Chapter 1

Lecture Thirty-eighth


Joel 1:1-4

1. The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

1. Verbum Jehovae quod fuit ad Joel, filium Pethuel.

2. Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?

2. Audite hoc senes, et auscultate omnes incolae terrae, an fuerit hoc diebus vestris, et si diebus patrum vestrorum.

3. Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.

3. Super hoc filiis vestris narrate, et filii vestri filiis suis, et filii ipsorum generationi posterae.

4. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath

4. Residuum locustae comedit (est alia species) bruchus (ita ponamus, quoniam non possumus certo scire quaenam fuerint istae species) et residuum bruchi comedit locusta et residuum locustae comedit eruca (alii primo loco ponunt Erucam, est proprie chenille, et puto potius esse hoc posterius. Picardi vocant casee, quasi lyox: verisimile est deductum fuisse nomen illud vulgare ab Hebraeis, quia est fere idem: sed tamen ego non anxie sudo in istis nominibus, quia de sensu Prophetae satis constabit. Nunc venio ad inscriptionem libri.)

The word of Jehovah which came to Joel, the son of Pethuel. He names here his father; it is hence probable that he was a man well known and of some celebrity. But who this Pethuel was, all now are ignorant. And what the Hebrews hold as a general rule, that a prophet is designated, whenever his father's name is added, appears to me frivolous; and we see how bold they are in devising such comments. When no reason for any thing appears to them, they invent some fable, and allege it as a divine truth. When, therefore, they are wont thus to trifle, I have no regard for what is held by them as a rule. But yet it is probable, that when the Prophets are mentioned as having sprung from this or that father, their fathers were men of some note.

Now what he declared by saying, that he delivered the word of the Lord, is worthy of being observed; for he shows that he claimed nothing for himself, as an individual, as though he wished to rule by his own judgment, and to subject others to his own fancies; but that he relates only what he had received from the Lord. And since the Prophets claimed no authority for themselves, except as far as they faithfully executed the office divinely committed to them, and delivered, as it were from hand to hand, what the Lord commanded, we may hence feel assured that no human doctrines ought to be admitted into the Church. Why? Because as much as men trust in themselves, so much they take away from the authority of God. This preface then ought to be noticed, which almost all the Prophets use, namely, that they brought nothing of their own or according to their own judgment, but that they were faithful dispensers of the truth intrusted to them by God.

And the word is said to have been to Joel; not that God intended that he alone should be his disciple, but because he deposited this treasure with him, that he might be his minister to the whole people. Paul also says the same thing, -- that to the ministers of the Gospel was committed a message for Christ, or in Christ's name, to reconcile men to God, (2 Corinthians 5:20;) and in another place he says, 'He has deposited with us this treasure as in earthen vessels,' (2 Corinthians 4:7.) We now understand why Joel says, that the word of the Lord was delivered to him, it was not that he might be the only disciple; but as some teacher was necessary, Joel was chosen to whom the Lord committed this office. Then the word of God belongs indeed indiscriminately to all; and yet it is committed to Prophets and other teachers; for they are, so to speak, as it were trustees (depositarii -- depositories.)

As to the verb hyh eie, there is no need of philosophizing so acutely as Jerome does: "How was the word of the Lord made?" For he feared lest Christ should be said to be made, as he is the word of the Lord. These are trifles, the most puerile. He could not, however, in any other way get rid of the difficulty but by saying that the word is said to be made with respect to man whom God addresses, and not with respect to God himself. All this, as ye must see, is childish; for the Prophet says here only, that the word of the Lord was sent to him, that is, that the Lord employed him as his messenger to the whole people. But after having shown that he was a fit minister of God, being furnished with his word, he speaks authoritatively, for he represented the person of God.

We now see what is the lawful authority which ought to be in force in the Church, and which we ought to obey without dispute, and to which all ought to submit. It is then only that this authority exists, when God himself speaks by men, and the Holy Spirit employs them as his instruments. For the Prophet brings not forward any empty title; he does not say that he is a high priest of the tribe of Levi, or of the first order, or of the family of Aaron. He alleges no such thing, but says that the word of God was deposited with him. Whosoever then demands to be heard in the Church, must of necessity really prove that he is a preacher of God's word; and he must not bring his own devices, nor blend with the word any thing that proceeds from the judgment of his own flesh.

But first the Prophet reproves the Jews for being so stupid as not to consider that they were chastised by the hand of God, though this was quite evident. Hence they pervert, in my judgment, the meaning of the Prophet, who think that punishments are here denounced which were as yet suspended; for they transfer all these things to a future time. But I distinguish between this reproof and the denunciations which afterwards follow. Here then the Prophet reproaches the Jews, that having been so severely smitten, they did not gain wisdom; and yet even fools, when the rod is applied to their backs, know that they are punished. Since then the Jews were so stupid, that when even chastised they did not understand that they had to do with God, the Prophet justly reproves this madness. "Hear", he says, "ye old men; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land, and declare this to your children". But the consideration of this passage I shall put off till tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God that as almost the whole world give such loose reins to their licentiousness, that they hesitate not either to despise or to regard as of no value thy sacred word -- Grant, O Lord that we may always retain such reverence as is justly due to it and to thy holy oracles and be so moved whenever thou deignest to address us that being truly humbled, we may be raised up by faith to heaven, and by hope gradually attain that glory which is as yet hid from us. And may we at the same time so submissively restrain ourselves, as to make it our whole wisdom to obey thee and to do thee service, until thou gatherest us into thy kingdom, where we shall be partakers of thy glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lecture Thirty-ninth.

