Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Study of the Prophets #29: Joel (Cont.)
We begin at Chapter 1:8, continuing the discussion about the devastation that is about to come to the land during the time of Joel and in the future before the Day of the L-rd. You can review the previous verses and the detailed description of the locusts and the invading armies in Lesson #28 on this website.
“Lament like a maiden girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.” This verse has several interpretations, all having valid application:
- Lament like a maiden in sorrow does when her husband dies in her youth, when the relationship is at its height (Radak).
- Lament like a young maiden whose betrothed dies suddenly just before the wedding takes place. Similarly, just as the crops were ready for harvest, the locusts destroyed them ( R’ Eliezer of Beaugency).
- Others direct this exhortation to the land which will lose its crops and be left desolate like a young woman who loses her husband (Ibn Ezra).
- Abarbanel addresses the virgin nation of Israel, which had never been conquered. Lament the loss of the Divine Presence that ceased to swell among you after you were exiled, just as a young maiden bemoans the premature death of her husband.
Verse 9: “Meal-offering and libation have been eliminated from the Temple of HaShem; the Kohanim, the ministers of HaShem mourn.” The field has been plundered, the land destroyed; for the grain has been robbed, the wine dried up, and the oil devastated.”
The destruction caused by the locusts/armies is so devastating that there is no more wine or grain for the offerings in the Temple. Therefore, the Kohanim who rely on their share of the Temple offerings for sustenance, are left to mourn their destitution (Radak). By default, neither will there be wine for those who overindulge and they too will mourn (Ibn Ezra).
According to another interpretation by (Alsich), Joel is instructing the nation in how they should prioritize their reaction to the great tragedy: Be like a newly married maiden, whose husband dies before they can consummate their marriage. Although it would be understandable for her to bemoan the loss of her anticipated immediate pleasure, she cries instead over the loss of her husband who was intended to be her mate for life. Similarly, Joel is instructing the nation that they should focus their grief not on the negation of their personal enjoyment, but on the cessation of offerings in the Temple. No doubt, there will be those in the future who have the same difficulty prioritizing what is more important; the loss of all of our conveniences and pleasures, or the abomination of desolation and the defilement of the Temple? We need to keep our priorities straight.
This verse also provides a reference to the “abomination of desolation” that helps us to date these events. The anti-messiah will put a stop to Temple sacrifices and make war against Judah.
Verse 10 is self-explanatory; the fields have been robbed of their grain, and the land has been rendered desolate without its wine and oil. Therefore, the people are denied the staples of their diet (Radak). In our society, it would be one thing to be denied access to all the restaurants and foods such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and the like. Indeed, many people in our society place too much emphasis on these unnecessary foods. Imaging how it was and will be when the basic staples are denied again, such as grain, meat, fruits/vegetables.
Verse 11-12: “Be ashamed, O plowmen; wail, O orchard workers- over wheat and over barely, for the harvest of the field has been lost; the wine has dried up and the fig tree has been devastated; the pomegranate tree as well as the date tree and apple tree- all the trees of the field- have dried up, for rejoicing has dried up from among the sons of man.”
The workers will be ashamed and distraught for all their work has been for naught. In addition to the staples of life that have been destroyed, the various trees of the field have lost their fruit also. Although the figs, apples and pomegranates are not necessary staples, they are basic sources of pleasure discussed in the explanation of verse 10. These things, the staples and the niceties have been destroyed by G-d to abolish rejoicing from among the people in retribution for their sins.
Verse 13: “Gird yourselves [with sackcloth] and lament, O Kohanim; wail, O ministers of the Altar; come spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my G-d, for meat offering and libation have been withheld from the Temple of your G-d.”
All of the Kohanim should don sackcloth which is a sign of repentance; those who were scheduled to minister at the Altar at the same time as the calamity took place should also wail over the disaster. The Levites who administer at the Temple should also don sackcloth and mourn. They should mourn and appeal to G-d since their normal process of approaching G-d through the Temple offerings is now impossible because of the destruction to the crops. This was and will be a real dilemma as G-d proscribed how He was to be approached; one could not and cannot decide how to approach the L-rd lest they be killed like Nadav and Avihu. It will be interesting to see how G-d provides a way for these designated people to approach Him in the future when Temple worship that will have been reinstituted by Judah is done away with once again at the midpoint of the Tribulation. We must await the raising of a Sanctuary upon the Temple Mount before these things come to pass.
