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Who Was Joel?
The Background of Joel
Outline of Joel
The Message of Joel

Who Was Joel?

Joel is fairly well known from the Apostle Peter’s quotation in Acts 2:46, though not much else is known of him. His father, Pethuel, is mentioned, but we know nothing of him, and Joel 1:1 is the only place "Pethuel" (which means "the openheartedness or sincerity of God") is found in Scripture. By giving the name of his father, the prophet Joel distinguishes himself from all other men who share his name.

Like Obadiah, Joel’s name is shared by12 men in Scripture:

A Son of Samuel and father of one of David’s singers: 1 Samuel 8:2; 1 Chron. 6:33; 15:17

A descendent of Simeon: 1 Chron. 4:35

A descendent of Gad, who was a "chief": 1 Chron. 5:12

A descendent of Levi: 1 Chron. 6:36

A descendent of Issachar (who had a brother named Obadiah!): 1 Chron. 7:3

One of David’s might men: 1 Chron. 11:38

One of the Levites who carried the ark into Jerusalem under King David: 1 Chron. 15:7

One of the Gershonite descendents of Levi: 1 Chron. 23:8

One of the chief officers of the half tribe of Manasseh: 1 Chron. 27:20

A Levite under King Hezekiah: 2 Chron. 29:12

One of many who had married foreign (non-Jewish) women: Ezra 10:43

An overseer of sons of Benjamin who volunteered to live in Jerusalem: Nehemiah 11:9

Interestingly, Joel is a common name among priestly lines, and many scholars assume Joel was probably a priest: there are many references to the priesthood in the book, and no king is mentioned.

The Background for Joel

A Glimmer of Hope in a Dark Time

Joel prophesied during the reign of Joash in Judah. Joash took the throne 10 to 15 years after Jehoshaphat, about 6 years after Jehoram (see the notes on Obadiah).

This was a particularly dreadful period in Judah’s history. Jehoram didn’t follow the Lord as his father Jehoshaphat did, and he died under God’s curse "in great pain" (2 Chron. 21:19). Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, succeeded his father and met with strong opposition from the Lord: he was wounded in battle, fled to Samaria from those attacking his household, and was found and killed (2 Chron. 22:7-9).

Ahaziah had followed the wicked advice of his mother, Athaliah (2 Chron. 22:3), who was quite ambitious for her own cause. When Ahaziah was killed, she took the throne and tried to kill all of her own grandsons, Ahaziah’s sons. All died but Joash, who was hidden from his grandmother (2 Chron. 22:10-12). Joash remained hidden in the temple for about 7 years under the care of Jehoida, the high priest. Elisha was still prophesying at this time.

When Joash became king, he followed Jehoida’s counsel and began a short period of reform, including repairs to the temple. When Jehoida died, however, other counselors persuaded Joash to abandon his temple project (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Immediately, Judah fell into idolatry (2 Chron 24:18).

God sent prophets to Judah, including Jehoida’s son, Zechariah, to warn of impending danger if they didn’t repent. The people of Judah, however, (probably the royal court) stoned Zechariah to death (2 Chron. 24:19-21). In return, a small Syrian army invaded Judah and defeated their much larger army soundly. Joash became quite ill and was assassinated as retribution for Zechariah’s murder (2 Chron. 24:23-25).

Sometime during the decline and fall of Joash’s reign, either before or after the Syrians crushed them, God sent the locust plague described by Joel. The image of locusts as an army was particularly striking to those in Judah. From Joel’s description of the future invading army, the small Syrian army had probably already moved on. If such a small army could devastate Judah’s best defenses, and this measureless swarm of locusts denude the land so cleanly, what would become of them if the "Day of the Lord" should come with His innumerable host?

With Joash there was a glimmer of hope for renewal and revival, but there was no heart in the efforts of reform.

The Levitical Sacrificial System

Of particular interest in Joel, especially with his focus on priestly matters, is his call to come before the Lord. His invitation in chapter 2 is phrased such that one thinks of sacrifices in the temple. An effect of the locust plague, however, was the removal of all legally acceptable sacrifices. There was no heart in the reform of Joash, and God did not want the inhabitants of Judah merely to begin the temple repairs once more and bring monotonous sacrifices. Below is a list of acceptable sacrifices1 for various needs and occasions.

