I. ANNOUNCEMENT OF UNPRECEDENTED DISASTER
2Listen to this, you elders!
Pay attention, all who dwell in the land!
Has anything like this ever happened in your lifetime,
or in the lifetime of your ancestors?
3Report it to your children.
Have your children report it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.
4What the cutter left,
the swarming locust has devoured;
What the swarming locust left,
the hopper has devoured;
What the hopper left,
the consuming locust* has devoured.
5Wake up, you drunkards,* and weep;
wail, all you wine drinkers,
Over the new wine,
taken away from your mouths.
6For a nation* invaded my land,
powerful and past counting,
With teeth like a lion’s,
fangs like those of a lioness.
7It has stripped bare my vines,
splintered my fig tree,
Shearing off its bark and throwing it away,
until its branches turn white.
8Wail like a young woman* dressed in sackcloth
for the husband of her youth.
9Grain offering and libation are cut off
from the house of the LORD;
In mourning are the priests,
the ministers of the LORD.
10The field is devastated;
the farmland mourns,*
Because the grain is devastated,
the wine has dried up,
the oil has failed.
11Be appalled, you farmers!
wail, you vinedressers,
Over the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest in the field is ruined.
12The vine has dried up,
the fig tree has withered;
The pomegranate, even the date palm and the apple—
every tree in the field has dried up.
Joy itself has dried up
among the people.
Cry Out to the Lord
13* Gird yourselves and lament, you priests!
wail, ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
ministers of my God!
For the grain offering and the libation
are withheld from the house of your God.a
14Proclaim a holy fast!
Call an assembly!
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
To the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry out to the LORD!b
15O! The day!*
For near is the day of the LORD,
like destruction from the Almighty it is coming!c
16Before our very eyes*
has not food been cut off?
And from the house of our God,
joy and gladness?
17The seed lies shriveled beneath clods of dirt;*
the storehouses are emptied.
The granaries are broken down,
for the grain is dried up.
18* How the animals groan!
The herds of cattle are bewildered!
Because they have no pasture,
even the flocks of sheep are starving.
19To you, LORD, I cry!
for fire has devoured the wilderness pastures,
flame has scorched all the trees in the field.
20Even the animals in the wild
cry out to you;
For the streams of water have run dry,
and fire has devoured the wilderness pastures.d
* [1:4] Cutter…swarming locust…hopper…consuming locust: these names may refer to various species of locusts, or to some phases in the insect’s life cycle, or to successive waves of locusts ravaging the countryside.
* [1:5] Drunkards: this metaphor expresses both the urgency behind Joel’s preaching and his ironic assessment of his audience. There are no grapes to process into new wine, yet people view their situation as just another agricultural crisis. Joel argues that the problems they now face are lessons the Lord is using to provide the knowledge they lack.
* [1:6] A nation: the locusts are compared to an invading army, whose numbers are overwhelming. The ravaged landscape resembles the wasteland left behind by marauding troops; the order and peace associated with agricultural productivity (1 Kgs 5:5; Mi 4:4) has been destroyed.
* [1:8] Like a young woman: this simile personifies Jerusalem as a youthful widow, left unprotected and without resources by her husband’s sudden death.
* [1:10] The farmland mourns: or “the farmland is dried up.”
* [1:13] Judah’s situation is so grave and the day of the Lord so imminent that priests must lament day and night if they hope to reverse the divine punishment.
* [1:15] As in Am 5:18–20, the day of the Lord in Joel’s first speech brings punishment, not victory, for Judah. In his second speech, this event means victory for those faithful to the Lord and death for the nations who are the Lord’s enemies. Almighty: Hebrew shaddai. There is wordplay between shod (“destruction”) and shaddai.
* [1:16] Before our very eyes: Joel’s audience should have discerned the significance of the winter drought and the locust invasion they witnessed. Joy and gladness: the loss of field crops has reduced Joel’s audience to subsistence living, with no means for liturgical or personal celebration, as in v. 12.
* [1:17] The seed…clods of dirt: the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. Most commentators use the translation given here, since it fits the prophet’s description of an agricultural year plagued by winter drought and a spring locust infestation.
* [1:18–19] In figurative language, Joel describes how the insufficient winter rain, the locust invasions, and summer’s heat on pasture lands and water sources drive domestic and wild animals to cry out for rain.