Joel 2:1-11: Invasion Predicted
“1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. 4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6 Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. 8 They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief. 10 The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 11 The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?”
The Day of the Lord: Invasion Predicted
“1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near.”
The watchmen of Jerusalem would have been housed in high towers on the walls of the city. They would stand watch, always vigilant over those – friend or foe – making their way to Jerusalem. At the sight of an enemy, the watchman would sound a horn alerting the population to the impending threat. Joel, a watchman of God, has a spiritual high tower from where he receives prophecies from God. Then, as all good watchmen do, Joel cries out a warning to the people of Jerusalem. Not from the walls of the city, but from the very presence of God in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount. The impending threat comes from the throne of God, the trumpet is to sound the warning, not a call to arms, but a call to repent.
The sounding of a shofar from Zion would cause alarm not only in the city but throughout the nation, the land will “tremble”. Amos confirms this when he wrote: “is a horn blown in a city without the people being scared?” (Amos 3:6). Joel warns that the day of the Lord is coming, this can be interpreted as has come, in fact in God’s eyes, because He has pronounced it, it has already taken place.
“2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations”
Joel prophecies that a locust swarm will be sent to sweep over the nation, because of Judah’s rebellion against God. The locust swarm is a shadow of the reality that is yet to come. The study and interpretation of types and symbols in scripture is referred to as typology, so the locust swarm is a type of the coming greater threat, the Babylonian army. There is actually a triple reality, because there is not only the impending Babylonian judgement, but also the invasion of the land of Israel in the last days by an enormous military power, which gathers in the valley of Megiddo. So, Joel is doing what is common with Old Testament prophets, he is combining the shadow with the reality.
The cloud and thick darkness points to the swarm of locusts that is so immense that it will block out the sun. This description of the swarm creating darkness is an ominous warning pointing to the Day of the Lord as a time of darkness, a theme that is repeated by several Old Testament prophets. This is confirmed in the Joel’s writings as he moves on to the invading armies that will cover the mountains of Israel – “a great and powerful people,” whose devastation of the land will bring a metaphorical darkness upon Israel. The last days’ invasion of Israel will be by a military force that is unparalleled in human history, “their like has never been seen before” (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19). The Babylonian conquest of Judah was by an army greater than any before it, and the army that gathers in the valley of Megiddo in the last days, will be greater than all those that have preceded it. The peshet – the plain, straight forward meaning of the scripture, – is the forthcoming locust swarm, which is a precursor to the pesher – the underlining, hidden pointer to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, a biblical type of Antichrist, who in turn is a pointer to the final reality of the Antichrist’s army gathered on the plain of Megiddo.
The Day of the Lord Prophecies:
- Amos 5:18: “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light”.
- Jeremiah 13:16: “Give glory to the LORD your God before He brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the dusky mountains. You wait for light, but He turns it into deep gloom and thick darkness”.
- Jeremiah 30:7: “How awful that day will be! None will be like it! It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he will be delivered out of it”.
- Obadiah 1:15: “For the Day of the LORD is near for all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your recompense will return upon your own head”.
- Zephaniah 1:15: “That day will be a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness”.
- Isaiah 8:22: “Then they will look to the earth and see only distress and darkness and the gloom of anguish. And they will be driven into utter darkness”.
The Day of the Lord: Final Judgement
In Matthew 24, Jesus describes to the disciples the signs of the last days, and identifies the Great Tribulation as the worst holocaust ever known to man: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (v. 21). The Tribulation to mankind will be so great that Jesus goes on to warn that “if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (v. 22). The trumpet and bowl judgements from God, combined with the military conflicts of mankind, will so devastate the earth, that if God did not call a halt to it life on earth would cease to exist.
The Army’s Strength
“4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. 5 As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. 6 Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. 7 Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths”.
The locust plague that is prophesied by Joel will descend on the mountains of Judah, like a massive cavalry charge. David Levey, writes that “the Italian word for locust is cavalette, (little horse), and the Germans use heapforde (hay horse) in referring to them” (1), so, the judgement chosen by the Lord has great prophetic significance. Not only do locusts look like a horse, but their movement mirrors a cavalry charge, and the sound of the swarm matches that of war chariots rumbling over the land. Then the locusts in their swarm formation, with their armoured exoskeleton, are indeed an army drawn up for battle. The swarm of locusts descending down to land on new pastures will be like a warrior charge where no obstacle will bar them from their goal. Once on the ground the locusts will break formation and each will march their own way, clinging to anything and everything, and seeking what they can devour.
“8 They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. 9 They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief”.
There is no force that can resist their relentless march, no weapon that is able to deliver a death blow. To attempt to stop a locust plague in biblical times was futile, no weapon, or device devised by man could stop the relentless horde. The horde will break through the wall and enter the city, no building will be spared, they will “leap”, “run”, “climb” and “enter” every home.
