Book of Joel

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The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible. Joel is part of a group of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets. (The term indicates the short length of the text in relation to the longer prophetic texts known as the Major Prophets).


After a superscription ascribing the prophecy to Joel (son of Pethuel), the book may be broken down into the following sections:

Historical context[edit]

The Prophet Joel as imagined by Michelangelo (Fresco, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508–1512)

As there are no explicit references in the book to datable persons or events, scholars have assigned a wide range of dates to the book. The main positions are:[1]

Evidence produced for these positions are allusions in the book to the wider world, similarities with other prophets, and linguistic details. Other commentators, such as John Calvin,[2] attach no great importance to the precise dating.

History of interpretation[edit]

The preservation of the book of Joel indicates that it was accorded special status by its contemporaries as “the word of the Lord” (1:1). Its history as part of the Jewish and Christian canons followed that of the entire scroll of the Minor Prophets.

The Masoretic text places Joel between Hosea and Amos (the order inherited by the Tanakh and Old Testament), while the Septuagint order is Hosea–Amos–Micah–Joel–ObadiahJonah. The Hebrew text of Joel seems to have suffered little from scribal transmission, but is at a few points supplemented by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate versions, or by conjectural emendation.[3] While the book purports to describe a plague of locusts, some ancient Jewish opinion saw the locusts as allegorical interpretations of Israel's enemies.[4] This allegorical interpretation was applied to the church by many church fathers. Calvin took a literal interpretation of ch.1, but allegorical view of chapter 2, a position echoed by some modern interpreters. Most modern interpreters, however, see Joel speaking of a literal locust plague given a prophetic/ apocalyptic interpretation.[5]

The traditional ascription of the whole book to the prophet Joel was challenged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by a theory of a three-stage process of composition: 1:1–2:27 were from the hand of Joel, and dealt with a contemporary issue; 2:28–3:21 were ascribed to a continuator with an apocalyptic outlook. Mentions in the first half of the book to the day of the Lord were also ascribed to this continuator. 3:4–8 could be seen as even later. Details of exact ascriptions differed between scholars.

This splitting of the book’s composition began to be challenged in the mid-twentieth century, with scholars defending the unity of the book, the plausibility of the prophet combining a contemporary and apocalyptic outlook, and later additions by the prophet. The authenticity of 3:4–8 has presented more challenges, although a number of scholars still defend it.[6]

Biblical quotes and allusions[edit]

There are many parallels of language between Joel and other Old Testament prophets. They may represent Joel’s literary use of other prophets, or vice versa.

In the New Testament, his prophecy of the outpouring of God′s Holy Spirit upon all people was notably quoted by the apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2).

The table below represents some of the more explicit quotes and allusions between specific passages in Joel and passages from the Old and New Testaments.

Russian icon of the prophet Joel (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, c. 1700–1725)
JoelOld TestamentNew Testament
1:6, 2:2–10Revelation 9:3, 7–9
1:15Isaiah 13:6
Ezekiel 30:2–3
2:1Zephaniah 1:14–16
2:1–2Amos 5:18, 20
2:11Malachi 3:2
2:27Isaiah 45:5
Ezekiel 36:11
2:28–32Acts 2:16–21
2:31Malachi 4:5
2:32Obadiah 17Romans 10:13
3:10Isaiah 2:4
Micah 4:3
3:16Amos 1:2
3:17Obadiah 17
3:18Amos 9:13


  1. ^ Outlined by Allen (pp. 19–25), who himself favours the third position.
  2. ^ Cited in Allen, p.19, although Calvin did lean toward a later dating
  3. ^ Allen 36
  4. ^ Targum at 2:25; also margin of LXX manuscript Q, mid-6th century AD
  5. ^ See Allen 29–31
  6. ^ See Allen 25–29 for details and arguments.

Recent works on Joel[edit]

See also works on the Minor Prophets as a whole.

External links[edit]

Book of Joel
Preceded by
Hebrew BibleSucceeded by
Old Testament