by Al Maxey


The name Joel (Hebrew = Yo'el) means "Yahweh is God." He was the son of a man named Pethuel (or Bethuel in the Septuagint) which means "the open-heartedness or sincerity of God." Whether Joel received his name at birth, or was given this name later as a result of his ministry, is unknown.

Joel lived and prophesied in the southern kingdom of Judah. He very likely was a resident of the city of Jerusalem. He makes frequent reference to Judah & Jerusalem (2:32; 3:1, 17-18, 20), to their citizens (3:6, 8, 19), to Zion (2:1, 15, 32; 3:17, 21) and its children (2:23). He also shows great familiarity with the Temple and its ministry (1:9, 13-14, 16; 2:14, 17; 3:18). He was also intimately acquainted with the geography and history of the land (1:2; 3:2-8, 12, 14, 18).

Some scholars have suggested his familiarity with the Temple service may indicate he was a priest, or the son of a priest. Others speculate "his castigation of the priests suggests he was not a member of their caste." Little is known about this man, except for what can be gleaned from the book itself. Although 13 other persons in the OT writings bear the name Joel, he cannot be identified with any of them.

"Joel was a man of vitality and spiritual maturity. A keen discerner of the times, he delivered God's message to the people of Judah in a vivid and impassioned style, with a precision and originality of thought that served as a veritable quarry out of which many subsequent prophetic building stones were to be hewn" (Expositor's Bible Commentary).


There is great disagreement among scholars as to the dating of this book. Theories range from the 9th century to the 4th century BC. Some have even sought to date it as late as the Maccabean Period (during the so-called Intertestimental Period). The problem -- no date is given in the heading of the book, nor is there any explicit reference within the body of the work itself. The major theories are:

The most likely and logical of these theories is the Early Pre-exilic, which would date the prophecy of Joel from about 835 BC on. For an excellent defense of this view see --- A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr., p. 304-307.


The land has been devastated by a locust plague. Drought, famine and fires follow in the wake of the locust plague. This is far more than just a natural disaster -- it is also a national disaster! Almost every aspect of community life has been affected. The economy of the land has been all but ruined. The whole nation has ground to a halt. Even the religious life of the community is threatened through the shortage of offerings.

Joel sees a link between this natural/national disaster and a time of coming judgment from the Lord God --- the Day of the Lord. Not only was this locust plague an actual judgment from God, but it warned of an even greater impending judgment against the people of God --- when the enemy would not be armies of locust, but armies of men!

This concept of further judgment also led Joel to reveal God's intention for the last days --- the ultimate coming of God in judgment at the end of time.


"While this is one of the briefest books in the OT, it is at the same time one of the most profound. Both in its grasp of the relationship between historical events and the suprahistorical expectation of the day of the Lord, and also in its impact on early Christian theology, its influence has hardly been proportionate to its size" (New Layman's Bible Commentary).


The book falls into two distinct sections:

  1. Joel speaks ....... 1:2 - 2:17

  2. Jehovah speaks ....... 2:18 - 3:21

Joel refers to the natural/national disaster of the locust and tells the people this is to be a warning to them so that they might repent. This disaster heralded the Day of the Lord which could only be averted by genuine repentance. If they repented, this day of judgment would come upon their enemies rather than upon themselves.

"The book is an appeal from Jehovah to the people to seek Him through repentance. Out of this repentance there would come material blessings followed by an outpouring of spiritual blessings" (Homer Hailey). Joel has often been called the Prophet of Pentecost because of his reference to spiritual blessings.

Other major messages of the book of Joel are:

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