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Joel 2:13

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And rend your hearts and not your garments - that is, “not your garments only” (see the note at Hosea 6:6). The rending of the clothes was an expression of extraordinary uncontrollable emotion, chiefly of grief, of terror, or of horror. At least, in Holy Scripture it is not mentioned as a part of ordinary mourning, but only upon some sudden overpowering grief, whether public or private. It was not used on occasion of death, unless there were something very grievous about its circumstances. At times it was used as an outward expression, one of deep grief, as when the leper was commanded to keep his clothes rent Leviticus 13:45, or when David, to express his abhorrence at the murder of Abner, commanded “all the people with him, rend your clothes;” Ahab used it, with fasting and haircloth, on God‘s sentence by Elijah and obtained a mitigation of the temporal punishment of his sin; Jeremiah marvels that neither “the king,” Jehoiakim, “nor any of his servants, rent their garments” Jeremiah 36:24, on reading the roll containing the woes which God had by him pronounced against Judah. The holy garments of the priests were on no occasion to be rent Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10; (probably because the wholeness was a symbol of perfection, from where care was to be taken that the ephod should not accidentally be torn Exodus 28:32; Exodus 39:23) so that the act of Caiaphas was the greater hypocrisy Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:63.

He used it probably to impress his own blasphemous accusation on the people, as for a good end, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas rent their Acts 14:14 clothes, when they heard that, after the cure of the impotent man, the priest of Jupiter with the people would have done sacrifice unto them. Since then apostles used this act, Joel plainly doth not forbid the use of such outward behavior, by which their repentance might be expressed, but only requires that it be done not in outward show only, but accompanied with the inward affections.: “The Jews are bidden then to rend their hearts rather than their garments, and to set the truth of repentance in what is inward, rather than in what is outward.” But since the rending of the garments was the outward sign of very vehement grief, it was no commonplace superficial sorrow, which the prophet enjoined, but one which should pierce and rend the inmost soul, and empty it of its sins and its love for sin.: Any very grieving thing is said to cut one‘s heart, to “cut him to the heart.”

A truly penitent heart is called a “broken and a contrite heart.” Such a penitent rends and “rips up by a narrow search the recesses of the heart, to discover the abominations thereof,” and pours out before God “the diseased and perilous stuff” pent up and festering there, “expels the evil thoughts lodged in it, and opens it in all things to the reception of divine grace. This rending is no other than the spiritual circumcision to which Moses exhorts. Whence of the Jews, not thus rent in heart, it is written in Jeremiah, ‹All the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart‘ Jeremiah 9:26. This rending then is the casting out of the sins and passions.”

And turn unto the Lord your God - God owns Himself as still their God, although they had turned and were gone from Him in sin and were alienated from Him. To Him, the true, Unchangeable God, if they returned, they would find Him still “their God.” “Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backsliding,” God saith by Jeremiah; “Behold, Israel answers, we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God” Jeremiah 3:22.

For He is very gracious and very merciful - Both these words are intensive. All the words, “very gracious, very merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness,” are the same and in the same order as in that revelation to Moses, when, on the renewal of the two tables of the law, “the Lord descended in the cloud and proclaimed the name of the Lord” Exodus 34:5-6). The words are frequently repeated, showing how deeply that revelation sunk in the pious minds of Israel. They are, in part, pleaded to God by Moses himself Numbers 14:18; David, at one time, pleaded them all to God Psalm 85:1-13:15; elsewhere he repeats them of God, as in this place Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8. Nehemiah, in praising God for His forgiving mercies, prefixes the title, “God of pardons” Nehemiah 9:17, and adds, “and Thou forsakedst them not;” as Joel, for the special object here, adds, “and repenteth Him of the evil.” A Psalmist, and Hezekiah in his message to Isaiah, and Nehemiah in the course of that same prayer, repeat the two words of intense mercy, “very gracious and very merciful” Psalm 111:4; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:31, which are used of God only, except once by that same Psalmist Psalm 112:4, with the express object of showing how the good man conformeth himself to God. The word “very gracious” expresses God‘s free love, whereby He sheweth Himself good to us; “very merciful” expresses the tender yearning of His love over our miseries (see the note at Hosea 2:19); “great kindness,” expresses God‘s tender love, as love.

He first says, that God is “slow to anger” or “long-suffering,” enduring long the wickedness and rebellion of man, and waiting patiently for the conversion and repentance of sinners. Then he adds, that God is “abundant in kindness,” having manifold resources and expedients of His tender love, whereby to win them to repentance. Lastly He is “repentant of the evil.” The evil which lie foretells, and at last inflicts, is (so to speak) against His Will, “Who willeth not that any should perish,” and, therefore, on the first tokens of repentance “He repenteth Him of the evil,” and doeth it not.

