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Christology of the Old Testament: And a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, v. 1
by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg
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"Joel," it is further remarked, "must have prophesied at a time when the Philistine and other nations, who had become so haughty under Jehoram, had but lately ventured upon destructive plundering expeditions as far as Jerusalem, 2 Chron. xxi. 10 ff." This argument would be plausible, if the injuries inflicted by the Philistines and the inhabitants of Tyrus had not appeared in equally lively colours before the mind of Amos (chap. i. 6-10), who, at all events, prophesied between seventy and eighty years after these events. It is just this fact which should teach caution in the application of such arguments. The recollection of such facts could not be lost, as long as the disposition continued from which they originated. It was as if they had happened in the present; for, under similar circumstances, similar events would have again immediately taken place. The passage chap. iv. 19, "Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in the land," shows also how lively was the recollection of injuries sustained long ago. Egypt and Edom in that passage are mentioned individually, in order to designate the enemies of the people of God in general, and yet with an allusion to deeds perpetrated by the Egyptians and Edomites properly so called. As the suffix in [Hebrew: arcM] must be referred to the sons of Judah—for we have no historical account of a bloody deed perpetrated against Judah by the Edomites in their own land, and it was the land of Judah which was invaded and devastated by the host of locusts—we can think, in the case of the Egyptians, only of the invasion under Rehoboam (1 Kings xiv.), and in the case of the Edomites, only of the great carnage which they made in Judah, during the time at which David carried on war with Aram in Arabia and on the Euphrates,—probably at a time when he had sustained heavy losses in that warfare; compare my Comment. on Ps. xliv. and lx. Of any [Pg 297] similar later occurrence there is no account extant. It is only by a fanciful exposition that "the innocent blood" can be found in 2 Kings viii. 20-22. The Edomites at that time kept only a defensive position, and did not come into the land of Judah. "The innocent blood" implies a war of conquest, and a hostile inroad.

"In chap. iv. (iii.) 4-7, Joel promises a return to the citizens of Judah, who had been carried away by the Philistines under Jehoram; and, hence, an age cannot have elapsed since that event." Thus Meier argues. But the words, "Behold, I raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them," contain no special prediction, but only the application of the general truth, that God gathers together the dispersed of Judah, and brings back again the exiled of Israel; and it is only requisite to compare concerning them. Gen. xv. 16, "In the fourth generation they shall come hither again," and l. 24, "God will visit you, and bring you out of this land."

We thus arrive at the conclusion that Joel occupies the right place in the Canon.

The assertion that Joel belonged to the priestly order, is as baseless as the similar one regarding Habakkuk, and as the supposition that the author of the Chronicles was a musician.

The book contains a connected description. It begins with a graphic account of the ruin which God will bring upon His apostate Congregation, by means of foreign enemies. These latter represent themselves to the prophet in his spiritual vision as an all-destroying swarm of locusts. The fundamental thought is this:—"Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together,"—wherever corruption manifests itself in the Congregation of the Lord, punishment will be inflicted. Because God has sanctified Himself in the Congregation, and has graciously imparted to her His holiness. He must therefore sanctify Himself upon her,—must manifest His holiness in her punishment, if she has become like the profane world. He cannot allow that, after the Spirit has departed, the dead body should still continue to appear as His kingdom, but strips off the mask of hypocrisy from His degenerate Church, by representing her outwardly as that which, by her guilt, she has become inwardly. This thought commonly appears in a special [Pg 298] application, by the mention of the name of the particular people whom the Lord is, in the immediate future, to employ for the realization of it. In the case before us, however, He is satisfied with pointing to the dignity and power inherent in Him. The enemies are designated only as people from the North. But it was from the North—from Syria—that all the principal invasions of Palestine proceeded. Hence there is no reason either to think of one of them exclusively, or to exclude one. On the contrary, the comprehensive character of the description distinctly appears in i. 4. It is there, at the very threshold, intimated, that the heathenish invasion will be a fourfold one,—that Israel shall become the prey of four successive extensive empires. Joel's mission fell at the commencement of the written prophecy; and in harmony with this, he gives only an outline of that which it was reserved for the later prophets to fill up, and to carry out in its details, by the mention of the name of each single empire, as the times moved on. It was enough that Joel prophesied the destruction by these great empires, even before any one of them had appeared on the stage of history, and that he was enabled to point even to the fourfold number of them.

The threat of punishment, joined with exhortations to repentance, to which the people willingly listened, and humbled themselves before the Lord, continues down to chap. ii. 17. With this is connected the proclamation of salvation—which extends down to chap. iii. 2 (ii. 29). The showing of mercy begins with the fact, that God sends the Teacher of righteousness. He directs the attention of the people to the design of their sufferings, and invites the weary and heavy laden to come to the Lord, that He may refresh them. His voice is heard by those who are of a broken heart; and there then follows rich divine blessing, with its consummation—the outpouring of the Spirit. Both—the sending of the Teacher of righteousness, and the outpouring of the Spirit—had their preliminary fulfilments; the first of which took place soon after the commencement of the devastation by the locusts, in the time of the Assyrians,—a second, after the destruction by the Babylonians had come upon the people,—a third, after the visitation by the Greek tyranny under the Maccabees. But the chief reference of the prophecy is, throughout, to Christ, and to the vouchsafement [Pg 299] of the blessing, and to the outpouring of the Spirit, originating in His mediation.

The announcement of salvation for the Covenant-people is, in the third and last part, followed by the opposite of it, viz., the announcement of judgments upon the enemies of the Congregation of God. Their hatred of it, proceeding from hatred to God, is employed by Him, indeed, as a means of chastising and purifying His Church; but it does not, for that reason, cease to be an object of His punitive justice. The fundamental idea of this part of the book is expressed in 1 Pet. iv. 17 by the words: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. And if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" The description bears here also, as in the second and first parts, a comprehensive character. That which, in the course of history, is realized in a long series of single acts of divine interposition against the enemies of the Church, is here brought together in a single scene. The overthrow of Assyria, Babylon, the Persian and Grecian monarchies, is comprehended in this prophecy. But its final fulfilment must be sought for only in the Messianic time. This is sufficiently evident from the relation of this part, to the second. Having given ear to the Teacher of righteousness, and the Spirit having been poured out upon her, the Congregation has become an object of the loving providence of God. From this flows the judgment upon her enemies. If, then, the promise of the Teacher of righteousness and of the outpouring of the Spirit be, in substance, Messianic, so, the judgment too must, in substance, bear a Messianic character. The same appears from iv. (iii.) 18, according to which passage, simultaneously with the judgments, there cometh forth, from the house of the Lord, a fountain which watereth the valley of Shittim—the waters of salvation which water the dry land of human need. (Compare the remarks on Ezek. xlvii,; Zech. xiv. 8; and my Comment. on Revel. xxii. 1.) This feature, however, clearly points to the Messianic time.

We must here, however, avoid confounding the substance with the form,—the idea with the temporary clothing which the prophet puts upon it, in accordance with the nature of prophetic [Pg 300] vision, in which, necessarily, all that is spiritual must be represented in outward sketches and forms. This form is as follows:—In the place nearest to the temple, and which was able to contain a great multitude of people, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, all nations are gathered. (The valley very probably received its name from the appellation which, in the passage under consideration, the prophet gives to it, in order to mark its destination; for Jehoshaphat means, "the Lord judges," or "Valley of Judgment."[1]) The Lord, enthroned in the temple, exercises judgment upon them. In this manner—in outward forms of perception—the idea is brought out, that the judgment upon the Gentiles is an effect of the kingdom of God; that they are not punished on account of their violation of the natural law, but because of the hostile position which they had occupied against the teachers of God's revealed truth,—against the Lord Himself who is in His Church. Every violation of the natural law may be pardoned to those who have not stood in any other relation to God, even although they should have [Pg 301] proceeded to the most fearful extent in depravity. They who were once disobedient, when the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, were not as yet given over to complete condemnation, but were kept in prison until Christ came and preached to them. "This was the iniquity of Sodom: fulness of bread, and abundance of peace, were in her and her daughters; yet the hand of the poor and needy they did not assist; but they were haughty and committed abomination before the Lord: therefore He took them away as He saw good." But, nevertheless, the Lord will, at some future time, turn the captivity (the misery) of this Sodom and her daughters, and they shall be restored as they were before,—not corporeally, for their seed is utterly rooted out from the earth, and even their place is destroyed, but spiritually; compare Ezek. xvi. 49 ff. But, on the other hand, far more severe punishments are inflicted upon those who have rejected, not the abstract, but the concrete God,—not the God who is shut up in the heavens, but the God who powerfully manifests Himself on earth, in His Church. It is true, that as long as this revelation is still an imperfect one—as it was under the Old Testament dispensation—and hence the guilt of rejecting Him less, mercy may still be shown. External destruction does not involve spiritual ruin. Moab, indeed, is destroyed, so that it is no longer a people, because it has exalted itself against the Lord; yet, "in the latter days I will turn the captivity of Moab, saith the Lord," Jer. xlviii. 47. But when the revelation of the grace of God has become perfect, His justice also will be perfectly revealed against all who reject it, and rise in hostility against those who are the bearers of it: "Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh," Is. lxvi. 24. These remarks contain the key to all which the Lord declares as to the future judgment which, in its completion, belongs only to the future world. It is not the world as such, but that world to which the Gospel has been declared, and in the midst of which the Church has been founded, which forms the object of it; compare Matt. xxiv. 14.

