Joel, the son of Pethuel, is listed second among the minor prophets. He prophesied to the people of the Kingdom of Judah, which had previously been part of Israel. He seems to have lived at the same time as the prophet Hosea, and to have written his prophecies after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel.
In his poetic book, Joel covered several main topics; (1) the natural disasters that were about to ruin the land as a result of sin, including a great plague of locusts, (2) the mercy that God would show to his people if they repented – and (3) the terrible vengeance he would then take on their enemies.
But Joel also saw beyond the imminent national crisis to a future era when salvation would come from Jerusalem. He foresaw that at that point, God would bless everyone – male, female, young and old. He wrote: “Afterwards I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit had been vaguely described throughout the Old Testament as a mysterious presence from God. However, Joel was the first to teach that this divine presence was not just for Jews – it was for people of all nations. In the New Testament, the nature of the Holy Spirit is specified more clearly. Like Christ, he is also the Lord, the giver of life (2 Corinthians 1:3, 3:6,17,18).
When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Christ on the Feast of Pentecost, St Peter referred to the event as a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:14-21). Joel is therefore traditionally known as the ‘Prophet of Pentecost’.
This mural painting of Joel and his prophecy about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is thought to be by the Gothic Revivalist Nathaniel Westlake, or possibly an artist in his studio. It dates to the early 20th century and is part of a wider scheme that decorates the sanctuary of Holy Ghost, Basingstoke.
The scheme includes images of sixteen Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, who each prepared the way for Christ or spoke about the Holy Spirit. The vine branches behind Joel weave their way across all of the images and reflect a Jesse Tree theme (since Jesse is featured in one of the other paintings). The scroll includes Joel’s prophecy in English, which is unusual since at the time Latin quotes from the Bible were more common in Gothic Revival art.
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Where to find this work of art
Holy Ghost, Basingstoke
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