Context and Introduction


The Book of Joel examines the eschatological Day of the Lord.] Joel draws many illustrations and concepts from the book of Deuteronomy which “provide[s] a doctrinal framework” for Joel’s message.[[#_edn2|[2]]] Obadiah is clear that the Day of the Lord includes the judgment of the nations by Yaweh, but Joel informs Israel that they, too, will be judged. Joel a locust plague to demonstrate the truth about a future event. Joel moves from the imagery of the locust plague (1:2-20)[[#_edn3|[3]]] to a prophecy of a future invasion (2:1-11)[[#_edn4|[4]]]. He then calls the people of Israel to repentance (2:12-19)[[#_edn5|[5]]]. After this call, Joel prophecies of God’s forgiveness toward His people (2:21-27)[[#_edn6|[6]]].[[#_edn7|[7]]] Joel reveals that the Day of the Lord will not only be a day of judgment, but also of restoration. Here, in 2:23, is found a promise that once again, all things will be made new. The grass will grow, the trees will bear fruit, and the rains will fall.[[#_edn8|[8]]] The people are told to be glad and rejoice because God has given them “moreh.” The word “moreh” can be translated as either “early rain” or “teacher.”

Possible Meanings of “Moreh”


The word “moreh” in Joel 2:23 can be translated as either “early rain” or “teacher.” This could provide either the translation, “…for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain…”[[#_edn9|[9]]] or, “…For He hath given to you the Teacher for righteousness, And causeth to come down to you a shower, Sprinkling and gathered—in the beginning.”[[#_edn10|[10]]] The Hebrew could mean either.[[#_edn11|[11]]] Finely notes that this “is one of the most difficult phrases in the book to translate.”[[#_edn12|[12]]]

“Early Rain”

Most translations, including the ESV, NASB, NKJV, and KJV, interpret “moreh” to be “early rain,” “autumn rain,” or “former rain.” They come to this conclusion for several reasons. First, Garrett points out, that “the meaning ‘rains’ perfectly suit the context, whereas “teacher” is discordant.”[[#_edn13|[13]]] Furthermore, the following line speaks of rain, so it is concluded that the phrase should be interpreted “rains in righteousness.”[[#_edn14|[14]]] Secondly, nothing in the context of the book mentions the idea of a teacher.[[#_edn15|[15]]] Third, the phrase “he has given” suggests that this is an object and not a person further promoting the “rain” translation. Allen points out this support and cites Leviticus 26:4[[#_edn16|[16]]] where “rain” is the object of the same verb “give.”[[#_edn17|[17]]]

“Teacher”

Although many scholars understand “moreh” to mean “rain,” a few like Garrett argue that “teacher” is a better translation. There are four supports for this translation. First, Garrett argues that the “rains of righteousness” translation does not make sense as a figure of speech even though the Hebrew word used for “righteousness” could mean vindication or even salvation.[[#_edn18|[18]]] The picture of “rains” possessing the quality of righteousness seems inconsistent. Even if these rains bring righteousness or are sent in righteousness, the phrase makes little sense nor does such a concept find support elsewhere in scripture. Secondly, several ancient manuscripts the word to mean teacher here.[[#_edn19|[19]]] Considering the passage in light of ancient scholars adds credibility to the view. Thirdly, later in the same verse rain is mentioned, but this time with the word “gesem” which is a more general word for rain.[[#_edn20|[20]]] Finley questions the purpose of using a summary statement in a broad sense after identifying a specific kind of rain.[[#_edn21|[21]]] The answer could likely be that the first word (“moreh”) is not a reference to rain at all. Fourthly, Joel parallels the doctrine of Deuteronomy and a reference to a “teacher of righteousness” corresponds to the promise of a “prophet like me [Moses]” (Deuteronomy 18:15).[[#_edn22|[22]]] As Sailhamer points out, this is certainly not a historical character from the Old Testament because there was never any prophet like Moses.[[#_edn23|[23]]] Furthermore, this promised prophet must not be identified as Jesus at His first coming, but rather Jesus at His second coming when He will restore the people of Israel as His people because the surrounding context of Deuteronomy 18:15 speaks of driving out the nations which the Messiah will do at His second coming and we are told that never again did a prophet arise in Israel like Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10).[[#_edn24|[24]]] For these reasons, some scholars suggest that the word “moreh” should be translated “teacher” and be interpreted as a reference to the Messiah who is the “eschatological prophet of salvation.”[[#_edn25|[25]]]

Both “Teacher” and “Early Rain”

