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Title: Locusts
Submitted by: research-bpr@philologos.org

Date: January 25, 1999
Update: April 20, 2002
URL: http://philologos.org/bpr/files/l004.htm

Locusts

And the fifth angel sounded...and locusts upon the earth...and their power was to hurt men five months. -- Revelation 9

[L]ocusts generally come out of the eastern parts: it was an east wind which brought the plague of locusts into Egypt (Exo 10:13); and the children of the east, the Arabians, are compared to grasshoppers, or locusts,

And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.--Judges 7:12

[Midianite--son of Abraham by Keturah and progenitor of the tribe of Midianites or Arabians; the territory of the tribe descended from Midian; located principally in the desert north of the Arabian Peninsula; land to which Moses went when he fled from Pharaoh--Strong's

Amalekites-descendants of Esau.

grasshopper--Strong's 0697 'arbeh translated as locust 24 times in AV and 4 times as grasshopper]

and one of the names of a locust is, "Arbeh," not much unlike in sound to an Arab. To which may be added, that it is a tradition of the Arabians, that there fell locusts into the hands of Mahomet [Mohammad], on whose backs and wings were written these words;

"we are the army of the most high God; we are the ninety and nine eggs, and if the hundred should be made perfect, we should consume the whole world, and whatever is in it."

And it was a law established by Mahomet, ye shall not kill the locusts, for they are the army of the most high God; and the Mahometans fancy that the locusts were made of the same clay as Adam was: and besides the tradition before mentioned, they say, that as Mahomet sat at table a locust fell, with these words on its back and wings;

"I am God, neither is there any Lord of the locusts besides me, who feed them; and when I please I send them to be food to the people, and when I please I send them to be a scourge unto them;"

...five months is the time that locusts live, and are in their strength and power, even the five, hottest months in the year, from April to September.

(The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

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Among Mohammedans, "Lord of the locusts" is a title of God.

(Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871,
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown)

Locust, a well-known insect, which commits terrible devastation to vegetation in the countries which it visits. In the Bible there are frequent allusions to locusts; and there are nine or ten Hebrew words which are supposed to denote different varieties or species of this destructive family. They belong to that order of insects known by the term Orthoptera. This order is divided into two large groups or divisions, namely, Cursoria and Saltatoria. The first, as the name imports, includes only those families of Orthoptera which have legs formed for creeping, and which were considered unclean by the Jewish law. Under the second are comprised those whose two posterior legs, by their peculiar structure, enable them to move on the ground by leaps.

"With the burning south winds (of Syria) there come from the interior of Arabia and from the most southern parts of Persia clouds of locusts, whose ravages to these countries are as grievous and nearly as sudden as those of the heaviest hail in Europe. We witnessed them twice. It is difficult to express the effect produced on us by the sight of the whole atmosphere filled on all sides and to a great height by an innumerable quantity of these insects, whose flight was slow and uniform, and whose noise resembled that of rain: the sky was darkened, and the light of the sun considerably weakened. In a moment the terraces of the houses, the streets, and all the fields were covered by these insects, and in two days they had nearly devoured all the leaves of the plants. Happily they lived but a short time, and seemed to have migrated only to reproduce themselves and die; in fact, nearly all those we saw the next day had paired, and the day following the fields were covered with their dead bodies." (Voyage dans l'Empire Othoman, M. Olivier)

Some kinds of locusts are beautifully marked, and were sought after by young Jewish children as playthings, just as butterflies and cockchafers are now-a-days.

The most destructive of the locust tribe that occur in the Bible lands...these species occur in Syria and Arabia, etc.

