Joel Table of  Contents

Main Table of Contents


Minor Prophets: Major Messages

Chapter One of Joel

Joel 1:1-3

"The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. ‘Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.’"

Passages From The Writings

Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms (P&P)

  • "To all who are of the church."

Derived Doctrine

"The word of the Lord…"

  • Arcana Coelestia (AC) 2 explains the nature of the Lord’s Word. "…of necessity [the Word must] contain within it such things as belong to heaven, to the church, and to religious belief…unless it did so it could not be called the Lord’s Word, nor could it be said to have any life in it" (emphasis added).
  • AC 129 teaches us, "the true order is for man to be wise from the Lord, that is, from His Word, and then all things follow, and he is enlightened even in matters of reason and of memory–knowledges…"

"…that came to Joel the son of Pethuel."

  • "Coming" or "came" signifies communication by influx (AC 5249). What kind of influx is meant here? Was it "mediate" or "immediate"? The passage identifies the Word of the Lord coming to Joel; thus, it seems sensible to decide this refers to immediate influx because that which comes directly from the Lord involves immediate influx. Mediate influx, on the other hand, refers to that which comes through angels or some other indirect means.
  • We have not a single teaching about the meaning or correspondence of "Pethuel." A New Church minister, the Rev. James Hyde, wrote: "The name Pethuel is derived from "pathu", which means ‘induced,’…To induce signifies, in a bad sense, to entice, or beget a deceptive infatuation." (An Exposition of the Prophecy of Joel, pages 47-48.)
  • Joel’s name means "Jehovah is God." Looking at the meanings of these two names (Joel and "pathu") in a positive light, could they signify that the Lord wanted to positively induce and entice the people to have a true "infatuation" with His Word?
  • A "son" signifies a general truth (AC 3496). Sons signify those not born within the church, or nations who are remote from goods and truths and who have not been inculcated with the goods and truths of faith; sons also signify those who are in external worship (Apocalypse Explained [AE] 1133 [3]).

"Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land!"

  • To "hear" means to be in a state of obedience (AC 2691). Hearing signifies that one who understands should obey what the Word teaches. Hearing means to both perceive and obey. See Apocalypse Revealed (AR) 87 and AE 588.
  • "Elders" signify those who are wise and in a wisdom that agrees with good (AC 5608 [7] and AC 6524).
  • To "give ear" signifies that one who understands should obey what the Word teaches so that he or she might be made ready to be of the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem (AR 87).
  • "Inhabitants of the world" signify people of the church who are in the goods of doctrine, and so of life (AE 741 [6]). "Land" signifies the region where the church is—where the faith of the church resides (AC 2571).

"Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?"

  • Questions are asked by the Lord to help us to seek either knowledge or confirmation (AC 1913 and AC 2693).
  • The people of Judah experienced a devastating drought and a locust plague that stripped the land of its vegetation. The question asks the reader to reflect. Was this event simply "bad luck"? Was this a natural misfortune, or was it a significant happening of divine (providential) proportions?
  • "Your days" signify a kind of review or assessment of the successive states of regeneration (AC 6). "Days" and "years," in the Word, signify the states of life (Heaven and Hell [HH] 155).
  • What about the "days of your fathers"? Could this question be a mandate to Judah to review the inherited tendencies toward evil they received from the present and prior churches? Could it be that the Lord wanted them to think about the inherited tendencies toward evil they had passed on? The question could also suggest that they should review the inherited tendencies toward good they received from the churches of their fathers. Both are important points to reflect on when considering the Lord’s providential leading.

"Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation."

  • AC 2862 explains that "telling" signifies to indicate, to come to know, to inform, or to be informed. Reflection is also an internal telling.
  • "Children" signify bringing forth things that belong to one’s spiritual life (AR 534). Offspring have birth from the marriage of the Lord with His church. Children are the offspring of goods and truths (Conjugial Love [CL] 121).
  • A "generation" signifies those who are perpetually being created anew (AC 1041).
  • Does this teaching about perpetually being created anew seem to apply to the meaning and process of children telling children?


Putting It All Together

To begin putting all of these ideas together, it is important that we look at the contrast within two passages relating to the three verses of Joel we are studying. First, let’s look at the quote from P&P that proclaims that this is a message:

  • "To all who are in the church."

Secondly, let’s look at the question Joel asks:

  • "Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?"

P&P directs the reader’s attention to the inclusiveness of the Lord’s message: "To all who are in the church." The Lord’s reaching out to all shouldn’t be missed. The Divine cares about all in the church. The Lord invites all to listen to His Word. Joel’s name means "Jehovah is God"; therefore, all need to have the ears of obedience for the things of the Lord. The Lord calls all to His Word because it contains and offers things that belong to heaven. His Word offers things that are essential for the church. The Word is vital for our system of religious beliefs. Seeking the Lord through the Word opens the way for the powerful sphere of immediate influx. The Lord will give "obedient ears" the vital, intuitive insights needed to thrive spiritually. Within the heart of every believer, there has to be some inducement, enticement, and infatuation (love) for the Word. Joel, "Jehovah is God," calls for the "elders," or the wisdom of the mind, to teach and improve the understanding within the church so the people can respond obediently. The elders represent the degree of wisdom that readies a willing worshipper to become a member of the New Church—the New Jerusalem.

Choosing the Lord’s way will open to us a life that is peaceful, productive, and happy. Casting the Lord off invites and prepares the way for unbelievable spiritual disasters, the magnitude of which has never been seen before, nor can they be described. Hence we have the catastrophic story and frightening events alluded to in the second quote: "Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?" What natural and spiritual events did Joel point to? Joel describes four kinds of locust, one after another, swarming and entering the land to consume all the vegetation therein. In effect, Joel asks: Can you believe the travesty of this experience? Tell this story so as to warn the generations of children to come. It is a story of vital importance. "HEAR" is the first command following Joel’s lineage. Hearing requires a willingness to obey.

The full extent of this locust message is covered in our next section.

Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:1-3.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. Did you notice how much we needed derived doctrine to help give us a larger glimpse of the spiritual sense of the first three verses? What did you think of this?

  2. Are you clear on the point of the two contrasting passages? Obedience means giving ear to the Lord and His Word. Ignoring the Lord and His Word brings about spiritual calamities of unbelievable proportions. Can you think of any personal examples of these life states?

  3. Can you describe the difference between immediate influx and mediate influx?

  4. What did you think about the point of Joel’s father’s name being a derivative of a word meaning inducement, enticement, and infatuation? Can you see the possibilities of these inherited tendencies, if they are tendencies toward good, being a part of the Lord’s working through Joel?

  5. How well do we do our job of telling the generations of our children about the effects of our choices? Is it enough to count on our New Church school system to do it for us?

  6. Think of the song, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do and hear." Ever wonder why the doing occurs before the hearing? What are your thoughts about this?

  7. The word "elders" can have a wide range of meaning. Elders signify truths of wisdom learned. They can be the remains built up and protected by the Lord. The elders are caregivers for the preparation and building of the New Church. Do we listen to them often enough? What can they offer us?

  8. New ideas are great. Our scientific achievements have given us longevity and greater freedom. Have we brought new ideas into our hearts and mind to augment or complement the elders?

Joel 1:4

"What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten."

Passages From The Writings


  • "Falsity from the sensual man and afterwards evil therefrom has consumed all things of the church."

AC 7643 [7]

  • "In Joel…1:4…‘locust’ denotes falsity in the extremes vastating truths and goods."

AC 7643 [8]

  • "…by ‘locust’ are signified reasonings from fallacies and the falsities thence derived, also confirmed by philosophical things. Thus also by the ‘locust’ are signified the falsities which are in the extremes with man, and which are more earthly and corporeal than all other falsities; and by which man may be easily deceived and seduced, for he apprehends what is obvious to the senses, and with difficulty what is opposed to the senses."

AC 9331 [5]

  • In Joel 1:4 "…falsities and evils in the extremes—that is, in the external sensuous of the man of the church—are signified by the various kinds of insects here mentioned…for the subject treated of is the perversion of the truth and good of the church."

AR 424

  • "It is in consequence of falsities in the outermost parts consuming the truths and goods of the church, as they spring up in man, that they are signified by ‘locusts,’ which consume the grass and the herbs of the fields, as may be evident from these passages…" Joel 1:4 is cited.

