Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 29, “Joel” pp. 461-468.
Joel is a book which leaves us with several unanswered questions. Lessing notes that the Old Testament tells of many people named Joel. There is no historical context or mention of a king. Dating is, therefore, difficult (Lessing 2014, 461). Despite the efforts of form critics, Lessing finds that “the book of Joel is a coherent literary piece in that it presents Yahweh’s response to a time of national calamity” (Lessing 2014, 461). there is an overall logical structure at work. Lessing notes Joel’s striking use of parallelism and metaphor. There are many parallels with other prophetic books as well as internal parallels.
Joel uses the setting of a plague of locusts to call people to repentance (Lessing 2014, 462). Lessing finds no serious textual difficulties with the book. The historical issues are more problematic. Lessing finds elements which could place the text anywhere from the second to ninth centuries B.C. (Lessing 2014, 463). However, the suggestion of people of Israel scattered in other nations may well place the text after 515 B.C., when Judah returned from Babylon (Lessing 2014, 464).
The theme of a locust plague may be taken quite literally. It could also easily refer to a military invasion (Lessing 2014, 464). Lessing also notes a significant theme of God’s authority over various nations. The work of the Holy Spirit to empower God’s people as prophets is also substantial (Lessing 2014, 465). The concept of intercession for divine help drives Lessing’s attention to the role of Jesus as the one who intercedes for his people and gives them the Holy Spirit (Lessing 2014, 466). God responds to repentance by delivering grace to his people. His abundance poured out on people is the sign of God’s grace.