Footnote 1: Hofmann (Weissag. u. Erfuel. i. S. 203) has revived the explanation, according to which the valley of Jehoshaphat is to be understood as the valley in which, under Jehoshaphat, judgment was executed upon several Gentile nations. But this locality, the desert of Thekoa, which was about three hours distance from Jerusalem (compare my Comment. on the Psalms, in the Introduction to Ps. xlvi. xlviii. lxxxiii.), is at too great a distance from the temple, where, according to vers. 16 and 17, the Lord holds His judgment upon the nations. Tradition has rightly perceived that the valley of Jehoshaphat can be sought for only in the immediate vicinity of the temple. In favour of the valley of Jehoshaphat now so called, "at the high east brink of Moriah, the temple-hill" (Ritter, Erdk. xv. 1, S. 559; xvi. 1, S. 329), is also Zech. vi. 1-8 (compare the remarks on that passage). From the circumstance that there is, first, the mention of the name, and, then, the statement of its signification, "And I gather all nations, and bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and plead with them there," Hofmann infers that the name must have already existed as a proper name. There is, however, an analogy in Num. xx. 1: "And the people encamped at Kadesh;"—but the place received the name Kadesh only because of the event to be subsequently related: previous to that, its name was Barnea. (Compare Dissert. on Gen. of the Pent. vol. ii. p. 310 ff.) The two theological names of the place, which arose only from the event recorded in Num. xx., occur even as early as Gen. xiv. 7. The natural name of the valley of Jehoshaphat is, moreover, in all likelihood, King's Dale; compare Gen. xiv. 17; 2 Sam. xviii. 18; and Thenius on this passage.

[Pg 302]

JOEL I.-II. 17.

We shall not dwell here for any length of time upon the history of the expositions of this passage. It has been given with sufficient minuteness by Pococke and Marckius among older writers, and by Credner among the more modern. We content ourselves with remarking that the figurative exposition is the more ancient, having been adopted by the Chaldee Paraphrast, and by the Jews mentioned by Jerome, and that we cannot by any means, as Credner does, derive it from doctrinal considerations only; for many, with whom such considerations weighed, as Bochart, Pococke, and J. D. Michaelis, do not approve of it; whilst, on the other hand, there are among its defenders not a few who were guided by just the opposite motives, such as Grotius, Eckermann, Berthold (Einl. S. 1607 ff.), and Theiner. Two preliminary questions, however, require to be answered, before we can proceed to the main investigation.

1. Does Joel here describe a present, or a future calamity? The former has been asserted, in former times, by Luther and Calvin (compare, especially, his commentary on chap. i. 4), and in more recent times, with special confidence, by Credner. But there is nothing to favour this view. The frequent use of the Preterites would prove something in support of it, provided only we were not standing on prophetical ground. They are, moreover, found quite in the same manner in chap. iv.—in that portion which, by all interpreters unanimously, is referred to the future. And yet, if this view were to be acknowledged as sound, it ought to commend itself by stringent considerations, inasmuch as the prophetic analogy is, a priori, against it. There is not found anywhere in the prophets so long and so detailed a description of the present or the past. But, moreover, if we once give up the reference to the future, we could think of the past only; for in chap; ii. 18, 19, the description of the salvation following upon the misery, is connected with the preceding context by the Future with vav conversivum. If, then, the scene of inward vision be forsaken, and everything referred to external reality, the calamity described in the preceding context must likewise be viewed as one already entirely past, and the salvation as already actually existing. It can be proved, however, [Pg 303] from the contents, by incontrovertible special reasons, that the reference to the future is alone the correct one. The day of the Lord is several times spoken of as being at hand, which may be explained from the circumstance, that God's judgment upon His Church is a necessary effect of His justice, which never rests, but always shows itself as active. When, therefore, its object—the sinful apostasy of the people—is already in existence, its manifestation must also of necessity be expected; and although not the last and highest manifestation, yet such an one as serves for a prelude to it. The day of the Lord is, therefore, continually coming, is never absolutely distant; and its being spoken of as at hand is a necessary consequence of the saying, "Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together,"—a declaration founded upon the divine nature, and therefore ever true. (Compare my Commentary on the Apocalypse i. 1.) This designation is first found in i. 15: "Alas! for the day, for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty does it come." Here, two expedients for evasion have been tried. Justi maintained that "the day is at hand" was equivalent to "the day is there,"—an opinion which does not deserve any further refutation. Holzhausen, Credner, and Hitzig suppose that, by "the day of the Lord," we are not to understand the devastation by the locusts, but some severe judgment, to which that served as a prelude. This supposition is, however, opposed, first of all, by the verbal parallel passage in Isa. xiii. 6: "Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it cometh as a destruction from the Almighty,"—where the day of the Lord cannot be any other than that which is described in the preceding context. But this opinion is further opposed by the circumstance, that, in the subsequent context, there is not the slightest trace of any other judgment than that of the devastation by the locusts; on the contrary, with its termination, the whole period of suffering comes to an end, as regards the Covenant-people, and the time of blessing upon them and of judgment upon their enemies begins. But the necessity for understanding, by "the day of the Lord at hand," the devastation by the locusts, and hence, for viewing the latter as still future, is even more clearly seen from the second passage, chap. ii. 1, 2: "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain; let all the [Pg 304] inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord hath come, for nigh at hand, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and fogs, as the morning-red spread upon the mountains, a people numerous and strong; there hath not been the like from eternity, neither shall there be any more after it, even through the years of all generations." That, by "the day of the Lord," which the prophet, from the standing-point of his inward vision, here speaks of as having already come, and as being in reality nigh at hand, we must understand the same day as that which is minutely described in the preceding and subsequent context, viz., the devastation by the locusts, appears, in the first place, from the verbal parallel passage, Ezek. xxx. 2, which likewise speaks of one day only: "Thou son of man, prophesy and say. Thus saith the Lord, Howl ye, woe for the day! For the day is near, a day to the Lord, a day of clouds, the time of the heathen it shall be." But what places the matter beyond all doubt are the words: "A people numerous and strong." These words, by which, according to what follows, the locusts only can be understood, form an explanatory apposition to "the day of the Lord," "the day of darkness," etc. To this we may further add, that, by the last words, this judgment is represented as the most formidable, and the last by which Judea shall be visited; so that we cannot by any means think of a subsequent later day of the Lord. 2. Are the different names of the locusts designations of various species of locusts, or are these, beside the common name of the locusts, only poetical names, which denote the qualities coming into consideration? Credner has attempted to prove the former. He maintains that Joel's description has to do with two generations of locusts,—the first belonging to the end of one year,—the second, to the beginning of the year following. The latter he thinks to be the offspring of the former. In accordance with this hypothesis, he explains the different names, [Hebrew: gzM] is, according to him, the migratory locust, which visits Palestine chiefly in autumn; [Hebrew: arbh], elsewhere the general name of locusts, here the young brood; [Hebrew: ilq], the young locust in the last stage of its transformation, or between the third and fourth casting of the skin; [Hebrew: Hsil], the perfect locust, proceeding from the last transformation, and, hence, as the brood proceeded from the [Hebrew: gzM], [Hebrew: Hsil] would be the same [Hebrew: gzM].

[Pg 305]

It forms a general argument against this hypothesis, that, according to it, the prophet should enter so deeply and minutely into the natural history of locusts, that a Professor of that science might learn from him. There is nothing analogous to this, either in Scripture generally, or in the Prophets particularly. The difficulty, moreover, increases, when we assume—what has been already proved—that the description refers to the future. The religious impression which the prophet has, after all, solely in view, would not gain, but suffer by such a minute detail in the description of a future natural event,—especially such as a devastation by locusts.

A closer examination proves that the whole explanation of the names of the locusts, upon which the hypothesis is built, is untenable. It appears, then, that the prophet knows of only one kind of locusts, which he divides into four hosts; and that, with the exception of [Hebrew: arbh] the names are not those of natural history, but poetical, and taken from the qualities of the locusts.