AE 543 [9]

  • "The ‘locust’ and the ‘caterpillar’ have a similar signification in Joel 1:4…Evidently these noxious little animals signify falsities and evils devastating or consuming truths and goods with the man of the church…"

Derived Doctrine

"What the chewing locust left…"

  • "Chewing" signifies taking knowledges from the memory and analyzing them (Divine Providence [DP] 233 [8]). Chewing the cud signifies thinking over things once learned and believed (AC 5135 [2]).
  • AR 794 teaches that "them that are left" represent those "who do not search after [truths] nor receive them, because they are in falsities…"

"…the swarming locust has eaten…"

  • AC 2122 describes the state of those who desire to become "the greatest." They think of nothing but what is filthy, obscene, and profane. They make nothing of and utterly despise all things that are of charity and faith. They do not acknowledge the Lord. They hate all who confess the Lord. These descriptions are followed by this statement: "At the present day such people flock [swarm] into the other life…"
  • "Swarming" in the positive sense refers to goods, multiplying to truths (AC 1014 and 1016).
  • To be "eaten" signifies to communicate, be conjoined, and to appropriate (AC 2343).
  • In the negative sense, to "eat" signifies to live for self and the world and thus to appropriate evils and falsities (AE 840 [5]).

"What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten…"

  • "Crawling" signifies pleasures from the senses. When such pleasures originate from the proprium and lusts, the senses become filthy (AC 594).
  • That which crawls signifies things belonging to the sensuous part of a person, which, when separated from the spiritual part, become falsities from evils (AE 556 [6]).

"…and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten."

  • "…the consuming locust has eaten" has been translated in the New English Bible as "the consuming locust has put an end to." The Revised Standard Version translates "consuming locust" as "destroying locust." The Jerusalem Bible translates "consuming locust" as the "shearer" locust.
  • AC 10431 explains that "consuming" represents what happens to people when they turn away from the Lord. Such a turning away from the Lord is "consuming" in that people who turn away "perish in consequence of their evil."

NB: in the King James Bible, the four kinds of locust are called the palmerworm, the locust, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar. What representations are given in the Writings for these insects?

  • AE 403 explains that "palmerworms" signify falsity destroying good.
  • AE 573 [15] speaks of these "noxious little animals, ‘the locust, the canker-worm, the caterpillar, and the palmer-worm,’ signifying falsities and evils that devastate or consume the truths and goods of the church…"
  • Biblical scholars write about these four "noxious" insects as the gnawers, the swarmers or multipliers, the lickers, and the consumers or devourers.

Putting It All Together

P&P starts us on the path to understanding this verse. It is not a historical prophecy about four nations attacking Israel in the future. Instead, it is an eternal prophecy about what happens to a person whose heart and mind are focused wholly on the things of this world. The Writings call this kind of person the "Sensual Man." This sensual person doesn’t think deeply about the Word. His or her life is occupied with values that have no extension into the spiritual world. The sensual person looks for ease, comfort, and immediate gratification, and, in reality, is angry with the Lord. The sensual person is not willing to look beyond the grave.

Following the Lord involves pursuing infinite and eternal goals. Human life involves the here and now (time and space). In the process of growing spiritually, we learn how to bring our time-and-space existence into harmony with the infinite and eternal things of the Lord.

What little spiritual knowledge is known by the sensual person is, at best, fragmented, chaotic, and vulnerable to myriad philosophic, scientific, and self-centered arguments. Without the inner sense of the Word, the heart of an individual, the church, is susceptible to devastating attacks from the "gnawers," the "swarmers," the "lickers," and the "consumers" that deprive the church of its "vegetables." Vegetables are not only beautiful and nourishing but represent the variety of celestial and spiritual things flowing from the Lord into our natural life. (See AC 1632 for more on the meaning of vegetation.) Obviously, hell wants to consume such things to remove them from our minds.

Joel’s prophecy helps us to mentally picture how myriad spiritual locusts may darken the Lord’s sunlight. The beating of their wings is like a storm of sensual controversy trying to confuse the minds of the Lord’s people when they try to think of His truths. Imagine wave after wave of spiritual locusts feverishly and ravenously gorging themselves to the point of destroying a person’s spiritual crop of hope. Such is the effect within the hearts of those who are disinterested in the Lord and His Word.

This is a story we need to hear so we can alertly fight off periods of spiritual lethargy. The plague of the heart and mind is a reality hell wants us to face. The Word gives us an admonition to speak to the generation of children and our children’s children. We are to explain to them the devastating effects of the "sensual man." How do we warn them and ourselves about the unbelievable effects of the locust? How do we prudently tell this story to our children and their children? AC 2862 reminds us that reflection and perception are to be the tools and means of unfolding the internal sense of the Word. We need to teach everyone ways to observe and shun the disorders of hell. What better way than through the prophecy of Joel and the stories of the Word? Let’s close this summary by reading again the words of AC 2862: "…reflection and perception is an internal telling and saying." One way we are to be useful is by sharing the Word of the Lord and facilitating good and useful discussion about "survival" techniques that will protect us against the marauding noxious pests of hell. How can we frame a discussion of life issues in the context of warning one another about the effects of the locust? Doesn’t this section do a good job describing the kinds of sensual damage that self-love out of control can have on our spiritual growth? "Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?"

Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:4.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. Can you see how those who are outside of the New Church might assume this is a prophecy about four nations attacking Israel?

  2. Have you ever experienced or witnessed a swarming of ideas attacking something spiritual within you or someone else? What can you tell us about it?

  3. Do you remember the purpose of the attack? To block out the sun; to devastate the vegetable kingdom, and to strip it of any vital life or fruit. What does this mean in practical terms?

  4. Sensual people may have a clear self-image, but they often do not argue from fixed doctrine. Like the wind, they attack from one point and, if things are not progressing well on that front, they change direction. They see themselves as quite flexible or adaptable to theories or points of view. Sensual people charge spiritual people with being fixed, staid, and out of touch with reality. Sensual people view themselves as vibrant and agile. To them, the spiritual person is weak, sickly, and guilt-ridden. Can you attest to sensing or hearing any of these charges in your life as you seek to grow spiritually? Do you know what the Lord answers to the sensual people regarding who is healthy and full of life?

  5. I once heard a lecture wherein the speaker said that the toughest things in life are not the major problems that we face. Somehow, we seem to rise to the occasion and bravely survive. His point was that we suffer more under the daily little "pin-pricks" of life, the little gnawing, biting, distracting events we face all day long. These little pinpricks fray our nerves and put us out of sorts. These are the things that bring us to snap at people we love. Do the little things seem like the gathering of a swarming enemy? How are life’s pinpricks like noxious insects chewing away at our patience and good nature?

  6. We have asked ourselves this question often: How can we get serious about reading the Word? How can we put away our sensual side and develop our spiritual nature? Is this passage in Joel helpful? Does it paint a picture of unbelievable devastation to the "crops" within our mind? What crops are especially at risk?

  7. What did you make of the four kinds of locust? What did the "gnawers," the "swarmers," the "lickers," and the "consumers" add to your mental picture of the hells and the "sensual man"?

  8. The Lord gives us some strong images to think about. How do these rank among the many others we have in our minds? What are some of your favorite images from the Word?

Joel 1:5-7

"Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it has been cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up against My land, strong, and without number; his teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a fierce lion. He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree; he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white."

Passages From The Writings


  • "Let them repent, for evil from the sensual man has destroyed the different things of the church."

AC 1072 [3 & 4]

  • "A ‘drunken man’…denotes those who desire, from memory-knowledges (scientifica), to investigate spiritual and celestial things…In Joel 5-7…[drunken is] said of the church when vastated as to the truths of faith." Further on in this number, there is a passage teaching that "‘drunken men’ think themselves more wide awake than others, but they are in deep sleep."

AR 721

  • "That ‘to be made drunk with…wine’ signifies to be insane in spiritual things, may indeed be seen without confirmation from other passages in the Word; but as many are not able to see this, on account of their not thinking spiritually but sensually, that is, materially…I will adduce some passages from the Word…" Joel 1:5-7 is cited.

AE 376 [36]

  • "‘Drunkenness’…in the Word signifies insanity in spiritual things, and lapsing into errors…" Joel 1:5, 6, and 7 are cited.

AC 3580 [6]

  • Joel 1:5 and 10 are cited with a very simple explanation: "…where a new church is treated of…"

AR 316

  • Joel 1:5, 10, and 11 are cited with the following statement: "Nearly the same words occur in Hosea 9:2, 3; Zephaniah 1:13; Lamentations 2:11, 12; Micah 6:15; Amos 5:11; Isaiah 24:6, 7, 9, 11."

AE 376 [18]

  • "In Joel 1:5, 10, 11…[These words treat of] a devastated church, in which goods and truths have perished."

