation.
Ver. 3. A fire devoureth before them, and behind them aflame burneth , etc.] This is not to be understood of the heat of the sun, or of the great drought that went before and continued after the locusts; but of them themselves, which were like a consuming fire; wherever they came, they devoured all green grass, herbs, and leaves of trees, as fire does stubble; they sucked out the juice and moisture of everything they came at, and what they left behind shrivelled up and withered away, as if it had been scorched with a flame of fire: and so the Assyrians and Chaldeans, they were an emblem of, destroyed all they met with, by fire and sword; cut up the corn and herbage for forage; and what they could not dispense with they set fire to, and left it burning. Sanctius thinks this refers to fire, which the Chaldeans worshipped as God, and carried before their armies as a sacred and military sign; but this seems not likely: the land [is] as the garden of Eden before them ; abounding with fields and vineyards, set with fruitful trees, planted with all manner of pleasant plants, and all kind of corn growing upon it, and even resembling a paradise: and behind them a desolate wilderness ; all green grass eaten up, the corn of the field devoured, the vines and olives destroyed, the leaves and fruit of them quite gone, and the trees themselves barked; so that there was just the same difference between this country before the calamities described came upon it, and what it was after, as between the garden of Eden, or a paradise, and the most desolate wilderness; such ravages were made by the locusts, and by those they resembled: yea, and nothing shall escape them ; no herb: plant, or tree, could escape the locusts; nor any city, town, or village, nor scarce any particular person, could escape the Chaldean army; but was either killed with the sword, or carried captive, or brought into subjection. The Targum interprets it of no deliverance to the ungodly.
Ver. 4 . The appearance of them [is] as the appearance of horses , etc.] in their running, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; they came with, as much swiftness and eagerness, with as much fierceness and courage, as horses rush into the battle. Bochart F32 has shown, from various writers, that the head of a locust is in shape like that of a horse; and Theodoret on the text observes, that whoever thoroughly examines the head of a locust will easily perceive that it is very like the head of a horse; (see Revelation 9:7).
The Chaldeans are often represented as strong and mighty, fierce and furious, and riding on horses exceeding swift, ( Jeremiah 4:13 5:15 Habakkuk 1:6-8); and as horsemen, so shall they run ; with great agility and swiftness. The particle “as” is observed by some, against those interpreters that apply this wholly to the enemies of the Jews, and not the locusts; and it seems indeed best to favour them; but Theodoret observes, that the “as” here may be taken, not as a note of similitude, but as used for the increase and vehemency of the expression.
Ver. 5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of that mountains shall they leap , etc.] The motion of the locusts is leaping from place to place; for which the locusts have legs peculiarly made, their hindermost being the longest; wherefore Pliny F33 observes, that insects which have their hindermost legs long leap locusts; to which agrees the Scripture description of them: “which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; even those of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind”, ( Leviticus 11:21,22); which words, as Dr. Shaw F34 , observes, may bear this construction: “which have knees upon” or “above their [hinder] legs, to leap withal upon the earth”; and he observes, that the hbrah , “locust”, has the two hindermost of its legs or feet much stronger, larger, and longer, than any of the foremost; in them the knee, or the articulation of the leg and thigh, is distinguished by a remarkable bending or curvature, whereby it is able, whenever prepared to jump, to spring and raise itself with great force and activity; and this fitly resembles the jumping of chariots on mountains and hills, which are uneven, and usually have stones lie scattered about, which, with the chains and irons about chariots, cause a great rattling; and the noise of locusts is compared to the noise of these, which is represented as very great; some say it is to be heard six miles off, as Remigius on the place; and Pliny says F35 , they make such a noise with their wings when they fly, that they are thought to be other winged fowls; (see Revelation 9:9). Chariots were made use of in war, and the Chaldeans are said to have chariots which should come like a whirlwind, ( Jeremiah 4:13); like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble ; as they are before compared to fire, and a flame of fire that devoured all things as easily as the fire devours stubble, so here to the crackling noise of it; (see Ecclesiastes 7:6); as a strong people set in battle array : that is, as the noise of a mighty army prepared for battle, just going to make the onset, when they lift up their voices aloud, and give a terrible shout; for this clause, as the other two, refer to the noise made by the locusts in their march; an emblem of the terribleness of the Chaldeans in theirs, who were heard before they were seen.
Ver. 6. Before their face the people shall be much pained , etc.] Or, “at their presence”; at the sight of them they shall be in pain, as a woman in travail; into such distress an army of locusts would throw them, since they might justly fear all the fruits of the earth would be devoured by them, and they should have nothing left to live upon; and a like consternation and pain the army of the Assyrians or Chaldeans upon sight filled them with, as they expected nothing but ruin and destruction from them: all faces shall gather blackness ; like that of a pot, as the word F36 signifies; or such as appears in persons dying, or in fits and swoons; and this here, through fear and hunger; (see Na 2:10 Lamentations 4:8 5:10).