Let us first demonstrate that the interpretation of [Hebrew: ilq], upon which Credner founds that of the other names, is inadmissible. This interpretation, he maintains (S. 295), is put beyond all doubt by the passage, Nah. iii. 16: "The [Hebrew: ilq] casts its skin and flies away." The merchants, who constituted the principal part of the population of Nineveh, are, according to him, compared to a [Hebrew: ilq] which flies away, after having cast his skin for the third or last time. But this passage of Nahum, when minutely examined and correctly interpreted, is by itself sufficient to refute that opinion concerning the [Hebrew: ilq]. In ver. 15, it is said concerning Nineveh: "There shall the fire devour thee, the sword shall cut thee off, it shall eat thee up, as the licker ([Hebrew: kilq]): make thyself many as the lickers, make thyself many as the locusts. Ver. 16: Thou hast multiplied thy merchants like the stars of heaven; lickers broke through and flew away. Ver. 17: Thy princes are like locusts, and thy captains are as a host of grasshoppers, which camp on the hedges in the day of cold. The sun has risen, and they flee away, and their place is not known where they are." This passage just proves that [Hebrew: ilq] must be winged locusts. The inhabitants of Nineveh are numerous like the locusts; numerous are her rich merchants; but suddenly there cometh upon them a numberless host of locusts, who rob [Pg 306] them of everything, and fly away. They who rob and fly away, in ver. 16, are not the merchants, but the enemies. This becomes quite evident from the comparison of ver. 15, where quite the same antithesis is found between—"The sword shall eat thee up as the lickers" (Nominat.), and "Make thyself many as the lickers." The verb [Hebrew: pwT], in its common signification, irruit, invasit ad praedam agendam, is here, in reference to the merchants, very significant. But what is decisive against the explanation of Credner is this:—that the signification "to cast the skin" cannot be established at all, and that the whole sense is utterly unsuitable. For the discourse is not here, by any means, of mercenaries or foreign traders, but of the native merchants of Nineveh, just as, in the subsequent verses, the discourse is about her own nobles. How then could that image be suitable, which must certainly denote a safe transition from one state into a better?—Credner moreover refers to Jer. li. 27, where to [Hebrew: ilq] the quality [Hebrew: smr], horridus, is ascribed. This, according to him, is to be referred to the rough, horn-like coverings of the wings of the young locusts. But, according to the context, and to the analogy of the parallel passage, li. 14, we should rather expect that "horrid" is here a designation of the multitude. (Compare the [Greek: hos akridon plethos] of the LXX.) But it is still more natural to give to [Hebrew: smr] the signification of "awful," "terrible." (Compare Ps. cxix. 120, where the verb occurs with the meaning "to shudder.")—That by [Hebrew: ilq], not the young brood, but the winged locusts are to be understood, appears also from a comparison of Ps. cv. 34 with Exod. x. 12 ff. In Exod. a single army of flying locusts overspread Egypt; the Psalmist, in recalling this event to memory, says: "He spake, and the locusts came, and [Hebrew: ilq] without number." From this passage, especially when compared with Ps. lxxvii. 46, where, instead of [Hebrew: ilq], [Hebrew: Hsil] is interchanged with [Hebrew: arbh], which alone is found in Exod., it is very clearly seen that [Hebrew: ilq], the licker, is nothing else than a poetical epithet of the locusts. It never occurs, indeed, in prose; and this can be the less accidental, as [Hebrew: gzM], the gnawer, is also never found in prose writings, and [Hebrew: Hsil] only once, in the prayer of Solomon, 1 Kings viii. 37—as that which it is in reality, as a mere attribute to [Hebrew: arbh]. That [Hebrew: ilq] has its name from the eating, is shown by Nah. iii. 15: "The sword shall eat thee up as the [Hebrew: ilq]." And, in addition to this, we may [Pg 307] further urge, that the exposition of [Hebrew: arbh] is altogether fictitious, and contradicted by all the passages;—that the prophet in ii. 25 inverts the order, and puts the [Hebrew: gzM] last, from which it is certainly to be safely inferred that the arrangement in i. 4 is not a chronological one;—that Credner himself, by his being obliged to grant that [Hebrew: gzM] and [Hebrew: Hsil] do not signify a particular kind of locusts, raises suspicions against his interpreting the two other names of particular kinds;—and that if this interpretation were to be considered as correct, [Hebrew: gzM] and [Hebrew: Hsil] must denote the locusts as fully grown. But that is by no means the case. The origin of the name [Hebrew: gzM] is, moreover, clearly shown by Amos iv. 9: "Your vineyards, your fig-trees, and your olive-trees,—[Hebrew: hgzM] devours them." As regards the corn, other divine means of destruction had been mentioned immediately before; the trees alone then remained for the locusts, and they received a name corresponding to this special destination, viz., [Hebrew: hgzM], the gnawer.—The verb [Hebrew: Hsl] is, in Deut. xxviii. 38, used of the devouring of the locusts, and [Hebrew: Hsil] never occurs excepting where the locusts are viewed in this capacity. (Besides the passages already quoted, compare Is. xxxiii. 4.)

The following also may be considered. The description of the ravages of the second brood is, according to Credner, to begin in chap. ii. 4. But the suffix in ver. 4 refers directly to the winged locusts spoken of in vers. 1-3; and in the verb [Hebrew: **] they are the subject.

And now, every one may judge what value is to be attached to a hypothesis which has everything against it, and nothing in its favour, and the essential suppositions of which—such as the departure of the swarms, their leaving their eggs behind, their death in the Red Sea—are, as the author of the hypothesis himself confesses, passed over in silence by the prophet.

We may now proceed to the solution of our proper problem. There are no general reasons, either against the figurative, or against the literal interpretation; neither of them has any unfavourable prejudice which can be urged against it. A devastation by real locusts is threatened, in the Pentateuch, against the transgressors of the law, Deut. xxviii. 38, 39; against the Egyptians, the Lord actually made use of this, among other methods of punishment; and a devastation in Israel by locusts is, in Amos iv. 9, represented as an effect of divine anger.—[Pg 308]On the other hand, figurative representations of that kind are of very common occurrence. In Isaiah, e.g., the invading Assyrians and Egyptians appear, in a continuous description, as swarms of flies and bees. The comparison of hostile armies with locusts is very common, not only on account of their multitude (from which circumstance the locusts received their name in Hebrew), but also on account of the sudden surprise, and the devastation: compare Judges vi. 5; Jer. xlvi. 23, li. 27; Judith ii. 11. Several times a hostile invasion also is represented under the image and symbol of the plague of the locusts. In Nah. iii. 15-17, the Assyrians appear in the form of locusts,—and that this is not only on account of their numbers, but also on account of the devastations which they make, is shown by the comparison with the [Hebrew: ilq] in ver. 15;—and just in the same manner are the enemies described who accomplish their overthrow. And,—what is completely analogous,—in Amos vii. 1-3, the prophet beholds the approaching divine judgment under the image of a swarm of locusts, just as, in ver. 4, under that of a fire, and in ver. 7, under that of a plumb-line. All these three images are in substance identical; their meaning is expressed in ver. 9 by the words: "The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be destroyed." The locusts denote destroying hostile armies; the fire denotes war; and the plumb-line, the destruction to be accomplished by the enemies. It was so much the more natural to represent the divine judgment under the image of a devastation by locusts—as is done also in Rev. ix. 3 ff.—because, formerly, it had actually manifested itself in this way in Egypt. The figurative representation had therefore a significant substratum in the history of the past. But it is, throughout, the custom of the prophets to describe the future under the image of the analogous past, which, as it were, is revived in it.—It ought to be still further remarked, that we must, a priori, be the less indisposed to admit a detailed symbolical representation in Joel, as the two prophets, betwixt whom he is placed, have likewise such symbolical portions.

The decision depends, therefore, upon the internal character of the description itself. An allegory must betray itself as such, by significant hints; where these are wanting, it is arbitrary to assume its existence. Following the order of the [Pg 309] text, we shall bring together everything of this kind which we find in it.

The words, even, of the introduction,—"Hath any such thing happened in your days, and in the days of your fathers? Of it you shall tell your sons, and your sons to their sons, and their sons to the succeeding generation,"—scarcely permit us to think of a devastation by locusts in the literal sense. It could only be by means of the grossest exaggeration—which, if it were far from any prophet, was certainly so from the simple and mild Joel—that he could represent, as the greatest disaster which ever befell, or should ever befall the nation, a devastation by locusts which was, after all, only a transitory evil. For it is the greatness of the disaster which is implied in the call to relate it to the latest posterity; no later suffering should be so great as to cause this one to be forgotten.

