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The word of the L ord that came to Joel son of Pethuel:


Lament over the Ruin of the Country


Hear this, O elders,

give ear, all inhabitants of the land!

Has such a thing happened in your days,

or in the days of your ancestors?


Tell your children of it,

and let your children tell their children,

and their children another generation.



What the cutting locust left,

the swarming locust has eaten.

What the swarming locust left,

the hopping locust has eaten,

and what the hopping locust left,

the destroying locust has eaten.



Wake up, you drunkards, and weep;

and wail, all you wine-drinkers,

over the sweet wine,

for it is cut off from your mouth.


For a nation has invaded my land,

powerful and innumerable;

its teeth are lions’ teeth,

and it has the fangs of a lioness.


It has laid waste my vines,

and splintered my fig trees;

it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;

their branches have turned white.



Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth

for the husband of her youth.


The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off

from the house of the L ord.

The priests mourn,

the ministers of the L ord.


The fields are devastated,

the ground mourns;

for the grain is destroyed,

the wine dries up,

the oil fails.



Be dismayed, you farmers,

wail, you vinedressers,

over the wheat and the barley;

for the crops of the field are ruined.


The vine withers,

the fig tree droops.

Pomegranate, palm, and apple—

all the trees of the field are dried up;

surely, joy withers away

among the people.


A Call to Repentance and Prayer


Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;

wail, you ministers of the altar.

Come, pass the night in sackcloth,

you ministers of my God!

Grain offering and drink offering

are withheld from the house of your God.



Sanctify a fast,

call a solemn assembly.

Gather the elders

and all the inhabitants of the land

to the house of the L ord your God,

and cry out to the L ord.



Alas for the day!

For the day of the L ord is near,

and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.


Is not the food cut off

before our eyes,

joy and gladness

from the house of our God?



The seed shrivels under the clods,

the storehouses are desolate;

the granaries are ruined

because the grain has failed.


How the animals groan!

The herds of cattle wander about

because there is no pasture for them;

even the flocks of sheep are dazed.



To you, O L ord, I cry.

For fire has devoured

the pastures of the wilderness,

and flames have burned

all the trees of the field.


Even the wild animals cry to you

because the watercourses are dried up,

and fire has devoured

the pastures of the wilderness.


He afterwards adds, sanctify a fast, call an assembly, gather the old, all the inhabitants of the land. קדש kodash means to sanctify and to prepare; but I have retained its proper meaning, sanctify a fast; for the command had regard to the end, that is, sanctification. Then a fast proclaim — for what purpose? That the people might purge themselves from all their pollutions, and present themselves pure and clean before God. Call an assembly. It appears that there was a solemn convocation whenever a fast was proclaimed among the people: for it was not enough for each one privately at home to abstain from food, except all confessed openly, with one mouth and one consent, that they were guilty before God. Hence with a fast was connected a solemn profession of repentance. The uses and ends of a fast, we know, are various: but when the Prophet here speaks of a solemn fast, he doubtless bids the people to come to it suppliantly, as the guilty are wont to do, who would deprecate punishment before a judge, that they may obtain mercy from him. In the second chapter there will be much to say on fasting: I only wish now briefly to touch on the subject.

He afterwards bids the old to be gathered, and then adds, All the inhabitants of the land. But he begins with the old, and justly so, for the guilt of the old is always the heaviest. But this word relates not to age as in a former instance. When he said yesterday, ‘Hear ye, the aged,’ he addressed those who by long experience had learnt in the world many things unknown to the young or to men of middle age. But now the Prophet means by the old those to whom was intrusted the public government; and as through their slothfulness they had suffered the worship of God and all integrity to fall into decay, rightly does the Prophet wish them to be leaders and precursors to the people in their confession of repentance; and further, it behaved them, on account of their office, as we have said of the priests, to lead the way. Joel at the same time shows that the whole people were implicated in guilt, so that none could be excepted, for he bids them all to come with the elders.

Call them, he says, to the house of Jehovah your God, and cry ye to Jehovah. We hence learn why he had spoken of fasting and of sackcloth, even that they might humbly deprecate God’s wrath; for fasting of itself would have been useless, and to put on sackcloth, we know, is in itself but an empty sign: but prayer is what the Prophet sets here in the highest rank, and fasting is only an appendage, and so is sackcloth. Whosoever then puts on sackcloth and withholds prayer, is guilty of mockery; and no one can derive any good from mere fasting; but when fasting and sackcloth are added to prayer, and are as it were handmaids, then they are not uselessly practiced. We may then observe, that the end of fasting and sackcloth was no other, than that the priests together with the whole people, might present themselves suppliantly before God, and confess themselves worthy of destruction, and that they had no hope except from his gratuitous mercy. This is the meaning.

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