The Bible in and as History: Joel

joel_michelangeloEach of the minor prophets is quite small compared to the Major prophets, and as I get through them I notice some repetition in terms of theme, though this is true of a good portion of the ‘old testament’.

First, the text.  Joel follows a pattern that seems to repeat in most of the minor prophets.  A sort of brief biographical bit on the Prophet, or at least an attribution of the text to said prophet.  Joel then focuses on a plague of locusts and a drought that afflict Jerusalem. This affliction is, of course, seen as a punishment from God for the iniquities of the people.

Then follows a call for repentance, that God may lift this punishment.  Indeed an outlining of how, if the nation repents, it will not only see the locusts and other problems vanish but gain future benefits and see the destruction of its enemies.  This is a theme we have seen before, but in Joel it’s spelt out in more specific terms.

Like Hosea, and unlike the minor prophets, there seems in Joel, to be an emphasis on specific details; This bad thing has happened as a punishment from God, that good thing will happen if we repent, etc.

Joel however, for my projects, is a more frustrating Text because it is impossible to properly place it into a historical context.  Textual analysis has tried and there have been a variety of theories.  The 9th, 7th, 6th and 5th Centuries BCE have all been suggested, based on various interpretations of the Texts language, it’s character.  We can identify that it predated the mid-4rth Century BCE because there is pretty clear evidence the entire cannon of the Minor Prophets had been assembled by that time.  Yet without reference to specific events, people or what have you, and with the entire Locust/Drought situation being possibly an analogy, there is no clear way to place it in history.

That bears mentioning of course; several classical Jewish sources consider the book to be an allegory regarding Israel’s enemies.  Certainly, given the end promise of destruction for those enemies, this seems a solid interpretation.

With little to speak of then, I’ll move on.  Next: Amos.

 

 

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