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Getting to Know the Bible: Joel Overview

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.

Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Joel. But before we get to Joel 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Joel. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.

And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Joel, as we prepare to behold and discern Joel, beginning with Joel 1 in our next installment of this series.

Book Type: The second book of the Minor Prophets; the twenty-ninth book of the Old Testament

Author: Joel

Date of Writing: ~835 to 796 BC.

Audience: The people of Judah

Theme: Restoration and blessing will come to Judah only after judgment and repentance.

Original Language: Hebrew

Genre: Prophecy

Purpose of Writing: The book is highlighted by two major events. One is the invasion of locusts and the other the outpouring of the Spirit. The initial fulfillment of this is quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as having taken place at Pentecost.

Summary: A terrible plague of locusts is followed by a severe famine throughout the land. Joel uses these happenings as the catalyst to send words of warning to Judah. Unless the people repent quickly and completely, enemy armies will devour the land as did the natural elements. Joel appeals to all the people and the priests of the land to fast and humble themselves as they seek God's forgiveness.

Overview: The brief book of Joel consists of three chapters and three main sections. The first section focuses on the experiences current to Joel's audience when he originally wrote the letter (Joel 1). He refers to the plague of locusts upon the land as a judgment from the Lord. The people were to view their judgment as a call to repentance to the Lord (Joel 1:13–20). This repentance was to begin with the priests (Joel 1:13). A fast was to be called, as well as a solemn assembly (Joel 1:14). Joel notes the day of the LORD is near (Joel 1:15).

The second section transitions to spiritual themes beyond the immediate situation (Joel 2:1–17). Because the day of the LORD was near, they were to sound an alarm (Joel 2:1). An army would soon invade (Joel 2:2–11), and the people were to repent (Joel 2:12–17). Their repentance was to include fasting, weeping, and mourning (Joel 2:12). The themes ending chapter 1 repeat at the end of chapter 2, calling people to consecrate themselves before God.

In the future, despite the bad things taking place in their time, the Lord would make all things right (Joel 2:18—3:21). This would include restoring physical blessings (Joel 2:21–27), spiritual blessings (Joel 2:28–32), and blessings upon the people of God (Joel 3:17–21). Chapter 3 also speaks of various judgments upon Israel's enemies (Joel 3:1–16). Judah and Jerusalem would have a glorious future (Joel 3:17–21). Verses 20–21 end with uplifting words: "But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the LORD dwells in Zion."

Foreshadowing: Whenever the Old Testament speaks of judgment for sin, whether individual or national sin, the advent of Jesus Christ is foreshadowed. The prophets of the Old Testament continually warned Israel to repent, but even when they did, their repentance was limited to law-keeping and works. Their temple sacrifices were but a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice, offered once for all time, which would come at the cross (Hebrews 10:10). Joel tells us that God’s ultimate judgment, which falls on the Day of the Lord, will be “great and terrible. Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11).

Application: Without repentance, judgment will be harsh, thorough, and certain. Our trust should not be in our possessions but in the Lord our God. God at times may use nature, sorrow, or other common occurrences to draw us closer to Him. But in His mercy and grace, He has provided the definitive plan for our salvation—Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Key Verses (ESV):

Joel 1:4, "What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten."

Joel 2:25, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..."

Joel 2:28, "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."

*Note: The book of Joel’s importance to the canon of Scripture stems from its being the first to develop an oft-mentioned biblical idea: the day of the Lord. While Obadiah mentioned the terrifying event first (Obadiah 15), Joel’s book gives some of the most striking and specific details in all of Scripture about the day of the Lord—days cloaked in darkness, armies that conquer like consuming fire, and the moon turning to blood. Rooted in such vibrant and physical imagery, this time of ultimate judgment, still future for us today (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), makes clear the seriousness of God’s judgment on sin.

I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.

Love you much.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!

-Humble Servant

P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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