February 23, 2011

Minor Prophets XXI: Bugs and Booze

Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. Joel 1:2-6

So we move on having completed one of the twelve minor prophets. We have arrived at Joel 1. Joel utilizes a whole host of styles delivering his prophecy and many are on display in the very opening of his book. He does this first to communicate the severity of the locust plague in verses 2-6. As with many prophets, Joel uses many rhetorical devices and vivid imagery to get is point across. We must remember that he was trying to reach people already beginning to apostatize or people that already had apostatized. People who's mind had already began the long slow separation from God. Kind of like us today in the United States and other countries worldwide. Replacing Him with monetary, material and sensual concerns. We would be well advised to take heed to this prophecy even though it was not specifically written for us.

Joel 1 shows prophecy as an instructional account in poetry form which also shows hints of parallelism and meter. Verse 1-6 six unfold the account and it is littered with imperatives such as: Hear this, give ear, tell your children, let your children tell their children and their children to another generation and awake. It is clear in the prophet uses hyperbole when asking the rhetorical question, “Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? This question is directed at the elders. This tells me this is being direct at least to the leadership. Asking this rhetorical questions tells me that nothing had happened like this before to this severity or more specifically, Joel was trying to drive home his point...things are bad, you should take heed to my warning!

He then goes on to emphasize how bad the recent plague was by stating that they should pass it down generation to generation. Ironically Joel then uses a parallel image for the insects themselves in verse 4. We see a step-down of entomological generations: What the locust swarm left…great locusts have eaten…what they left…the young locusts have eaten, and so on. There are four different Hebrew terms used here for locusts. There appears to be a focal point of time involved here or an image of successive waves of destruction over time, a natural disaster that incapacitates the entire society (Chisholm 54-55). Within this passage we see locusts as metaphor / analogy for punishment and judgment. A locust plague would be a sobering thought for drunks because locusts would eradicate the vegetation setting off a chain reaction leading to starvation and disease. These happened often in Joel’s time.

The shifted imagery to drunkards who have their booze taken from them because of the destruction of vineyards/vegetation shows the predicted aftermath of drunks caught off guard by plague due to their mental acuity being dulled by booze. There is then another metaphor of a lion/lioness which is analogous of an army armed with weaponry (fangs, teeth). I tell you something, if I had been on a month long bender and I saw a swarm of Biblical proportion bearing down on me I certainly would've either sobered up quick or wondered what was really in the liqueur I was drinking.

Chisholm, Robert B.. "Joel." Interpreting the Minor Prophets . Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1990. 54-55. Print

McComiskey, Thomas Edward. "Joel: Locust Plague." The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2009. 253-259. Print.

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