The fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 is normally seen from the perspective of events that happened on the day of Pentecost mentioned in the book of Acts chapter two. This research is focused on the historic meaning of the text as to what it meant to Israel. The text is concerned with the salvation of Israel with the fact that all will be prophets and there is deliverance for the remnant promised by God from the oppressors.
The prophecy of Joel is occasioned by a terrible locust plague. It is a message to the people of Judah that their sin and rebellion will be punished in the form of locusts- flying, grasshopper-like bugs that fed off the vegetation of the land. During this time, people lived off the land and they farmed, raised food for their animals. This type of disaster will make the survival of the people difficult. This prophecy focuses on the coming hard times as well as the future salvation through God’s eventual forgiveness.
This plague is an event that is representative of God's judgment on all flesh. The prophet employs this episode in the life of God's people to call forth a renewed expression of loyalty and to proclaim the good news of God's commitment to bless his people. On the one hand, the canonical message evokes a response of devotion to the Lord, of prayer and fasting (Joel 1:13-20; 2:12-17). On the other hand, the canonical message affirms the Lord's commitment to establish his dwelling among men and to bless his people richly with the fullness of his redemption: victory, glory, the covenant fellowship, his Spirit, and the establishment of his kingdom on this earth.
Genre of Joel 2:28-32
Joel’s superscription provides the primary rubric for reading it as a prophetic book. However, it differs from the collection of oracles, disputes, and narratives found in other members of the corpus, such as Amos and Hosea, whose construction and meanings redaction criticism has helped clarify. It is a narrative laced with eschatology and the prophetic didactic narrative is focused on the day of the Lord anticipated as both a day of deliverance and a day of woe. Several features of the book suggests that the book of Joel as a whole is either a liturgical text intended for the repeated use on occasions of national lament or at least a historical example of one such lament.
Joel 2:28-32 can be considered as apocalyptic prophecy and not as a prophecy proper. The sin is too great and destruction is inevitable and there is a mysterious, symbolic, indirect speech by an intermediary. There is also some prediction of cosmic and final solutions mentioned in this portion. The exact meaning of apocalyptic and its essential features and origins are, in the nature of things are much disputed. Hence some would argue that it appears to be quite impossible to determine whether or not the book of Joel or parts of it is apocalyptic literature.
Author of Joel 2:28-32
The book clearly identifies prophet Joel, son of Pethuel as the author in its superscription (Joel 1:1). There are many other persons with the name Joel mentioned in the Old Testament and the author of this book cannot be confidently associated with any of those other individuals. There is no other information included in the superscription which may imply that Joel was well known to his contemporaries and further identification was not needed.
Historical Context of the book of Joel
There is little known about the author of the book, so we are forced to examine the internal evidence of the book to determine the sociological, religious, political, and cultural times in which he lived in the hopes that it may provide additional information about the intent and date of the book. The dates proposed for Joel’s ministry and the composition of the book range from the early ninth century BC to the Maccabean era, some seven hundred years later. The broad diversity of scholarly opinion is an evidence of the book’s scarcity of information to help us pinpoint the date.
Various scholars have proposed different dates for the book of Joel but careful study points towards a date in the postexilic period. Evangelical scholars who have produced standard introductions to the Old Testament books have found no consensus. Gleason L. Archer argues for a date of about 830 BC, during the time of King Joash. Roland K. Harrison settles for a date somewhere before 400 BC, during the period of the restoration. More recently a date near 600 BC has been presented by the critical scholars E. Konig and A.S.Kapelrud.
The book of Joel does not offer a decisive clue in determining its actual historical context. The identification of Judah and Israel as one and the same demands a time long after the collapse of the northern kingdom to the Assyrians in 722 BC.
Interpretation of Joel 2:28-32
The book of Joel starts with the introduction of the author followed by a call for Judah to lament and repent. An invasion by an army of locusts is predicted followed by a call for people to rend their heart. The second portion of the book has the Lord’s response in the form of judgment of nations and blessing for God’s people. It also mentions about the coming victory from God and Joel 2:28-32, is part of that message. The divine oracle of salvation begins in 2:19 and continues as Yahweh lifts the sights of the people beyond their recovery from the plague to days of even greater blessing. Joel 2:28-32 is a tightly written, self-contained unit within the Book of Joel.
The verses start with ‘afterward’ and it does not necessarily point to end times but can establish the chronological sequence of the two stages of blessing. Verse 29 mentions about ‘in those days’ and it gives these verses an eschatological touch. The difference between the two stages is not that the first is material and the second spiritual but that the first is the restoration of old damage and the second is the inauguration of a new era in God’s dealings with his people.