AC 6367

  • "…a ‘lion’ denotes the power possessed by the evil of the love of self when it destroys and lays waste; and so in…Joel 1:6…"

AC 9052 [4]

  • "In Joel 1:6, 7…‘teeth’ and ‘grinders’ denote the falsities that destroy the truths of the church; a ‘vine’ denotes the spiritual church…and a ‘fig-tree’ its natural good…That ‘teeth’ have this signification is plain also from the fact that they are attributed to a nation which will lay waste."

AR 435

  • "…the sensual things of the understanding are signified by ‘teeth;’…Sensual men who are in falsities from confirmation, seem to themselves to be in power over all things, so they cannot be conquered…That ‘teeth’ signify the ultimates of man’s life, which are called sensual things, and which, when separated from the interiors of the mind, are in mere falsities, and do violence to truths even to destroying them, may appear from the following passages…" Joel 1:6 is cited.

AE 278 [11]

  • "‘Lions’ in the Word signify also the power of falsity from evil by which the church is destroyed and devastated." Joel 1:6 and 7 are cited as an example.

AE 556 [4]

  • "In Joel 1:6 and 7 ‘A nation that cometh up upon the land’ signifies evil devastating the church, ‘nation’ meaning evil, and ‘land’ the church; ‘vigorous and without number’ signifies powerful and manifold; ‘vigorous’ is predicated of the power of evil, and ‘without number’ of the power of falsity; ‘its teeth are the teeth of a lion’ signifying destroying falsities; ‘the jaw teeth of an immense lion’ signify truths falsified; ‘it reduceth the vine to a waste, and the fig-tree to froth,’ signifies the destruction of spiritual and natural truths; spiritual truths are those of the spiritual sense of the Word, and natural truths those of the sense of its letter…‘Teeth’ properly signify such things as are merely in the memory and are brought forth therefrom, for the things that are in the memory of the sensual man correspond to bones and teeth."

AC 5113 [13]

  • "…a ‘vine’ signifies the good of the intellectual part; and a ‘fig-tree’ the good of the natural man, or what is the same, that a ‘vine’ signifies the good of the interior man, and a ‘fig-tree’ the good of the exterior man, therefore a ‘fig-tree’ is often mentioned in the Word at the same time as a ‘vine;’ as in the following passages…" Joel 1:6, 7, and 12 are cited as examples.


AE 403 [6]

  • "In Joel 1:6, 7, 12…This whole chapter treats of the devastated church; and ‘the nation that comes up upon the land, vigorous and without number, having the teeth of a lion, and the cheek-teeth of an immense lion,’ does not signify any such nation, but direful evil and falsity therefrom; ‘the land upon which it comes up’ signifies the church; ‘the teeth of a lion’ signify the falsities of such evil; and because these destroy all the goods and truths of the church, they are called ‘the teeth of the lion and the great cheek-teeth of a lion,’ ‘lion’ signifying [falsity] which destroys. Therefore, ‘it hath made My vine a waste, and my fig-tree foam,’ signifies that the church internal and external is thereby vastated, ‘vine’ signifying the internal church, and ‘fig-tree’ the external, ‘foam’ signifying where there is inwardly no truth; ‘in stripping it hath stripped it, and cast it away’ signifies that there is no longer any good or truth that is not destroyed, ‘to strip’ that is, of fruits and leaves, means of goods and truths, and ‘to cast away’ means to destroy entirely; ‘the branches thereof are made white’ signifies that there is no longer anything spiritual…"

Derived Doctrine


  • To "awake" (wake from sleep) signifies to seek enlightenment; sleep refers to an obscure state in comparison to being awake (AC 3715).
  • To be awake signifies enlightenment in the natural (external) part of a person (AC 5208).
  • To be awake implies a state of watchfulness to know truths and to live by them (AR 158).

"…you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine…"

  • To be drunken, staggering, and reeling signifies to be insane in spiritual things from falsifying the truths of the Word (AC 1072).
  • A person staggering or reeling signifies those who can see nothing of truth when they read or hear truth from the Word, particularly when spiritual things seek to inflow into the natural (AE 376 [32]).
  • AR 788 gives us an insight into the meaning of "weep" and "wail." "…by ‘weeping’ is signified mourning of soul, and by ‘mourning’ [wailing] grief of heart." In other words, this is a call for a new understanding and will.
  • Drinking in the good sense signifies appropriating instruction in spiritual things (AC 2704). Drinking in the negative sense signifies appropriating falsified truths in one’s life (AR 635).
  • Drinking wine in the positive sense signifies seeking instruction in the things of the Lord’s Divine truth—Divine wisdom. Such is the goal when receiving wine in the Holy Supper. See True Christian Religion (TCR) 711.

"…because of the new wine, for it has been cut off from your mouth."

  • Reading this verse reminds us of the Lord’s sayings to His people. "You have heard it said of old…but I say unto you…" The Lord’s life, teachings, and examples brought new wine—truth—to the world. Some took and drank the new truth. Others cut it off, rejecting it and spewing it from their mouths.
  • To "cut off" signifies that divine truth shall be taken from that people, but shall live again in a new church (AE 315 [23]).
  • "Mouth" signifies thought from the understanding (DP 80). AE 782 carries this correspondence a little further, explaining that the mouth signifies thought as it comes forth in speech such as teaching, preaching, and reasoning.

"For a nation has come up against My land, strong, and without number…"

  • "Nations from afar" signify falsity from evil, or that of the sensuous man, destroying truths (AE 724 [27]).
  • "Nations" signify evils of the will (AC 622).
  • In the positive sense, "nation" signifies the Lord’s kingdom (AC 1416 [5]).
  • "Against" signifies the violence hell offers against the Lord’s spiritual kingdom, until, by the Lord’s divine power, it is brought under His yoke (AC 8625).
  • "My land…" "Land" represents various things: the internal man of the church; the region where the church is; the church itself; the doctrine of love and charity where the church resides (AC 2571). "My" makes it clear that the opposition from hell will come up against the Lord’s church and not some physical or historical church.
  • "Strong," or strength, in the positive sense represents truth, which cannot be resisted (AC 426 [3]).
  • "Strong" in the negative sense represents the gathering or marshaling of the forces within the evil of the love of self (AC 6306 [4]).
  • "Without number" in the positive sense represents a setting in order (AC 10218). It also signifies what cannot be counted, or multiplication to eternity (AC 1610).
  • In the negative sense, "number" signifies the attempt of hell to dissipate the divine truths by reasonings and falsities. Such was the "number" that attacked the Lord in temptation. See AC 3812 [7].

"His teeth are the teeth of a lion…"

  • AR 435 gives us the most direct teaching about the meaning of these words. It states that "the teeth of a lion" represent sensual men who are in falsities and believe themselves to be in power over all things, so they imagine they cannot be conquered.
  • AE 278 [11] teaches that a "lion" signifies the power of falsity that attempts to destroy and devastate the church.

"…and he has the fangs of a fierce lion."

  • "Fierce" signifies a strong aversion from good (AC 6358).
  • "Fierce" signifies that the people turned from divine things. For when wrath or anger is said of the Lord, it means a turning away on the part of human beings (AC 10431).
  • "Fang" as a verb means to seize, to lay hold of. As a noun, a "fang" is also a long sharp tooth by which the prey is seized and held. Although we don’t have any specific correspondence given for "fang," we can draw certain conclusions about the nature of hell. It wants to seize, hold, and trap spiritual people so as to tear and destroy them.

"He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree…"

  • "Waste" signifies evils and falsities destroying the good and truth of the church (AE 374 [5]).
  • "My vine" and "My fig tree" signify, respectively, the goods of the intellectual principle and the good of the natural principle, or the good of the interior man and the good of the exterior man (AC 5113). The "My" word calls our attention to the Lord. His Divine principles seek to help the interior and exterior life of human beings.

"…he has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white."

  • Stripping signifies dispelling and annihilating the appearances of truth (AC 4741).
  • To "strip" signifies deprivation of divine truth in the externals (AC 10542).
  • "Bare" seems to be equivalent to the word "naked" in this verse. To get help with these terms, let’s turn to AC 213. In reference to the story in which Adam and Eve claimed nakedness as a problem, we read "where there is no innocence, nakedness is a scandal and disgrace, because it is attended with a consciousness of thinking evil…and is predicated of a perverted church…" Could "he" (the hells) purposely have aimed at the innocence of the church so as to make it appear as a scandal and disgrace?
  • Does the phrase "branches made white" mean that the bark was stripped off? What use does the bark provide for a tree? Not only does its tough external covering protect the tree from the elements, but it has a part in the flow of sap and the supply of life. Girdle a tree, and its death is imminent. Can we make an equal point for the spiritual meaning of this verse? "Branches" signify the power of truth from good. The "fig tree" is the good of the natural and the branch its affection. See AC 4231.
  • "…strippedbarethrown away." Each of these words convey within their meaning a sense of a wasted potential. What could have been productive was treated carelessly; thus, instead of use, there is despair and destruction. AC 2121 exposes who really throws things away. "The Lord casts no one into hell, but every one casts himself there."