Ver. 7. They shall run like mighty men , etc.] Like men of war, in a hostile way, as soldiers run upon their enemy with undaunted courage and bravery. Bochart from Pisidas describes the locusts’ manner of fighting, who says, they strike not standing, but running: they shall climb the wall like men of war ; scale the walls of cities as besiegers do; walls and bulwarks cannot keep them out; all places are accessible to them, walled cities, towns, yea, even houses, ( Exodus 10:6); and they shall march everyone on his ways ; in his proper path, following one another, and keeping just distance: and they shall not break their ranks ; or “pervert their ways”, as the word signifies in the Arabic language, as Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, observe; that is, decline not from their paths, as the Septuagint version; proceed in an orderly way, keep rank and file; so they are said to go forth in bands, ( Proverbs 30:27); and to encamp, (Na 3:17). Jerom on the text relates what he saw with his own eyes: “this we lately saw (says he) in this province (Palestine); for when swarms of locusts came, and filled the air between heaven and earth, they flew in such order, by the disposition and command of God, that they kept their place like chequered squares in a pavement fixed by the hands of artificers; so as not to decline a point, nor even I may say a nail’s breadth;” they keep as exact order as if military discipline was known and observed by them. Some render it, “they shall not ask their way” F37 ; being unconcerned about it, moving on in a direct line securely.
Ver. 8. Neither shall one thrust another , etc.] Press upon another, thrust him out of his place, or push him forward, or any ways straiten and distress him, or in the least hinder him in his progress: they shall walk everyone in his path ; or “highway” F38 ; everyone should have his path, and keep in it, and it should be as roomy to him as if he had a highway to walk in by himself, and in which he could not err: and when they shall fall upon the sword ; on which they would pitch without any fear or dread of it: they shall not be wounded : or “cut to pieces” F39 by it; it not being easy for the sword to pierce and cut them, through the smoothness and smallness of their bodies; (see Revelation 9:9); and besides, their numbers being so great, the loss of a few by the use of a sword, or a dart, or any such flying projectile, as the word F40 signifies, would be of little consequence, and avail very little to the utter rout, or cutting of them in pieces. Kimchi observes that the word signifies haters of gain; and to this sense Jarchi explains it; and so the Targum, “they go to the place whither they are sent, they slay, and receive not mammon;” they are not, as other enemies, to be appeased by money, as Kimchi interprets it. The Targum is, they are not to be bribed, as soldiers sometimes may be, and so depart; (see Isaiah 13:17); and to this sense are other versions F41 .
Ver. 9. They shall run to and fro in the city , etc.] Leap about from place to place, as locusts do; (see Isaiah 33:4); and as the Chaldeans did when they became masters of the city of Jerusalem; they ran about from place to place to seize upon their spoil and plunder: they shall run upon the wall ; which before they climbed, now they shall run upon, and go from tower to tower, as the Chaldeans did, and broke clown the walls and fortifications: they shall climb up upon the houses, and enter in at the windows, like a thief ; so the locusts entered into the houses of the Egyptians, ( Exodus 10:6); and Pliny says F42 , they will eat through everything, and even the doors of houses. Theodoret on the place observes, that not only this may be done by enemies, what is here said, “but even [we have often seen] it done by locusts; for not only flying, but even creeping up the walls, they enter into houses at the windows.”
Ver. 10. The earth shall quake before them , etc.] The inhabitants of it, because of the desolating judgments they bring with them, and those enemies that are signified by them: the heavens shall tremble ; being obscured by them: the sun and moon shall be dark ; the locusts sometimes come in such large numbers as to intercept the rays of the sun. Pliny F43 says they sometimes darken it; and though some thought they did not fly in the night, because of the cold; this he observes is owing to their ignorance, not considering that they pass over wide seas to distant countries; and this will account for it how the moon also may be darkened by them, and the stars, as follows: and the stars shall withdraw their shining ; though all this may be understood in a figurative sense of the great consternation that all sorts of persons should be in at such calamities coming upon the land, either by locusts, or by enemies; as the king, queen, nobles, and the common people of the land, signified by sun, moon, and stars, heaven and earth.
Ver. 11. And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army , etc.] Either the army of the locusts, whom Pliny F44 calls “pestis deorum”, “the plague of the gods”; and the Arabians frequently style them the army of God. It is a tradition of theirs that locusts fell into the hands of Mahomet, with this inscription on their backs and wings, “we are the army of the most high God;” and because they were, for that reason Mahomet made a law that none should kill them; (see Gill on “ Revelation 9:3”). These creatures are certainly at his beck and command; he can “command the locust to devour the land”, ( 2 Chronicles 7:13); which may be meant by his uttering his voice here; though Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of the Lord’s giving notice of this judgment by his prophets before it fame: or this may design the army of the Assyrians or Chaldeans, of which the locusts were all emblem, and which were of the Lord’s mustering together, and was at his command; and who is here represented as a General at the head of his army, making a speech to them to animate and encourage them to the battle, and to give them the word of command when to begin the onset: for his camp [is] very great ; or numerous, as both the locusts and Chaldeans were: for [he is] strong that executeth his word ; or “strong is it”; namely, the camp and army of the locusts; which, though feeble in themselves, separately considered; yet being in such large bodies, and the Lord at the head of them, and strengthened by him, were able to fulfil his word; which he can make the least and meanest of his creatures do: or the Assyrian or Chaldean army, which was both numerous and mighty: which the Targum may refer unto, paraphrasing the words, “for strong are the executors of his word:” for the day of the Lord [is] great and very terrible, and who can abide it ? the day appointed by the Lord to take vengeance on the Jews for sin; and this, being the day of his wrath, is very dreadful and intolerable; so any season may be called, in which God remarkably pours down his wrath on men of their sins; (see Revelation 6:17). Such was the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, both by the Chaldeans and Romans.
