From the Editor’s Notebook: Minor Prophets, Joel

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets

Joel: The Book of the Day of the Lord

Key Word: Visitation.

Message: “The Value and Importance of Repentance” (Robert Lee) .1

Key Verses: 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14.

“Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (1:15).


Nothing is known of the prophet Joel beyond the brief introduction he gives himself in 1:1. He is one of 14 men in the Bible who bear the name Joel, the first having been Samuel’s eldest son (1 Sam. 8:2). The name is compounded of two divine names, Yahveh (Jehovah) and El, and it means “Jehovah is God.”

Modern critics assign the prophet Joel a post-exilic date, while conservative scholars place him as perhaps the earliest of the so-called minor prophets, during the reign of Joash (c. 800 B.C.). The point of controversy is that he does not mention the Assyrians and Babylonians. In any case, his message was to Judah, not to the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, and if the earlier date is accepted then Joel was contemporary with Jonah, Amos and Hosea.

Joel has been called “The Prophet of Religious Revival.” In his introduction to Joel’s prophecy, C. I. Scofield states that “In his youth he may have known Elijah, and he certainly was a contemporary of Elisha.”2 W. Graham Scroggie says of Joel’s style of writing that it is “elegant, clear, and impassioned, and must be given a high place in Hebrew literature.” He further notes that “the Book falls into two main parts. In the first Joel speaks, and in the second Jehovah. The first part is historical, and the second, prophetical. The first tells of desolation, and the second of deliverance.”3

An unknown author has said of this brief literary gem that its “style is pre-eminently pure, and is characterized by smoothness and fluency, strength and tenderness.” The key to the understanding and interpretation of Joel’s prophecy is the repeated phrase, “the day of the Lord” (1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), which will begin once the Church has been raptured. It will be characterized by God’s wrath and judgment unleashed upon a Christ-rejecting, sin-ridden world, and by His direct intervention once again into the course and affairs of world politics. Time-wise “the day of the Lord” will extend for a thousand years.

A plague of locusts and a severe drought brought Joel the illustrations he needed to appeal to the conscience of his nation. Although Moses (Deut. 28:38-39) and Solomon (1 Kings 8:37) had mentioned locusts as an instrument of divine chastening, the people in this instance did not recognize them as such. Joel’s mission was to point out to the people the sad condition of their spiritual life, and to press home to their hearts the need for national repentance as the essential step in returning to the Lord.


1. The Plague (1)

2. The Prophecy (2-3)

Or, if a little more detailed outline is preferred, John Phillips with his amazingly able alliterative ability has summarized Joel’s main points as follows:

1. The Present Famine (1:1-20)

2. The Predicted Foes (2:1-11)

3. The Promised Forgiveness (2:12-27)

4. The Prophetic Focus (2:28-3:21)4

Notable Notes

Three things are especially prominent in Joel:

1. It contains the greatest description in all literature of locust devastation.

2. It gives the first intimation in the Bible of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh (2:28-29).

3. Its prophecies are remarkable for their scope, extending from Joel’s day to the end of time.

Joel’s reference to locusts would have included a variety of large grasshoppers, such being the scourge of many lands throughout the world. Those who have seen these pesky creatures swarm relate that their countless legions blot out the sun, cover the ground and fill the sky in whatever direction one looks. On the ground they march in regular lines like armies of soldiers with their leaders in front. They have been described as “the incarnation of hunger,” the devastation they leave in their wake being utter and complete. It has been pointed out that the interpretation of the locusts in Joel may be actual, allegorical, or apocalyptical. However, there is no reason to doubt that Judah had been invaded by a literal swarm of locusts, whereupon Joel was directed by the Spirit of God to use this calamity as a means of communicating God’s message to the people that an invasion would come which would be far worse than a serious plague of large grasshoppers.

Thus the literal plague of locusts was but a picture of another more terrible invasion of Judah’s enemies coming in like a flood. However, there are details in Joel’s prophecy which have never yet been fulfilled, these pointing to the world forces which shall appear in the last days.

No doubt the best known prophecy of Joel concerns the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 2:28-32. The Apostle Peter made use of this prophecy on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:16-21. While it is clear that Pentecost was in Joel’s prophecy, it is not clear that Penetecost exhausted that prophecy, for Joel 2:30-32 seems to point to a time yet future, a time which falls in the period of the apocalypse of Matthew 24: 29-31.

As already indicated in the introduction, the theme of “the day of the Lord” runs through Joel’s prophecy. It is one of the most important themes in Bible prophecy, many of the other Old Testament prophets not only mention it but lend description to it as well. It is a period which closes this present age of man’s misrule of planet earth, ushering in the Lord Jesus Christ as the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). It is a day that begins in terrible judgment, then issues in full and lasting blessing, and finally climaxes in further judgment and blessing at the end of its thousand-year duration.

Those who have not yet received God’s “so great salvation” through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ should earnestly heed Joel’s solemn words, where he says of such: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (3:14).

In Joel’s brief but highly significant prophecy the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as the RESTORER.

The Annual Meeting

On Saturday, October 26, 1985, the annual committee meeting of FOOD FOR THE FLOCK INC. was convened at Don Valley Bible Chapel in Toronto. Looking back upon our gathering, I cannot help but be reminded of Psalm 133:1—“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” As our Lord enables us, it is with renewed commitment that we plan to continue publishing “Food for the Flock” magazine through 1986. It brings joy and gratitude to our hearts to know that He is using it for the blessing and edification of His people. Written and vocal expressions of appreciation for its ministry from our readers both at home and abroad continue to be a source of great encouragement.

Comparatively speaking, the magazine represents a small work with a limited outreach. But, as Warren W. Wiersbe has reminded us, “No work is small if it is God’s work. No gift is small if it is given in faith and love. No act of service is small if it is done to the glory of Christ” (The Bumps Are What You Climb On, pp. 99-100).

On behalf of our entire committee, I wish to express our many thanks to you, our readers, for your continued encouragement, practical support and prayers.

“Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).

—The Editor

A Special Request

Mr. John H. Rush, the Librarian of Emmaus Bible College, has asked for back issues of “Food for the Flock” magazine which are missing from their library. I was able to send him several copies of issues he requested, but the following issues are still desired:

Vol. 1, No. 1-12, 1955

Vol. 4, No. 5, 7, 8, 12. 1958

Vol. 5, No. 1, 3, 4, 6-9, 1959

Vol. 6, No. 2, 4, 5, 8, 1960

Vol. 7, No. 1-12, 1961

Vol. 12, No. 4, 10, 1966

Vol. 14, No. 6, 1968

Vol. 1, No. 5, 1969

Vol. 2, No. 1, 5, 1970

Vol. 3, No. 6, 1971

If any of our readers could supply one or more of the above issues, please send the same to: Mr. John H. Rush, Librarian, Emmaus Bible College, 2570 Asbury Road, Dubuque, Iowa 52001-3096.

—The Editor

A Special Note

Commencing with this issue, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. of Believers Chapel, Dallas, Texas, presents the first of a series of thought-provoking, practical studies of ROMANS 11.

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 C. 1. Scofield, Editor, The Scofield Reference Bible, p. 930.

3 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, p. 155.

4 John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures, pp. 123-24.