The words rendered, “of great kindness,” are better rendered elsewhere, “abundant, plenteous in goodness, mercy” Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8. Although the mercy of God is in itself one and simple, yet it is called abundant on account of its divers effects. For God knoweth how in a thousand ways to succor His own. Whence the Psalmist prays, “According to the multitude of Thy mercies, turn Thou unto me” Psalm 25:7, Psalm 25:16. “According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, do away mine offences” Psalm 51:1.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The priests were to alarm the people with the near approach of the Divine judgments. It is the work of ministers to warn of the fatal consequences of sin, and to reveal the wrath from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The striking description which follows, shows what would attend the devastations of locusts, but may also describe the effects from the ravaging of the land by the Chaldeans. If the alarm of temporal judgments is given to offending nations, how much more should sinners be warned to seek deliverance from the wrath to come! Our business therefore on earth must especially be, to secure an interest in our Lord Jesus Christ; and we should seek to be weaned from objects which will soon be torn from all who now make idols of them. There must be outward expressions of sorrow and shame, fasting, weeping, and mourning; tears for trouble must be turned into tears for the sin that caused it. But rending the garments would be vain, except their hearts were rent by abasement and self-abhorrence; by sorrow for their sins, and separation from them. There is no question but that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive them; but whether he will remove affliction is not promised, yet the probability of it should encourage us to repent.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Rend your heart - Let it not be merely a rending of your garments, but let your hearts be truly contrite. Merely external worship and hypocritical pretensions will only increase the evil, and cause God to meet you with heavier judgments.

For he is gracious - Good and benevolent in his own nature.

Merciful - Pitying and forgiving, as the effect of goodness and benevolence.

Slow to anger - He is not easily provoked to punish, because he is gracious and merciful.

Of great kindness - Exuberant goodness to all them that return to him.

And repenteth him of the evil - Is ever ready to change his purpose to destroy, when he finds the culprit willing to be saved. See the notes on Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7.

Ellen G. White
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 87

The fasting which the word of God enjoins is something more than a form. It does not consist merely in refusing food, in wearing sackcloth, in sprinkling ashes upon the head. He who fasts in real sorrow for sin will never court display. MB 87.1

The object of the fast which God calls upon us to keep is not to afflict the body for the sin of the soul, but to aid us in perceiving the grievous character of sin, in humbling the heart before God and receiving His pardoning grace. His command to Israel was, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.” Joel 2:13. MB 87.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 649

Do not look to men nor hang your hopes upon them, feeling that they are infallible; but look to Jesus constantly. Say nothing that would cast a reproach upon our faith. Confess your secret sins alone before your God. Acknowledge your heart wanderings to Him who knows perfectly how to treat your case. If you have wronged your neighbor, acknowledge to him your sin and show fruit of the same by making restitution. Then claim the blessing. Come to God just as you are, and let Him heal all your infirmities. Press your case to the throne of grace; let the work be thorough. Be sincere in dealing with God and your own soul. If you come to Him with a heart truly contrite, He will give you the victory. Then you may bear a sweet testimony of freedom, showing forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. He will not misapprehend or misjudge you. Your fellow men cannot absolve you from sin or cleanse you from iniquity. Jesus is the only one who can give you peace. He loved you and gave Himself for you. His great heart of love is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities?” What sins are too great for Him to pardon? what soul too dark and sin-oppressed for Him to save? He is gracious, not looking for merit in us, but of His own boundless goodness healing our backslidings and loving us freely, while we are yet sinners. He is “slow to anger, and of great kindness;” “long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 5T 649.1

Do not seek to get wound up to a high pitch of excitement; but go to work for others, and patiently instruct them. You will be inclined now to conjecture that everyone has a load of evil to confess, and you will be in danger of making this the point of attack. You will want to bring everyone over the same ground that you have been over, and you will feel that nothing can be done until all have gone through the same work of confession. You will not be disposed to take up the labor of helping others with the Spirit of God resting upon you, your own hearts softened and subdued by the deep-wrought work of cleansing. You will be in great danger of marring the work of God by exercising your own spirit. If you work for souls with humble, trustful dependence upon God, if the radiance of His Spirit is reflected from you in a Christlike character, if sympathy, kindness, forbearance, and love are abiding principles in your life, you will be a blessing to all around you. You will not criticize others or manifest a harsh, denunciatory spirit toward them; you will not feel that their ideas must be made to meet your standard; but the love of Jesus and the peaceable fruits of righteousness will be revealed in you. 5T 649.2

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.... And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.” 5T 650.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 303

Will you cover your sins and brave the matter out? God says you shall not prosper. But he that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy. Will you choose death? Will you shut the kingdom of heaven against yourself because you will not yield your wicked pride? Your only hope is in confessing your backslidings. God has let light shine upon your pathway. Will you choose your own course of corruption? Will you cast the truth behind you because it will not sustain you in a course of iniquity? Oh, be entreated to “rend your heart, and not your garments.” Make thorough work for eternity. God will be merciful to you. He will be entreated in your behalf. He will not despise a broken and contrite spirit. Will you turn? Will you live? Your soul is worth saving; it is precious. We wish to help you. 2T 303.1

I saw that you are not happy. You are not at rest. You feel distressed, and yet you refuse to take the only course that will bring you relief and hope. He that confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy. Your condition is deplorable, and you are greatly injuring the cause of God. Your influence will destroy others besides yourself. 2T 303.2

If you refuse to come to God and confess your backslidings that He may heal you, there is nothing to be hoped for you or your poor family in the future. Misery will follow upon the steps of sin. God's hand will be against you, and He will leave you to be controlled by Satan, to be led captive by him at his will. You know not to what lengths you may go. You will be like a man at sea without an anchor. The truth of God is an anchor. You are breaking away from that anchor. Your eternal interests are being sacrificed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. You are on the point of breaking the bonds which would save you from utter destruction. In seeking to save your life by concealing your wrongs, you are losing it. If you now humble yourself before God, confess your wrongs, and return to Him with full purpose of heart, yours can yet be a happy family. If you will not do this, but choose your own way, your happiness is at an end. 2T 303.3

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Ellen G. White
Conflict and Courage, 323.1

Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God. Joel 2:13. CC 323.1

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