Locusts occur in great numbers, and sometimes obscure the sun--Exo 10:15; Jer 46:23; Judg 6:5; 7:12; Joel 2:10; Nahum 3:15
Their voracity is alluded to in Exo 10:12,15; Joel 1:4,7,12; 2:3; Deut 28:38; Psa 78:46; 105:34; Isa 33:4
They are compared to horses--Joel 2:4; Rev 9:7. The Italians call the lcoust "Cavaletta."
They make a fearful noise in their flight--Joel 2:5; Rev 9:9
They have no king--Pro 30:27
Their irresistible progress is referred to in Josh 2:8,9
They enter dwellings, and devour even the woodwork of houses--Exo 10:6; Joel 2:9,10
They do not fly in the night--Nahum 3:17
The sea destroys the greater number--Exo 10:19; Jeol 2:20
Their dead bodies taint the air--Joel 2:20
They are used as food--Lev 11:21,22; Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6

(Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, 1872)

Locust. Any of the common short-horned grasshoppers are locusts. The name is so used in the Bible and in any books in the English language written outside the United States. Unfortunately, Americans have given the name to the members of the cicada family; and another source of confusion arises from the fact that the scientific name Locustidae is given to the group of long-horned grasshoppers, including the katydid, while the true locusts belong to the family Acrididae.

(The Wonderland of Knowledge, The Pictorial Encyclopedia, 1965)

The book of Joel describes a plague of locusts.

1:2 Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?

1:4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

  1. palmerworm: a caterpillar that suddenly appears in great numbers devouring herbage.
  2. locust: short-horned grasshopper; esp: a migratory grasshopper often traveling in vast swarms and stripping the areas passed of all vegetation; cicada.
  3. cankerworm: either of two geometrid moths and esp. their larvae which are serious pests of forest and shade trees.
  4. caterpillar: the elongated wormlike larva of a butterfly or moth; also: any of various similar larvae

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Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

  1. palmerworm: 1501 gazam; from an unused root meaning to devour
  2. locust: 697 'arbeh; from 7235; a locust (from its rapid increase).
    7235 rabah; a primitive root; to increase (in whatever respect).
  3. cankerworm: 3218 yeleq; from an unused root meaning to lick up; a devourer; specifically the young locust.
  4. caterpillar: 2625 chaciyl; from 2628; the ravager.
    2628 chacal; a primitive root; to eat off:--consume.

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Life Application Bible:

  1. palmerworm: cutting locust
  2. locust: swarming locust
  3. cankerworm: hopping locust
  4. caterpillar: destroying locust

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Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament--Joel:

  1. palmerworm: gnawer
  2. locust: multiplier
  3. cankerworm: licker
  4. caterpillar: devourer

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:

  1. Jerom relates...the Hebrews interpret the "palmer worm" of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans, who, coming from one climate of the world, destroyed both the ten and the two tribes, that is, all the people of Israel:
  2. the locust they interpret of the Medes and Persians, who, having overturned the Chaldean empire, carried the Jews captive: [the area of the Medes and Persians at their height encompassed all or parts of: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia--see Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare dated February 10, 1998.]

    Persia is the old name for the southwest Asian country whose official name has been Iran since 1935. Formerly the two names were used interchangeably, and today the name "Persia" is still widely used as an alternate for "Iran."

    In ancient times Persia was the center of an empire stretching from Egypt to the Indus River--one of the greatest empires in all history. It included within its boundaries all previous empires: those of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hittites. The later empire of Alexander the Great contained little territory not previously held by the Persians, and Alexander's empire was not so large as Persia under Darius. Even the Roman Empire had a smaller land area than the Persian (it was only larger if the Mediterranean Sea is included), although the Persians never achieved anything approaching the efficient Roman administration and control of conquered peoples.

    For two and a half centuries, from its founding in the sixth century BC until its conquest by Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, it was the dominant power of the ancient world.--Collier's Encyclopedia, 1963

  3. the "canker worm" is the Macedonians, and all the successors of Alexander; especially King Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who like a canker worm sat in Judea, and devoured all the remains of the former kings, under whom were the wars of the Maccabees:
  4. the "caterpillar" they refer to the Roman empire, the fourth and last that oppressed the Jews, and drove them out of their borders.

and

  1. [T]his may point at the several invasions and incursions of the Chaldean army into Judea, under Nebuchadnezzar and his generals; first, when he came up against Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim tributary to him;
  2. a second time, when he carried Jehoiachin and his family into Babylon, with a multitude of the Jews, and their wealth;
  3. a third time, when he besieged Jerusalem, and took it, and Zedekiah the king, and carried him captive;
  4. and a fourth time, when Nebuzaradan came and burnt the temple, and the houses of Jerusalem, and broke down the walls of it, and cleared the land of its inhabitants and riches.

1:6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.

