Day of the Lord
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
DAY OF THE LORD (YAHWEH) (יֹ֣ום יְהוָ֑ה; LXX ἡ ἡμέρα [του̂] Κυρίου). Together with associated expressions like “the day of the wrath of Yahweh” and “that day,” it designates God’s decisive intervention in history for judgment. (Elsewhere decisive events are called “days,” cf. “the day of Midian” in Isa 9:4; “the day of Jezreel” in Hos 1:11. Heb. has no special word for “hour.”)
The expression was evidently current in the time of Amos in the 8th cent. b.c., indicating the time when Yahweh would avenge His people on their enemies. Amos turns it back upon those who use it, for the day will bring judgment upon sinful Israel as well (Amos 5:18-20; 6:3; 8:9; chs. 1 and 2). Already Amos’s vision of the day oscillates between battles, natural disasters and supernatural calamities, but he ends on a note of hope. The day will usher in a new age (9:11f., which is interpreted christologically in Acts 15:16f.).
The day of the Lord is also associated with universal restoration, and in places is connected with the Messiah. “In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people” (Isa 11:10, 11; cf. 61:2; Luke 4:18f.). Isaiah 2:2-4 (cf. Mic 4:1-3) looks forward to “the latter days” of universal peace and prosperity, when the Lord shall judge between the nations.
Joel’s description of the day of the Lord might at first seem to refer to a plague of locusts (Joel 1:15; 2:1f., 11), but the vision merges into one of cosmic, supernatural events and final judgment (3:14ff.). Against the background of heavenly portents the promise is given that “all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered” (2:32), and God will pour out His spirit “on all flesh” (2:28). Acts 2:17-21 sees the prophecy being fulfilled at Pentecost.
Jeremiah speaks of “that time” and “those days” rather than of the day of the Lord (cf. Jer 3:16ff.; 4:11; 50:4). The thought seems to be the same. He announces that “the days are coming” when God will make a new covenant, by which He will write His law on men’s hearts and fulfill the covenant promise: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:31-34).
OT prophecy stresses the imminence of the day of the Lord. Men need to prepare for it without delay. God’s justice and judgment are certain, as is His mercy. Sometimes prophetic utterances found partial fulfillment in particular events. But these are, in fact, foretastes or trailers of the decisive acts of God in the coming of Christ, the outpouring of the Spirit and Christ’s return in final judgment and glory.
L. Cerný, The ἡμέρα, G2465, in TDNT, II, 943-953; E. Jenni, “ ” IDB, I, 784f.; H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel (1956), 177-201; S. Mowinckel, He that Cometh (1956), passim; G. von Rad, “The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh,” JSS, IV (1959), 97-108; Theology, II (1965), 119-125; D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (1964) passim.