The third view is that the word “moreh” (Joel 2:23)[[#_edn26|[26]]] means both “early rain” and “teacher.” It must be understood that this view does not require a double interpretation of the passage, rather it suggests that this passage is a word play referencing a teacher, but reminding the reader of autumn rains. The prophecy foresees a renewal of the land which will vindicate the Jews before their enemies.[[#_edn27|[27]]] While hinting “that the salvation of the nation would come from a teacher of righteousness.”[[#_edn28|[28]]] Finley also mentions this wordplay and points out that the view is strengthened by other scriptures connecting teaching and rain.[[#_edn29|[29]]]
Several other passages in the scripture relate the concepts of teaching and rain. In I Kings 8,[[#_edn30|[30]]] Solomon foresees that one day God will “teach them [Israel] the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land….”[[#_edn31|[31]]] This prayer connects the concepts of teaching and rain as blessings from God. Garrett views Solomon’s prayer as a possible influence for Joel to “construct a paronomasia in a phrase that could mean both ‘rain for deliverance’ and ‘teacher for righteousness.’”[[#_edn32|[32]]] This is conclusion is based on the Solomon’s words, “when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land” (I Kings 8:36)[[#_edn33|[33]]]. Also, Isaiah 30:20-23[[#_edn34|[34]]] promises teachers to guide Israel in addition to bountiful harvests following rain.[[#_edn35|[35]]] Amos connects the lack of teaching of God’s Word with a famine,[[#_edn36|[36]]] and both Isaiah and Hosea refer to righteousness “raining” down.[[#_edn37|[37]]] Garrett concludes that despite the tenuous nature of the connection between rain and teaching in the minds of modern readers, the prophets commonly dealt with the two in the same context.[[#_edn38|[38]]] Joel 2:23 is likely a comparison of teaching and rain similar to the other OT prophets. For these reasons, it seems most likely that Joel intended “moreh” to mean “teacher” while alluding to “rain” but only as wordplay.

Significance of Passage


Joel’s promise of a teacher of righteousness is significant for three reasons. First, reiterates God’s plan to restore Israel and provides more details of His method for doing so. It is apparent in the text that God is the one taking action in the restoration of His people.[[#_edn39|[39]]] Therefore, it is a promise which relies on God. This promise was from the beginning.[[#_edn40|[40]]] Here, God reassures Israel of His covenant faithfulness by which He will restore them spiritually and physically with a literal land. The Teacher will show them the ways of righteousness bring them new life and the rains will refresh the land bringing abundant crops and blessings which overflow. Secondly, the promise projects an image of the Messianic Era.[[#_edn41|[41]]] The final fulfillment will be the Messianic Kingdom which Christ will begin at His second coming. It will be a kingdom of economic and spiritual prosperity because of the instruction and rain. Thirdly, the passage gives the Old Testament reader a greater understanding of the Messiah Himself. This Messiah will be a teacher of His people. He will instruct them in the ways which they should walk. He will guide them in the ways of righteousness.

Bibliography


Allen, Leslie. The books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans, 1976.
Crossway Bibles. ESV study Bible : English Standard Version. ESV text ed. Wheaton Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008.
Finley, Thomas. Joel, Amos, Obadiah : an exegetical commentary. [Dallas TX?]: Biblical Studies Press, 2003.
Garrett, Duane. Hosea, Joel. Nashville Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 1997.
Sailhamer, John. Introduction to Old Testament theology : a canonical approach. Grand Rapids Mich.: Zondervan, 1995.
Young, Robert. Young's literal translation of the Holy Bible. [Rev. ed.]. Lafayette IN: Greater Truth Publishers, 2004.



] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 305.
[[#_ednref2|[2]]] Ibid., 362.
[[#_ednref3|[3]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Joel 1:2-20.
[[#_ednref4|[4]]] Ibid., Joel 2:1-11.
[[#_ednref5|[5]]] Ibid., Joel 2:12-19.
[[#_ednref6|[6]]] Ibid., Joel 2:21-27.
[[#_ednref7|[7]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 310.
[[#_ednref8|[8]]] Ibid., 359.
[[#_ednref9|[9]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Joel 2:23b.
[[#_ednref10|[10]]] Young, Young's literal translation of the Holy Bible, Joel 2:23b.
[[#_ednref11|[11]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 361.
[[#_ednref12|[12]]] Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah : an exegetical commentary, 64.
[[#_ednref13|[13]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 362.
[[#_ednref14|[14]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version.
[[#_ednref15|[15]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 326.
[[#_ednref16|[16]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Lev 26:4.
[[#_ednref17|[17]]] Allen, The books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, 93.
[[#_ednref18|[18]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 362.
[[#_ednref19|[19]]] Ibid.
[[#_ednref20|[20]]] Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah : an exegetical commentary, 65.
[[#_ednref21|[21]]] Ibid.
[[#_ednref22|[22]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Deut 18:15.
[[#_ednref23|[23]]] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament theology : a canonical approach, 247; Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Deut 34:10.
[[#_ednref24|[24]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Deut 34:10.
[[#_ednref25|[25]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 362.
[[#_ednref26|[26]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Joel 2:23.
[[#_ednref27|[27]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 362.
[[#_ednref28|[28]]] Ibid.
[[#_ednref29|[29]]] Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah : an exegetical commentary, 65.
[[#_ednref30|[30]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., I Kings 8:35-36; Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 363.
[[#_ednref31|[31]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., I Kings 8:36.
[[#_ednref32|[32]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 363.
[[#_ednref33|[33]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., I Kings 8:36.
[[#_ednref34|[34]]] Ibid., Isaiah 30:20-23 .
[[#_ednref35|[35]]] Ibid., Isaiah 30:20-23.
[[#_ednref36|[36]]] Ibid., Amos 8:11-12.
[[#_ednref37|[37]]] Ibid., Isaiah 45:8, Hosea 10:12.
[[#_ednref38|[38]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 363.
[[#_ednref39|[39]]] Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah : an exegetical commentary, 65.
[[#_ednref40|[40]]] Crossway Bibles., ESV study Bible : English Standard Version., Genesis 3:15.
[[#_ednref41|[41]]] Garrett, Hosea, Joel, 363.