Ver. 12. Therefore also now, saith the Lord , etc.] Before this terrible and intolerable day, which is near at hand, comes; before these judgments and calamities threatened take place, though just at hand; serious repentance is never too late, now is the accepted time; (see Luke 19:42-44 Corinthians 6:2); turn ye [even] to me with all your heart ; against whom they had sinned, and who had prepared his army against them, and was at the head of it, just ready to give the orders, and play his artillery upon them; and yet suggests, that even now, that if they turned to the Lord by true repentance, not, feignedly and hypocritically, but cordially and sincerely, with true hearts, and with their whole hearts, he was ready to receive and forgive them. The Targum is, “turn ye to my worship with all your heart:” and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning ; external signs of inward grief and sorrow, testifying their hearty return to the Lord; which, though, without the heart, signify nothing, yet should be shown where hearty repentance is, for the honour and glory of God.
Ver. 13. And rend your heart, and not your garments , etc.] Which latter used to be done in times of distress, either private or public, and as a token of grief and sorrow, ( Genesis 37:34 Esther 4:1); nor was it criminal or unlawful, the apostles themselves used it, ( Acts 14:14); nor is it absolutely forbidden here, only comparatively, that they should rend their hearts rather than their garments; or not their garments only, but their hearts also; in like sense as the words in ( Hosea 6:6); are to be taken as rending garments was only an external token of sorrow and might be done hypocritically. Where no true repentance was, the Lord calls for that, rather than the other; and that they would show contrition of heart and brokenness of spirit under a sense of sin, and in the view of pardoning grace and mercy; which is here held forth, to influence godly sorrow and evangelical repentance; the acts of which, flowing from faith in Christ are much more acceptable to the Lord than any outward expressions of grief; (see Psalm 51:17 Isaiah 57:15 66:2). The Targum is, “remove the wickedness of your heart but not with the rending of your meats;” the rending of the garment goes to the heart some say to the navel F45 : and turn unto the Lord your God ; consider him not as an absolute God, and as an angry one, wrathful and inexorable; but as your covenant God and Father as your God in Christ, ready to receive backsliding sinners and prodigal sons; yea all sinners sensible of sin that flee to him for mercy through Christ: for be [is] gracious and merciful ; he is the God of all grace, and has laid up a fulness of it in Christ; and he gives it freely to them that ask it of him without upbraiding them with their sins; he is rich and plenteous in mercy, and ready to forgive; be delights in showing mercy, and in them that hope in it; and this is no small encouragement to turn to the Lord, and seek mercy of him: and, besides, he is slow to anger ; he is not hasty to stir it up, and show it; he bears with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath; and his longsuffering to his own people issues in their salvation: he waits to be gracious to them; and, though he may seem to be angry, he does not stir up all his wrath their sins deserve nor does he retain anger for ever: and of great kindness ; both in a providential way, and in a way of special grace through Christ; whom he has provided as a Saviour, and sent him into the world as such, and saves sinners by obedience sufferings, and death: these characters of God are taken out of ( Exodus 34:6,7); and are admirably adapted to engage and encourage sensible souls to turn to the Lord by acts of faith in him, and repentance towards him; (see Isaiah 55:7); and it is added, and repenteth him of the evil ; which the sins of men deserve; and he has threatened on account of them; not that he ever changes the counsels of his will, but alters the course of his providence, and the manner of his conduct towards men, according to his unalterable repentance otherwise does not properly belong to God, ( Numbers 23:19); but is ascribed to him after the manner of men; and is used to express his compassion men; how ready he is to receive and forgive returning sinners and not execute the threatened and deserved evil and to bestow all needful good; (see Jon 3:10 4:2). The Targum is, “and he recalls his word from bringing on the evil.”
Ver. 14. Who knoweth [if] he will return and repent , etc.] Which some understand of man, and of his returning and repentance; either thus whosoever he be that knows the ways of repentance, he will return, and God will repent of this evil: which sense is mentioned by Kimchi and Ben Melech: or he that knoweth that iniquity is on him will return and repent; so Jarchi, with which agrees the Targum, “he that knows that sins are in him will return from them, and he shall obtain mercy; and whoever repents, his sins shall be forgiven him;” but rather they are to be understood of God, as some in Kimchi, and paraphrase it, who knows? perhaps God may return; and this is the sense of Aben Ezra, and seems to be most correct; and to be interpreted, either as carrying some doubt in it; not as if it was questionable whether God will give pardon to repenting sinners, but whether he will at once remove the present affliction and chastisement; which may be thus expressed to check the presumption and awaken the security of the people, and rouse them from their sluggishness and stupidity: or rather as expressive of hope that God would return and change the dispensation of his providence, and repent of the evil he had threatened, or brought upon them; which might be justly grounded upon the character before given of him, and that from the revelation of himself, and the proclamation of his own perfections; (see Jon 3:9); and leave a blessing behind him ; meaning not behind God himself, as if he was departed, or about to depart, for which there was no great concern, provided he left a temporal blessing with them; but behind the army of the locust, after that had made all the devastation it did: or rather “cause to leave”; stop the locust in its progress, and not suffer it to make a total desolation, but cause it to leave some of the fruits of the earth behind it. So Aben Ezra gives the sense of the words, “perhaps God will return, and cause the locust to leave a blessing;” and to the same purpose Jarchi, of which they make a meat offering and a drink offering, as follows: [even] a meat offering and a drink offering to the Lord your God ; at least leave so much of the wheat, that a meat offering might be made of it; and so many of the vines, as that so much wine might be produced by them as would furnish out a drink offering to be offered to the Lord, agreeably to the laws given about these; for which the greatest concern is expressed, this being cut off and withheld from the house of the Lord, by reason of the present scarcity, ( Joel 1:9,13); which shows a truly pious and religious mind, having more at heart the worship of God than themselves and families.