We must not overlook the expression in ver. 6: "For a nation ([Hebrew: gvi]) has come up over my land." "Nation," according to most interpreters, is thought to signify the mere multitude; but in that case, [Hebrew: eM] would certainly have been used, as is done in Prov. xxx. 25, 26, concerning the ants. In [Hebrew: gvi] there is implied not only the idea of what is hostile—this Credner too acknowledges—but also of what is profane. This, indeed, is the principal idea; and, on this account, even the degenerate Covenant-people several times receive the name [Hebrew: gvi]. That this principal idea is here likewise applicable, is evident from the antithesis: "Over my land." It is true, that the suffix cannot be referred to Jehovah, as is done by J. H. Michaelis and others, although the antithesis would thus most strikingly appear; but as little can we refer it, as is done by modern interpreters, to the prophet as an individual; for, in this case the antithesis would be lost altogether. The comparison of vers. 7 and 19 clearly shows that, according to a common practice (compare the Introduction to Micah, and the whole prophecy of Habakkuk), the prophet speaks in the name of the people of God. A strange, unheard-of event! A heathen host has invaded the land of the people of God! The antithesis is in ii. 18: "Then the Lord was jealous for His land, and spared His people." We do not think that the prophet loses sight of his image. He designates the locust as the heathen host; but he would not have chosen this designation, which, when literally [Pg 310] understood, is very strange, unless the matter had induced him to do so. If it be understood figuratively, Amos vi. 14 entirely harmonizes with it.—In the same verse (Joel i. 6) it is said: "His teeth, the teeth of a lion, cheek teeth of a lion to him;" on which Rev. ix. 8 is to be compared. This comparison is quite suitable to figurative locusts, to furious enemies (compare Is. v. 29; Nah. ii. 12, 13; Jer. ii. 15, iv. 7, xlix. 19; Ezek. xxxii. 2; Dan. vii. 4), but not to natural locusts; for the lion cannot possibly be the symbol of mere voracity.

It is remarkable, that in the description of the locusts in this verse, and throughout, their flying is not mentioned at all. It is only in chap. ii. 2, "Day of darkness and gloominess, day of clouds and thick darkness," that Credner supposes such an allusion to exist. The darkness is, according to him, in consequence of the swarm of locusts coming up in the skies. But the incorrectness of such a supposition is immediately perceived, upon a comparison of chap. ii. 10. Before the host, and before it arrives, the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, sun and moon cover themselves with darkness, and the stars withdraw their shining. It is only after all this has happened, that the Lord approaches at the head of His host. It is not from this host, therefore, that the darkness can proceed. On the contrary, the darkening of the heavens, as is quite conclusively shown by the numerous almost literally agreeing parallel passages (compare the remarks on Zech. xiv. 6), is the symbol of the anger of God, the sign that He approaches as a Judge, and an Avenger. But in what way could the omission of every reference to the flying of the locusts, in a description so minute, be accounted for other than this: that the reality presented nothing corresponding to this feature?

It is only the heaviest and most continuous suffering, and not a transitory plague by locusts, which can justify the call in i. 8: "Howl like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." This verse forms the transition to ver. 9, where the sacrifice in the house of Jehovah appears as cut off, and connects Joel with Hosea, in whom the image, of which the outlines only are given here, appears finished. Zion has also lost the friend of her youth—the Lord; compare Prov. ii. 17: "Who forsaketh the friend of her youth, and forgot the covenant of her God;" Is. liv. 6; Jer. ii. 2, iii. 4.—Of great [Pg 311] importance for the question under consideration are ver. 9: "The meat-offering and drink-offering are cut off from the house of the Lord;" and ver. 13: "Gird yourselves and lament, ye priests, howl ye ministers of the altar, come, spend all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God; for the meat-offering and drink-offering are withholden from the house of your God." It is quite inconceivable that the want of provisions, resulting from a natural devastation by real locusts, could have been the reason that the meat-offering and drink-offering, which, in a material point of view, were of so little value, should have been withheld from the Lord; inasmuch as the cessation of it appears in these passages as the consummation of the national calamity. During the siege of Jerusalem by Pompey, the legal sacrifices existed, according to Josephus (Arch. xiv. 4, Sec. 3), even amidst the greatest dangers to life, during the irruption of the enemies into the city, and in the midst of the carnage. It is true that, during the last siege by the Romans, when matters had come to an extremity, Johannes ordered the sacrifices to be discontinued. But this was done, not from want of materials, but because there were none to offer them—from [Greek: andron aporia], as Josephus says (Bell. Jud. vi. 2, Sec. 1; compare Reland in Havercamp on this passage)—and to the great dissatisfaction of the people in the city, [Greek: ho demos deinos athumei]. The national view is expressed in what Josephus says on this occasion to Johannes, to whom he had been sent by Titus on account of this event: "If any man should rob thee of thy daily food, thou, most wicked man, wouldst certainly consider him as thine enemy. Dost thou then think that thou wilt have for thine associate in this war, God, whom thou hast robbed of His eternal worship?" But the sound explanation readily suggests itself, as soon as it is admitted that behind the locusts the Gentiles are concealed. In that case, Dan. ix. 27, where the destroyer makes sacrifice and oblation to cease, is parallel. The destruction of the temple is also announced by the contemporary Amos in chap. ix.; compare ii. 5: "And I send fire upon Judah, and it devours the palaces of Jerusalem." Of a similar purport, in the time after Joel, is the passage in Micah, chap. iii. 12.

The words in ver. 15—"Woe, for the day, for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as destruction from the Almighty does it come,"—point to something infinitely higher than a mere [Pg 312] desolation by locusts in the literal sense. This appears from a comparison of Is. xiii. 6, where they are taken, almost verbatim, from Joel, and used with a reference to the judgment of the Lord upon the whole earth. This is granted even by Credner himself, when he makes the vain attempt (compare S. 345) to refer them to a judgment different from the devastation by the locust. The same is the case with Maurer and Hitzig. How, indeed, is it at all conceivable that a national calamity, so small and transient as a devastation by real locusts would have been, should have been considered by the prophet as the day of the Lord [Greek: kat' exochen], as the conclusion and completion of all the judgments upon the Covenant-people? A conception like this would imply such low notions of God's justice, and such a total misapprehension of the greatness of human guilt, as we find in none of the Old Testament prophets, and, generally, in none of the writers of Holy Scripture. That which the men of God under the Old Testament, from the first—Moses—to the last, announce, is the total expulsion of the people from the country which they defiled by their sins.

The image suddenly changes in vers. 19 and 20: "To thee, O Lord, do I cry. For fire devoureth the pastures of the wilderness, and flame burneth all the trees of the field. Even the beasts of the field desire for Thee; for the fountains of waters are dried up, and fire devoureth the pastures of the wilderness." The divine punishment appears under the image of an all-devouring fire. Now, since we cannot here think of a literal fire, it is certain that, in the preceding verses also, a figurative representation prevails. Holzhausen and Credner (S. 163), and others, attempt to evade this troublesome inference, by asserting that fire and flame are here used instead of the heat of the sun, scorching everything. But this assertion is, at all events, expressed in a distorted and awkward manner. Fire and flame are never used of the heat of the sun. According to this view, it ought rather to be said that the prophet represents the consuming heat, under the image of fire poured down from heaven. But even this cannot be entertained. For the parallel passage chap. ii. 3, "Before him fire devoureth, and after him flame burneth," shows that the fire, being immediately connected with the locusts, cannot be a cause of destruction independent of, and co-ordinate with, them. That the locusts are the sole cause of [Pg 313] the devastation, and that there is not another cause besides them, viz., the heat, is evident also from the words: "As the garden of Eden is the land before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing is left by them." The burning anger of God is represented under the image of a consuming and destroying fire, with a reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which the divine wrath really manifested itself in that way. Under the image of fire, war also, one of the principal punishments of God, is often represented. Thus, fire means the fire of war in Num. xxi. 28: Amos i. 4, 7, 10, etc.; Jer. xlix. 27; Rev. viii. 8, 10. On the latter of these passages, my Commentary may be compared. If, then, the fire spoken of in this passage mean likewise the fire of war, and the locusts, the heathen enemies, the difficulty presented by the connection of these two things is solved. The comparison of Amos vii. here serves as a key. In vers. 1-3, the divine punishment is represented by the prophet under the image of a great army of locusts laying waste the country, which is just beginning to recover under Jeroboam II. after the former calamities inflicted by the Syrians; and then in ver. 4, under the image of a great fire devouring the sea (i.e., the world), and eating up the holy land. This analogy is so much the more important, the more impossible it is to overlook, in other passages also, the points of agreement betwixt Joel and Amos. But the symbolical representation goes still further; it extends even to the details. The beasts of the field are the barbarous, heathen nations. In ver. 19, the desolations are described which the fire of war accomplishes among Israel; in ver. 20, those which it effects among the Gentiles: compare the antithesis between the beasts of the field and the sons of Zion in ii. 22. In Is. lvi. 9, the beasts of the field likewise occur as a figurative designation of the heathen. In Jer. xiv.—a prophecy which has been distorted by expositors through a too literal interpretation—the image is, in vers. 5, 6, individualized by the mention of particular wild beasts—the hind and the wild ass. Joel himself indicates that the beasts in this description must, in general, be understood figuratively, by using in ver. 18 the word [Hebrew: nawmv], which can be explained only by "become guilty," "suffer punishment." (Compare Is. xxiv. 6: "Therefore curse devoureth the land, and they that dwell in it become guilty;" and [Pg 314] Hos. xiv. 1.) The word [Hebrew: nanHh], which is never used of beasts, likewise leads us to think of men. "How do the beasts groan," is explained by "All the merry-hearted do groan," in Is. xxiv. 7. The words [Hebrew: terg aliK], in which there is an evident allusion to Ps. xlii. 2, must likewise appear strange, if the description be understood literally. But what is decisive in favour of the figurative interpretation is ii. 22: "Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green with grass, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig-tree and vine do yield their strength." The object of joy is here described, first, figuratively, and then, literally. The pastures of the wilderness are green with grass, i.e., the tree, etc. It is only thus that the [Hebrew: ki] can be accounted for; it states the reason, only when the pastures of the wilderness are not understood literally. The fruits of the trees are mentioned here as the ordinary food of the beasts of the field. Hitzig, it is true, remarks on this: "That many beasts of the field feed upon fruits of trees which they gather up, and that, e.g., foxes eat grapes also." But the point at issue here is the ordinary food; and Gen. i. 29, 30, where the trees are given to man, and the grass to the beasts, is decisive as to the literal or figurative interpretation. Under the image of unclean beasts—especially wild beasts—the Gentiles appear also in Acts xi. 6.—Nor can "the rivers of water" (ver. 20) be understood literally. The water of rivers, brooks, and fountains, is, in Scripture, the ordinary figure for the sources of sustenance, of thriving, wealth, and prosperity; compare remarks on Rev. viii. 10.

