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The Date and Meaning of the Book of Joel

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This paper argues that the Book of Joel is best understood against the background of the exilic period in Judah, after the Destruction but before the Return to Zion, that is, between 587 and 538 BCE. While concrete historical evidence is not decisive, an investigation of the ideology of the Book may determine the Book’s historical setting. The lack of any rebuke in Joel accords with the view that he lived in the exilic period, when it would not have been appropriate to rebuke and criticize the people, who were in a state of deep despair. The Book of Joel places great emphasis on the motif of the Divine presence residing in the midst of Israel. This central message of assurance of the Divine presence is particularly apt if we accept the view that Joel belongs to the period of the Destruction, when the people were in despair and saw in the events their abandonment by God. There are cultic concerns in the book. This is understood if it is accepted that Joel functioned in the exilic period, and aimed at persuading his audience that one can pray to the Lord even when the Temple is in ruins. The prophet’s main purpose was to bring the people to renew their connection with the Lord after the destruction of the Temple, and to focus the people’s attention on the Temple, which, although physically ruined, had not lost its religious significance. Other characteristics of the Book of Joel that point to the same historical setting are discussed in the paper.

Affiliations: 1: Bar Ilan University Israel

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