Joel :: Catholic News Agency

Author: Joel, son of Pethuel

Date Written: 900-400 BC


Joel is a short prophetic book which speaks of the coming "day of the LORD." (1:15)  The name "Joel" means "Yahweh is God."  The book begins by describing a plague of locusts sweeping through the land of Judah, destroying crops and ravishing the land (1:2-12).  The prophet sees this plague as foreshadowing a future time in which God will bring his judgment on Israel and the surrounding nations.  Yet Joel calls the people to repentance to avoid the impending judgment (2:12).  The Lord responds to the nation's repentant hearts and has mercy on them (2:18).  He then transfers his just anger from Israel to the surrounding nations (4:4, 19).  The Lord promises the restoration of Israel, the judgment of Israel's enemies and an everlasting time of blessing (4:17-21).


The book is very hard to place in the chronology of Israel.  The prophet Joel cannot be identified with other persons named Joel in the Old Testament and the book mentions no historical events that are easy to date.  Based on the text of the book alone, scholars have guessed at many different dates of composition from 900 down to 400 BC.  On the day of Pentecost, St. Peter quotes Joel 3:1-5 in Acts 2:17-21 to show that Joel's prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord indeed "restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem" (cf. 4:1) through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


The Church always reads Joel 2 on Ash Wednesday to invite us to return to the Lord with all our hearts, with "fasting, weeping and mourning" for the duration of Lent (2:12).


The book reveals God to be "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (2:13)  While he is concerned with sin and justice, he has mercy on those who repent.  He vindicates those who belong to him.


By Mark Giszczak

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