Chap. ii. 2 is to be considered as indicating the reason which induced Joel to choose this figurative representation. The words, "There hath not been anything the like from eternity, neither may there be any more after it, even to the years of all generations," are borrowed, almost verbally, from Exod. x. 14. The prophet thereby indicates that he transfers the past, in its individual definiteness, to the future, which bears a substantial resemblance to it. What was then said of the plague of locusts especially, is here applied to the calamity thereby prefigured. From among all the judgments upon the Covenant-people (for these alone are spoken of), this judgment is the highest and the last; and such the prophet could say, only if the whole sum of divine judgments, up to their consummation, represented [Pg 315] itself to his inner vision under the image of the devastation by locusts. The absurdities into which men are led by the hypothesis of a later origin of the Pentateuch, are here seen in a remarkable instance—viz., in the assertion of Credner, that the passage in Exodus is an imitation of that of Joel. The verse immediately following, "As the garden of Eden (i.e., Paradise) the land is before him," has an obvious reference to Genesis, not only to Gen. ii. 8, but also to xiii. 10, where the vale of Siddim, before the divine judgment, is compared to the garden of Jehovah—to Paradise.

In chap. ii. 6 it is said, "Before him nations tremble." That the mention of the nations here is but ill adapted to the literal interpretation, appears from the circumstance, that while Credner understands by the [Hebrew: emiM], Judah and Benjamin, Hitzig attempts to explain it by people. But if, by the locusts, the heathen conquerors are designated, the [Hebrew: emiM] is quite in its place. When the powerful heathen empires overflowed the land, Israel always formed only a part of a large whole of nations; compare i. 19, ii. 22. Amos describes how the fire of war and of the desire of conquest raged, not only in Israel, but among all the nations round about, and consumed them. In addition to Amos chap. i. compare especially Amos vii. 4, 5, where, as objects of hostile visitation, are pointed out, first, the sea, i.e., the world, and then, the heritage of the Lord. According to Is. x. 6, the mission of Asshur was a very comprehensive one. In Habakkuk and Jer. chap. xxv. the judgments which the Chaldeans inflicted upon Judah, appear only as a part of a universal judgment upon all nations.

According to chap. ii. 7-9, the locusts take the city by storm. They cannot be warded off by force of arms. They climb the wall. They fill the streets, and enter by force into the houses. Peal locusts are not dangerous to towns, but only to the fields.

In chap. ii. 11, every feature is against the literal explanation. "And the Lord giveth His voice before His army; for His camp is very numerous, for he is strong that executeth His word; for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible, who can comprehend it?" There is not the remotest analogy in favour of the supposition which would represent an army of locusts as the host and camp of God, at the head of which He [Pg 316] Himself marches as a general, and before which He causes His thunders to resound like trumpets. It is true that, in some Arabic writer, this is mentioned as a Mosaic command: "You shall not kill locusts, for they are the host of God, the Most High;" see Bochart ii. p. 482, ed. Rosenmueller iii. p. 318. But who does not see that this sentence owes its origin to the passage under consideration? Is. xiii. 2-5, where the Lord marches at the head of a great army to destroy the whole earth, may here be compared; and on Joel ii. 10, "Before him the earth quaketh, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon mourn, and the stars withdraw their shining," Is xiii. 10 and Jer. iv. 28 may be compared, where, in the view of threatening hostile inundation, the earth laments, and the heavens above mourn.

In ii. 17, "Give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them" ([Hebrew: lmwl-bM gviM]), the prophet drops the figure altogether, and allows the reality—the devastation of the country by heathen enemies—to appear in all its nakedness. (It is worthy of notice that by the term [Hebrew: gviM] in this verse, our remarks on [Hebrew: gvi] in ii. 6 receive a confirmation.) The defenders of the literal explanation have tried a twofold mode of escaping from this difficulty. Michaelis explains thus: "Spare Thy people, and deliver them from that plague of locusts. For if they should continue to swarm any longer, the greatest famine would arise, and Thy people, in order to satisfy the cravings of hunger, would be compelled to flee into the territories of heathen nations to serve them for bread, and to submit not only to their sway, but to ignominy." But every one must at once see how far-fetched this explanation is. In all history we do not find any instance in which a devastation by locusts—which affects the produce of one year only, and even this never completely and throughout the whole country—has reduced a people to the necessity of placing themselves under the dominion of foreign nations. Modern interpreters—and especially Credner—take refuge in another explanation: "Give not up Thine heritage to the mockery of heathens over them." They assert that the signification "to mock" is required by the parallelism. But we cannot see how, and why. The ignominy of Israel consisted just in this, that they, the heritage of the Lord, were brought under the dominion of the Gentiles, It is Just by the parallelism that the signification "to rule" is required. For it is the heritage [Pg 317] of the Lord, and the dominion of the Gentiles, which form a striking contrast, and not their mockery. The very same contrast is implied in ver. 18, in the words: "Then the Lord was jealous for His land." In these, the prophet reports the manner in which the Lord put away that glaring contradiction. They are not natural locusts, but only the heathen enemies, who can be the objects of the jealousy of the Lord; His land. His people, He cannot give up as a prey to heathen nations. But further—and this alone is sufficient to settle the question—the explanation is altogether unphilological. The verb [Hebrew: mwl] never has the signification "to mock;" the phrase [Hebrew: mwl mwl], "to form a proverb," is altogether peculiar to Ezekiel, in whose prophecies it several times occurs. In the other books, nothing occurs which would be, even in the smallest degree, to the purpose, except that in the ancient language of the Pentateuch [Hebrew: mwliM] occurs once, in Num. xxi. 27, in the signification "poets." The verb [Hebrew: mwl] with [Hebrew: b] means always, and without exception, "to rule over"—properly, "to rule by entering into any one." Thus it occurs especially in that passage which the prophet had in view, Deut. xv. 5, 6: "If thou wait hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God ... thou shalt rule over many nations, and they shall not rule over thee," [Hebrew: vmwlt bgviM rbiM vbK la imwlv]. Compare also the verysimilar passages, Ps. cvi. 41: "And He gave them into the hand of the heathen, and they that hated them ruled over them," [Hebrew: vimwlv bM]; and Lament, v. 8: "Servants rule over us," [Hebrew: Mwlv bnv]. That it is from prejudice alone that the selection of the signification "to mock" can be accounted for, appears also from the circumstance that all the old Translators (the LXX., Jonath., Syr., Vulg.) render it by "to rule."

More than one proof is offered by ver. 20: "And I will remove from you the Northman, and will drive him into the land dry and desolate; his van into the fore sea, and his rear into the hinder sea; and his stench shall come up, and his ill-savour shall arise, for he has magnified to do."