Ver. 15 . Blow the trumpet in Zion , etc.] For the calling of the people together to religious duties, which was one use of the silver trumpets made for and blows by the priests, ( Numbers 10:2,3,8,10); sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly ; (see Gill on “ Joel 1:14”).
Ver. 16 . Gather the people , etc.] The common people, all the inhabitants of the land, ( Joel 1:14); summon them to meet together in the temple, in order to humble themselves before God for their sins, and implore his mercy, and seek his face to remove his judgments, or avert them: sanctify the congregation ; see that they are sanctified and prepared for a fast, as the law directs in such cases; that they may be clean and free from all ceremonial impurities; that their bodies and clothes be washed, and that they abstain from their wives, and from all lawful pleasures, as well as sinful ones: assemble the elders ; both in age and authority; that they, by their presence and example, might influence others to attend such a service: gather the children and those that suck the breast ; who were involved in the common calamity and distress, were obliged to fasting and whose cries might affect parents, and engage them the more to humiliation and repentance for their sins, which brought such, miseries, not only upon themselves, but upon their tender infants; and they might think their cries would move the pity and compassion of God; all which is suggested in the note of Kimchi: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet ; where they are adorning themselves and preparing for an interview with each other; or where they are enjoying each other’s embraces and the pleasures of the matrimonial state. The sense is, let them put off their nuptial robes, and deny themselves their lawful pleasures, and betake themselves to fasting mourning, and prayer; (see 1 Corinthians 7:5).
This refers to a custom among the Jews at the time of espousals when the bridegroom and bride were introduced into the nuptial chamber, where the marriage was completed; and, according to the Jewish writes it was not finished before: the blessing of the bridegroom and bride did not complete the marriage but the bringing of them into the chamber did; and then they were said to he married, though as yet they had not cohabited and then, and not before a man might enjoy his wife F46 : and the marriage chamber was nothing else but a linen cloth or garment spread upon four poles over the head of the bridegroom and bride; this they called hpwj F47 ; the word is here rendered a “closet” and the same with the “chamber”; and their leaving and coming out of this signifies their abstaining from the lawful enjoyment of each other, which now they had a right unto.
Ver. 17. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar , etc.] Not the altar of incense which stood in the holy place; but the altar of burnt offering, where the priests used to stand and do service; but now having nothing to do of that kind, they are called upon to weep and pray between that and the porch of the temple; where they might be seen and heard by the people in the outward court which the porch led into: this is thought by some to be the same situation with that between the temple and the altar, ( Matthew 23:35); and let them say, spare thy people, O Lord ; they are directed to plead, not in a way of justice, but mercy; that though it might be just with God to destroy these people, who were called by his name; yet it is entreated that he would not, but in mercy spare them, and not cut them off in his sore displeasure, which the present judgment threatened them with: there seems to be an argument for mercy suggested, in the relation these people stood in to God, they are “thy people”, whom thou hast chosen, and who are called by thy name; though this was also an aggravation of their sin; and the same may be observed in what follows: and give not thine heritage to reproach : the people whom he had chosen for his inheritance, and the land of Canaan he had given to them for an inheritance; both which would be given to reproach if such a famine should ensue that they must be obliged to go into other countries for food: that the Heathen should rule over them ; as they would, should they be forced to leave their own country, and settle in theirs for the sake of food: or “to be a proverb”, or “byword, among the Heathen”, as Jarchi. This clause Jerom thinks opens the mystery, and explains who are meant by the mighty nation under the name of locusts, the enemies of the Jews; though this does not necessarily follow, take the words in either sense, as explained: it seems indeed very likely, that though the locusts may be understood literally, yet may be considered as an emblem of the Assyrian or Chaldean army, as we have all along observed; and, as the same ancient writer observes, when we read of the locusts, we should think of the Chaldeans, in which thought we may be confirmed by this clause: wherefore should they say among the people, where [is] their God ? they boast of as their Creator and Benefactor, their Protector and Defender, that gave them a land flowing with milk and honey, and abounding with all blessings? what is become of that? and where is he now? which the Gentiles would say in a reproaching blaspheming way, should they be reduced to famine by the locusts, or fall into the hands of their enemies; than which kind of reproach and blasphemy there is nothing more cutting to religious minds: (see Psalm 42:10 Micah 7:10); and this, as well as the former is used as an argument with God for mercy. The Targum is, “where are they that are redeemed by the Word of your God?”
Ver. 18. Then will the Lord be jealous for his land , etc.] Or “zealous” for it; for the honour of it, and the good of its inhabitants, and for the glory of his own name, it being the chief place in the world for his worship and service; and his indignation will be moved against those who have brought desolation on it: and pity his people ; as a father his children, who had suffered much, and had been reduced to great distress by the locusts, or by their enemies: this the prophet foretells would be done upon their repentance, fasting, prayers, and tears; or, as some think, this is a narrative of what had been done, and the prophet was a witness of; that the people meeting together with their princess and priests, and humbling themselves before the Lord, and crying to him, he expressed a zeal and compassion for them, and delivered them out of their troubles; for though their humiliation is not expressed, it may be understood and supposed, as doubtless, it was fact.
