Description
Joel prophesies an end-time locust-like army invading Jerusalem. Israel repents and God responds in compassion. He delivers Israel and restores the land. The Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh, and the surviving remnant of Israel is saved.
Commentary
This chapter describes an end-time locust army invading Jerusalem (v1-11), which brings the people of Israel to their knees in repentance, seeking the Lord's deliverance (v12-17). God then responds in compassion towards his people, delivers them from 'the one from the north' (v20), and restores the nation's prosperity (v18-27). This is followed by a worldwide outpouring of God's Spirit on all kinds of people, and spiritual revival, not just for Israel but for the whole world (v28-32).

Given the context set by Joel 1:2-7, the description of the army in Joel 2:1-11, and the reference to four different types of locusts in 1:4 and 2:25, this army is clearly portrayed as an army of locusts that God sends (v25) and leads (v11). When they are eventually blown into the sea and die, they cause a stench, implying they are real living creatures (v20).

Some bible scholars understand the locus army to be literal. Israel has experienced locust swarms at various times in history. The most serious on record was the 1915 locust swarm, during World War I. It diminished the 1915 winter harvest, and devastated the summer and autumn harvests. The Jews in Jerusalem identified it with Joel 2 and turned to God for deliverance. The locusts left within a few days, but had laid eggs which resulted in further swarms (see eyewitness accounts by Rev A.M. Luntz and by the American Consul in Jerusalem). Interestingly, it was two years before the fall of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over Israel from the north. It is likely that the Antichrist's empire will be a kind of restored Ottoman Empire. The locust swarm in Joel 2 precedes the fall of Antichrist's empire.

It is also important to note that Revelation 9:1-11 describes a plague of locusts at the fifth trumpet. These have scorpion-like stings in their tails and are allowed to torture people for five months. They rise out of the Abyss, and according to verse 11 of that chapter, their king is the angel of the abyss known as Apollyon. So they appear to be demonic creatures, led by Satan himself. Although the descriptions of the two locust armies in Joel 2 and Revelation 9 are somewhat different, it would seem a strange coincidence if they both fit into an end-time context but are unrelated. Consequently, it makes sense to try and reconcile the two accounts as different perspectives of the same army.

However, many bible scholars understand the locust army of Joel 2 metaphorically, as portraying a human army.

Mike Bickle understands it to represent Antichrist's army invading Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (as in Ezekiel 38 and Zechariah 14). In that case, it is God's army in the sense that God uses Antichrist as his club of judgment to bring Israel to repentance (Isaiah 10:5), just as he used his 'servant Nebuchadnezzar' in antiquity (Jeremiah 25:9 & 51:20). In that case, verses 12 to 17 portray Israel repenting and seeking God during the Great Tribulation, and verses 18 to 27 portray Jesus intervening to deliver Israel from the Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon, and then restoring Israel during the Millennium.

Another possibility is that the locust army represents an army of resurrected and raptured Christians with glorified bodies. After his resurrection, Jesus in his glorified body was able to pass through walls and enter a locked room (John 20:19-29 & Luke 24:36-42). Here in Joel 2, verses 8 and 9 describe these 'locusts' bursting through city defences without breaking rank, and entering houses like a thief, which would be possible for people with invincible resurrected bodies like that of Jesus. Various scriptures portray God (Jesus) mustering an army to join him in his liberation of Israel at the battle of Armageddon (Psalm 50:2-5, Psalm 110:3, Isaiah 13:4, Zechariah 14:5, Revelation 19:14). Psalm 50 is particularly significant in that God summons believers from the heavens above (resurrected believers) and from the earth (raptured believers) in order to judge his people Israel and testify against them. According to verse 11, "The voice of the LORD thunders as he leads his army". This seemingly identifies Jesus as the leader of the locust army, and the battle of Armageddon as its context on the timeline. Isaiah 33 portrays God's deliverance of Israel from the Antichrist who is called 'the destroyer' and 'the deceitful one'. In verses 3 to 4 of that chapter, the nations (Antichrist's allies) are scattered when God springs into action, and their 'plunder disappears as if locusts were eating it'. So in that passage, the locust army is a judgment against the Antichrist and his armies, not against Israel. Here in Joel 2, it is portrayed more as a judgment against Israel. Perhaps the same event kills two birds with one stone. Jesus' victory at the battle of Armageddon is primarily a judgment against the Antichrist and his armies, but at the same time it is a such a terrifying spectacle for the Jews who witness it that it causes them to fall to their knees in repentance. Also, here in Joel 2, verses 10 to 11 seem to fit with events at the end of the Great Tribulation, including the battle of Armageddon, rather than events at its beginning when Antichrist invades Jerusalem. The sun, moon and stars are darkened (as in Matthew 24:29), the earth quakes (as in Revelation 16:18), and the voice of the Lord thunders. Various scriptures portray Jesus using his voice as a weapon of judgment (Isaiah 11:4, 30:27-28 and Psalm 29). Also verse 3 says literally of the locust army, "a fire devours before it". Various scriptures portray Jesus using fire as weapon of end-time judgment (Psalm 50:3, 97:3, Isaiah 10:17, 29:6, 33:11-14, 66:15).

