Joel 2:13

13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

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Joel 2:13 Meaning and Commentary

Joel 2:13

And rend your heart, and not your garments
Which latter used to be done in times of distress, either private or public, and as a token of grief and sorrow, ( Genesis 37:34 ) ( Esther 4:1 ) ; nor was it criminal or unlawful, the apostles themselves used it, ( Acts 14:14 ) ; nor is it absolutely forbidden here, only comparatively, that they should rend their hearts rather than their garments; or not their garments only, but their hearts also; in like sense as the words in ( Hosea 6:6 ) ; are to be taken as rending garments was only an external token of sorrow and might be done hypocritically. Where no true repentance was, the Lord calls for that, rather than the other; and that they would show contrition of heart and brokenness of spirit under a sense of sin, and in the view of pardoning grace and mercy; which is here held forth, to influence godly sorrow and evangelical repentance; the acts of which, flowing from faith in Christ are much more acceptable to the Lord than any outward expressions of grief; see ( Psalms 51:17 ) ( Isaiah 57:15 ) ( 66:2 ) . The Targum is,

``remove the wickedness of your heart but not with the rending of your meats;''
the rending of the garment goes to the heart some say to the navel F23: and turn unto the Lord your God;
consider him not as an absolute God, and as an angry one, wrathful and inexorable; but as your covenant God and Father as your God in Christ, ready to receive backsliding sinners and prodigal sons; yea all sinners sensible of sin that flee to him for mercy through Christ: for be [is] gracious and merciful;
he is the God of all grace, and has laid up a fulness of it in Christ; and he gives it freely to them that ask it of him without upbraiding them with their sins; he is rich and plenteous in mercy, and ready to forgive; be delights in showing mercy, and in them that hope in it; and this is no small encouragement to turn to the Lord, and seek mercy of him: and, besides, he is slow to anger;
he is not hasty to stir it up, and show it; he bears with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath; and his longsuffering to his own people issues in their salvation: he waits to be gracious to them; and, though he may seem to be angry, he does not stir up all his wrath their sins deserve nor does he retain anger for ever: and of great kindness;
both in a providential way, and in a way of special grace through Christ; whom he has provided as a Saviour, and sent him into the world as such, and saves sinners by obedience sufferings, and death: these characters of God are taken out of ( Exodus 34:6 Exodus 34:7 ) ; and are admirably adapted to engage and encourage sensible souls to turn to the Lord by acts of faith in him, and repentance towards him; see ( Isaiah 55:7 ) ; and it is added, and repenteth him of the evil;
which the sins of men deserve; and he has threatened on account of them; not that he ever changes the counsels of his will, but alters the course of his providence, and the manner of his conduct towards men, according to his unalterable repentance otherwise does not properly belong to God, ( Numbers 23:19 ) ; but is ascribed to him after the manner of men; and is used to express his compassion men; how ready he is to receive and forgive returning sinners and not execute the threatened and deserved evil and to bestow all needful good; see ( Jonah 3:10 ) ( 4:2 ) . The Targum is,
``and he recalls his word from bringing on the evil.''


F23 T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 26. 2.

Joel 2:13 In-Context

11 The Lord utters his voice at the head of his army; how vast is his host! Numberless are those who obey his command. Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed—who can endure it?
12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.