Ver. 19. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people , etc.] By his prophets, as Kimchi: or, “the Lord answered and said” F48 ; while they were praying and weeping, or as soon as they cried unto him; or, however, praying to him, they might assure themselves that he heard them, and would answer them both by words and deeds: behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil ; that is, cause the earth to bring forth corn, as wheat and barley, and the vines and olive trees to bring forth grapes and olives, from which wine and oil might be made: this is, according to some interpreters, to be understood of an abundance of spiritual blessings: and ye shall be satisfied therewith ; or, “with it”; with each and every of the above things, corn, wine, and oil; they should not only have them, but have enough of them, even to satiety: and I will no more make you a reproach among the Heathen ; for want of food, and as if forsaken of God. The Targum is, “and I will not give you any more the reproaches of famine among the people;” (see Joel 2:17).
Ver. 20 . But I will remove far off from you the northern [army] , etc.] The army of the locusts, which came from the northern corner, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi; and is the first sense Jarchi makes mention of; though he says their Rabbins F49 interpret it of the evil imagination hid in the heart of men; and the two seas, later mentioned, of the two temples, first and second, destroyed by it; so, Kimchi says, they explain this verse of the days of the Messiah, and observes, the same sense they give; but Jarchi mentions another, according to which a people coming from the north are designed, even the kings of Assyria; and with this agrees the Targum, which paraphrases it, “and the people which come from the north I will remove far off from you;” and indeed locusts do not usually come from the north, but from the south, or from the east; it was an east wind that brought the locusts into Egypt, ( Exodus 10:13); though the word “northern” may be used of the locusts in the emblem, because the Assyrians or Chaldeans came from the north to Judea: and will drive him into a land barren and desolate : where there are no green grass, herbs, plants, and trees, to live upon, and so must starve and die: with his face towards the east sea ; the front of this northern army was towards the east sea, into which it was drove and fell; that is, the sea of Chinnereth, or Gennesareth, the same with the lake of Tiberias, often mentioned in the New Testament; or the Salt sea, the same with the lake Asphaltites, or Dead sea, which was where Sodom and Gomorrah formerly stood, as is usually said; and both these were to the east of the land of Israel, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe; and so either of them might be called the “eastern sea”: and his hinder part towards the utmost sea ; the rear of this army was towards the utmost sea, or hinder sea, as it is called in ( Zechariah 14:8); the western sea, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it, the same with the Mediterranean sea, which lay to the west of the land of Israel; so the Egyptian locusts were cast into the Red sea, ( Exodus 10:19); and Pliny F50 observes, that they are sometimes taken away with a wind, and fall into seas and lakes, and adds, perhaps this comes by chance; but what is here related came not by chance, but by the will and providence of God: and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up : that is, the stink and ill savour of the locusts shall come, up out of the seas and lakes into which they fell, and where they died and putrefied; or, being cast up from thence upon the shares, gave a most noisome stench; so Jerom on the place says, “in our times we have seen swarms of locusts cover the land of Judea, which upon the wind rising have been driven into the first and last seas; that is, into the Dead and Mediterranean seas; and when the shores of both seas have been filled with heaps of dead locusts, which the waters have thrown up, their rottenness and stench have been so very noxious as to corrupt the air, and produce a pestilence among men and beasts;” or this may be understood of the fall and ruin of the enemies of the Jews, signified by these locusts; and some apply it to Sennacherib’s army smote by the angel, when there fell in one night a hundred and fourscore and five thousand of them in the land of Israel, and lay unburied, ( 2 Kings 19:35); Theodoret interprets the seas of armies; the first sea of the army of the Babylonians, by which Nineveh the royal seat of the Assyrians was destroyed; and the other sea of the army of the Persians, who, under Cyrus, took Babylon, the metropolis of the Chaldean empire: because he hath done great things ; evil things, as the Targum; either the locust, which had done much mischief to the fruits of the earth; or the enemy, signified by it, who had behaved proudly, and done much hurt to the inhabitants of Judea: or, “though he hath done great things” F51 , as some render it, yet all this shall come to him. Some interpret it of God, “for he (God) hath done”, or “will do, great things” F52 ; in the removing of the locusts, or in the destruction of those enemies they represented, as is expressly said of him in ( Joel 2:21).
Ver. 21. Fear not, O land , etc.] O land of Israel, as the Targum, and the inhabitants of it; neither of the locusts, who had so terrified them, and had done so much mischief, and threatened more; nor of their enemies, the Assyrians or Chaldeans, and their powerful armies, or any other; but, on the contrary, be glad, and rejoice ; at the removal of the locusts, and at the destruction of their enemies: for the Lord will do great things ; good things, in opposition to the evil things done by the locusts, as Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech observe; or by the destroying army of the king of Assyria, by delivering the Jews out of the Babylonish captivity; and in the times of the Maccabees, and especially in the times of Christ, which are quickly prophesied of in this chapter; and which prophecies some interpreters begin here, it not being unusual for the prophets to pass directly from things temporal to things spiritual, and especially to the great deliverance and salvation by Christ, and also by temporal blessings to design spiritual ones.
Ver. 22 . Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field , etc.] Which before groaned, and were perplexed for want of pasture, and cried because of the drought, ( Joel 1:18,20); perhaps the Gentiles may be here designed, in the mystic and spiritual sense, in distinction from the Jews, the children of Zion, in ( Joel 2:23); for the pastures of the wilderness do spring ; grass in abundance springs up in them, and covers them, so that there was plenty of food for the beasts of the field: for the tree beareth her fruit ; brings forth and bears fruit suitable to it, agreeable to its nature: the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength ; send forth their branches, put forth their buds, their leaves and fruit. This and the preceding clause cannot be understood as a reason why the beasts of the field should not be afraid, for they relate not to them, but to men; and may serve to confirm the mystic sense of the words, as they may refer to the great fruitfulness produced in the wilderness of the Gentile world, through the preaching of the Gospel in the times of the Messiah; which are more clearly pointed at in ( Joel 2:23); and which were introduced with great outward peace and plenty; and the Jews F53 by the tree bearing her fruit, in the preceding clause, understand barren trees bearing fruit.