1:7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white. [Vine, fig tree=Israel]

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1:15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. Unawares, suddenly, and irresistibly: there is in the Hebrew text an elegant play on words, which may be rendered, as "wasting from the waster," or "destruction from the destroyer, shall it come"; even from the almighty God, who is able to save and destroy, and none can deliver out of his hands; "Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty" (Isa 13:6).--John Gill

[Day of the Lord, 6,000-7,000th year, the millennium, the Sabbath day of rest.]

And they [locusts] had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.--Revelation 9:11

Abaddon, Strong's 3; of Hebraic origin [11]; a destroying angel
11 abaddown; intensively from 6; abstractly a perishing; concretely Hades:--destruction
6 abad; a primitive root; properly to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish (causatively destroy)

Apollyon, Strong's 623; active participle of 622; a destroyer (i.e. Satan)
622apollumi; from 575 and the base of 3639; to destroy fully

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2:1 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; Here the trumpet is ordered to be blown with a broken quivering voice, a tarantantara, to give notice of approaching danger by the locusts, or those enemies signified by them, and to prepare for it, and return to God by repentance.--John Gill

2:2 A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. "Like morning dawn is it spread over the montains." The prophet's meaning is evident enough from what follows. He clearly refers to the bright glimmer or splendour which is seen in the sky as a swarm of locusts approaches, from the reflection of the sun's rays from their wings.--Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary

"The day before the arrival of the locusts we could infer that they were coming, from a yellow reflection in the sky, proceeding from their yellow wings. As soon as this light appeared, no one had the slightest doubt that an enormous swarm of locusts was approaching." (Journey through Abyssinia, Francis Alvarez)

2:3 A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them. [This is unlike the locusts of Revelation who are told "not to hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (Rev 9:4).]

"Neither herbs, nor shrubs, nor trees remain unhurt. Whatever is either grassy or covered with leaves, is injured, as if it had been burnt with fire. Even the bark of trees is nibbled with their teeth, so that the injury is not confined to one year alone." (Histor. Aethiop., H. Ludolf)

2:4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Various writers...[have shown] that the head of a locust is in shape like that of a horse...whoever thoroughly examines the head of a locust will easily perceive that it is very like the head of a horse; "And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle..." (Rev 9:7a).--John Gill

2:5 Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.

2:6 Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them from fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.--Luke 21:25-27

2:7 They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks.

2:8 Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword [Strong's 7973 shelach; a missile of attack], they shall not be wounded.

"We saw this lately in the province (Palestine). For when the swarms of locusts come and fill the whole atmosphere between the earth and sky, they fly in such order, according to the appointment of the commanding God, that they preserve an exact shape, just like the squares drawn upon a tesselated pavement, not diverging on either side by, so to speak, so much as a finger's breadth...For there is no road impassable to locusts; they penetrate into fields, and crops, and trees, and cities, and houses, and even the recesses of the bed-chambers." (Jerome)

"For you may see the grasshopper like a hostile army ascending the walls, and advancing along the roads, and not suffering any difficulty to disperse them, but steadily moving forward, as if according to some concerted plan." (Theodoret)

2:9 They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief.

And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpillar: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.--Isaiah 33:4

And they [locusts] shall fill thy housese, and the housese of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers' fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went from Pharaoh.--Exodus 10:6

"And this we have frequently seen done, not merely by hostile armies, but also by locusts, which not only when flying, but by creeping along the walls, pass through the windows into the houses themselves." (Theodoret)

2:10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:

2:11 And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?

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2:20 But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. Locusts do not usually come from the north, but from the south, or from the east; it was an east wind that brought the locusts into Egypt (Exo 10:13).--John Gill

[The locusts from Persia, though, would come mostly from the north.]

"...in our times we have seen swarms of locusts cover the land of Judea, which upon the wind rising have been driven into the first and last seas; that is, into the Dead and Mediterranean seas; and when the shores of both seas have been filled with heaps of dead locusts, which the waters have thrown up, their rottenness and stench have been so very noxious as to corrupt the air, and produce a pestilence among men and beasts;" (Jerome)

For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.--Isaiah 34:2-4

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2:25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. [Notice the order of the locusts as compared to 1:4 (palmerworm, locust, cankerworm, caterpillar).]

