1 Blow the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD comes. It is near at hand,
2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness. As the morning spreading upon the mountains, so there is a great and strong people. There has never been the like, neither shall there be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
3 A fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing shall escape them.
4 Their appearance is as the appearance of horses. And as horsemen, so they shall run.
5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains they shall leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devours the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
6 Before their face the people shall be much pained. All faces shall gather blackness.
7 They shall run like mighty men. They shall climb the wall like men of war. They shall each march on his ways and shall not break their ranks,
8 Neither shall one thrust another. They shall each walk in his path. And when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.
9 They shall run to and fro in the city. They shall run upon the wall. They shall climb upon the houses. They shall enter in at the windows like a thief.
10 The earth shall quake before them. The heavens shall tremble. The sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
11 And the LORD will utter his voice before his army, for his camp is very great, and he is strong who executes his word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible. Who can endure it?
12 "Yet even now," says the LORD, "turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
13 And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents of the evil.
14 Who knows if he will return and repent and leave a blessing behind him, even a food-offering and a drink-offering to the LORD your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion. Sanctify a fast. Call a solemn assembly.
16 Gather the people. Sanctify the congregation. Assemble the elders. Gather the children and those who nurse from the breasts. Let the bridegroom go forth from his room and the bride out of her chamber.
17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and do not give your heritage to reproach so that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the people, 'Where is their God?'"
18 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and pity his people.
19 And the LORD will answer and say to his people, "Behold, I will send you corn, wine, and oil, and you shall be satisfied with it, and I will no longer make you a reproach among the heathen.
20 But I will remove far from you the northern army and drive him into a land barren and desolate with his face toward the east sea and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his odious scent shall come up and his ill savor shall come up, because he has worked proudly."
21 Do not fear, O land. Be glad and rejoice, for the LORD will do great things.
22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness spring, the tree bears its fruit, and the fig-tree and the vine yield their strength.
23 Be glad then, children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the former rain moderately. He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month.
24 And the floors shall be full of wheat and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25 "And I will restore to you the years that the swarming-locust, the licking-locust, the ravaging-locust, and the cutting-locust consumed—my great army which I sent among you.
26 And you shall eat in plenty, be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never be ashamed.
27 And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel and that I am the LORD your God, and no one else. And my people shall never be ashamed.
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be delivered. For on mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, and in the remnant whom the LORD calls."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
In this chapter a further account is given of the judgment of the various locusts, or of those who are designed by them (verses 1-11); the people of the Jews are called to repentance, humbleness, and fasting, urged from the grace and goodness of God, his jealousy and pity for his people, and the answer of prayer that might be expected from him upon this, even to the removal of the calamity (verses 12-20); a prophecy of good things, both temporal and spiritual, in the times of the Messiah, is delivered out as matter and occasion of great joy (verses 21-27); and another concerning the outpouring of the Spirit, which was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (verses 28-29); and the chapter is concluded with the judgments and desolations that should come upon the land of Judea after this, for their rejection of Christ, though the remnant according to the election of grace should be delivered and saved from the general destruction (verses 30-32).
[v.10] - Reference, Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24.
