Book of Joel
|Book of Joel
The Book of Joel, often called simply, Joel, is an ancient Jewish writing canonized into the Minor Prophets section of the Nevi'im. Christians later appropriated it into their old testament. The date of writing is unknown. The text uses a prophetic style and was probably originally written in Biblical Hebrew. This book is in the public domain.
The author identifies himself as Joel, son of Pethuel, and explains that the plagues injuring the Israelites are Yahweh's punishment for their sins, but if they repent, Yahweh will protect them from plagues, and make the Israelites armies powerful enough to enslave their enemies.
I read this book to better familiarize myself with the Jewish religion.
The book doesn't have a title. It has been referred to as "Joel" as a matter of convenience for centuries.
|Early Modern English
Authorship and Dating
The author identifies himself as Joel, son of Pethuel, however, this isn't very helpful as the names could also be titles since Jo-el means "Jehovah is God," and Pethu-el means "vision of God." Considering how much tampering the Tanakh has seen, this introductory sentence could have been added after the fact to add veracity. There is no mention of Joel or Pethuel anywhere else in all of antiquity.
Because the book doesn't mention any major events or specific historical figures, estimates for when the book was written vary wildly from 800 BCE to 400 BCE, and nobody can give a definitive answer.
The oldest surviving manuscript of Joel comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q78 and 4Q82 and are dated around 200 BCE.
The text is a bit disjointed, but is similar to the other minor prophets. It begins with a lament of a recent locust plague that has destroyed all the food of the Israelites, and even the priests can't make sacrificial bread and wine for Yahweh. Next it compares the armies of Yahweh to a plague of locusts. It goes on to warn people that Yahweh will return in a terrifying manner to put an end to plagues and calls for the Israelites to repent. If they repent, Yahweh will give them food and prevent the other nations from shaming them. Once again, Yahweh rebukes the Israelites who sold children into slavery for wine and prostitutes, and says he will judge those people in the future, and will defeat the Philistines by enslaving their children. Finally, Yahweh says he will make the lands of the Israelites wonderful and will make barren the land of their enemies.
The Book of Joel contains several passages that are very similar to passages from other books of the Tanakh, however, since Joel can't be easily dated, it's difficult to know if the author of Joel is quoting from another book, or if the others are quoting from it. Three New Testament books quote from Joel.
One of the more interesting quotes of unknown priority regards the phrase "swords to plowshares." In both the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Micah, a prophecy is made that Yahweh will bring peace among nations so that the inhabitants will, "…beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…" (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 NRSV). However, the author of uses the same phrase to incite violence with Yahweh demanding his followers "Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears…" (Joel 3:10 NRSV).
- This book showcases a several examples of how words can be forever lost to time. The Biblical Hebrew word megraphah for example, and the words arbeh, chasil, gazam, and yeleq, which are different types of plague animals, usually all translated to "locust," but clearly different from their usage.
- While I understand lamenting the loss of crops to pests, who cares if the priests of Yahweh can no longer make sacrificial bread and wine (1:9)? Yahweh doesn't need them.
- The author suggests that the army of Yahweh is like locusts, unstoppable, innumerable, terrifying, and, highly destructive (2:1-11). That's not something to be proud of!
- The author says that it is through purposeful starvation and crying that you can regain favor with Yahweh (2:12). What kind of deity would be impressed by self-abuse and crocodile tears?
- Despite elsewhere in the bible decrying it, divination is promoted in the form of prophecy, dreams, and visions (2:28). And "signs" are described, but are nothing more than eclipses (2:31).
- Yahweh explains that the Israelites traded their own children for prostitutes and wine (3:3), but he won't punish them now or save their children, instead, he will wait for an appointed time before judging them (3:2).
- Yahweh is very concerned about the riches of his priests (3:5).
- The author prophecies that Jerusalem will never again be invaded by foreigners (3:17), of course, it has been invaded, captured, and even sacked numerous times since then.
- Like most of the Tanakh, Yahweh is depicted as someone who will hold all Hebrews accountable for the actions of some. This is terribly immoral and not just.
- Like many other books in the Tanakh, being made fun of by other nations is seen as a terrible thing, and it is necessary for Yahweh to help them so the other nations will stop mocking them (2:19, 2:26-27).
- Yahweh's punishment for the Philistines who bought Israelite slave children is to enslave the children of the Philistines and sell them to far away nations (3:7-8). Why is he so in favor of child-trafficking?
- Yahweh commands the Israelites to take their implements of farming and convert them into weapons for killing (3:9-10).
- Yahweh says he will make the lands of the enemies of the Israelites (Egypt and Edom) barren wastes (3:19).