1. If we understand this literally, and refer it to real locusts, then the designation by [Hebrew: hcpvni], i.e., "one from the North," "a Northman," is inexplicable. It is true that there is no foundation for the common assertion, that locusts move only from the South to the North (compare Credner, S. 284); but in all history there is not one instance known of locusts having come [Pg 318] to Palestine from the North—from Syria. But even although occasionally single swarms, after having come to Syria from their native country, the hot and dry South, may have strayed thence to Palestine, such is not conceivable of so enormous a swarm as is here described, which, with youthful strength, devastated the whole of Palestine from one end to the other. Is it, moreover, probable that the prophet, who, as we have already seen, prophesies things future, would mention a circumstance so accidental as the transient abode of a swarm of locusts in Syria? Such a residence, besides, would not justify the assertion. The termination [Hebrew: -i]—added to common names, indicates origin and descent. An inhabitant of a town, for example, who should reside for a short time in a village, could not for that reason be called a [Hebrew: przi].—Finally—The native country of the real locusts is plainly enough indicated by the words: "And I will drive him into the land dry and desolate." Who does not see that, by these words, the hot and dry southern countries are marked out, and that the prophet expresses the thought, "The enemies will be driven back to the place whence they came," by mentioning the country from which the real locusts used to come? Our opponents are here greatly embarrassed. Some explain: "The locusts marching northward,"—Hezel and Justi, without the slightest countenance from the usus loquendi: "The dark and fearful host." This opinion was approved of by Gesenius in the Thesaurus; but in opposition to it Hitzig may be compared, who himself gives the explanation, "The Typhonic." V. Coeln (de Joelis aetate, Marb. 1811, p. 10). Ewald and Meier propose a change in the text. With the reasons preventing us from referring the expression to the locusts In a literal sense, we may combine the fact that the North is constantly mentioned as the native land of the most dangerous enemies of Israel, viz., the Assyrians and Chaldeans. And although this designation be. In a geographical point of view. Inaccurate, this is outweighed by the circumstance, that enemies always Invaded Palestine from Syria, after having previously made that land a part of their dominions. Compare Zeph. ii. 13: "And the Lord stretches out His hand over the North, and destroys Assyria, and makes Nineveh a desolation—a dry wilderness;" Jer. i. 14: "And the Lord said unto me, Out of the North the evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land;" Jer. iii. 18, where [Pg 319] the land of the North is mentioned as the land of the captivity of Judah and Israel; Jer. iv. 6, vi. 1, 22, x. 22, xlvi. 24, where the people of the North form the antithesis to Egypt, the African power; and Zech. ii. 10. Jerome long ago remarked: "The prophet mentions the North, that we might not think of real locusts, which are wont to come from the South, but might, by the locusts, understand the Assyrians and Chaldeans."

2. That we have here to do with a poetical description, and not with one of natural history, appears from a designation of the places to which the locusts are to be driven. Among these, the dry and hot southern country—the Arabian desert—is first mentioned; then, the anterior sea, i.e., the Dead Sea, situated eastward of Jerusalem; and lastly, the hinder, or Mediterranean Sea. That, according to the view of the prophet, the dispersion in these different directions was to take place in a moment, appears from the circumstance that, according to his description, the van of the same army is driven into one sea, and the rear, into the other sea. Now, every one very easily sees that this is a physical impossibility, inasmuch as opposite winds cannot blow at the same time. Credner's explanation, according to which the [Hebrew: pniM] of the locusts is intended to be the swarm of those who first invaded Palestine, while [Hebrew: svpv] is their brood, deserves mention in so far only as it affords a proof of the greatness of the absurdities into which one may be deluded, after he has once adopted a groundless hypothesis.

3. The words, "For he has magnified to do," state the reason of the destruction of the locusts. They are punished in this manner, because they have committed sin by their proud haughtiness. Because they have magnified to do, the Lord now magnifies Himself to do against them, ver. 21; He glorifies Himself in their destruction, since, at the time of their power, they glorified themselves, and trampled God under foot. But sin and punishment necessarily imply responsibility; and it would be indeed difficult to prove that, in the way of a poetical figure, any prophet would ascribe such to irrational creatures; while, as regards the heathen enemies of Israel, the thought here expressed is of constant occurrence.

In chap. ii. 25, "And I restore to you the years ([Hebrew: hwniM]) which the locusts have eaten," etc., several years of calamity are spoken of. But we cannot agree with Ewald in thinking that [Pg 320] the land was, for several years, laid waste by locusts: we are prevented from doing so by the single word [Hebrew: itr] in chap. i. 4. Bochart rightly remarks: "The produce of the new year cannot be called the residue of the former year. That word is much more applicable to the fruits of some fields, which are passed by, or to the residue left in a field, which should be eaten up in the same year." As little can we suppose, with Ewald, that the plural is here used with reference to the effects produced, by the devastation of one year, upon the ensuing years; for it is not a possible loss which is here spoken of, but one which has actually taken place. The prophet then passes, here also, from the image to the thing itself,—to the hostile invasions extending over longer periods, which he describes under the image of a devastation by locusts which, at one time, took place.

Very strong arguments in favour of the figurative explanation are furnished, in addition, by chap. iv. (iii.). The whole announcement of punishment and judgment upon the heathen nations has sense and meaning, only when, in the preceding context, there has been mention made of the crime which they committed against the Lord and His people. In that case, we have before us the three main subjects of prophecy,—God's judgments upon His people by heathen enemies, their obtaining mercy, and the punishment of the enemies. At the very beginning of chap. iv. (iii.) the sufferings of Israel, described in chap. i. and ii., and the judgment upon the heathen, are brought into the closest connection. According to chap. iv. 1, 2, the gathering of the Gentiles is to take place at a time when the Lord will return to the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, i.e., according to the constant usus loquendi (compare my Commentary on Ps. xiv. 7), when He will grant them, mercy, and deliver them from their misery.[1] But that this misery can be none other than that described in chap. i. and ii. appears simply from the fact, that this has been declared to be the close of all the judgments of God.—We must, further, not overlook the article [Pg 321] in [Hebrew: at-kl-hgviM] in chap. iv. 2, and, accordingly, must not translate, "I will gather all nations," but "all the nations." And how could this be explained in any other way than—all the nations which are spoken of in the preceding chapters under the image of locusts? But of special importance is the second part of the verse: "And I plead there with them concerning My people, and My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and distributed My land."[2] It is quite impossible that there should here be the mention of anything which happened before the time of Joel. Whatever period we may assign to him, he belongs, at all events, to a time in which a scattering of Israel among the Gentiles, and a distribution of their land, had not as yet taken place. Credner, indeed, believes that the calamities under Jehoram are sufficient to account for these expressions. "At that time," he says, "the Edomites revolted from Judah; Libnah, which belonged to Judah In the stricter sense, rebelled; the Arabs and Philistines invaded the kingdom and plundered its capital; those inroads did then not terminate without a diminution of the territory of Judah." But all this is irrelevant; the discourse concerns the distribution of the land of the Lord. The rebellion of a heathen tributary people does not, therefore, here come under consideration. Just as little can we see what Libnah has to do here. It belonged, it is true, to the kingdom of Judah; but the heathen nations had nothing to do with its rebellion;—for this, according to 2 Kings viii. 22, and 2 Chron. xxi. 10, proceeded from the inhabitants, who were dissatisfied with the bad government of the king, and was speedily brought to a close. It cannot then be proved, that even some small portion of the territory was lost at that time; far less, that the whole country was apportioned anew. It is quite the same as regards the dispersion among the Gentiles. The invasion of the Philistines cannot [Pg 322] here come into consideration, because, in ver. 4, these enemies are expressly distinguished from those who had effected the dispersion of the people, and the distribution of the land: "And ye also, what have ye to do with Me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the borders of Palestine?" The prophet can thus not be speaking of something which had taken place at his time; but as little can he speak of something still future, which had not been touched upon by him when he threatened punishment upon the Covenant-people; for the devastation by the locusts appears as the highest and last calamity of the future. Nothing, therefore, remains but to suppose, that under the image of the devastation by locusts, the devastation of the country by heathen enemies, and the dispersion of its inhabitants, are described,—a supposition which is confirmed by the great resemblance of the passage under consideration to chap. ii. 17-19. Vatke (Theol. des A. Th. i. S. 462) founded upon the fact that the general exile is here predicted, the assertion that Joel had prophesied only after the captivity. No one, of course, has been willing to agree with him in this; but as long as the devastation by the locusts is understood literally, it will not be possible to undermine the grounds upon which he supports his views. It is altogether in vain that people spend their labour in disputing the fact, so obvious and evident, that the discourse here concerns the total occupation of the land by the heathen, the total carrying away of its inhabitants.

It may be further remarked, that this passage at the same time considerably strengthens the proof already adduced, that Joel foretells future things in chap. i. and ii. A devastation by the locusts is described in these chapters; but the substance of this figure does not refer to the time of Joel.

Finally—We must still direct attention to the words in iv. 17:—"And Jerusalem shall be a sanctuary, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more." This promise stands in evident contrast to the former threatening, and becomes intelligible only by it. In it, therefore, the strangers must be represented under the figure of the locusts.