"And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions." Revelation 9:8

hair as the hair of women: An Arabic proverb compares the antennae of locusts to the hair of girls.

(The New Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Testament)

"Raymond Dillard, in his commentary on Joel gives the following information about locust plagues:

"In our generation areas having the potential for a locust outbreak are monitored by international agencies using satellite reconnaissance and other technology; incipient swarms are met by aircraft and trucks carrying powerful pesticides. However, if the locusts are not destroyed or contained shortly after the hatch, once the swarm has formed, control efforts are minimally effective even today. For example, in 1988 the civil war in Chad prevented international cooperation in attacking the hatch, and a destructive swarm spread throughout North Africa devastating some of the poorest nations and threatening Europe as well. It is difficult for modern Western people to appreciate the dire threat represented by a locust plague in earlier periods. Such outbreaks had serious consequences for the health and mortality of an affected population and for a region's economy. Scarcity of food resulting from the swarm's attack would bring the population to subsistence intake or less, would make the spread of disease among a weakened populace easier, would eliminate any trade from surplus food products, and would stimulate high inflation in the costs of food products. Disease outbreaks are further aggravated when swarms die; the putrefaction of the millions of locust bodies breeds typhus and other diseases that spread to humans and animals (see the description in Augustine's City of God 3.31). Baron (Desert Locust, pp. 3-7) catalogues many locust outbreaks known to have been accompanied by outbreaks of pestilence.

"It was only in 1921 that the mystery of the locust was solved. Prior to this date researchers wondered what became of the locust during the years in which there were no outbreaks. In 1921 B. P. Uvarov demonstrated that the swarming locust was none other than an ordinary species of grasshopper. However, when moisture and temperature conditions favored a large hatch, the crowding, unceasing contact, and jostling of the nymphs begin to stimulate changes in coloration, physiology, metabolism, and behavior, so that the grasshopper nymphs make the transition from solitary behavior to the swarming gregarious and migratory phases of the dreaded plague. Plagues continue as long as climatic conditions favor the large hatches. Once entering their gregarious phase, swarms, of locusts can migrate great distances and have even been observed twelve hundred miles at sea. The swarms can reach great sizes: a swarm across the Red Sea in 1889 was estimated to cover two thousand square miles. A swarm is estimated to contain up to 120 million insects per mile Baro Desert Locust, (Raymond Dillard, The Minor Prophets, “Joel,” p. 255- 56). "

(http://www.bible.org/docs/ot/books/minorp/joel.htm)

(Explaining the reasons for each of the ten plagues) [The Egyptians] had been in the habit of saying to the Israelites, "Go forth, plant ye trees for us, and guard the fruit thereon." Therefore God brought the locusts into the Egyptian border, to eat the residue of that which was escaped which remained unto them from the hail, for the teeth of the locust are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the jaw teeth of a great lion.

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This enemy of Israel bore the name Amalek to denote the rapidity with which he moved against Israel, for like a swarm of locusts he flew upon them; and the name furthermore designates the purpose of this enemy, who came to suck the blood of Israel. This Amalek was a son of Eliphaz, the first-born son of Esau...

In his [Amalek] expedition against Israel he made use of his kinship with them, by pretending, at first, to be their friend and kinsman. Before going over to open attack, he lured many unsuspecting Jews to death by his kindly words. He had fetched from Egypt the table of descent of the Jews; for every Jew had there to mark his name on the bricks produced by him, and these lists lay in the Egyptian archives. Familiar with the names of the different Jewish families, Amalek appeared before the Jewish camp, and calling the people by name, he invited them to leave the camp, and come out to him. "Reuben! Simeon! Levi! etc.," he would call, "come out to me, your brother, and transact business with me."

Those who answered the enticing call, found certain death at his hands; and not only did Amalek kill them, but he also mutilated their corpses, following the example of his grandsire Esau, by cutting off a certain part of the body, and throwing it toward heaven with the mocking words, "Here shalt Thou have what Thou desirest." In this way did he jeer at the token of the Abrahamic covenant...Moses did not himself set out to battle against this dangerous foe of Israel, but he sent his servant Joshua...

(Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, Book 3)

See also Four Beasts

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