Putting It All Together

The hallmark of this section comes when the Lord calls His people to wake up. They not only failed to see dangerous issues, but their sleep-like state made them vulnerable to the stealthy plans of the enemies of the Lord. The parable of the wheat and darnel illustrates this principle quite well.

Secondly, the Lord told them they were drunkards. Drunkenness represents being insane with foolish ideas of how smart and powerful they were. Like staggering, reeling, and unstable minds, they needed to sober up with the reality of the Lord’s eternal truths.

If they woke up, if they sobered up, they would see the need to weep and mourn over the foolishness they had previously allowed to direct their lives. Instead of drinking the wine of the sensual person, they were to drink of the wine provided by the Lord. The Lord’s drink quenches the thirst of the soul and brings with it necessary instruction and a new (living) will and understanding.

The Lord’s way benefits the weak and the heavy-laden. He promises to make our burden light. The lightness comes from the fact that He wills to help us. Refusing His offer of help leads us into states of despair. Listen to what is forecast: A nation that is strong and without number will rise up against you. The enemy will bare its fangs. Like a fierce lion, its teeth will seize, tear, and waste us. The land, the church, will be wasted. The truth of the church will mean nothing. Obedience, the fig tree, will be stripped bare, stripped of its bark and thrown away.

Surely the awakened, repentant, sorrowful soul will avoid all of these direful consequences. And how will this happen? Alertness, soberness, attentiveness will allow and help us to bear spiritual fruit. The branches of the fig trees will not be stripped and made white with the gnawing away of the bark. There will be no throwing away; instead, there will be a gathering and building up of uses for the Lord and the neighbor.

What key words should we remember from this section? AWAKE; SOBER UP, WEEP, AND WAIL. These things will be sufficient in the day of the Lord and will rescue His church from the reeling, staggering effects of self-love.


Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:5-7.


Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. If you have children, think about how you warn them of dangers. How do you go about it? Do you work with their imagination, using illustrations of contrasts? Do you sometimes let them fail so they can learn the necessity of asking for help?

  2. What can you relate about a significant incident in your life in which you can admit that you "fell asleep at the switch" and made yourself vulnerable to the enemy sowing seeds of discord in your life?

  3. How well can you relate to the idea of the fangs of hell grabbing and tearing away at essential spiritual issues?

  4. What are your thoughts about the stripping of the branches and the throwing away described in our text? What does this look like in every-day life?

Joel 1:8-13

"Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering have been cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests mourn, who minister to the Lord. The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Be ashamed, you farmers, wail, you vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine has dried up, and the fig tree has withered; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree—all the trees of the field are withered; surely joy has withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; wail, you who minister before the altar; come, lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to my God; for the grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God."

Passages From The Writings


  • "Mourning over the destruction of the goods and truths of the church."

AE 863 [15]

  • "…‘virgins’ signify in the Word the affections of truth…" Joel 1:7-8 is cited.

AR 334

  • "The reason why ‘a fig-tree’ signifies the natural good of man, is because every tree signifies something of the church in man…In confirmation are these passages…" Joel 1:7 and 12 are cited.

AR 620

  • "That all they who are such in the Lord’s church, whether they be virgins or young men, wives or husbands, boys or old men, girls or old women, are meant by ‘virgins,’ may appear from the Word, where virgins are mentioned…" Joel 1:8 is cited.

AR 492

  • "That mourning on account of the devastation of truth in the church, was represented by ‘putting on sackcloth,’ may be seen from the following passages…" Joel 1:8 and 13 are cited.

AE 637 [14]

  • "In Joel…‘to be girded with sackcloth’ and to ‘pass the night in sackcloth’ signify mourning because the good and truth of the church are destroyed, for the ‘meal-offering’ signifies the good of the church, and the ‘drink-offering’ its truth."

AR 778

  • "That ‘wine’ signifies truth from the good of love…That ‘oil’ signifies the good of love…By ‘fine flour’ is signified celestial truth, and by ‘wheat’ is signified celestial good. That the truths and goods of worship are signified by ‘wine,’ ‘oil,’ ‘fine flour’ and ‘wheat,’ is because the drink-offerings and meal-offerings consisted of them, which were offered upon the altar together with the sacrifices; and by the sacrifices and by the offerings offered upon the altar worship is signified, for the chief part of worship consisted in them. That the drink-offerings, which were wine, were offered upon the altar together with the sacrifices, may be seen…" Joel 1:9 is cited.

AE 376 [25]

  • "This makes clear what is signified in Joel…1:9…namely, that worship from the good of love, and from the truths therefrom, had perished. Who cannot see that the meal-offering and the drink-offering, which were bread and wine, were not pleasing to Jehovah in worship, unless they had signified such things as are of heaven and the church?"

AR 589

  • "That ‘the world’ also signifies the church, may be seen in…Joel 1:9, 10…"

AC 7602

  • "…in Joel…1:9-11…the subject of this prophecy is the vastation of good and truth, as is evident from what follows in the chapter; and therefore by ‘grain,’ ‘new wine,’ ‘wheat,’ and ‘barley,’ are not signified these things, but spiritual things; thus by ‘wheat,’ interior good; and by ‘barley,’ exterior good."

AC 9295 [5]

  • "In Joel…1:9-11…the vastation of the church in respect to the truths of faith and the goods of charity is here described by such things as belong to the field, the vineyard, and the olive yard; the church itself is ‘the field;’ and its last state, which was called by the Lord ‘the consummation of the age, is ‘the harvest.’"

AC 10137 [3 & 4]

  • "That the ‘meat-offering,’ which was bread, signifies the good of love, and that the ‘drink-offering,’ which was wine, signifies the good of faith, and that they are so perceived by the angels, can be seen from all that is said in the Word…as in Joel…1:9-15…the subject here treated of is the last time of the church, when there is no longer in it the good of love and the truth of faith…From this it is plain that by ‘the meat-offering and drink-offering which were cut off from the house of Jehovah,’ by ‘the field which was laid waste,’ by ‘the ground which mourneth,’ by ‘the grain which was also laid waste,’ by ‘the new wine which was dried up,’ by ‘the oil which languisheth,’ and by ‘the vine’ and ‘the fig-tree,’ are signified such things as belong to the church and heaven; but the internal sense teaches what these signify. From this it is evident that by ‘the field’ is signified the church as to the reception of truth…by ‘the land,’ the church as to good…by ‘grain,’ all the good of the church…by ‘new wine’ all the truth of the church…by ‘oil’ the good of love…by ‘vine,’ the interior good of the spiritual church…and by ‘fig-tree’ its exterior good…"

AC 566

  • "And in Joel…1:10…it is evident that ‘man,’ who in the Hebrew tongue is called ‘Adam,’ from ‘ground,’ signifies the church."

AC 9780 [4]

  • "…where ‘the oil’ denotes the good of love and charity, and ‘the wine,’ the good and truth of faith." Joel 1:10 is cited.

AE 375 [30]

  • "In Joel 1:10…This signifies the devastation of all things of the church which have reference in general to the good of love and the truth of faith; ‘field,’ and also ‘ground,’ mean the church, ‘field’ the church from the reception of truth, and ‘ground’ the church from the perception of good; ‘corn’ means everything of the church, ‘new wine’ truth, and ‘fresh oil’ good."

AC 3941 [4]

  • "In Joel…1:10, 11, 13…the state of the vastated church is that which is here described; thus that ‘field’ and ‘ground’ are the church; the ‘corn’ its good, and the ‘new wine’ its truth…and that the ‘wheat’ is celestial love, and the ‘barley’ spiritual love; and as the state of the church is treated of, it is said, ‘gird yourselves and lament, ye priests; howl, ye ministers of the altar.’"

AR 645

  • "…by ‘harvest’ is signified the state of the church as to Divine truth; the reason is, because from the harvest grain is procured, from which bread is made, and by ‘grain’ and ‘bread’ is signified the good of the church, this being procured by truths. That this is the signification…may be seen more clearly from those places in the Word where ‘harvest,’ ‘reaping’…are mentioned…" Joel 1:10 is cited.

AE 911 [13]

  • "In Joel…1:13…The devastation of the church as to good and truth is here meant by ‘the harvest of the field hath perished;’ ‘husbandmen’ mean those who are in the good of the church, and ‘vinedressers’ those who are in its truths; ‘wheat and barley’ mean good itself and truth itself; grief on account of devastation is signified by ‘they were ashamed and howled.’"

