v1: We know very little about Joel; there is no reference to the kings who ruled during his ministry. Perhaps our approach to this book should be to see the longer term fulfilment of his words.
v2-12: The descriptions of the plagues of locusts.
v2-3: "Hear this," for it is urgent; see v5, 8, 11, 13; 2.1,15; since something serious is about to happen, it is essential that the people take notice, and seek the Lord (v13-14).
v4-6: The repeated invasions of locusts may refer to the powerful nations, as foreign armies came time and again into Israel and Judah.
v7-11: There is devastation; first "my vines...my fig-trees," referring to God's people; laid waste, ruined, stripped off, thrown away; such is the effect of the attacks. The illustrations are mixed with the observations; grain offerings and drink offerings are stopped, priests mourn; the fields are ruined, the farmers and vine growers impoverished.
v12: Back to the vine and fig-tree, this time in the singular; and with other fruit trees. This is a reference to godly believers (Ps 1.3; Is 61.3), who have become fewer, see Ps 12.1. The godly could hardly be found amongst the people of God; no wonder the people's joy has been lost.
v13-20: The call to repentance.
v13-14: Genuine repentance; a change of heart and deep felt sorrow. A reminder that tears are part of our life and ministry; Jer 9.1; Luke 19.41.
The priests and elders, leaders in the land, have to take the lead in repenting.
v15: The day of the Lord, destruction from the Almighty. This is described both by Joel and Zephaniah;
- a day of darkness and gloom, clouds and blackness, 2.2; Zeph 1.15-16;
- it is great and terrible, or dreadful, 2.11, 31;
- the day of the Lord's sacrifice, His wrath, His fierce anger, Zeph 1.7-8, 18; 2.2-3;
- "the day I rise up for plunder," Zeph 3.8.
The day of the Lord is followed by the restoration of the children of Judah, 2.30-32, Zeph 3.9-20. The gathering up of the church appears to precede the day of the Lord, 1 Thess 5.2-4; 2 Thess 2.1-4. Acts 2 presents a partial fulfilment of these events, but clearly that was not the day of the Lord as described here. When Joel speaks to Judah, the experience of that day is merely a foretaste of what is to come later.
v16-18: The people have already endured some suffering, a foretaste of the day of the Lord. These things are no accident or coincidence.
v19-20: As the people depart from the Lord, Joel himself prays for them; here is his godly concern and example. He has seen that whatever has already happened, worse is to follow. His prayer is therefore informed and passionate.