[v.11] - "he is strong who executes his word" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "That is, who executes his command; not that the Assyrians designed to show regard to God or to offer to him their service, as the faithful do, who willingly devote themselves to Him; but that the Lord by his secret providence guided them and employed them to punish his own people." In other words, God had prepared the Assyrians, he strengthened them to be an overwhelming force, and used them as his instruments to execute his command. So, whatever or whoever God uses to execute his word will do so unhindered. Furthermore, John Calvin adds, "Now with regard to what he says, that strong is he who does the word of God, we have elsewhere reminded you that men serve God in two ways,— they either execute his commands willingly, or are led to do so by a blind impulse. The angels and the faithful perform God's commands, because they are guided by the spirit of obedience; but the wicked also, and the devil who is their head, fulfill God's biddings; this, however, is not to be imputed to them as obedience, for they are only led by their own wicked purposes, and seek to destroy, as far as they can, the whole government of God; but they are constrained, willing or unwilling, to obey God, not of their own accord or willingly, as I have said, but the Lord turns all their efforts to answer the end which he has decreed. Whatever, then, Satan and the wicked attempt to do, they at the same time serve God and obey his commands; and though they rage against God, he yet holds them in by his bridle, and also so guides their attempts and their purposes as to answer his own ends. In this sense, then, it is, that Joel says, that the Assyrians would do the word of God; not that it was their purpose to obey God, not that God had commanded them anything, but he puts the word of the Lord here for his secret purpose. As, then, the wicked perform no voluntary obedience to God, but constrained, when they execute God's commands; so there is a twofold command or word of God: there is the command by which he teaches his own children and leads them to obey him; and there is another, a hidden command, when he deigns not to address men, and shows not what pleases him or what he means to do, but allows them to be led by their own sinful desires; in the meantime, he has his own secret purpose, which by them he executes though without their intention."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-11:
Grant, almighty God, that as you invite us daily with so much kindness and love, and make known to us your paternal goodwill, which you once showed to us in Christ your Son,— O grant, that, being allured by your goodness, we may surrender ourselves wholly to you, and become so teachable and submissive, that wherever you guide us by your Spirit you may follow us with every blessing: let us not, in the meantime, be deaf to your warnings; and whenever we deviate from the right way, grant that we may immediately awake when you warn us, and return to the right path, and [may you also] deign to embrace us and reconcile us to yourself through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[v.13] - "rend your heart and not your garments" - Reference, Psalm 62:8, 95:8. From John Calvin's sermons on Job (in sermon 10 concerning Job 2:12): "[By this] Joel means, that it is to no purpose for men to have great store of Ceremonies, or to martyr themselves much in outward sight of the world, except their hearts be broken before. And what manner of rending or breaking is it that God requires in our hearts? It is that we should be cast down and humbled before him, that when we perceive any signs of his wrath, especially when we feel the blows of his hand already, we should be patient, assuring ourselves that all comes for our sins, and that we do not as many do, who when they be beaten with God's rods, chew their bridles like mules, and conceive I know not what a fierceness and bitterness, which serve to set them in a rage against God, notwithstanding that they make countenance as though they were well tamed. But contrarywise, as I have said, it behooves our hearts to be rent, according to the exhortation that is made to us in the Psalm, by laying our heart open before God, to the end he should know all that is within it. Then let us follow [this] saying of the Prophet Joel, that we should not rend our garments, but our hearts rather, for therein will the true repentance show itself. But it is impossible that our hearts should be rightly rent, without showing of the foresaid lowliness by experience, in confessing our sins, to the intent to give glory to God."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 12-14:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you see us so foolish in nourishing our vices, and also so ensnared by the gratifications of the flesh, that without being constrained we hardly return to you,— O grant, that we may feel the weight of your wrath, and be so touched with the dread of it, as to return gladly to you, laying aside every dissimulation, and devote ourselves so entirely to your service, that it may appear that we have from the heart repented, and that we have not trifled with you by an empty pretense, but have offered to you our hearts as a sacrifice, so that we and all our works might be sacred offerings to you through our whole life, that your name may be glorified in us through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[v.20a] - "the northern army" - This is likely an allusion to the Chaldeans and the Assyrians who were to the north of Judea.
[v.20b] - "with his face towards the east sea, and his hinder part towards the utmost sea" - That is, from the Salt Sea (east of the Jews) to the Mediterranean Sea.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 15-20:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we continue to excite your wrath against us, and are so insensible, though you exhort us daily to repentance,— O grant, that what your Prophet teaches may penetrate into our hearts, and be like a sounding trumpet, that we may be really and sincerely made humble before you, and be so touched with the sense of your wrath, that we may learn to put off all the depraved affections of our flesh, and not merely to deplore the sins we have already committed: and [may] you also look upon us in future, that we may diligently walk in your fear, and consecrate ourselves wholly to you; and as you have deigned to choose us for your inheritance, and gather us under your Christ, may we so live under him as our leader, until we be at length gathered into your celestial kingdom to enjoy that happy rest, which you have promised to us, and which you promise also daily, and which has been purchased by the blood of the same, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[v.25] - "the swarming-locust, the licking-locust, the ravaging-locust, and the cutting-locust" - See the note for Joel 1:4.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 21-28:
Grant, Almighty God, that since we want so many aids while in this frail life, and as it is a shadowy life, we cannot pass a moment, except you continually, and at all times, supply through your bounty what is needful,— O grant, that we may so profit by your so many benefits, that we may learn to raise our minds upward, and ever aspire after celestial life, to which by your gospel you invite us so kindly and sweetly every day, that being gathered into your celestial kingdom, we may enjoy that perfect felicity, which has been procured for us by the blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[v.28-32] - Quoted in Acts 2:17-21.
