This prophecy is rich in apocalyptic imagery and strongly eschatological in tone. It was composed about 400 B.C. Its prevailing theme is the day of the Lord.
A terrible invasion of locusts ravaged Judah. So frightful was the scourge that the prophet visualized it as a symbol of the coming day of the Lord. In the face of this threatening catastrophe, the prophet summoned the people to repent, to turn to the Lord with fasting and weeping. They were ordered to convoke a solemn assembly in which the priests would pray for deliverance. The Lord answered their prayer and promised to drive away the locusts and bless the land with peace and prosperity. To these material blessings would be added an outpouring of the spirit on all flesh. St. Peter, in his first discourse before the people at Pentecost (⇒ Acts 2:16-21), sees in the coming of the Holy Spirit the fulfillment of this promise (⇒ Joel 1:1-2:32(⇒ 3:5)).
The concluding poem pictures the nations gathered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where the Lord is about to pass judgment. Israel’s enemies are summoned to hear the solemn indictment; their evil deeds are at last requited. The tumultuous throng assembled in the valley of decision is made up of the enemies of God and they face inevitable destruction. The oracle changes abruptly from the terrifying image of judgment to a vision of Israel restored and forever secure from her enemies. God is both the vindicator of his people and the source of their blessing (⇒ Joel 3:1-20(⇒ 4:1-20)).
The word of the LORD which came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.
Hear this, you elders! Pay attention, all you who dwell in the land! Has the like of this happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers?
Tell it to your children, and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation.
1 What the cutter left, the locust swarm has eaten; What the locust swarm left, the grasshopper has eaten; And what the grasshopper left, the devourer has eaten.
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; wail, all you drinkers of wine, Because the juice of the grape will be withheld from your mouths.
2 For a people has invaded my land, mighty and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, and his molars those of a lioness.
He has laid waste my vine, and blighted my fig tree; He has stripped it, sheared off its bark; its branches are made white.
Lament like a virgin girt with sackcloth for the spouse of her youth.
Abolished are offering and libation from the house of the LORD; In mourning are the priests, the ministers of the LORD.
The field is ravaged, the earth mourns, Because the grain is ravaged, the must has failed, the oil languishes.
Be appalled, you husbandmen! wail, you vinedressers! Over the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished.
The vine has dried up, the fig tree is withered; The pomegranate, the date palm also, and the apple, all the trees of the field are dried up; Yes, joy has withered away from among mankind.
Gird yourselves and weep, O priests! wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! The house of your God is deprived of offering and libation.
Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, Into the house of the LORD, your God, and cry to the LORD!
Alas, the day! for near is the day of the LORD, and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.
From before our very eyes has not the food been cut off; And from the house of our God, joy and gladness?
The seed lies shriveled under its clods; the stores are destroyed, The barns are broken down, for the grain has failed.
How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are bewildered! Because they have no pasturage, even the flocks of sheep have perished.
To you, O LORD, I cry! for fire has devoured the pastures of the plain, and flame has enkindled all the trees of the field.
Even the beasts of the field cry out to you; For the streams of water are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the plain.
1  Cutter . . . locust . . . grasshopper . . . devourer: these names refer to various species of locusts; they can only be approximate.
2  A people: the locusts compared to an invading army.