6.52 Joel -- Invasion of Locusts
Whereas other prophets warned Israel about foreign invaders, the first two chapters of Joel are concerned primarily with a plague of locusts! What an odd subject for divine instruction. Joel referred to a devastating invasion of locusts, perhaps intensified by a drought, if terms like "dried up" and "withered" (Joel 1:10-12) are to be taken literally. The prosperity and complacency of Judah will be wiped away at a single stroke, not by another nation but through what we would today call a natural disaster. Joel marveled at the devastation wrought by the locusts:
"Has anything like this every happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children,..." (Joel 1:2-3).
For Joel, this was not a natural disaster, but a divine visitation, a wake-up call to a nation of drunkards (Joel 1:5). Joel also spoke of "bloodguilt" (Joel 3:21), which points to something more than drunkenness.
They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers (Joel 2:7).
Or even, it seemed like
"A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number" (Joel 1:6).
This has caused some commentators to treat his words as allegorical: Joel was really speaking about an imminent military threat. Still, the agricultural references are frequent enough to give credence to a literal interpretation.
But Joel does get a lot of end-time mileage out of these insects: he uses them as a prelude to his announcement of God's last judgment:
The Lord thunders at the head of his army;
his forces are beyond number,
and mighty are those who obey his command.
The day of the Lord is great;
it is dreadful.
Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)
Locusts are "killing machines" and they have a Biblical history; they constituted one of the plagues in Egypt (Ex 10), and appear again as an end-time scourge (Rev 9). In Joel, the army of locusts was led by the Lord Himself. It came from the north (Joel 2:20), like Assyria and Babylonia. Israel’s judgment was a warning to others:
At the sight of them, nations are in anguish;
every face turns pale (Joel 2:6).
"Rend your heart and not your garments" (Joel 2:13).
"I will drive the northern army far from you,
pushing it into a parched and barren land,
with its front columns going into the eastern sea
and those in the rear into the western sea.
And its stench will go up;
its smell will rise" (Joel 2:20).