Ver. 23 . Be glad then, ye children of Zion , etc.] The people of the Jews, and especially the spiritual and believing part of them; such as were born again, that were born of Zion, and born in Zion, and brought up by her, and in her; the children of that Zion or Jerusalem that is the mother of us all; and who were looking for the Messiah, and to whom it would be good news and glad tidings to hear of his coming, ( Zechariah 9:9); and rejoice in the Lord your God ; not in any creature or creature enjoyment, but in the Lord. The Targum is, “in the Word of the Lord your God;” in Christ the essential Word; (see Philippians 3:3 4:4); though rather Jehovah the Father, the giver and sender of Christ, is here meant, because of what follows; and who is to be rejoiced in by his people, not as an absolute God, but as in Christ, and as their covenant God and Father in him; who has chosen them for himself, and is their portion and inheritance; which are reasons sufficient why they should rejoice in him, and others follow: for he hath given you the former rain moderately ; or rather, “for he hath given you the teacher of righteousness” F54 ; to which agrees the Targum, “for he hath returned to you your teacher in righteousness;” and so Jarchi paraphrases the words, and interprets them of the prophets in general, “your prophets that teach you to return unto me, that I may justify you;” and R. Japhet says that hrwm signifies a prophet that should teach them in the way of righteousness; not Isaiah, as Grotius; but the King Messiah as Abarbinel interprets it; who is the teacher sent from God, and given by him, as his presence with him, and the miracles done by him, sufficiently prove, ( John 3:2); for which he was abundantly qualified, being the omniscient God, and the Son of God that lay in the bosom of his Father; is the Wisdom of God, as Mediator; had the Spirit of wisdom on him, and the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid in him; and who is able to make his teachings effectual, and to qualify others for such work. This office he performed personally on earth, both in a doctrinal way, and by way of example; and now executes it by his Spirit, and by his ministers: and a “teacher of righteousness” he may be truly said to be; since he not only taught the Gospel, the word of righteousness in general; but in particular directed men to seek in the first place the righteousness of God, which is no other than his own; and pronounced those happy that hungered after it: he declared he came to fulfil all righteousness, even the law for righteousness; and taught men to believe in him for it, and to live righteously and godly. Aben Ezra observes, that the phrase is the same with “the sun of righteousness”, ( Malachi 4:2); which is said of Christ the author of righteousness, who is our righteousness made so by imputation, the Lord our righteousness: or, as here, “a teacher unto, or for righteousness” F55 , all which is matter of joy and gladness; (see Isaiah 61:10); and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first [month] ; alluding to the two seasons of the year in which rain was given to the Jews; the former rain fell in Marchesvan, which answers to our September and, October, part of each, at their seedtime; and the latter in Nisan, the first month of their ecclesiastical year, and answers to part of March and April, and fell some time before their harvest; and these former and latter rains now fall about the same time. So Dr.
Shaw F56 observes, that “the first rains in these countries (Syria, Phoenicia, and the Holy Land) usually fall about the beginning of November; the latter sometimes in the middle, sometimes toward the end, of April:” and elsewhere he says F57 , “in Barbary the first rains fall some years in September, in others a month later; the latter rains usually fall in the middle of April:” and the same traveller relates F58 , that “upon the coast (of Egypt) from Alexandria, all along to Damiata and Tineh, they have their former and latter rains as in Barbary and the Holy Land.”
This rain spiritually designs the doctrine of the Gospel, which is sometimes compared to rain, ( Deuteronomy 32:2 Isaiah 55:10,11); because as rain it comes from God, descends from heaven, is a divine gift, both as to the ministry and experience of it; it tarries not for man, neither for his desires nor deserts; falls according to divine direction, sometimes here, and sometimes there; is a great blessing, and brings many with it, revives, refreshes, and makes fruitful. Jerom interprets these two rains of the first receiving of doctrine, and of a more perfect knowledge of it; as also of the two Testaments, the Old and New: but it may be better interpreted of the preaching of the Gospel by John the Baptist, and by Christ; or by Christ, and then by his apostles; or of the first and second ministration of apostles, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles; or of the coming of Christ in the flesh, for the same word is used here as in the former clause, and of his spiritual coming in the latter day, both which are compared to rain, ( Hosea 6:3 Psalm 72:6).
Ver. 24. And the floors shall be full of wheat , etc.] The churches of Christ, which will now be in Judea, and in the Gentile world, which are his “floors”, ( Matthew 3:12); and which will be set up everywhere through the preaching of the Gospel, the descent of the former and latter rain; these will be full of precious souls gathered in, compared to wheat, and of the choice and excellent, doctrines of the Gospel, and of all spiritual provisions, ( Matthew 13:30 Jeremiah 23:28); and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil ; with the wine of Gospel doctrine, and the oil of true grace; there shall be a flow, an overflow, a redundancy of these, both in the ministers of the word and private Christians, in whom the grace of God shall abound and superabound; (see Romans 5:20 1 Timothy 1:14).