AC 8369 [2]

  • "That ‘palm-trees’ signified a holy festivity which is from good, is evident…in the following passages…Joel 1:12…here ‘palm-tree’ denotes good…"


AE 109 [4]

  • "That ‘trees,’ which are so often mentioned in the Word, signify the interiors of man which belong to his mind and disposition, and the things that are on trees, as leaves and fruit, signify such things as are from these interiors, can be seen from the following passages…" Joel 1:12 is cited.

AE 458 [7]

  • "…Joel…1:12…describes the desolating of truth and good in the church, and thence of all joy of heart, that is, of all spiritual joy; for the ‘vine’ signifies the spiritual good and truth of the church, the ‘fig-tree’ the natural good and truth therefrom, and the ‘pomegranate’ sensual truth and good, which is the ultimate of the natural; ‘palm’ signifies joy of heart, from spiritual good, and ‘apple’ the same from the natural good derived from spiritual good; ‘the trees of the field that are dried up,’ signify the perceptions of good and the knowledges of truth, that there are none; and because spiritual joy and natural joy therefrom are signified by the ‘palm-tree’ and the ‘apple tree,’ it is added, ‘joy is dried up from the sons of man;’ ‘sons of man’ meaning in the Word those who are in truths from good, and ‘joy’ signifying spiritual joy, which is solely from good through truths. Who cannot see that vine, fig-tree, pomegranate, palm-tree, apple-tree, and the trees of the field are not here meant? Why should it be said in the Word and of what consequence is it to the church to say that these trees are withered and dried up?"

Derived Doctrine

"Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth."

  • To "gird" signifies readiness to receive the influx of good and truth from the Lord, and to respond to it (AC 7863). To "gird with sackcloth" signifies mourning for destroyed good (AC 4779 [8]).
  • A "virgin" signifies purity from all falsities (AC 3081).
  • "Youth," in a positive sense, signifies the order of truths under good (AC 5704).
  • A "husband" signifies the rational principle (AC 265).

"…the priests mourn, who minister to the Lord."

  • Priests are to teach truth, and so lead to good, and to the Lord (AC 10794).
  • The priesthood of Aaron, his sons, and the Levites represents the work of salvation in successive order (AC 10017).
  • Mourning signifies grief because truth is destroyed and because good is also (AE 1129 [2]).
  • Ministers of the Lord signify those who are in love to the Lord and in derivative worship (AE 444 [7]).
  • A "minister" signifies a representative and servant of a special kind of holiness that is present when people read the Word. This holiness acts as an intermediary between the Lord and people who only understand the outward sense of the Word (AC 9419).

"Be ashamed you farmers, wail you vinedressers."

  • To "be ashamed" in the negative sense means or signifies being in a natural good to conceal evils (AC 216 and 217).
  • To "be ashamed" or to feel shame in the positive sense signifies a willingness to face unclean loves. The call for shame is to those who will be of the Lord’s New Church. It is a call from the Lord to encourage them to seek and learn truths and to retain them. See AR 706.
  • "Farmers," husbandmen, plowmen, and tillers of the soil signify those who teach, or those who are of the church, for a field signifies the church and "farmers" are the implanters of truths (AE 652 [18]).
  • "Wail," "weep," "lament," and "mourn" are words used to express a state of grieving. Grieving over what? The loss of good and truth within the church. These words also represent the Lord’s grief because of the night-time state among the people as to the (lack of) truths of faith in the church. See AC 2910.
  • "Vinedressers" signify those who have truths and teach them (AE 911 [13]).

"…lie all night in sackcloth."

  • "Night" signifies all things of a person’s (own) proprium (AC 21).
  • "Night" signifies a person’s state when falsities arise (AE 167 [5]).
  • Therefore, what we have here is a command to search for, discover, and mourn over the evils within our natural side.

Putting It All Together

The Lord saw and knew the condition of the church. The internal state of the church was not healthy. The visible aspects of the church appeared normal. Rituals were being observed by the priests and the people. High holidays were being kept. But within these normal appearances, the church was nearing spiritual death. The hells were laboring to bring about a spiritual drought of significant proportions. How could the Lord AWAKEN, SOBER UP, and bring His church to a WEEPING AND WAILING state of honest emotional cleansing? How could He invoke a spiritual honesty to lead the hearts and minds of His people away from rationalizations and self-justifications? We need to recall the serious weakness of the Israelites. They believed they were the chosen, or favored, people. A spirit of invincibility carried them along for centuries, and they fostered a belief that the Lord would always rescue and excuse them. Their supposed favored status would not carry them through the "day of the Lord."

Could a plague of four kinds of locust stripping the land snap the Israelites out of their fantasies? Would Joel’s speaking to the people about the wasted fields, the land mourning over the ruined grain, the wine drying up, the failure of the oil, the wheat, the barley, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate tree, the palm tree, and the apple tree withering and drying up accomplish anything? Could Joel’s reminder to the people that "joy has withered away from the sons of men" bring the church to a state of repentance and reformation?

The Divinely inspired prophecy of Joel is not only a description of the problem at hand. The Lord outlined a workable plan that, if followed, would reverse the devastation of the land and the church and guarantee the restoration of joy to the church.

Let’s note the order of the plan that the Lord outlined for the revitalization of the church:

1. Virgins were to lament, gird themselves with sackcloth, and remember the husband of their youth. What is the Lord calling the church to do? He wants the church to get in touch with innocence again. They are to return to the conjunction and marriage of love and wisdom, remembering that the first love of the rational soul (the husband of youth) is to serve the Lord with gladness. They are to prepare themselves to receive good and truth from the Lord and respond to it wholeheartedly.

2. Priests, teach the truth. This is a command to lead people to the good of life and the Lord. The priests of the church must have a sincere care for the souls of those within the church. They are to offer a ministry of mediation in which they introduce the Word to the people and show how the truths relate to life. The Lord asks them to show genuine sorrow for having forgotten to do these things in the past and to rectify that deficiency as quickly as possible.

3. Farmers, you need to be ashamed. Why? Farmers represent the implanters of the Lord’s truth. They apparently failed to adequately prepare the field for the planting of truth. Perhaps the field was not cleared of weeds. Rocks, roots, and hard soil were not giving truth the proper depth to find nourishment and protection from the heat of the sun.

4. Lastly, the church needs to have a hearty crying time. She needs to wail and lie all night in the sackcloth of remorse. The Lord wants His church to face the night-time of its unregenerate proprium. The church has to rein in the uncontrolled and stubborn self. The command to wear sackcloth is a call to mourn and search out the spiritual enemy of the soul by resisting the evils of self-love.

This is the "day of the Lord." When these things are done, joy will return to the church. The land will flourish again. The grain fields will wave in the gentle restorative breeze from the Lord. The wine will flow and taste better than that which was served first. Oil will be plentiful. Fig trees, pomegranate trees, palms, and apple trees will bear abundant crops. Joy will fill the sons of men. The Lord’s New Church will restore the dignity of the church and the souls of its people.

Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:8-13.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. Did you notice that we had 21 direct teachings to help us with this summary? There was less of a need to turn to derived doctrine. What was one striking teaching you noticed among those given in the Passages from the Writings section?

  2. Did the "gloom and doom" theme diminish as you moved toward the spiritual sense? Why or why not?
  3. AR 706 gave a positive meaning to the experience of shame. It is a call to those who will be of the Lord’s New Church to encourage them to seek and learn truths and to retain them. Had you ever thought about shame in this way? What aspects of this positive idea of shame can you see in daily living?

  4. Is the passage about the virgin and "the husband of her youth" supposed to remind us of love in its beginning stages? When it comes to religion, have we retained that feeling of youthful excitement and spontaneity in loving the Lord or have we fallen into a rut of boredom and begun taking the Lord and the church for granted? What are some ways to address this problem?

  5. The picturesque description of the failure of the crops and the fruit trees is intended to get us thinking about what? AE 109 [4] teaches that trees represent the interiors of a person belonging to his or her mind and disposition, and the leaves and fruit represent the things that come from the interiors. So the fig-tree represents the natural good (obedience) being in-filled with interior things; the pomegranate tree represents external knowledge being in-filled by doctrinal things from the Word; the apple tree represents the joy of the heart that draws its strength from spiritual good. Given this brief overview, can you refine this concept specifically to your life or some example? Work with this slowly and with a friend or two.

  6. What about the healthiness of having a good cry to work out a resolution of guilt or shame? How can one have a good cry and then get over it by doing something positive? The Lord wants repentance, not moroseness.

