and that judgment must come, yet a yearning pity underlies the conviction. A highly characteristic verse of Hosea (vi. 6) is twice quoted by our Lord (Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7): 'I desired mercy and not sacrifice.' The word translated ‘mercy' is a favourite one with Hosea. It is two-sided, and may stand both for God's tender mercy to Israel, and for the filial devotion which Israel should yield to God.

It is clear that Hosea is a northerner, addressing himself to northern Israel; Judah being only incidentally addressed, and Jerusalem never mentioned. He realises the state of the kingdom, he sees its social corruption, the degradation into which king, princes, and priests, have alike fallen, the debasing idolatry which sapped the very life of the nation, the political intrigues by which they thought they could dispense with the help of their nation's God.

As regards the date of the prophecy, everything points to the view that chaps. i.-iii. were written while the stronghanded rule of Jeroboam II. continued. There is not a word hinting at the political breakdown which followed his death. Through chaps. iv.-xiv., however, we see signs of the anarchy which ensued. Jeroboam's son reigned for six months, his murderer and successor reigned but for one month. The Court was a scene of shameless debauchery. Purity and justice were alike forgotten watchwords. The very priests encourage idolatry, and reap gain therefrom. Immorality and violence are everywhere. As in Judah in the days of Ahaz, Egypt and Assyria are thought a more sure help than the protection of Jehovah. And through all this gleams unwavering the impassioned yearning of the prophet, who sees but cannot avert the doom.

As regards the posterior limit of date, the total silence as to the fall of Samaria at the hands of Sargon is clear proof that the prophecies had ceased before the doom fell. Possibly indeed a yet earlier limit may be fixed. There seems to be no allusion to the earlier invasion of Tiglath-Pileser, when Gilead and Galilee were wasted and their inhabitants deported; and the prophet refers to Gilead as still standing. Moreover, Assyria appears all through the book, not as a destroying invader, but as a possible ally, against whom Hosea uses his utmost efforts.

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We may suppose, if we will, that the days of Jeroboam' was originally the note of time to chaps. i.-iii., and the reference to the kings of Judah was added, either to cover the whole period of Hosea's life, or to connect him generally with the period in which Isaiah flourished.


Of the date when Joel lived we have no external evidence whatever, save the fact that the editors of the second volume of the Hebrew Bible placed him second of the 'Twelve Prophets,' thus making him more or less contemporaneous with Amos and Hosea. In any case, it is certain that he is either one of the earliest of the prophets, or else is post-Exilic. There is no mention of Assyrians or Babylonians, nor indeed of any foes of Israel, save Phoenicians and Philistines (iii. 4), and Egypt and Edom (iii. 19), but the allusions to these are too vague to allow us to come to any definite conclusion. If, as seems not improbable, Jehoshaphat's victory over Ammon, Moab and Edom (2 Chron. xx.) is referred to, we get our anterior limit. On the other hand, the earliest Assyrian king at whose hands Israel

suffered was Tiglath-Pileser, and Sennacherib in the case of Judah. [Jehu's relation to Shalmaneser II. was plainly only that of ordinary vassalage; and Uzziah, if he is really the Azariah of the inscriptions, held his own against the Assyrians.] A view which we believe has much to commend it is that Joel prophesied in the early years of Joash, King of Judah, after the overthrow of Athaliah, and while Jehoiada lived and guided the king. This reign falls between the two abovenamed limits, and so would accord with the view of the date taken by the editors. To the same conclusion points the style of the Hebrew. If Joel be post-Exilic, he is more or less a contemporary of Haggai and Malachi; yet in the beauty and purity of his style he stands upon a vastly higher level. The social and religious condition of the time, too, seems to fit in with this. The absence of any mention of a king is natural if we take a time when the king was but a child in the hands of the strong high priest, who had overthrown the usurper. The 'elders,' four times mentioned, may well mean simply old men. The Temple is standing, and its ritual is evidently dear to the prophet. He may himself have been a priest, but of this we have no real evidence.

The social conditions are totally different from those brought before us by Amos and Hosea. Incidentally, the sin of drunkenness is named (i. 5), but there is not otherwise the picture of national falling away. As long as the great high priest lived, he may have exercised a strong coercive influence. That there is no reference to idolatry would be natural, the fall of Athaliah must have created a fresh condition of things. One argument will appeal differently to different minds. There are some striking parallels between Joel and Amos, as well as other

prophets (cp. especially Joel iii. 16; Amos i. 2). Which, then, is the earlier? We venture to think that a comparison of the passages points strongly to Joel as the source of the quotation by a later prophet. We cannot discuss here in detail the arguments urged on the other side. We are told that Joel presents religion in a spiritual form, hardly conceivable at the early date suggested. Yet Jehoiada's reformation was evidently a very effective one, and the spirituality of a religion does not progress evenly as time goes on. Our own England shows us that plainly enough. The mention of Grecians (iii. 6) is no evidence of a late date: not only are Greeks mentioned by Sargon, but we find a Greek in the Amarna letters before the Exodus. It is true that Joel's prophecy has regard to the kingdom of Judah only, but then Amos and Hosea are mainly concerned with Israel, and, earlier still, Elijah (save in 2 Chron. xxi. 12) and Elisha address themselves exclusively to the Northern Kingdom. One reason, though urged by a very distinguished critic, can only be called grotesque. It is said that the mention of 'walls' (ii. 7, 9) shows that Joel lived after Ezra and Nehemiah.' We presume that even in David's time, and before him, Jerusalem had walls.

The earlier part of the prophecy deals with judgments; plagues of locusts and of drought are to come on the land, after which we read of an invasion by enemies, the description of whom is coloured by the imagery of locusts. These latter, however, are clearly human foes. They are spoken of (ii. 20) as the Northern army,' but it is not from the north that locusts would come, though the great road through Northern Palestine was that through which various invasions had befallen. What invasion is here referred to we cannot say; yet if Joel is, as

we believe, the earliest Judæan prophet of 'the Twelve,' then since his prophecy is cast in very general terms, and in its concluding part looks on to the far-off blessings of Pentecost, it may be that the threat of chap ii. looks to some Assyrian invasion and its horrors, and certainly the doom pronounced on the invader in ii. 20 might well refer to the retreat of Sennacherib's army, after the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem.

After the call to repentance (ii. 12-17), the prophet turns from words of judgment to promises of mercy. There shall be deliverance from the invader, the drought shall be ended, and through the former and the latter rain the land shall give its increase. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost shall come on all flesh, and wonders shall be the prelude to the great day of the Lord. Then will God sit in judgment between Israel and their foes. The oppressors who sold them into slavery must meet their doom, Jehovah will be shown to be the stay and hope of His people, who shall abide in peace, for the Lord dwelleth in Zion.'

To Hebrew prophets of old, we may well believe that 'thoughts beyond their thoughts to those high bards were given.' Of what horizon in the future Joel himself was conscious, we know not; 'holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,' and even their own 'special interpretation' must often have been but a scanty one. Yet St. Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, when he declared that in the words of Joel was a prophecy of the marvels which that day had witnessed. God's promises in this book, and His denunciations, found deeper fulfilment in apostolic times than in any preceding age, and it is to the letters of St. Paul that we must look for any parallel to the unrestricted offer of salvation in Joel ii. 32.

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