Letting the “Bi-Word” “Rule” in Joel 2:17

James R. Linville


This paper addresses the word משׁל in Joel 2:17 which is
usually taken as משׁל II “to rule” or משׁל I, the latter being either a verb “to
use a proverb” or a noun “byword”. A review of the scholarly discussions
demonstrates that the plausibility of both roots, although only the nominal form
of root I should be recognized. A close look at Jer. 24:9 and other roughly
comparable constructions reaffirms this. The impasse between the two roots in
Joel 2:17 can be solved by recognizing a double entendre or even identifying משׁל
as a “pivot” word. This polysemy has a role in the rhetoric of the passage and
in the overall complexity and richness of Joel’s imagery.

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