Whatever the locust army really represents, the end result of their invasion is that Israel repents and God restores them. He removes 'the one from the north' and drives his armies into the sea (v20). God then blesses and restores the land (v23-26). Israel will praise the Lord who has acted wondrously on their behalf and they will never again be put to shame (v26). They will be convinced that God is in their midst (v27).

Verses 28 and 29 describe a subsequent outpouring of God's Spirit on 'all flesh'. This is associated with God being in their midst, and results in a great spiritual revival. Its timing coincides with the day of the Lord and end-time signs in the sky, the sun being darkened, and the moon appearing blood-red (v31). The remnant of Israel that survives the Great Tribulation will call on the name of the Lord and be saved (v32). A similar Holy Spirit outpouring is prophesied in Ezekiel 39:29, following the defeat of Gog and his vast army.

On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:17-21, the Apostle Peter quoted verses 28 to 32 as an explanation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early church. Here in Joel 2, this outpouring is associated with the end-time day of the Lord, but Peter saw it as an early fulfilment. In Ephesians 1:13-14, the Apostle Paul says, "And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory." By 'the redemption of God's own possession', Paul is referring to the salvation of the nation of Israel at the end of the age as portrayed in Joel 2. He understands the Holy Spirit outpouring which began at Pentecost to be a down-payment that guarantees the full-payment at the end of the age.
Tags
Places: Zion, Jerusalem
Symbols: Locust army
Tags: Locust army, Armageddon, Signs in the sky, Sun and moon darkened, Jesus uses fire, Weapons of Jesus, Jesus musters an army, Israel repents, End-time revival, Holy Spirit outpouring, End-time prophetic ministry, Israel saved through the Great Tribulation, Antichrist from the north
The Locusts’ Devastation
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm signal on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land shake with fear, for the day of the Lord is about to come. Indeed, it is near!
2 It will be a day of dreadful darkness, a day of foreboding storm clouds, like blackness spread over the mountains. It is a huge and powerful army – there has never been anything like it ever before, and there will not be anything like it for many generations to come!
3 Like fire they devour everything in their path; a flame blazes behind them. The land looks like the Garden of Eden before them, but behind them there is only a desolate wilderness – for nothing escapes them!
4 They look like horses; they charge ahead like war horses.
5 They sound like chariots rumbling over mountain tops, like the crackling of blazing fire consuming stubble, like the noise of a mighty army being drawn up for battle.
6 People writhe in fear when they see them. All of their faces turn pale with fright.
7 They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. Each one proceeds on his course; they do not alter their path.
8 They do not jostle one another; each of them marches straight ahead. They burst through the city defences and do not break ranks.
9 They rush into the city; they scale its walls. They climb up into the houses; they go in through the windows like a thief.
10 The earth quakes before them; the sky reverberates. The sun and the moon grow dark; the stars refuse to shine.
11 The voice of the Lord thunders as he leads his army. Indeed, his warriors are innumerable; Surely his command is carried out! Yes, the day of the Lord is awesome and very terrifying – who can survive it?

An Appeal for Repentance

12 “Yet even now,” the Lord says, “return to me with all your heart – with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Tear your hearts, not just your garments!” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love – often relenting from calamitous punishment.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve, and leave blessing in his wake – a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God!
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion. Announce a holy fast; proclaim a sacred assembly!
16 Gather the people; sanctify an assembly! Gather the elders; gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom and the bride from her private quarters.
17 Let the priests, those who serve the Lord, weep from the vestibule all the way back to the altar. Let them say, “Have pity, O Lord, on your people; please do not turn over your inheritance to be mocked, to become a proverb among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, “Where is their God?”

The Lord’s Response

18 Then the Lord became zealous for his land; he had compassion on his people.
19 The Lord responded to his people, “Look! I am about to restore your grain as well as fresh wine and olive oil. You will be fully satisfied. I will never again make you an object of mockery among the nations.
20 I will remove the one from the north far from you. I will drive him out to a dry and desolate place. Those in front will be driven eastward into the Dead Sea, and those in back westward into the Mediterranean Sea. His stench will rise up as a foul smell.” Indeed, the Lord has accomplished great things.
21 Do not fear, my land! Rejoice and be glad, because the Lord has accomplished great things!
22 Do not fear, wild animals! For the pastures of the wilderness are again green with grass. Indeed, the trees bear their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield to their fullest.
23 Citizens of Zion, rejoice! Be glad because of what the Lord your God has done! For he has given to you the early rains as vindication. He has sent to you the rains – both the early and the late rains as formerly.
24 The threshing floors are full of grain; the vats overflow with fresh wine and olive oil.
25 I will make up for the years that the ‘arbeh-locust consumed your crops – the yeleq-locust, the hasil-locust, and the gazam-locust – my great army that I sent against you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, and your hunger will be fully satisfied; you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has acted wondrously in your behalf. My people will never again be put to shame.
27 You will be convinced that I am in the midst of Israel.
I am the Lord your God; there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame.

An Outpouring of the Spirit

28 After all of this I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have prophetic dreams; your young men will see visions.
29 Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will produce portents both in the sky and on the earth – blood, fire, and columns of smoke.
31 The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the Lord comes – that great and terrible day!
32 It will so happen that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who survive, just as the Lord has promised; the remnant will be those whom the Lord will call.
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