Levitical Offerings

For Dedication

For Fellowship

For Forgiveness

Burnt Grain Drink Peace Sin Guilt
Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13 Lev. 2; 6:14-23 Num. 15:1-10; Lev. 23 Lev. 3; 7:11-36 Lev. 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30 Lev. 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10

Male Sheep

Male Goat


Young pigeon

Grain or barley prepared various ways with oil and incense Wine





Young bull

Male goat

Female goat

Dove or young pigeon



What has the locust plague destroyed?

Joel 1:9, 10

Joel 1:13

Joel 1:18

Joel 1:20

With what can the people approach the Lord?

Outline of Joel

Title: Responding to Discipline

Theme: What does God want when your soul is made a desert?

1. When Your Soul is Made a Desert (1:1-20)

- Devastating Discipline (1:1-12)

- How to Survive (1:13-20)

• Penitent Confession ((13)

• Humble Submission (14)

• Honest Evaluation (15-18)

• Confident Trust (19, 20)

2. When is it Too Late? (2:1-17)

- God can get your attention (2:1-11)

- An Invitation to Restoration (2:12-14)

- Who Knows... ? (2:15-17)

3. When the Desert Blooms (2:18-27)

- Removing the Defilement

- Restoring the Destruction

4. Milk and Honey (2:28-3:21)

- A Holy People for God (2:28-32)

- A Wicked People for Judgment (3:1-17)

- A Shining Throne for Israel (3:18-21)

The Message of Joel

Joel’s Questions

Joel asks four questions* which summarize his message2:

Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers’ days? (1:2)

Has not food been cut off before our eyes, gladness and joy from the house of our God? (1:16)

The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it? (2:11)

Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a libation for the Lord your God? (2:14)

Taken together these questions can be put in this way: We are facing an unprecedented disaster that has touched not only our physical condition, but our deepest inward condition. This situation, however, is nothing compared to what’s coming if we don’t turn now and choose life. We have no guarantee that God will turn this curse into blessing, but that doesn’t matter; we must respond with repentance even if disaster still follows.

* Two other questions are asked in Joel: one is a question Joel assumes the priests will ask when or if they repent and call out to God (2:17); the second is God’s address to the nations asking rhetorically if they can stand against Him (3:4).

A Matter of the Heart

Joel points to Judah’s heart early in his message, honestly telling them that they were void of gladness and joy. They were also void of sincerity in worship and trusted their ritual to appease the God of Israel. Joel points out that the sacrifices which demonstrate devotion to God are completely cut off. If they want to respond to God’s awesome invitation, they were going to have to come with broken hearts before Him, and broken hearts only. Being on the side of God’s blessing rather than His wrath is a matter of the heart, not mere performance.

When The Desert Blooms

Joel’s beautiful message of God’s promise to restore His people is full of rich promises. Swindoll calls Joel 2:18-27 "one of the greatest promises of hope in all the Old Testament"3.

We like to view Joel 2:18-27 as a particularly powerful statement of promises given by God of blessings to come and exchanges He will make with them. The blessings will follow their repentance, as will the exchanges (see Joel 2:17).

Joel 2:18-27

    Promises Given

God promises to be zealous for His land (18)

God will have pity on His people (18)

God will give grain, new wine, and oil (19, 24)

God will give a retroactive harvest (25)

    Exchanges Made

God will give satisfaction for reproach and shame (19, 26, 27)

God will give joy for fear (21)

God will give fruitfullness for desolation (22)

God will give His own presence for idolatry (27)

God’s response to His people at their repentance is to provide the full, perfect remedy for their fatal condition. For their condition of defilement, God will remove that which defiles them. For their condition of destruction, God will bring full restoration. As proof of God’s sincerity, Joel points to the literal, life-giving rain as a metaphor of God pouring out His rich blessings (2:23).


1 Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Victor Books: 1985).

2 Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.

3 Charles Swindoll, God’s Masterwork: A Concerto in Sixty-Six Movements. Volume 3: Hosea through Malachi. Insight for Living, 1997.



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