Verse 14: “Decree a fast; call an assembly; gather the elders[and] all the inhabitants of the Land to the Temple of HaShem, your G-d, and cry out to HaShem.”
Gather all the people together to fast and to beg HaShem to repeal the plague of the locusts. These actions will certainly be necessary once the invading swarms have descended upon the Land. Perhaps we are given previews of “coming attractions” with the recent mega disasters that have befallen our world. Yet, there was not a single community appeal to the G-d of Israel for His intervention or blessing; no appeal by the religious leaders for national repentance. Imagine what calling the people together in a community, national or global assembly could accomplish, then and in the future. All we need do is review the book of Jonah and Esther to grasp an understanding of what community and national heartfelt repentance can accomplish.
Verse 15: “Woe for that day! For the day of HaShem is near, and like [sudden] plunder it will come from the Almighty.”
Children of Israel, express your anguish over this impending day of disaster, for the plague of HaShem will come upon you suddenly- like a robbery that befall s its victim without warning (Radak). -and there will thus be no escape. This should sound familiar to those individuals familiar with Matthew 24. The “generation” spoken of by Yahshua is indicative of the Jewish people; the Jews will not be destroyed as a nation when these things occur; much to the disappointment and anger of HaSatan, his false prophet, and those who have aligned themselves with his armies.
Verse 16-18: “Is not food cut off from before our eyes, and happiness and exultation from the Temple of our G-d? Casks of wine have become moldy under their lids; storehouses are laid desolate and silos destroyed, for the grain has withered. How the animals groan, herds of cattle are bewildered, for there is no pasture for them; also flocks of sheep were made desolate.”
The locusts have appeared before their very eyes and consumed al the produce right in front of them, until there is no food left. Thus, as the Festival of Sukkot arrives, there is no harvest over which to rejoice and for which there is no thanksgiving to G-d (Radak). It is interesting that Radak mentions Sukkot, for in the future event, Yom Kippur must precede Sukkot. During the Day of the L-rd, Yom Kippur will not yet have occurred. Perhaps Radak makes reference to Sukkot because this is the Festival of thanksgiving to G-d for the harvest/ G-d’s provision; Yahshua the Messiah who provides for His people understood by Messianic Jews.
The casks sit empty, getting moldy from lack of use and from the residue of wine that once filled them. There is no grain to fill the silos. The cattle become lost ad confused as they wander in the deserts and forests in all the confusion caused by locusts/ invading armies. Even the sheep have been devastated by the invasion.
Verse 19-20: “To you, HaShem, I call out, for fire has consumed the dwellings of the wilderness, and flame has scorched the trees of the field. Also, the animals of the field cry out to You, for the springs of water have dried up and fire has consumed the dwelling of the wilderness.”
So great is the destruction, so all -encompassing-like a land consumed by raging fire- that there are no avenues of endeavor available. Thus, I turn to you HaShem-to the G-d of my fathers-as the only recourse for salvation (Abarbanel).
There are several interpretations of the verse concerning the fire:
- Targum interprets it as a wind from the east, powerful like a fire, which destroyed all the growth
- Others maintain that along with the locusts, the fields were plagued with drought (Ibn Ezra)
- Others refer to the locusts wreaking such devastation that it appeared as if the earth had been destroyed by fire (Radak).
- Abarbanel subscribes to the previous interpretation referring to the flames of destruction brought on by the enemy. This is very interesting in light of the fact that invading armies and the modern armaments of war will certainly devastate the land, even causing great fires, whether due to nuclear or conventional weaponry.
Even the animals who find their sustenance far from civilization cry out to HaShem in their thirst (Radak). This is because the destruction has spread to the fields and deserts far beyond the areas of human habitation.
Next week we will continue beginning with Chapter 2.
Shalu Shalom Yerushalyim (Pray for the peace of Jerusalem)
Shalom v’ brachas
Rabbi Tamah Davis