We know very little about the prophet Joel. He is identified as the son of Pethuel (1:1), but there is no mention of this man elsewhere in Scripture. Joel’s name is from the Hebrew Yow’el, combining the prefix of both Jehovah and Elohim and simply means “Jehovah is God.”
Some prophets give timestamps (“in the ___ year of king ___”) or at the very least a list of kings who reigned during their time. Joel does neither. We cannot know for certain when Joel prophesied.
We cannot pinpoint when he prophesied, but we do know that he was sent to Judah. He refers to Zion seven times (2:1, 15, 23, 32; 3:16, 17, 21)and Jerusalem five times (2:32; 3:1, 6, 16, 17, 20). Also, we know he was focused on an impending judgment—5 times he says “the day of the LORD” is near or at hand (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14).
The prophet spoke of swarming and consuming locusts (1:4). If this literally occurred, it was a plague upon the land because of the wickedness of the people (Deuteronomy 28:38, 42). However, it could be an image referring to the Babylonians who would consume the land (1:6, “…a nation has come up against My land, strong and without number…”). He called upon the nation to lament, to be ashamed, and to consecrate themselves (1:11-14).
Chapter 2 speaks of a fierce and mighty nation who were coming upon them if they do not repent. The LORD urged, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). If they would repent, then it might be that God would relent (2:14) and restore blessings to them. A promise of future blessing was made—the outpouring of the Spirit (2:28-32), which was fulfilled in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.
Joel 3:1 speaks of when God would “…bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem…”, which of course is a reference to the return from Babylon in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. The prophet also speaks of God judging the enemies of God’s people (3:2, 4, 12, 19).
Next week we continue with Amos…