The Day Approaches
1* Blow the horn in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming!a
Yes, it approaches,
2a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of thick clouds!
Like dawn* spreading over the mountains,
a vast and mighty army!
Nothing like it has ever happened in ages past,
nor will the future hold anything like it,
even to the most distant generations.b
3Before it,* fire devours,
behind it flame scorches.
The land before it is like the garden of Eden,
and behind it, a desolate wilderness;
from it nothing escapes.c
4Their appearance is that of horses;
like war horses they run.
5Like the rumble of chariots
they hurtle across mountaintops;
Like the crackling of fiery flames
Like a massive army
in battle formation.d
6Before them peoples tremble,
every face turns pale.e
7Like warriors they run,
like soldiers they scale walls,
Each advancing in line,
without swerving from the course.
8No one crowds the other;
each advances in its own track;
They plunge through the weapons;
they are not checked.
9They charge the city,
they run upon the wall,
they climb into the houses;
Through the windows
they enter like thieves.
10Before them the earth trembles;
the heavens shake;
Sun and moon are darkened,
and the stars withhold their brightness.f
11The LORD raises his voice
at the head of his army;
How immense is his host!
How numerous those who carry out his command!
How great is the day of the LORD!
Utterly terrifying! Who can survive it?g
Return to the Lord
12Yet even now—oracle of the LORD—
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God,
For he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,
and relenting in punishment.h
14Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind a blessing,*
Grain offering and libation
for the LORD, your God.i
15Blow the horn in Zion!
Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly!j
16Gather the people,
sanctify the congregation;
Assemble the elderly;
gather the children,
even infants nursing at the breast;
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride* her bridal tent.
17Between the porch and the altar*
let the priests weep,
let the ministers of the LORD weep and say:
“Spare your people, LORD!
do not let your heritage become a disgrace,
a byword among the nations!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”k
The Lord Relents. 18Then the LORD grew jealous* for his land and took pity on his people. 19In response the LORD said to his people:
I am sending you
grain, new wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied by them;
Never again will I make you
a disgrace among the nations.
20The northerner* I will remove far from you,
driving them out into a dry and desolate land,
Their vanguard to the eastern sea,
their rearguard to the western sea,
And their stench will rise,
their stink will ascend,
What great deeds the Lord has done!
21Do not fear, O land!
delight and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!l
22Do not fear, you animals in the wild,
for the wilderness pastures sprout green grass.
The trees bear fruit,
the fig tree and the vine produce their harvest.
23Children of Zion, delight
and rejoice in the LORD, your God!
For he has faithfully given you the early rain,*
sending rain down on you,
the early and the late rains as before.m
24The threshing floors will be full of grain,
the vats spilling over with new wine and oil.
25I will repay you double
what the swarming locust has eaten,
The hopper, the consuming locust, and the cutter,
my great army I sent against you.n
26You will eat until you are fully satisfied,
then you will praise the name of the LORD, your God,
Who acts so wondrously on your behalf!
My people will never again be put to shame.
27Then you will know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I, the LORD, am your God, and there is no other;
my people will never again be put to shame.o
* [2:1–11] Joel warns the people about the destruction he sees galloping toward Jerusalem. He combines the imagery of the locust invasion (chap. 1) with language from the holy war tradition in order to describe the Lord leading a heavenly army against the enemy, in this case, Jerusalem.
* [2:2] Like dawn: from the east comes dark destruction rather than a new day’s light.
* [2:3] Before it: fire precedes and follows the army’s advance. Even the ravaged landscape of chap. 1 looks like a lush garden compared to the devastation this army leaves behind.
* [2:14] Blessing: the rain that makes possible the grapes and grain (v. 19) that workers will process into Temple offerings.
* [2:16] Elderly…infants…bridegroom…bride: Jerusalem is in such great danger that even those normally excused from fasting or working are called upon to participate in activities to ward off the imminent catastrophe.
* [2:17] Between the porch and the altar: the priests stood in the open space between the outdoor altar for burnt offerings and the Temple building.
* [2:18] Jealous: the Hebrew word describes the passionate empathetic bond the Lord has with Israel. The people’s wholehearted participation in Joel’s call for fasting and prayer sparks the Lord’s longing to protect and love his people Israel. This desire moves him to withhold punishment and to send the blessing of v. 14 instead.
* [2:20] The northerner: the locusts, pictured as an invading army, which traditionally came from the north (Jer 1:14–15; Ez 26:7; 38:6, 15). Locusts are not usually an annual threat in Palestine, nor are they often associated with the north. However, to demonstrate the extent of the Lord’s care for Judah and control over what happens within its borders, Joel assures his audience that the Lord will quickly drive the locusts out of Judah the coming spring, should they reappear. Dead locusts will litter the shores of the “eastern” (the Dead Sea) and the “western” (the Mediterranean) seas.
* [2:23] This autumn rain teaches the people to recognize God’s compassionate presence in nature and history. There is a play on the double meaning of the Hebrew word moreh: “early rain” and “teacher.” In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the word is used in the phrase “teacher (= moreh) of righteousness.”
a. [2:1] Is 13:9; Jer 4:5; 6:1; 51:27; Hos 5:8; Zep 1:16.
b. [2:2] Is 13:14; Zep 1:4–15.
c. [2:3] Is 13:9; 51:3; Ez 36:35.
f. [2:10] Jl 4:15; Is 13:10, 13; Ez 32:7–8; Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24; Lk 21:25–26.
g. [2:11] Jer 30:7; Am 5:18; Zep 1:15.
h. [2:13] Ex 34:6; Ps 86:5; Jon 4:2.
k. [2:17] Ps 42:4, 11; 79:10; 115:2.
o. [2:27] Is 45:5–6, 18; 46:9.