Ver. 25. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten , etc.] Or “I will recompense to you the years” F59 ; give you fruitful ones, as a full compensation for those in which the locust ate up the fruits of the earth for some years running: the canker worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm ; of which (see Joel 1:4); my great army which I sent among you ; as in ( Joel 2:11); the Targum of the whole is, “and I will recompense unto you good years, in the room of the years in which the people, nations, and tongues, the governors and kingdoms of vengeance, spoiled you, my great army which I sent among you;” and Kimchi observes, that the sense of the Targumist is, that this verse is a prophecy of the days of the Messiah; as no doubt it is, in which the Lord has done for his people, as Moses prayed he would, “make [them] glad according to the days wherein [he] afflicted [them], and the years wherein [they had] seen evil”, ( Psalm 90:15); the times of the Messiah, in which so many good things come to the people of God, are a sufficient recompence for what they endured in times past. Of the Mahometan notion of locusts being the army of God, (see Gill on “ Joel 2:11”).
Ver. 26. And ye shall eat in plenty , etc.] Or, “in eating eat” F60 ; most surely eat, and in great abundance; which Hebraism not only denotes the certainty of a thing, but the increase and abundance of it; (see Genesis 22:17 1 Chronicles 4:10); there is plenty of spiritual provisions held forth under the Gospel dispensation: much in God, in his goodness, grace, and love, truth and faithfulness; in his covenant, the blessings and promises of it: much in Christ, who is compared to many things eatable; is called the Lamb of God, the fatted calf, the hidden manna, the tree of life, and the bread of God; everything in him, and that belongs to him, is food for faith; his flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed; the fulness of grace in him; the righteousness wrought out by him; the salvation he is the author of; upon all which the believer lives by faith: much in the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, compared to honey for sweetness of taste; to milk for its nourishing nature, easiness of digestion, and the suitableness of it for babes; and to strong meat fit for men: and there is groat plenty also in the ordinances of the Gospel, particularly in the Lord’s supper, the feast of fat things, where saints are invited to eat and drink abundantly; which eating is not a bare attendance on outward ordinances, or a superficial taste of the things in them, but a feeding upon them by faith, receiving and digesting them; and be satisfied ; eat to satiety; eat and be full, so as to be entirely contented, and desire no other sort of food; thus saints, as Naphtali, are satisfied with the favour and love of God, having a delightful sensation of it, and a full persuasion of interest in it; with Christ as the bread of life, so as not to hunger after other; with his righteousness, as not to seek any other; and with his salvation, being so suitable to them; and with the goodness and fatness of the Lord’s house, his word and ordinances; and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you ; acknowledge him to be the giver of all this spiritual food, and that they are unworthy of it; ascribe it entirely to the grace of God, who has done wonders for them; in wonderfully setting them apart for himself in eternal election; in making such a well ordered covenant with them in Christ; in sending him to be their Saviour and Redeemer; in calling them out of darkness into marvellous light; in bestowing such love upon them, as to call them and make them his children, and also heirs of him and eternal glory; (see Psalm 22:26); and my people shall never be ashamed ; because they shall always have food to eat; shall never be disappointed, when they rightly apply for it in proper places and times; and not be like the troops of Tema, and companies of Sheba, ( Job 6:19,20); they shall not be ashamed of their faith and hope, and expectation of good things promised them; nor of the word and ordinances, and the profession they have made of Christ in this world; nor shall they be ashamed at his coming; but shall be placed at his right hand, and received into his kingdom, and shall be led by him to fountains of living water, and be satisfied with pleasures for evermore.
Ver. 27 . And ye shall know that I [am] in the midst of Israel , etc.] The presence of God among his people shall be so manifest, the tokens of it so clear, that it shall be easily known, by the impressions of his love upon them; the teachings of his Spirit in them; the usefulness of the word and ordinances to them; the spiritual and heavenly frame of soul they shall be favoured with, and the savouriness of their conversation; this is the blessing Christ has promised to Gospel ministers and churches, ( Matthew 28:20); and [that] I [am] the Lord your God, and none else ; that he is their covenant God and Father, and acknowledge none else: and my people shall never be ashamed ; which is repeated for the certainty of it; (see Joel 2:26).
Ver. 28. And it shall come to pass afterward , etc.] After the teacher of righteousness has been sent, and a plentiful rain of the Gospel has been let down in the land of Judea, in the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, and such a comfortable enjoyment of the blessings of grace in it, and the knowledge of God by it; and after the wonderful work of redemption wrought by Christ. R. Jeshua in Aben Ezra and Jarchi both say this prophecy refers to time to come; and Kimchi observes, that the phrase is the same with “in the last days”; and so the Apostle Peter quotes it, ( Acts 2:17); a phrase, as the above writer observes, which always signifies the days of the Messiah, to which he applies these words; and so do other Jewish writers, both ancient and modern F61 ; and there is no doubt with us Christians that they belong to the times of Christ and his apostles, since they are by an inspired writer said to be fulfilled in those times, ( Acts 2:16,17); here some begin a new chapter; [that] I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh ; not on such whose hearts are made tender as flesh, according to ( Ezekiel 36:26); as Jarchi; for the Spirit must be given first to make the heart such; nor only upon men in the land of Israel, a place fit to prophesy in, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi; but upon all men, as this phrase frequently signifies; (see Isaiah 40:5); that is, all sorts of men, Jews and Gentiles, men of all nations; and such there were on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured down upon the apostles, and the grace of the Spirit was given to many of all nations; though that was only the beginning of the fulfilment of this prophecy, which quickly had a further accomplishment in the Gentile world; and denotes the abundance of the gifts of the Spirit, both extraordinary and ordinary, and of his grace, and the blessings of it, bestowed on them; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy ; as Agabus, Barnabas, Simeon, etc. and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist, ( Acts 11:28 13:1 21:9,10); your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions ; as Ananias, Peter, Paul, John, and others, some in their elder, some in their younger years, ( Acts 9:10 10:17 16:9 22:17 26:19 27:23); though prophecy, dreams, and visions, being the usual ways of conveying knowledge, here signify that the knowledge of men in Gospel times should be equal to, yea, exceed, whatever was communicated to men in the highest degree in former times: John the Baptist was greater than any of the prophets, and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he, ( Luke 7:28).
