Introduction to the Book of Joel

“Introduction to the Book of Joel,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Why study this book?

The book of Joel teaches about the power of the combined prayers and fasting of God’s people during a time of great difficulty in Israel’s history. “Joel assured the people that through repentance they would again receive the blessings of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Joel”; scriptures.lds.org).

The book also contains many prophecies about the coming “day of the Lord” (Joel 1:15). These prophecies have been quoted by several prophets and have relevance to multiple generations, especially those living in the last days. Learning about Joel’s prophecies can help students recognize the signs of the Lord’s Second Coming. One exciting aspect of studying the book of Joel is that we are living in a day when we can see the fulfillment of these prophecies.

Who wrote this book?

The book begins with a brief statement attributing the book to “Joel the son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1), who was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

When and where was it written?

We do not know exactly when Joel lived and prophesied to the kingdom of Judah. “He may have lived sometime between the reign of Joash, before 850 B.C., and the return of the tribe of Judah from captivity in Babylon” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Joel”; scriptures.lds.org). We do not know where the book of Joel was written.

What are some distinctive features of this book?

The book of Joel centers on prophecies that Joel made after the land of Judah was afflicted with a severe drought and a plague of locusts. These prophecies tell of many signs to precede the Second Coming of the Savior, especially a great outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh (see Joel 2:28–29).

One fulfillment of this prophecy occurred on the day of Pentecost in New Testament times, when the Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon a multitude, who heard the preaching of the Lord’s Apostles and understood the words in their own language. This event caused Peter to say, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16–17).

On the night of September 21, 1823, the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and quoted Joel 2:28–32, saying that these prophecies would shortly be fulfilled (see Joseph Smith—History 1:41). President Gordon B. Hinckley commented on the fulfillment of these prophecies: “The era in which we live is the fulness of times spoken of in the scriptures, when God has brought together all of the elements of previous dispensations. From the day that He and His Beloved Son manifested themselves to the boy Joseph, there has been a tremendous cascade of enlightenment poured out upon the world. … The vision of Joel has been fulfilled [see Joel 2:28–32]” (“Living in the Fulness of Times,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 4).

Outline

Joel 1 Joel describes a natural disaster caused by a plague of locusts. He calls for the people to fast and to gather at the temple for a solemn assembly to plead with the Lord for deliverance.

Joel 2 Joel describes the “day of the Lord” and the war and desolation that will accompany it and then asks, “Who can abide it?” (Joel 2:11). The Lord answers by telling the people to turn to Him with all their hearts. Joel prophesies of some of the blessings the Lord will give His people in the latter days.

Joel 3 Joel prophesies of the latter days and affirms that every country in the world will be at war shortly before the Second Coming. The Lord will dwell with His people when He comes again.