And now, after all these single proofs have been enumerated—proofs which, if necessary, might easily have been strengthened and increased—let us look back to this survey of the contents of the book, and we shall see how, according to our view, [Pg 323] and according to it alone, the prophecy of Joel forms an harmonious, complete, and well finished whole, and that the prophet adheres closely to the outlines already given by Moses, with the filling up and finishing of which all other prophets also are employed. And let us, finally, add, that exegetical tradition also bears a favourable testimony to the figurative interpretation.

We need not spend much time in considering the arguments advanced against the figurative interpretation by Credner (S. 27 ff.), Hitzig, and others. They all rest upon an almost incomprehensible ignoring of the nature of poetry, of the metaphor, and of the allegory. Thus, e.g., Credner says, "What man of sound sense will ever be able to say of horses, horsemen and warriors, that they resemble horses and horsemen? Who has ever seen horses and horsemen climbing over walls? What shall we say concerning chap. ii. 20? Do land armies ever perish in the sea, and, moreover, in two different seas? What is the use of foretelling, in chap. ii. 22, 23, the ceasing of the drought, if the prophet here thought of real enemies?" But in opposition to all these and similar objections, let us simply keep in mind, that the prophet does not by any means view the enemies as such, and only incidentally compares them with locusts; but that in his inward vision they represented themselves to him as locusts. It is just the characteristic feature of the allegory, that the image becomes in it substantial, and has the thing represented, not beside it, but in, with, and under it. But it is just for this reason that many a feature must be introduced which does not belong to the real subject, i.e., the figure, but to the ideal only, i.e., the thing represented thereby. It is for this very reason also, that the metaphor, raised to the ideal subject, may again be compared with the real subject. After all this we may well judge what right Ewald has to call the figurative explanation "an error, which, in consideration of our present knowledge, becomes from day to day less pardonable."

We remark further, that, in chap. i. 4, it is distinctly indicated that Israel's visitation by the world's power will not be a simple one, but will present various aspects: "That which the gnawer has left, the locust devoureth; and that which the locust hath left, the licker devoureth; and that which the licker hath left, the eater devoureth." The opinion has been entertained, that "the prophet does not say, one cloud of locusts after [Pg 324] another, or swarms of locusts of every description have come up; but, on the contrary, that they are all contemporary, and that all of them devour the same things." But a succession is quite obvious. The four parties do not devour at the same time; but the second devours what the first has left. It is true that the succession appears as very rapid; but that is a peculiarity belonging only to the vision. If there be at all a succession of those extensive empires representing the world's power, there must in reality be considerable intervals between them. The question then arises, however, whether the number four is to be considered as a round number, so that the thought would only be this, that several nations are to visit the people of the Lord, or whether, on the contrary, importance is to be attached to the number four as such. According to Jerome, the Jews followed the latter view. In accordance with their view, the first swarm denotes the Assyrians, together with the Chaldeans; the second, the Medo-Persians; the third, the Grecian kingdoms; the fourth, the Romans. The analogies of the four horns in Zech. ii. 1-4 (i. 18-21), the four beasts in Daniel, the seven heads of the beast in Revelation—denoting the seven phases of the world's power opposed to God—are decisive in favour of the latter view; compare my Commentary on Rev. xii. 18, xiii. 1. Now, if we follow this view at all, we must, in determining the four swarms, certainly assent to the opinion of the Jews, as given in Jerome; and this so much the more, as the four swarms are, in that case, exactly parallel to the four beasts in Daniel, which denote the Chaldean, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman monarchies. The fact that the Assyrians are taken together with the Chaldeans can be the less strange, because, so early as in the prophecy of Balaam, Asshur and Babylon are comprehended under the common name [Hebrew: ebr], i.e., "that which is on the other side,"—the power on the other side of the Euphrates; and are contrasted with the new empire which pressed on from the West—from Europe. (Compare my Dissertation on Balaam, p. 593 ff.)[3] It was the less possible to ascribe to the Assyrians an independent position here, as Joel has to do mainly with Judah, upon which no judgment of real importance was inflicted by the Assyrians.

Footnote 1: The well ascertained usus loquendi must be here the less given up, as, in the preceding context, to which this verse carries us back, we are, it is true, told that the Lord will return and bestow mercy; but the bringing back of the people is as little spoken of as the carrying of them away, inasmuch as the express mention of which did not suit the image of the devastation by locusts.

Footnote 2: [Hebrew: Hlq] means, not "to divide among themselves," but "to effect a new division," "to apportion the land anew," as, e.g., Asshur distributed the territory of the ten tribes among the Aramean Colonists, [Hebrew: Hlq] is used of the distribution of the land by Joshua, in Josh. xiii. 7, xix. 51. In Mic. ii. 4, when the captivity was impending, the people, in anticipation of it, utter their lamentation in the words, "He distributes our fields;" compare Ps. lx. 8.

Footnote 3: In the volume containing the "Dissertations on the Genuineness of Daniel, etc.," published by T. and T. Clark.

[Pg 325]

ON CHAPTER II. 23.

"And, ye sons of Zion, exult and rejoice in Jehovah your God; for He giveth you the Teacher of righteousness, and then He poureth down upon you rain, the former rain and the latter rain, for the first time."

The words, "In Jehovah your God," are an addition peculiar to the sons of Zion. In reference to the earth, which the locusts had devastated, it was in ver. 21 said only, "Fear not, exult and rejoice." In reference to the beasts, i.e., to the heathen world, which was kept in subjection by the conquerors of the world, but which is delivered by the great deeds of the Lord, it is in ver. 22 said only: "Fear not." They are only the sons of Zion who know and love the Author of Salvation, and who receive from Him special gifts, besides the general ones.

There is considerable difference in the interpretations of this verse. The words, [Hebrew: at-hmvrh lcdqh], are, by the greater number of interpreters, translated, "The Teacher of righteousness." Thus, Jonathan, the Vulgate, Jarchi, Abarbanel, Grotius, and almost all the interpreters of the early Lutheran Church translate them. Others take [Hebrew: mvrh] in the signification of "rain," and [Hebrew: lcdqh] as qualifying its nature more accurately. Even in ancient times, this explanation was not at all uncommon. Among the Rabbinical interpreters, it was held by Kimchi, Abenezra, S. B. Melech, who explain it of a timely rain. Calvin, who rendered the [Hebrew: lcdqh] by justa mensura, defends it with great decision, and declares the other explanations to be forced, and unsuitable to the connection. It is translated by "rain" in the English[1] and Genevan versions, and by many Calvinistic interpreters, who differ, however, in the translation of [Hebrew: lcdqh], and render it either: "In right time," or "in right measure," or "in the right place," or "for His righteousness," or "according to your righteousness." Marckius is of opinion that "rain" is necessarily required by the context; but that, on account of [Hebrew: lcdqh], this rain must be understood spiritually of the Messiah with His saving doctrine, and His Spirit. Among the interpreters of the Lutheran Church, Seb. Schmid thinks of "a rain in due season." [Pg 326] Among modern interpreters, the explanation by "rain" has become altogether so prevalent, that it is considered scarcely of any importance even to mention the other. [Hebrew: lcdqh] is explained by Eckermann: "In proof of His good pleasure;" by Ewald, Meier, and Umbreit: "For justification;" by Justi: "For fruitfulness;" and by the others (Rosenmueller, Holzhausen, Credner, Rueckert, Maurer, and Hitzig) by: "In right measure." We consider this explanation to be decidedly erroneous, and the other to be the sound one; and this for the following reasons:—1. The great difference, on the part of the defenders of the current opinion, as regards the explanation of [Hebrew: lcdqh] certainly indicates, with sufficient clearness, that, by this addition, a considerable obstruction is put in its way. The most current explanation, by "justa mensura," "in right measure," "sufficiently," is certainly quite untenable. Even the fact, that it is not [Hebrew: cdq] but [Hebrew: cdqh] which is used here, must excite suspicion. (On the difference betwixt these two words, compare Ewald in the first edition of his Grammar, S. 312-13.) But what is quite decisive is the fact that these two words, which occur with such extraordinary frequency, are never found in a physical, but always in a moral sense only. The only passage in which, according to Winer, [Hebrew: cdq] signifies "rectitude" in a physical sense, is Ps. xxiii. 3: [Hebrew: megli cdq] which, according to him, means: "Straight, right ways." But that verse runs thus: "He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." The path is a spiritual one; it is righteousness itself, which consists in the actual declaration of being just, and in justification, which are implied in the gift of salvation. With regard to [Hebrew: cdqh], Holzhausen (S. 120) maintains that it is used of a measure which has its due size in Lev. xix. 35, 36. The words are these: "Ye shall not do unrighteousness in judgment, in measure, in division. Balances of righteousness, weights of righteousness, ephas of righteousness, shall ye have: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Even the contrast—so evident—with the unrighteousness, shows distinctly that balances, measures, and weights of righteousness are here such as belong to righteousness—are in harmony with it. Even the root [Hebrew: cdq] never occurs in a physical sense, but always, only in a moral sense. To this it must be added, that the explanation, "Teacher of righteousness," [Pg 327] is recommended by the parallel passage in Hos. x. 12, where, also, teaching occurs in connection with righteousness: [Hebrew: vivrh cdq lsM], "And the Lord will come and teach you righteousness." This parallel passage is also opposed to Ewald's explanation, "for justification,"—the only explanation among those mentioned to which, it must be admitted, no philological objection can be raised. But the thought, "The early rain an actual justification of Israel," would be rather strange, and so much the more so, because the wrath of God had not manifested itself in a drought and want of water, but rather in the sending of the army of locusts.

