The Day of the LORD
Addendum: Limited/Local Judgments
There are four passages in the OT in which the “Day of the LORD” and “That Day” are used to detail events and judgments which are distinct from the Day of the LORD (which is return of the Lord Christ to rule national Israel and the earth). Surely, they are major cataclysms, but with comparatively limited scope.
The first example concerns Babylon:
The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!
It will come as destruction from the Almighty.
Therefore all hands will fall limp,
And every man’s heart will melt.
They will be terrified,
Pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labor,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.
Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
Cruel, with fury and burning anger,
To make the land a desolation;
And He will exterminate its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
Thus I will punish the world for its evil
And the wicked for their iniquity;
I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud
And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.
I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold
And mankind than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
And the earth will be shaken from its place
At the fury of the Lord of hosts
In the day of His burning anger.
The Chaldean kingdom was represented by the head of gold of the great image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (and subsequently interpreted to be Nebuchadnezzar himself by the LORD through Daniel). In doing so the LORD indicated that the Chaldean empire was preeminent and powerful; its fall, therefore, would be an earth-changing event worthy of the term “Day of the LORD”.
The second example occurred during the time of Ezekiel the prophet who was, apparently, part of the deportation to Babylon which took place in 597 BC during the reign of Jeconiah.
After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah …
Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles …
[I recommend the excellent The Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones. Dr. Jones presents some excellent research in fully establishing a biblical chronology of the deportations of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon.]
The important detail to note here is that the details represented at the start of Ezekiel’s prophecy would have been 5 years after 597 BC (that is, 592 BC), which would have been about 6 years before the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
The prophet Jeremiah recorded a critical detail during the reign of Jeconiah’s successor Zedekiah, a relative appointed by Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Chr 36.10) A (false) prophet named Hananiah told Zedekiah:
Now in the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I am going to bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. I am also going to bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”
The prophet Jeremiah, after receiving the “real truth” directly from the LORD, called out Hananiah for his lie:
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made instead of them yokes of iron.” For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.”’” Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the Lord.’”
So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.
However, the death of Hananiah was not the conclusion of the matter; the LORD had planned something much broader in scope:
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord.
There would be a “Day of the LORD” to deal with the “rebellious house” of the Southern Kingdom.
In context—especially when you consider the dates involved—we are forced to conclude that this can only be the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. To be sure, it was a cataclysm with unthinkably devastating consequences, but it was not the Day of the LORD detailed in this article.
The ministry of the prophet Amos occurred before the collapse of the Northern Kingdom. He was given prophecies regarding Damascus (1.3-5), Gaza (1.6-8), Tyre (1.9-10), Edom (1.11-12), Ammon (1.13-15), Moab (2.1-3), Judah (2.4-5) and Israel (2.6-8).
[The last two are clear references to the Southern and Northern Kingdoms, respectively.]
However, the topic which occupies most of the book of Amos is the denunciation for the unfaithfulness and sins of Israel (that is, the Northern and Southern portions viewed as a single nation) and its coming judgment. Twice the prophet mentions the “Day of the LORD” and once “that Day”:
Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord,
“There is wailing in all the plazas,
And in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
They also call the farmer to mourning
And professional mourners to lamentation.
“And in all the vineyards there is wailing,
Because I will pass through the midst of you,” says the Lord.
Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,
For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?
It will be darkness and not light;
As when a man flees from a lion
And a bear meets him,
Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall
And a snake bites him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light,
Even gloom with no brightness in it?
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
“Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.
“Because of this will not the land quake
And everyone who dwells in it mourn?
Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt.
“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.
“Then I will turn your festivals into mourning
And all your songs into lamentation;
And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins
And baldness on every head.
And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son,
And the end of it will be like a bitter day.”
Given the scathing rebuke found in the section of Amo 2.9 through Amo 5.15, these are harbingers of the destruction of Jerusalem which would occur about two centuries into the future.
As the OT shows time and again, the LORD warned His disobedient people Israel throughout many centuries. He expected them to repent of their rebellion—or suffer the consequences. The latter was nearly always the path that national Israel chose.
[Remember the prophecy given to Hosea (5.11 – 6.3) I detailed in chapter 4, which prophecy was initiated in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. Only in the last several decades has national Israel been restored—though still with many enemies.]