Absent priests and the Day of the Locusts : inner-biblical interpretation and the scribal prophet’s priestly critique in Joel 1:1–2:17.


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Most who study Joel recognize the text’s emphasis on priests and priestly intercession in Joel 1:1–2:17. Despite this consensus, those who study Joel interpret the relationship between the book’s construction of priests and the prophetic figure who critiques those priests in a variety of ways. Previous interpretations of priests in Joel 1:1–2:17 have not adequately accounted for two essential characteristics of Joel: (1) its literary construction as scribal prophecy, written by the scribal prophet primarily for other cultic elites, and (2) the central role that inner-biblical interpretation plays within the text, especially in the form of quotations, allusions, and the use of allusive language evoking concepts found in earlier textual material likely familiar to the scribal prophet and the book’s earliest audience. This study seeks to understand how the earliest readers and hearers of Joel in the Persian period would make sense of the role of priests as they interacted with the text. The study is an attempt to account for Joel’s nature as scribal prophecy that utilizes inner-biblical interpretation to challenge priests to better serve their communities. An analysis of Joel’s first literary movement (1:1–2:17) demonstrates that the scribal prophet utilizes quotations, allusions, and allusive language that evokes concepts found in earlier texts to challenge priests to perform their duties on behalf of Yahweh’s community. The scribal prophet evokes numerous texts throughout Joel 1:1–2:17 to call priests to urgent action; for the scribal prophet, action by priests is necessary because of the important place the temple occupies within Yahweh’s community. In addition, the scribal prophet’s use of language evoking other texts lends authority to the critique of priestly inaction throughout Joel 1:1–2:17. The scribal prophet’s creative use of allusive language evoking other texts in the Hebrew Bible reinforces the centrality of the temple cult for the audience and subsequent readers. Finally, the extensive use of quotations, allusions, and allusive language evoking other texts in Joel 1:1–2:17 educates and enculturates its readers about how to live as Yahweh’s people in a way that emphasizes the temple as the center of postexilic life.



Joel. Locusts. Inner-biblical interpretation. Scribal prophecy.