Hear this, ye old men; and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: has this been in your days, and in the days of your fathers? This declare to your children and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation: the residue of the locust has the chafer eaten, and the residue of the chafer has the cankerworm eaten, and the residue of the cankerworm has the caterpillar eaten 1. I have in the last Lecture already mentioned what I think of this passage of the Prophet. Some think that a future punishment is denounced; but the context sufficiently proves that they mistake and pervert the real meaning of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he reproves here the hardness of the people, -- that they fell not their plagues. And as men are not easily moved by God's judgments, the Prophet here declares that God had executed such a vengeance as could not be regarded otherwise than miraculous; as though he said, "God often punishes men, and it behaves them to be attentive as soon as he raises up his finger. But common punishments are wont to be unheeded; men soon forget those punishments to which they have been accustomed. God has, however, treated you in an unusual manner, having openly as it were put forth his hand from heaven, and brought on you punishments nothing less than miraculous. Ye must then be more than stupid, if ye perceive not that you are smitten by God's hand." This is the true meaning of the Prophet, and may be easily gathered from the words.

Hear, ye old men, he says. He expressly addresses the old, because experience teaches men much; and the old, when they see any thing new or unusual, must know, that it is not according to the ordinary course of things. He who has past his fiftieth or sixtieth year, and sees something new happening which he had never thought of, doubtless acknowledges it as the unusual work of God. This is the reason why the Prophet directs here his discourse to the old; as though he said, "I will not terrify you about nothing; but let the old hear, who have been accustomed for many years to many revolutions; let them now answer me, whether in their whole life, which has been an age on the earth, have they seen any such thing." We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for he intended to awaken the Jews that they might understand that God had put forth his hand from heaven, and that it was impossible to ascribe what they had seen with their eyes to chance or to earthly causes, but that it was a miracle. And his object was to make the Jews at length ashamed of their folly in not having hitherto been attentive to God's punishments, and in having always flattered themselves, as though God slept in heaven, when yet he so violently thundered against them, and intended by an extraordinary course to move them, that they might at last perceive that they were summoned to judgment.

He afterwards adds, And all ye inhabitants of the land. Had the Prophet addressed only the old, some might seize on some pretext for their ignorance; hence he addressed and from the least to the greatest; and this he did, that the young might not exempt themselves from blame in proceeding in their obstinacy and in thus mocking God, when he called them to repentance. Hear, he says, all ye inhabitants of the land; has this been in your days or in the days of your fathers? He says first, has such a thing been in your days, for doubtless what happens rarely deserves a greater consideration. It is indeed true that foolish men are blind to the daily works of God; as the favor of God in making his sun to rise daily is but little thought of by us. This happens through our ingratitude; but our ingratitude is doubled, and is much more base and less excusable, when the Lord works in an unwonted manner, and we yet with closed eves overlook what ought to be deemed a miracle. This dullness the Prophet now reproves, Has such a thing, he says, "happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Ye can recall to mind what your fathers have told you. It is certain that for two ages no such thing has happened. Your torpidity then is extreme, since ye neglect this judgment of God, which from its very rareness ought to have awakened your minds."

He then adds, Tell it to your children, your children to their children, their children to the next generation. In this verse the Prophet shows that the matter deserved to be remembered, and was not to be despised by posterity, even for many generations. It appears now quite clear that the Prophet threatens not what was to be, as some interpreters think; it would have been puerile: but, on the contrary, he expostulates here with the Jews, because they were so slothful and tardy in considering God's judgments; and especially as it was a remarkable instance, when God employed not usual means, but roused, and, as it were, terrified men by prodigies. Of this then tell: for hyle olie means no other thing than 'tell or declare this thing to your children;' and further, your children to their children. When any thing new happens, it may be, that we are at first moved with some wonder; but our feeling soon vanishes with the novelty, and we disregard what at first caused great astonishment. But the Prophet here showed, that such was the judgment of God of which he speaks, that it ought not to have been overlooked, no, not even by posterity. Let your children, he says, declare it to those after them, and their children to the fourth generation: it was to be always remembered.

He adds what that judgment was, -- that the hope of food had for many years disappointed them. It often happened, we know, that locusts devoured the standing corn; and then the chafers and the palmer worms did the same: these were ordinary events. But when one devastation happened, and another followed, and there was no end; when there had been four barren years, suddenly produced by insects, which devoured the growth of the earth; -- this was certainly unusual. Hence the Prophet says, that this could not have been chance; for God intended to show to the Jews some extraordinary portent, that even against their will they might observe his hand. When any thing trifling happens, if it be rare, it will strike the attention of men; for we often see that the world makes a great noise about frivolous things. But this wonder, says the Prophet, "ought to have produced effect on you. What then will ye do, since ye are starving, and the causes are evident; for God has cursed your land, and brought these insects, which have consumed your food before your eyes. Since it is so, it is surely the time for you to repent; and you have been hitherto very regardless having overlooked God's judgments, which have been so remarkable and so memorable." Let us now proceed.

1 All these are different kinds of locusts. There are in Hebrew ten names for them, designative probably of so many kinds. There are four here: Mzg , gizam, the young locust; hbra , arebe, so called from their number, one on the wing; qly , ilak, one of the hairy bristly kind; and lysj , chesil, one unfledged. Following the probable ideal meaning of the words, we may give them these names, --the cutter, the multiplier, the licker, and the devourer.--Ed.


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