This prophetic warning by Joel must stir us to contemplate the writings of John in the book of Revelation. John also prophesied a plague of locusts, however this is a demonic swarm, so vile that they were restrained from having access to humanity and being imprisoned in the bottomless pit. These demonic locusts have scorpions’ tails and carry a sting that causes such pain and suffering, the victims try to commit suicide to end their torment (Rev. 9:3 -10).
The hardness of man’s hearts is evident in both prophesies, as neither plague induces repentance. God continually warns mankind of the consequence of his rebellion, but His cautions are ignored. God then hardens man’s hearts, handing him over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:24), and introduces the consequences of his sin, judgment!
- (1) David Levy, The Day of The Lord, The friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Inc. Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099, 1987. P20.
The Awesome Magnitude
10 The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining”.
Joel uses figurative hyperbole to express the horror of the enormous plague of locusts. They will cloud out the light of the sun during the day, and the moon and stars at night – making day appear as night. However, the description Joel gives of massive earthquakes is matched in the sixth seal of the book of Revelation. Once again there is a link to the occurrences in the Tribulation, when massive earthquakes will occur. Earthquakes and volcanoes work in unison; an earthquake that cracks the surface to the underground magma below will form a volcano (Hawaii 2018). Also, there will most likely be dormant volcanoes shaken awake that begin to erupt, shooting ash and lava into the atmosphere. The ash clouds will spread out over the skies making day as night, with temperatures dropping rapidly as the sun’s rays are prevented from reaching the earth. At night all is pitch black!
The Armies of the Saviour
“11 The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?”
The locust plague must be seen as literal, but also a shadow of the reality that was to come. Judah had hardened their hearts to God’s repeated warnings, so God stops speaking to them and turns to speak to their enemies. Joel gave a threefold description of the judgement that God would bring against the nation of Judah:
- “His camp is exceedingly”: The armies God amasses to scourge Judah will be massive.
- “He who executes his word is powerful”: The multitude will move as one, fulfilling the bidding of God.
- “For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?”: This is a rhetorical question, for the answer is clear to all, no one!
Who can endure it?”
After detailing the events of the rapture to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:13-18), Paul then continues to write to clarifying some important points:
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord (which starts with the rapture), will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober… For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:2-3)
Some important points are raised by Paul which need to be emphasized:
- The rapture will take place suddenly with Jesus coming as a thief in the night, throwing the world into seven years of tribulation.
- The Church is not to sleep (be complacent), but is to be vigilant, praying over these last day events (see also Luke 21:36).
- The Church will be removed before the start of the seven years of Tribulation, the Church will not have to endure the wrath of God.
God uses Pagan Armies
Are we able to identify the army that verse 11 refers to? The people of Judah were to suffer under two powerful empires. Firstly, the Assyrian Empire that vanquished the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had also continually attacked towns and cities in Judah. Even to the extent of placing Jerusalem under siege during the time of Hezekiah. Then Babylon – previously a province of the Assyrian empire – ascended in power and dominance in the region. In 700 BC, Assyria was the dominant power with Nineveh, her capital. However, Babylon still remained a prominent city, being a major influence in the Assyrian council and yet always in rebellion to the Assyrian empire. In 626 BC Nabopolassar (626-605 BC) a general in the Assyrian army and ruler of the province of Babylon, broke off from Assyria after a civil war disrupted the Assyrian king Sinsharishkun’s rule. Ashurbanipal, with his son Nebuchadnezzar, went to war against their former masters. His plan was not to just break from Assyria, but to replace Assyria as a world power. After defeating the Assyrians and Egyptians at Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar then turned his mighty army south and started his conquest of Judah.
Evidence that God uses pagan Armies as a means of judgement and correction:
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians (730 BC), a people from the land of Nimrod. Their capital city was Nineveh, a city established by Nimrod. Note that God used the people from the land of Mystery Babylon religion, to punish the worship of Mystery Babylon religion (pagan idolatry) in Israel.
The Kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians (605 BC), a people from the land of Nimrod. Their capital city was Babylon, a city established by Nimrod. Once again, the tool of judgement used by God, was the people from the land from which Judah’s idolatry originated.
The ultimate fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy will be during the Day of the Lord, when an even greater army than Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian hord, moves into Israel from the north and camps in the Valley of Megiddo. Like the Assyrians and Babylonians before them they are going to be representatives of Mystery Babylon, and God will once again use the people of the false religion to judge the apostacy in Israel. This time however, they will come face to face with The Son of David, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and their multitude will be no match for the greatest military leader of history. Yeshua will have His own mighty heavenly army, but He will not need them, for, with the word of His mouth Yeshua totally crushes His enemies, treading them in the winepress of His wrath (Rev. 14:14-20; Rev. 19:11-21).