Ver. 29. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour my Spirit .] Men servants and maidservants should partake of the gifts and grace of the Spirit in great, abundance; and many of them were effectually called by grace, through the ministry of the word; and some servants became ministers of it; all which appears from ( Corinthians 7:21,22 1 Timothy 6:1,2 Philemon 1:10,11,16); for that is not true what the Jews F62 say, the Shechinah or divine Majesty does not rest but upon a wise man, and one mighty and rich; or prophecy, as Maimonides F63 has it.
Ver. 30 . And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth , etc.] This, and what follow, refer to the prodigies seen in the air, and done in the earth, a little before the destruction of Jerusalem F64 ; when in the air were seen comets and blazing stars, particularly one in the form of a sword, hanging over Jerusalem, and appearances of armies engaged in battle; and, on the earth, a flame was seen in the temple, and a voice heard in it, saying, let us go hence; the doors of it opened of themselves; an idiot went about, crying woe to the people, woe to the city, etc. blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke ; “blood” may design the great slaughter of then by the Roman army in the land of Judea, and by murders committed among themselves in the city of Jerusalem, which were very horrible, and of great numbers; “fire”, the burning of towns and cities; though Kimchi interprets it of lightnings in the heavens; and “pillars of smoke”, rising up in straightness and height like palm trees, as the word F65 signifies, vast quantities of it arising from cities and towns burnt. Gussetius F66 interprets this of the burning of the martyrs in the first ages of Christianity, and of their spiritual affections, which ascended upwards to God, and were grateful to him; (see Song of Solomon 3:6).
Ver. 31. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood , etc.] Not by eclipses, as Aben Ezra; but by the clouds of smoke arising from the burning of towns and cities, which would be so great as to obscure the sun, and through which the moon would look like blood: or all, this may be understood in a figurative sense of the change that should be made in the ecclesiastic and civil state of the Jewish nation, signified by the “heavens” and “earth”; and particularly that their king or kingdom should be in a low, mean, and distressed condition, designed by the sun; and the change of their priesthood is signified by the “moon”: so Vitringa on ( Isaiah 24:23); interprets the “sun” here of King Agrippa, the last king of the Jews in obscurity; and the “moon” of Ananias junior, the high priest, slain by the zealots: before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come ; not the fall of Gog and Magog, as Kimchi; not the day of the last judgment, but of the destruction of Jerusalem; not by the Chaldeans, but by the Romans; their last destruction, which was very great and terrible indeed, and in which there was a manifest appearance of the hand and power of God; (see Malachi 4:1). Maimonides F67 interprets it of the destruction of Sennacherib near Jerusalem; but if that sense is not acceptable, he proposes that of the destruction of Gog and Magog, in the times of the Messiah.
Ver. 32 . And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered , etc.] Or “saved”, as in ( Acts 2:21); from those miseries and calamities before described, from the impending ruin and destruction of the city; and so it was, that those that believed in Christ, that were in the city, had an intimation of it beforehand, and removed from thence to a place called Pella F68 , and so escaped being involved in the common calamity: though this also may be understood of a spiritual deliverance and salvation by Christ, from sin, Satan, and the world, and from the second death, and wrath to come, and out of the hands of every enemy; which such share in who call on the name of the Lord, pray to him for grace and mercy, life and salvation, through Christ; that have a spiritual knowledge of God in Christ, real and sincere desires after him, and trust and confidence in him, which this phrase supposes; and which also includes the whole worship of God, internal and external, performed in a spiritual and evangelical manner; (see Romans 10:13); for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said ; either by this prophet, or some others before him; (see Psalm 14:7 Isaiah 59:20 Obidiah 1:21); this cannot be understood literally of Mount Zion and Jerusalem, unless it be of deliverance out of it; not in it, for Jerusalem was the seat of blood, confusion, and distress; but mystically of the church of Christ, often called Zion and Jerusalem, ( Hebrews 12:22); hither the deliverer came, here he is, and to be seen; from hence the word of the Lord came, the Gospel of salvation, which proclaims deliverance to the captives; here it is to be heard, met with, and found, ( Isaiah 2:3 Luke 4:18 Romans 11:26); and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call ; not merely externally, by the outward ministry of the word; but internally, according to his purpose, and by his grace, powerfully and effectually, to the special blessings of grace here, and eternal glory hereafter: these are the remnant according to the election of grace; the little flock to whom God gives the kingdom; the few that enter in at the strait gate; the little city, and few men in it, delivered by the poor wise man; these share in the deliverance of Zion, and shall be certainly and completely saved, with an everlasting salvation. This may respect not only the remnant, or a small number of the Jews that believed in Christ, upon his first coming, and the preaching of the Gospel by his apostles, but the call and conversion of them in the latter day; which sense connects the words better with the following chapter.