Joel meaning | Joel etymology

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Joel in Biblical Hebrew
Biblical male character
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The name Joel in the Bible

The name Joel is among the most popular in the Bible, but the most famous one is, of course, the eighth century prophet Joel. His Book of Joel is one of the shortest in the Bible but his image of the relentless locust swarm is one of the most haunting and recognizable in Biblical Scriptures (Joel 1:4).

In the New Testament the prophet Joel is mentioned only once (spelled Ιωηλ, Ioel). The apostle Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 in his explanatory sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:16).

Besides the famous prophet, the following Joels are mentioned in the Bible:

  • Samuel's first born son and brother of Abijah (1 Samuel 8:2).
  • Two Kohathite Levites (1 Chronicles 6:36 and 2 Chronicles 29:12).
  • A Gershonite Levite chief (1 Chronicles 15:7).
  • A chief of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:35).
  • A chief of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:4).
  • A chief of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:12).
  • A chief of Issachar (1 Chronicles 7:3).
  • A chief of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 27:20).
  • One of David's mighty-men (1 Chronicles 11:38).
  • A son of Nebo, who divorced his foreign wife during the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:43).
  • A Benjaminite overseer (Nehemiah 11:9).

Etymology of the name Joel

The name Joel is most commonly interpreted to be a combination of two elements. The first element is יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which is the commonly accepted abbreviated form of יהוה, which is YHWH, the Name of the Lord. This very short abbreviation of YHWH also occurs in the names Joab and Jochebed.

The second element of the name Joel is אל (El), either the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The name Joel is the name Elijah reversed and means Yah Is El, or Yahweh Is Elohim, or The Lord Is God.

However, in cognate languages this name exists as well, but means something else. That something else also exists in Hebrew, namely the verb יאל (ya'al I & II):

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The past tense forms of the two verbs יאל are identical to the name Joel (see for instance Exodus 2:21, Joshua 17:12, etc). Hence the name Joel also means He Was Foolish, He Was Willing/Determined.

Joel meaning

For a meaning of the name Joel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Is God. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Lord Of God, The Lord Is God.

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