ImmerseProphets - Page 441



IMMERSED IN JOEL
I T ’ S N O T C L E A R when
Joel lived and prophesied, and we know very little
about him. However, there are some good reasons to believe that he
was one of the latest prophets. This is suggested by several elements
in his prophecies. For example, he makes reference to the Greeks,
whose influence did not reach the land of Judah until after the return
from exile. He also appears to make allusions to many earlier prophets.
He frequently echoes their phrases, probably to show that the whole
prophetic tradition stands behind his message.
For example, in a combined allusion, Joel echoes both Ezekiel’s frequent statement, “Then you will know that I am the Lord ,” and Isaiah’s
repeated insistence, “I am the Lord , and there is no other.” Sometimes
Joel ironically reverses the images found in earlier prophets’ oracles.
Micah and Isaiah share an oracle that says, “They will hammer their
swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” But Joel
says, “Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks
into spears.” Such reversals are effective, of course, only if the image is
already known in its original form.
A standard feature of God’s covenant with Israel was that the people’s
response to God would determine whether they experienced blessings
or curses in the land God had given them. This element can clearly be
seen in the presentations of God’s instructions in books like Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Israel’s prophets assume this structure in Israel’s
covenant relationship with God, announcing the consequences both for
the people’s loyalty and for their unfaithfulness.
The prophets frequently follow a certain order in their writings. First,
they address the wrongdoings of God’s covenant people, including
promises of just punishment. Next they typically present oracles against
other nations, followed by hope-filled visions of ultimate restoration
and renewal. Joel’s oracles begin in the usual way, describing judgment
against Israel. But then he changes the common pattern, speaking of
Israel’s restoration before turning to announce judgment against other
nations.
Joel identifies the judgment as “the day of the Lord ,” coming in the
form of a devastating locust attack: “Ahead of them the land lies as
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