The life and the land were bound together in such a tight bundle that whatever affected one touched the other. The lavish measure of the spiritual stage is spotlighted in a number of ways. First, pour out, which also mean ‘spill’, suggests that God is not being stingy. It refers to God’s spirit which shows God’s own power and vitality. It will be upon all flesh which shows that the entire people of Israel will participate. In the past, the gift of God’s spirit has been restricted to chosen leaders like Moses, Gideon, David, Micah etc. Now it will be for everyone but from the context of the original audience of Joel, the scope is within the people of Israel since it mentions ‘your sons and your daughters’. All flesh is included and there will not be any exclusion made on the basis of gender, age or social status.
The great thing about this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is its universalism among the people of God. This will result in the gifting of all manner of the people of God in prophetic utterances. The outflow of the Spirit is generous and gracious, and altogether unexpected. God’s grace shows itself in a spate of prophetic activity. The variety of the means of prophetic revelation is probably mentioned for the sake of enriching the poetic parallelism. The blessings of the spirit are accompanied by portents, powerful signs, omens sure to be fulfilled, clear-cut indicators that God is at work. Their cosmic scope highlights their extraordinary character. As the provision is made for rescue for his people in the locust plague, God also gives pledges of deliverance.
This text is also quoted by Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2:28-32. He not only used the portions about the outpouring of God’s spirit but also those that describe the wonders in heaven and earth. Peter was interpreting what Joel meant by afterward. He affirmed that Joel’s “afterward is to be located in “the last days”. It would appear that Pentecost fulfills Joel’s prediction about the coming of the Spirit. It does not exhaust it, however. The last days could cover the entire age of the Church. Therefore, Joel’s prediction has initial fulfillment at Pentecost, continuing fulfillment during the Church age, and ultimate fulfillment at the second coming of Christ. And for Luke, the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was the eschatological fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel and he alters the words from Peter’s speech "after these things" to "in the last days.".
The day of Lord is a generic Biblical phrase that was used by God's prophets to describe the immediate historical future or the ultimate eschatological consummation. It is not a technical term in the sense that it always refers to only one event in God's plan. The day of the lord is in multiple fulfillment terms which are limited in occurrences only by its mention in Biblical revelation. There will be wonders in heaven and on the earth in the form of blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood. This will be a visible event and it is mentioned as a great and awe-inspiring day of the Lord. In the midst of it, there is an assurance that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
According to John Calvin, the prophet addressed the physical needs of the people before moving to the spiritual grace of God. Spiritual grace is mentioned in this portion and it is going to be greater than what the fathers under the Law had experienced. It was not going to be like something in the past but was going to be greater.
Application of the passage to contemporary Christian Life
When the apostle Peter explained what was happening on the day of Pentecost, before a crowd stunned by what they were seeing and hearing, he chose this prophecy of Joel undoubtedly under divine inspiration and pointed towards its fulfillment.
Peter widens the scope of those who call upon the name of YHWH to include the Jews of the diaspora who had come to Jerusalem. In Romans 10:13, the Apostle Paul cites Joel 2:32 as proof that before God there is absolutely no distinction between Jew and Greek, thus giving Joel’s statement wider scope. So every person on earth has an opportunity to inherit this blessing and we should be thankful to God for widening the scope of this salvation.
Joel is also informing us that true prophecy is latent in every human being, Jew and non-Jew alike. This should not be taken to mean clairvoyance or even the ability to relate messages from God. It could mean the divine inspiration which leads one to an enlightened and uplifted state. Only when the prophetic spirit takes hold of the entire community, from the highest to the lowest, will the spirit of God prevail.
The blessings that God would pour out are twofold: physical (2:18-27) and spiritual (2:28-32). The blessings are contingent upon covenant faithfulness rather than require an interpretation of eschatological finality. The passage also gives hope to the Christian that everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.
The day of the renewal will be marked by the presence of the Lord himself in the midst of his people (2:27) and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit on all his people (2:28-29). This will be a day of wonders in heaven and signs on earth, particularly a day of salvation and redemption (2:30-32).
The five verses comprise three individual units, 28-29, 30-31, and 32. The initial unit has God’s promise of an extraordinary happening, the revolutionary pouring out of God’s Spirit upon the people of Judah indiscriminately. This spectacular event will have but one restriction in the context of the original audience; it will be limited to God’s worshippers in Judah. The second unit concentrates on extraordinary signs and portents that God promises to set in the sky and on the earth as an indication that the terrible day of God is about to dawn. The last unit concentrates on the chances for survival during these dreadful manifestations of God’s power. The portents will not jeopardize anyone who acknowledges God’s sovereignty.
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