[v.31] - Reference, Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 29-31:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are now surrounded on every side by so many miseries, and as our condition is such, that amidst groans and continual sorrows, our life could be hardly sustained without being supported by spiritual grace,— O grant, that we may learn to look on the face of your Anointed, and seek comfort from him, and such a comfort as may not engross our minds, or at least not retain us in the world, but raise our thoughts to heaven, and daily seal to our hearts the testimony of our adoption, and that though many evils must be borne by us in this world, we may yet continue to pursue our course, and to fight and to strive with invincible perseverance, until having at length finished all our struggles, we reach that blessed rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[v.32a] - "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be delivered" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "If anyone takes this sentence of the Prophet by itself, though then it would not be frigid, it would not yet be so striking; but when these two things are joined together,— that God will be the judge of the world, who will not spare the wickedness of men, but will execute dreadful vengeance,— and that yet salvation will be given to all who will call on the name of the Lord, we see how efficacious the promise is; for God offers life to us in death, and light in the darkest grave."
[v.32b] - "and in the remnant whom the LORD calls" - From John Calvin's Commentary: "When therefore we speak of the salvation of the Church, we ought not to gather into one bundle all who profess themselves to be the children of God; for we see that hardly one in a hundred worship God in truth and without hypocrisy, for the greater part abuse his name... The same truth we observe in Psalm 15, and in Psalm 24, where the citizens of the Church are described; they are not those who pride themselves on external symbols, but who worship God with a sincere heart, and deal honestly with their neighbors; such dwell on the mountain of God. It was not a difficult thing for hypocrites to thrust themselves into the sanctuary, and to present there their sacrifices to God; but the Prophet shows that none are owned by God, but those who have a sincere heart and pure hands. So also in this place Joel says, that this Church indeed would be saved, but not the vast multitude,— who then? the remnant only... And there is no doubt but that the Prophet means by the word, call, gratuitous election. The Lord is indeed often said to call men, when he invites them by the voice of his gospel; but there is what surpasses that, a hidden call, when God destines for himself those whom he purposes to save. There is then an inward call, which dwells in the secret counsel of God; and then follows the call, by which he makes us really the partakers of his adoption. Now the Prophet means, that those who will be the remnant shall not stand by their own power, but because they have been called from above, that is, elected. But that the election of God is not to be separated from the outward call, I allow; and yet this order ought to be maintained, that God, before he testifies his election to men, adopts them first to himself in his own secret counsel. The meaning is, that calling is here opposed to all human merits, and also to virtue and human efforts... Paul also speaks of the remnant in Romans, ch. 11, and wisely considers that passage, 'I have kept for myself seven thousand' (from 1st Kings 19:18). It is then God's peculiar province to keep those who do not fail: and hence Paul says that they are the remnant of grace; for if God's mercy were taken away, there would be no remnant among the whole human race. All, we indeed know, are worthy of death, without any difference: it is therefore the election of God alone which makes the difference between some and others. Thus we see that the gratuitous goodness of God is extolled by the Prophet, when he says that a remnant shall be saved, who shall be called by the Lord: for it is not in the power of men to keep themselves unless they are elected; and the gratuitous goodness of God is the security as it were of their salvation."
[v.32c] - Quoted in Romans 10:13.
[v.32d] - Calvin's prayer for this verse is included with the first three verses of the next chapter. Therefore, the prayer is in the next chapter.