  7. What state of mind brings us joy? How about this idea as revealed in AC 3118: "…in the Word ‘gladness’ is predicated of truth, and ‘joy’ of good…Gladness is of the countenance [face], but joy [is] of the heart; or…gladness is of spiritual affection or truth, but joy is of celestial affection or of good; thus gladness is in a degree less than joy…"

  8. What did you get from the Lord’s message to the virgin, the priests, and the farmers, and the directive to the priests to lie all night in sackcloth?

Joel 1:14

"Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord."

Passages From The Writings


  • "Exhortation to be converted…"

Derived Doctrine

"Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly…"

  • "Consecrate," or sanctify, signifies to "represent the Lord and the holy things which are from Him…thus it denotes to be led by the Lord, because the Lord alone is holy, and everything holy proceeds from Him…" (AC 9988, 10111, and 10128)
  • A "fast" signifies an unhappy state when good is no longer conjoined with truths (AC 9182 [10]).
  • To "fast" signifies to mourn on account of the lack of good and truth (AE 1189 [2]).
  • Fasting corresponds to temptation (AE 730).
  • "Sacred" means dedicated, set apart in honor, holy, hallowed, inviolable, and not to be profaned.
  • AC 10796 presents the following thoughts on what is holy (sacred): "Priests must have dignity and honor on account of the holy things which they engage in; but those of them who are wise give the honor to the Lord, from whom come all holy things; and not to themselves. But those of them who are not wise attribute the honor to themselves. These take it away from the Lord. Those who attribute honor to themselves…set honor and profit above the salvation of souls, which they ought to have regard for. But those who give the honor to the Lord and not to themselves, set the salvation of souls above honor and profit."
  • "Assembly" signifies setting things in order. For goods and truths cannot be assembled if there is no order. See AC 6338.
  • "Assembly," or "the Tent of meeting," signifies where the presence of the Lord is (AC 9784).

"Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord."

  • What is gathered, stored up, assembled, and picked up signify the things that are in a person’s memory. It "further implies that both goods and truths should be gathered in man before he is regenerated; for without [them being] gathered together, through which as means the Lord may operate, a man can never be regenerated…" (AC 679).
  • "Elders," which signify "all things that are of the natural man, such as memory-knowledges of whatever kind, are nothing but things of service; for they serve the rational by enabling it to think equitably and will justly." (AC 3019)
  • "Inhabitants of the world" signify people of the church who are in the goods of doctrine, and so of life (AE 741 [6]).
  • "Land" signifies various things: the internal person of the church, the region where the church is, the church itself, the doctrine of love and charity where the faith of the church resides (AC 2571).
  • "Into the house of the Lord" signifies the church wherein love is the principal (AC 710).
  • To "cry out" is to indicate intense thought with the full intention of doing (AC 7119).
  • Crying out signifies supplication to the Lord from grief (AC 8353).

Putting It All Together

P&P states that this verse refers to the Lord’s exhortation to the people to be converted. How were the people to accomplish their conversion?

  1. Be led by the Lord alone.
  2. Start this process by giving up the food of natural thought (fasting) and seeking to conjoin the good and truth of the Lord. These actions are the sacred assembly.
  3. Do the work of the priesthood with dignity and care for the salvation of souls.
  4. Dedicate the work of the church to setting things in order. Where there is no order, there can be no influx of the Lord.
  5. Assemble goods and truths with the goal that they will become the means for the Lord to regenerate all the people within the church.
  6. Gather the land together in the house of the Lord where love is the principle goal, and where the people can cry out with a united voice that the intention of the church is to do the Lord’s will.

All of these actions will bear fruit if the church listens to and believes in the sacred call to conversion. These things are not for the merit or honor of the people. They are for the honor of the Lord, who cares for the salvation of souls.

Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:14.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. The Lord called for a "fast." His message seems to be a reminder to us that the foods of the natural mind are not sufficient for the soul. In addition to natural food, we need the added enrichment of spiritual food. Fasting calls for us to admit that we cannot live "by bread alone." This call to fast is intended to inspire us to reflect: Will we search for spiritual truths as a part of our on-going spiritual growth? Worship, meditation, and reflection can help us organize and assemble goods and truths in a formidable way. How does the Lord call us to fast in daily life? When does He call us?

  2. Recall for a moment the meaning of "elders." Elders signify a gathering of memory-knowledges of every kind for the purpose of service. They are to serve the rational mind. Elders are to enable us to think equitably and to will justly. Is this a process that you are aware of and that you find alive and well in your spiritual growth? How can you call on your "elders" in various areas of your life?

  3. What does the word "conversion" mean to you? Conversions are not what the televangelists talk about and promise to their listeners. Nor is conversion achieved while listening to a gifted preacher/teacher. Conversion is a gift from the Lord that comes to us when we love the truths of the Word and make them the principle part of our inward church. Conversion comes about when we are led by continuous degrees from ignorance to enlightenment. The Lord sees our sincere desire to learn and to be guided by His Word, and He lifts us upward, through discrete degrees, to see the spiritual and celestial levels of His truth. Only the Lord lifts up the mind to conversion. No one can force a "conversion" by wit or strength.

  4. Let’s read HH 253: "…man’s interior and exterior faculties are such that they are turned either towards the Lord as their common center…or towards self, that is, backwards from the Lord. Those that are turned towards the Lord are also turned towards heaven. But those that are turned towards self are turned also towards the world. And to elevate these is a difficult matter; nevertheless the Lord elevates them as much as is possible, by turning the love about, which is done by means of truths from the Word."


Joel 1:15

"Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty."

Passages From The Writings


  • "…and to reflect that thus will be the last time, when the Lord will come…"

AC 488 [3]

  • "…in Joel…1:15…where a ‘day of cloud’ signifies a cloud, or falsity; the ‘day of the nations’ signifies the nations, or wickedness; the ‘day of Jehovah’ signifies vastation. When the notion of time is removed, there remains the notion of the state of the things which existed at that time. The case is the same with regard to the ‘days’ and ‘years’ that are so often mentioned…"

AC 1992 [5]

  • "…in Joel…1:15…[it may] also be seen from the word shaddai itself, which signifies vastation, and thus temptation, for temptation is a kind of vastation. But as this name took its rise from nations in Syria, He is not called ‘Elohim Shaddai,’ but ‘El Shaddai;’…"

Doctrine of the Lord 4

  • "I shall…merely adduce passages from the Word which contain the expressions ‘that day,’ ‘in that day,’ and ‘in that time;’ in which, by ‘day,’ and ‘time,’ is meant the Lord’s advent." In the eight pages of references from the Word, Joel 1:15 is cited.

AR 704

  • "Besides these places there are many more, in which the Lord’s coming and the New Church…are meant by ‘the day of Jehovah;’ as in these…" Joel 1:15 is cited.

TCR 82 [2]

  • "See also places where the Lord’s coming is called ‘the day of Jehovah’…" Joel 1:15 is cited.

AC 5147 [4]

  • Note that this passage is said to explain Joel 1:15-17. The exposition really covers the meaning for verses 16 and 17.


Coronis 58 [5]

  • "…passages in which the vastation, desolation, and consummation of this church…shall be only named: as, for example…" Joel 1:15-20 is cited.

AC 10609 [4]

  • "In Joel…1:15, 18…the subject here treated of is the coming of the Lord, which is signified by ‘the day of Jehovah;’ and the church at that time as being vastated, that is, there being no longer any good of love or good of faith."

Derived Doctrine

"Alas for the day of the Lord is at hand…"

  • The word "alas" signifies grief, lamentation, and woe (AE 652 [18] and AE 654 [38]).
  • The "day of the Lord" signifies vastations and the last time and state of the church (AC 488 [3] and AC 1839 [5]).
  • "At hand" signifies the Lord’s ability, power, and confidence to correct disorder. See AC 4400 for illustrations of this expression.

"It [the day of the Lord] shall come as destruction from the Almighty."

  • "Destruction" signifies the damnation of those who pervert memory-knowledges (AC 1458 [3]).
  • Mentions of "destruction" signify that people, and not the Lord, will cast themselves into hell when they destroy the church within themselves (AR 528).
  • "Almighty" signifies the Lord’s Omnipotence. The Lord alone reigns in the New Church that is to be established by Him. See AR 247, 522, and 663.

Putting It All Together

In Revelation 6:10, the Lord opens the fifth seal of the great scroll that is in His hand. When the fifth seal is opened, the souls of those who "had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held" cry out with a loud voice saying "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

How many times, while studying the prophets, have we read about "the day of the Lord" when the awesome vastation of the church and the establishment of the New Church would finally come about? Like the souls of heaven, do we wonder when and how long, O Lord it will be before the New Church is the crown of all churches whose kingdom will be forever and ever?