2. That the giving of the [Hebrew: mvrh], in the first hemistich of the verse, must denote a divine blessing different from the giving of the [Hebrew: mvrh] in the second, is evident for this reason:—that, otherwise, there would arise a somewhat meaningless tautology. They who assigned to [Hebrew: mvrh] in the first hemistich, the signification of "rain in general," have felt how very unsuitable is the twofold mention of the early rain. To this must be added the use of the Fut. with Vav convers., [Hebrew: vivrd]. By this form, an action is denoted which follows from the preceding one; but according to the current explanation, one and the same action would here be expressed, only in different words. It cannot be denied, indeed, that the form occurs by no means rarely in a weakened sense, and is used only to express a connection; and that for this reason, this argument is not, per se, conclusive. Yet the original signification so generally holds, that we can abandon it only for distinct and forcible reasons. In addition to this, it must be considered that the addition of [Hebrew: gwM] to the second [Hebrew: mvrh] distinctly marks out the latter as being different in its meaning from the former. It must also be kept in mind that it is one of the peculiarities of Joel to use the same words and phrases, after brief intervals, in a different sense; compare Credner's remarks on ii. 20, iii. 5.

3. The explanation by "Teacher" is far more obvious for the reason that [Hebrew: mvrh] always occurs with the signification of "teacher" (even in Ps. lxxxiv. 7, where the right translation is: "With blessing also the teacher covereth himself"), and never with that of "rain," or "early rain." This is rather the meaning of [Hebrew: ivrh]; and the verb also never occurs in Hiphil, as it does in Kal, with the signification "to sprinkle," "to water." [Pg 328] By this we are led to the supposition that Joel, in the second hemistich, made use of the uncommon form [Hebrew: mvrh] with the meaning of "early rain," solely on account of the resemblance of the sound to the [Hebrew: mvrh] occurring immediately before, with its usual signification; and that, at the same time, he added [Hebrew: gwM] for the purpose of avoiding ambiguity. What serves to confirm this supposition, is the circumstance that Jeremiah, alluding to the passage under consideration, has, in chap. v. 24, put [Hebrew: ivrh] in the place of [Hebrew: mvrh]; which proves that the second [Hebrew: mvrh] in Joel ii. 23 has originated only from its connection with the first, which is altogether wanting in Jeremiah.

4. A causal connection, similar to that which exists here betwixt the sending of the Teacher of righteousness and the pouring out of the rain, occurs also in that passage of the Pentateuch which the prophet seems to have had in view, viz., Deut. xi. 13, 14: "And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken unto my commandments which I command you this day, that ye love the Lord your God, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land in due season, the first rain and the latter rain ([Hebrew: ivrh vmlqvw]), and thou shalt gather in thy corn, and thy must, and thine oil." Here, as well as there, the righteousness of the people is the antecedens; the divine mercies and blessings are the consequens. Since the former does not exist, God begins the course of His mercies by sending Him who calls it forth. This remark removes, at the same time, the objection, that the mention of the Teacher of righteousness is unsuitable in a connection where the prophet speaks of temporal blessings only, and rises to spiritual blessings only afterwards, in chap. iii. There existed for the Covenant-people no benefits which were purely temporal; these were always, at the same time, signs and pledges of the divine favour, which depended upon the righteousness of the people, and this, in turn, upon the divine mission of a Teacher of righteousness.

5. The [Hebrew: brawvN] is also in favour of our explanation. It stands in close relation to [Hebrew: aHri-kN] in chap. iii. 1, ii. 28. The sending of the Teacher of righteousness has two consequences;—first, the pouring out of the temporal rain—an individualizing designation of every kind of outward blessings, and chosen with a reference to the passage of the Pentateuch which we have just [Pg 329] cited, but with special reference to the description of the calamity, under the figure of a devastation by locusts;—and, secondly, the outpouring of the spiritual rain—the sending of the Holy Ghost. It needs only the pointing out of this reference, which has been overlooked by interpreters,[2] to set aside the manifold and different explanations of [Hebrew: brawvN] which are, all of them, unphilological, or give an unsuitable sense.[3]

But if any doubt should still remain, it would be removed by a parallel passage in Isaiah, which depends upon the text under review, in a manner not to be mistaken, and which, therefore, must be regarded as the oldest commentary upon it. Isaiah is describing the condition of the people subsequent to their having obtained mercy, after a long time of deep misery, in chap. xxx 20: "And the Lord gives you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction; and then thy teacher ([Hebrew: mvriK] is singular) shall no longer hide himself, and thine eyes shall see thy teacher; Ver. 21: And thine ears hear a word behind thee, This is the way, walk ye in it; do not turn to the right hand, nor to the left." Accordingly, after they have put away what was evil, ver. 22: "The Lord giveth the rain of thy seed, with which thou sowest thy land," etc., ver. 23. The teacher is not a human teacher, but God. Human teachers had not concealed themselves; but that the Lord had concealed Himself, is affirmed in the preceding verses. The words, "Behind thee" (ver. 21), suggest the idea of a teacher of such a glory that they could not look in his face (compare Rev. i. 10); and the words, "Thine eyes see thy teacher," ver. 20, imply the idea of the high majesty of the teacher, and suggest the idea of a revelation of the glory of the Lord; compare Is. xl. 5, lii. 8. The Lord must first manifest Himself as a Teacher, before He appears as a Saviour. In Isaiah, the Lord Himself appears as the Teacher; as also in Hos. x. 12: "It is time to seek the Lord, till He [Pg 330] come and teach you righteousness;" while in Joel, on the contrary, it is the Lord who giveth the Teacher. Both may be reconciled by the consideration, that in the Teacher whom the Lord gives, the glory of the Lord becomes manifest.

It now only remains to inquire who is to be understood by the Teacher of righteousness. (Teacher of righteousness is equivalent to: "Teaching them how they should fear the Lord," 2 Kings xvii. 28.) It is referred to the Messiah, not only by almost all those Christian interpreters who follow this explanation, with the exception of Grotius, who conjectures that Isaiah or some other prophet is to be thereby understood; but also, after the example of Jonathan, by several Jewish commentators; e.g., Abarbanel, who says: "This teacher of righteousness, however, is the King Messiah, who will show the way in which we must walk, and the works which we must do." Even on account of the article, it is not possible to refer it to a single human teacher; and this argument may, at the same time, be added to those which oppose the explanation of [Hebrew: mvrh] by "an early rain." There can be only the choice betwixt the Messiah as the long promised Teacher [Greek: kat' exochen], and the ideal teacher,—the collective body of all divine teachers. But the latter view requires to be somewhat raised, before it can be allowed to enter into the competition. That we have not here before us an ordinary collective body, is shown by the parallel passage in Isaiah, according to which the glory of the Lord is to be manifested in the Teacher. And this is as little applicable to a plurality of human teachers, as to a single individual. It is further proved by the fundamental passage in Deut. xviii. 18, 19, where, indeed, the prophetic order is comprehended in an ideal person. This, however, has its reason only in the circumstance, that the idea of prophetism was, at some future time, to find its realization in a real person. It is further seen from the state of the Messianic hopes at the time of Joel, and from the exceeding greatness of what is here connected with the appearance of the Teacher of righteousness. In addition to the allusion in Gen. xlix. 10 and Deut. xviii., the Messiah appears as a Teacher in the Song of Solomon also, chap. viii. 2; and in Is. lv. 4: "Behold, I give Him for a witness to the people, for a prince and a lawgiver to the people;" as also in those passages of the second part of Isaiah, in which He is declared to be the Prophet [Greek: kat' exochen]. [Pg 331] When thus understood, the explanation of the ideal teacher may be preferable to the reference to Christ exclusively. In favour of such a reference, there is the comprehensive character and the ideal import which are, in general, peculiar to the prophecies of Joel. Such a reference is, moreover, favoured by the expression itself, which points out only that which Christ has in common with the former servants of God, viz., the teaching of righteousness, and especially by a comparison with the fundamental passages, Deut. xviii.

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