Friday, December 6, 2013

Que hora es?: Joel 3:1

One of the critical questions concerning Joel 3:1-5 is: What does “after these things” mean?  In other words, what time in the story of God’s dealing with his people should the interpreter of Joel understand Joel 3:1-5 to be referring to?  Upon first blush most would agree with the chronological judgment of Wolff who sees the events of Joel 3:1-5 as prophetic promises that are in “expectation of the much greater future response."  Joel 3:1-5 is a future time that is yet to be fulfilled.  Thus, “after” is a chronological movement from the “assurance oracles” in Joel 2:12-28 that answer Israel’s plea and repentance, though neither are actually identified in Joel.  And this points to, as Wolff concludes, “[‘After’] presupposes that the preceding assurance oracles of plea-response pertaining to the earlier time have already been fulfilled…"   While, Wolff’s assessment of this text appears to be at the least on the right track, it has not gone without its detractors.  Furthering the difficulty is that the Hebrew conjunction for “Afterward" is a rare one (cf. 2 Chr. 20:35; Jer. 16:16; 34:11). Finally, such a proposal can also create many more questions such as: Are there two or more days of the LORD; one in Joel 1-2 and Joel 3-4, which is seems Wolff struggles to reconcile.  And thus, what does Joel 1-2 have to do with 3-4?
            The crux of the matter is how one understands "and afterward.”
            VanGemeren, positing against a tendency to see discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4, suggests a conjunctive use.  VanGemeren believes discontinuity between Joel 1-2 and 3-4 is instigated by a tradition of interpreters from Calvin to more recent scholars like Leslie Allen who create a “material” (1-2) and “spiritual” (3-4) promise dichotomy in Joel.  He notes that it is common in prophetic literature for “and afterward” to function as a “temporal conjunctive, ‘when,’ or even ‘and’." He supports his case with two prophetical texts: Isaiah 1:26 (“I will restore your judges as in the days of old… Afterward you will be called The City of Righteousness, The Faithful City.”), and Jeremiah 21:7 where the LORD judges King Zedekiah, introduced by “after that.” According to VanGemeren, however in Jeremiah 21:7, “after that” is part of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem (“…After that…I will hand over Zedekiah…").   
VanGemeren concludes saying “sequence is secondary,” and “‘afterward’… functions as a temporal phrase introducing the new work of God after an era of judgment."  Therefore, VanGemeren sees 2:18-27, what he calls “the era of blessing,” overlapping with “the era of the Spirit” (2:28-32, ET).  When these eras are specifically are associated with the day of the LORD, but he does not settle on a specific time; simply stating that it could be “after the exile or any period of judgment."

VanGemeren's proposal is one I am currently testing out.  It's tendency for greater theological reflection upon the time and events of the day of the LORD seems to have its benefits.

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