With war, murder, brutality, and disregard for the ways of the Lord evident in our daily news, it’s difficult not to become troubled with the apparent "slowness" of the Lord to bring an end to such blatant forms of disrespect and hatred of the neighbor. The repetition of a promise such as what is described in this verse of Joel intensifies the hope that "the day of the Lord" will come to pass.

The first word of Joel 1:15 is "Alas," to express the Divine sadness and grief that there are, and will be, people who will choose not to listen to Him or follow His ways. The Lord is never capricious or angry. The people of the church will be given every opportunity to reform and repent. The evil people, and not the Lord, will cast themselves from the presence of heaven. So the Word repeats the theme of "the day of the Lord." The church will be emptied of those who twisted the Word and the memory-knowledges. The wicked will be held accountable and will answer to the Almighty. The Great Omnipotence will offer a steady and firm hand to the beautiful construction of the Holy City New Jerusalem. His ability, power, and confidence will win the day. The doors of the Holy City are wide open, and the Sun of Heaven leads, and shows, the way into heavenly order and peace.

For our part, in spite of recurring times of doubt and impatience, we need to read on and believe the promises of the Word, and stay faithful to the testimony written within each prophecy.

P&P sums up the reason we have this verse in Joel, with these words: "to reflect that thus will be the last time, when the Lord will come…"


Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:15.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. The word "alas" signifies grief. What can you imagine about the kind of grief the Lord feels for those who reject and throw away their place in heaven? Is the Lord’s grief infinite?

  2. Do you think things in the world have gotten worse with passing time? We accept things today that would never have been accepted ten or twenty years ago. Have we loosened up on things because we have been enlightened? Or, is the acceptance of things part of the vastation process?

  3. What is your view of "the day of the Lord"? Is it coming soon? Will it be in our lifetime? Do you see any signs that the Lord’s New Church is growing throughout the world? What are they?

  4. How much spiritual comfort did you receive when reading the summation in P&P? "To reflect that thus will be the last time when the Lord will come."

  5. We believe in the second coming of the Lord. We welcome the Lord’s second coming in the revelation of His threefold Word. Can we imagine what our life would be like without the revelation of the Writings? Think of all the areas of your life that are touched by your beliefs.


Joel 1:16-17

"Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed shrivels under the clods, storehouses are in shambles; barns are broken down, for the grain has withered."

Passages From The Writings


  • "…and that everything of the church has been devastated…"

AC 5147 [4]

  • "‘Food’ is mentioned in many places in the Word, and one who is not acquainted with the internal sense cannot know but that ordinary food is here meant, whereas it is spiritual food; as in…Joel…1:15-17…"

AC 5147 [6]

  • "…‘food’ in the spiritual sense is good…"

Coronis 58 [5]

  • "The passages in which the vastation, desolation, and consummation of this church are further mentioned shall be only named: as, for example…Joel 1:15-20."

AC 4137 [2]

  • "There is occasional mention in the Word of ‘gladness’ and of ‘joy,’ and sometimes they are mentioned together; but ‘gladness’ is mentioned when the subject treated of is truth and its affection, and ‘joy’ when it is good and its affection, as in…Joel…1:16…"

Doctrine of Sacred Scripture 87

  • "The reason why both ‘joy’ and ‘gladness’ are mentioned is that ‘joy’ is of good and ‘gladness’ of truth, or ‘joy’ is of love and ‘gladness’ of wisdom. For joy is of the heart and gladness of the soul, or joy is of the will and gladness of the understanding. That there is a marriage of the Lord and the church in these expressions…is evident from its being said…" Joel 1:16 is cited.

AR 507

  • "…although joy and gladness seem to be one thing; yet in these two expressions there is the marriage of the will and the understanding, which also is the marriage of good and truth, which exists in the whole and in every particular of the Word…" Joel 1:16 is cited as an example.

TCR 252

  • "Both joy and gladness are mentioned, because joy is predicated of good and gladness of truth, or joy of love and gladness of wisdom; for joy belongs to the heart and gladness to the spirit, or joy to the will and gladness to the understanding. That there is also a marriage of the Lord and the church…" Joel 1:16 is cited among many other examples.

AE 660 [3]

  • "…‘to rejoice’ and ‘to be glad’ are both mentioned, namely, because ‘to rejoice’ is predicated of good and its love or affection, and ‘to be glad’ is predicated of truth and its love or affection. This is the case in many other passages in the Word, as in the following…" Joel 1:16 is cited among many other passages.

Derived Doctrine

"Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God?"

  • "Food" signifies the goods and enjoyments of affections supplied by the Lord that one may be regenerated (AC 677).
  • "Food" signifies spiritual and celestial nourishment, which is faith in the Lord and love (AC 680 [4]).
  • "Food" signifies things of use to the soul (AC 5293).
  • "Cut off" signifies that divine truth shall be taken from the people, but shall live again in a new church (AE 315 [23]).
  • "Eyes" signify the eyes of the spirit, namely the understanding (AC 2701).
  • Note once again that "joy" signifies good and "gladness" truth (TCR 252).
  • The "house of our God" (Jehovah) signifies the church in which love is primary, the celestial church, and the spiritual church (AC 710).

"The seed shrivels under the clods, storehouses are in shambles…"

  • "Seed" signifies what produces and is produced, or begets and is begotten (AC 254).
  • "Seed" signifies all truth that considers use (AC 57).
  • "Seed" signifies the inseminating of truth by the Lord through the Word (AC 932).
  • The words "shrivel," "shrink," "wither," and "dry up" signify the failing of truth and good in the natural (AE 403 [21]).
  • "Wither" signifies that the truths of good seem to be dying (AE 403 [6]).
  • "Wither" signifies the truths of good adulterated and dying (AE 401 [35]).
  • "Under" signifies that which is lower, outside, inferior to, the literal or natural (AC 564).
  • The word "clod" is mentioned in two places in the Writings: TCR 333 and CL 232. Both references cite those who stand in one place and do not think about higher things. They only want to debate about issues and are not really interested in finding the truth or making spiritual progress. They want to "…tread and grind a single clod, and not to advance."
  • "Storehouses" signify knowledges of good and truth, for these are the stores or material out of which the faith of charity can be formed (Doctrine of Faith 25).
  • The correspondence of "shambles" is not given in the Writings. The closest I could find was "disarray." John Elliot’s translation of AC 2588 reads as follows: "…the disarray into which all that constitutes man’s rationality is thrown when he reasons against Divine things, however much he may seem to himself at that time to be wise."

"…barns are broken down, for the grain has withered."

  • "Barns" signify the church or the individual of the church where good and truth are (AE 403 [9]).
  • To gather things into "the barn" signifies to conjoin with heaven (AE 911 [5]).
  • AC 5959 teaches that "grain" "sometimes signifies the good of truth, and sometimes the truth of good…"
  • The word "withered" has already been discussed above. It signifies that the truths of good are dying.


Putting It All Together

P&P directs our minds to consider this beginning point: "…everything of the church has been devastated…" How is this illustrated in the literal sense of Joel?

  1. The food of the church, the necessary things of love (good) and wisdom (truth), will be cut off. Why? The Lord cut the church off to prevent the people of the church from seriously hurting themselves or blaspheming the holy things of the church. How was this protection accomplished? They found spiritual food unappetizing, bland, boring, or tedious; their desire for it was erased from their view or presence by the plague and drought of self-love.
  2. Their eyes missed the joy and gladness of the love and wisdom of the Word.
  3. The love of being useful was no longer the highest priority in the house of God (the church).
  4. When the love of being useful to the Lord and the neighbor is lost, it only makes sense that what was to produce or beget those useful acts loses its power of procreation. So the seed shriveled.
  5. The great clods of the natural mind weighed down and smothered any seeds of good and truth. The wonderful image given in CL 232 and TCR 333 shows that debating and standing, or walking, in one place advances us nowhere. Stagnation of mind and heart are a sure-fire method of killing spiritual spontaneity.
  6. In such a state, the mental storehouses of the people in the church fell into a shambles with the weight of conceit. Belief in their own cleverness and opposition to the Lord created disarray that would bring their house down.
  7. The love of truth or the truth of love dried up and withered away. Such is the heart or message of these verses. The Lord, through Joel, poses a silent question: Is anyone listening? Are you willing to change? If not, know that everything in the present church will be devastated.


Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:16-17.


Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. The two passages of Joel under consideration pose some interesting questions for us to reflect on.
    • Are we hungry for the food of the Lord?
    • Do we feel a joy and gladness for the Word (good and truth) of the Lord?
    • Are we content to stand in one place "marking time" with little or no advancement or extension in spiritual matters?
    • Do we love to debate truth for the sake of appearing wise or learned?
    • Have we allowed "clods" to smother the potential growth of the Lord’s seeds?

  1. Can we identify with the imagery of the empty storehouses, the barns in shambles, the withering grain? Remember, these things are said in the Word to show us what the church will be like if it refuses to seek first the kingdom of heaven and all of its blessings.

  2. Such a picture is not intended to be gloomy. Instead, it reminds us that this sad illustration has to be shunned. It serves to inspire us to move onward and upward with the Lord’s Word, looking toward the New Church’s birth in the hearts and minds of the people.

  3. As we look back at these passages, we can ask ourselves: were we listening to Joel’s message with joy and gladness or fear and trembling? Why?


Joel 1:18-20

"How the animals groan! The herds of cattle are restless, because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.

O Lord, to You I cry out; for fire has devoured the open pastures, and a flame has burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field also cry out to You, for the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the open pastures."

Passages From The Writings


  • "…for which reason there is lamentation."

AR 567

  • "That men, as to their affections, are meant by ‘beasts,’ may appear from these passages…" Joel 1:16, 18, and 20 are cited among many other references.

AE 650 [37]

  • "In Joel 1:16, 18, 20…The state of the church [described occurs] when there are no longer in it any truths of doctrine or good of life. ‘The food cut off from the house of God’ signifies spiritual nourishment, which is from truths that are from good, ‘the house of God’ signifying the church; ‘the beast groaneth, the droves of cattle are perplexed’ signifies the lack of the affections of truth and thence of knowledges in the natural man, and grief on that account, ‘droves of cattle’ signifying the things of the natural man in the whole complex."

AC 6078 [5]

  • "‘Pastures’ in these passages denotes the truths in which man is instructed, here such things as regard spiritual life; for spiritual life is such that if this pasturage fails, it languishes and as it were pines away as does the body when it lacks food. That ‘pasture’ denotes the good and truth which restore and sustain the soul or spirit of man, is clear from the Lord’s words in John 10:9…" Joel 1:18 is cited as a passage where the signification is similar.

AE 482 [3]

  • "As it is known in the church that ‘to feed’ signifies to instruct, ‘pasture’ instruction, and ‘shepherd’ an instructor, a few passages only in which ‘feeding’ and ‘pasture’ are mentioned shall be quoted without further explanation." Joel 1:18 is among the passages cited.

AC 2708 [8]

  • "That ‘wilderness’ is predicated of a church altogether vastated, and of those who are altogether vastated as to good and truth, who cannot be reformed is thus shown in…Joel 1:19, 20."

AR 546

  • "That by ‘a wilderness’ is signified the church devastated, or in which all the truths of the Word are falsified, such as it was among the Jews in the Lord’s time, appears from these passages..." Joel 1:19-20 is cited among many other passages.

AE 504 [34]

  • "…a church that can be in the light of truth from the Word is called ‘the forest of the south’ but that is now in knowledges alone without spiritual light; ‘the trees that the fire will devour’ signify such knowledges…that evil cupidities will deprive such knowledges of all spiritual life, and that there will be no longer any truth in clearness…" Joel 1:19-20 is cited as a sign of this devastation.

AE 730 [13]

  • "In Joel…1:19, 20…‘The fire hath consumed the habitants of the wilderness and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field’ signifies that the love of self and the pride of self-intelligence have consumed all the perception of good and all the understanding of the truth of doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word, ‘fire’ signifying the love of self, ‘flame’ the pride of self-intelligence, ‘the habitations of the wilderness’ the goods of doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word, and the ‘trees of the field’ the knowledges of its truth. The sense of the letter of the Word is called a ‘wilderness’ when it is merely understood naturally, thus according to appearances, and not at the same time spiritually, or according to the genuine sense. ‘The beasts of the field pant after Thee’ signifies the lamentations of those who are natural and yet have a desire for truths; that ‘beasts’ signify the affections of the natural man may be seen above (n. 650); ‘for the streams of water are dried up, and the fire hath consumed the habitations of the wilderness’ signifies that consequently there are no longer any truths and goods of life."

Derived Doctrine

"How the animals groan!"

  • In the good sense, "animals," or "beasts," represent affections longing to be instructed or spiritually nourished (AE 650 [10]).
  • "Groaning" signifies grief on account of the effort of falsities to subjugate (AC 6803).
  • "Groaning" and "sighing" signify the destruction of the affections of good (AE 863 [2]).

"The herds of cattle are restless…"

  • Could the word "restless" describe a state of being "perplexed" or "distressed"?
  • "Perplexed" signifies confusion of external knowledges mixed in the outer memory (AC 2831).
  • "Distressed" signifies a state in which the internal is alienated from the external (AC 5470).
  • "Distressed" signifies the beginning of temptations acting on the conscience in a case in which the person does not know the origin of his or her fear and distress (AC 4249).
  • Your attention, for the signification of the rest of this passage, is redirected to AE 730 [13] as cited above.
  • Let’s ponder for a moment the meaning of "open pastures" being devoured. This phrase occurs twice in our lesson. When the Word mentions something twice, it is not for poetical effect or repetition. Usually, when something is mentioned twice, it is to teach us about what is happening to the will and understanding.
  • "Open," in the positive sense, signifies to bring out, to be taught, to communicate and conjoin things that had been concealed (AE 303). In the negative sense, devouring "open pastures" seems to represent a loss of the ability to communicate and conjoin (use and nurture) spiritual goods and truths.

Putting It All Together

Hard as it may be, we are to picture the church totally devoid of any truths of doctrine or good of life. What does that mean? Can we think of any examples of this state occurring in our lifetime, or in history?

The spiritual sense of Joel’s prophecy explains that the problem arises when the love of self and the pride of intelligence go out of control. The church, lacking the Lord’s guidance, misuses the literal sense of the Word with no thought about the meaning of the spiritual sense. For which reason, P&P teaches, there is just cause for "lamentation." How does the Word picture for us the devastation of the church?

  • Animals groan. Affections long to be instructed and nourished.
  • Herds of cattle are restless. Internals and externals feel a sense of alienation.
  • There is a loss of pastures. The understanding languishes because of the lack of instructional feeding.
  • The flocks of sheep suffer punishment. Innocence of wisdom is conflicted.
  • Fire devours the open pastures. Self-love burns away at the core of a person’s understanding.
  • The flame has burned all of the trees of the field. There is a loss of knowledge.
  • The beasts of the field cry out to the Lord. There is a sense of desperation for the Lord’s help.
  • The water brooks are dried up. Thirst for the living waters of the Lord is felt when human wisdom can’t quench the soul’s deep thirst for genuine truth.
  • Fire devours the open pastures. Self love burns away the core of a person’s will.

Have we come any closer to understanding this section of the prophetic meaning of the church’s lamentation? Is the universal church of our time experiencing anything that sounds akin to these spiritual symptoms?

Read and Review

Read the selection from P&P.

Read Joel 1:18-20.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

  1. How many times have we read about the church being devastated? It seems that this is a theme that runs throughout the Prophets. Does hearing it so often dull or numb the "alarm" system of the conscience?

  2. What usually brings about the devastation of the Church? The church is devastated when people fall in love with themselves and their own intelligence. Did this happen to everyone in the church? Weren’t there a few faithful souls in the church? Can you picture a whole church gone off the deep end of self-love and self-intelligence? I can picture some sweet elderly woman or man doing charitable good to others. Can you, too? The Lord always preserves a remnant of the church, on which the new church can be founded. The devastation of the church happens when the Word is ignored, when the literal sense is twisted and misapplied, when people no longer seek the spiritual sense of the Lord’s Word. Notice what action the Lord takes in this situation. He brings about the spirit of lamentation, a longing for innocence and peace.

  3. Have you ever thought this process through? If we fail to study; if we fail to look for the inner sense; if we rely on our own wisdom and not the Lord’s, lamentation rightly begins. The Lord grieves for us. His providence works to empty such self-centered thoughts from His Holy Temple. Do we share His zealous endeavor to guard the Word?

  4. How can we keep indifferent attitudes from coming into our hearts? A loving worship of the Lord can keep the doors wide open. We can become mindful of the need to have periodic self-examination so the light of heaven can keep us on the right path. Do we? Will we?

  5. Last question: Please take the time to read CL 532 and 533. What inspiration did you feel after reading these numbers? Do you have any ideas of how we can make the truths, written on the paper, shine like a star again?

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