Joel (יואל) was the second of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Joel. He was the son of Pethuel. The name Joel was common in Israel and means "the Lord is God". He was probably a contemporary to Amos and Isaiah, and may have been of priestly descent.
Joel was probably a resident in the Kingdom of Judah, as his commission was to that people. He makes frequent mention of Judah and Jerusalem (1:14; 2:1, 15, 32; 3:1, 12, 17, 20, 21). This means he could have been a resident of Jerusalem.
Scholars debate the date of Joel with three main schools:
- 835-796BC During the time when Joash was too young to govern and Jehoiada did so in his place (2 Kings 11; 2 Chron. 23-24).
There is also some who think he may have lived in the days of Josiah 640 BC-609 BC.
- A prophecy of a great calamity, consisting of a famine and a plague of locusts (1:1-2:11). He encourages the people to fast and pray. Chapter 1:2-20, describes a terrible scourge, a plague of locusts, with which the Prophet's land had been visited; these pests had so completely devoured the fields that not even the material for the meat- and drink-offerings existed.
- He then calls on his countrymen to repent and to turn to God, assuring them that God is ready to forgive (2:12-17), and then he foretells the restoration of the land to its accustomed fruitfulness (18-26).
Joel had called the locust plague "the day of the Lord" (2:11). He also compares another "day of the Lord" coming "great and terrible" (2:31). It will be signaled by signs in the sky and on earth for all to see and the whole earth will be summoned for judgment: "I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat and I will enter into judgment with them there (3:2). But before this judgment occurs God promises that a huge outpouring of his Spirit: "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh" (2:28).
Hundreds of years later the apostle Peter stands up on the day of Pentecost and announces the fulfillment of this prophecy by saying in Acts 2:16, "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel." On Pentecost morning, Luke tells us, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues" (2:4) so that pilgrims from all over the world heard them telling in their own language "the great things of God" (2:11). The people listening are perplexed and ask in Acts 2:12, "What does this mean?" And Peter gives the astonishing answer: "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel." Peter then quotes Joel in the next verses.
There is a story in Numbers 11:24-30 similar to Joel's prophecy. It says that one day "the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was upon him and put it upon the 70 elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them they prophesied" (11:25). And word came to them that there were two men in the city who had not come out to the tent but were prophesying by the Spirit also. Joshua said to Moses "'My Lord Moses, forbid them.' But Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!"' (11:29).
As Joel says in 2:28, "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh." That is the day Joel is predicting--the day when all God's people will prophesy. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 14:29, "Covet to prophesy", as well as as in 1 Cor 12:31 "But covet earnestly the best gifts".
- Then follows a Messianic prophecy, quoted by Peter (Acts 2:39). He is also quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans. (Compare Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13 where both say, whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered.)
- Finally, the prophet foretells portents and judgments as destined to fall on the enemies of God.
It is difficult to tell when the book the book was written. Click on the links below to see some rough histories of what may have been happening at the time of Joel.