A voracious winged insect, belonging to the genus known among naturalists as the Grylli, closely resembling the grasshopper, and a great scourge in oriental countries in both ancient and modern times. There are ten different names in the Hebrew Bible for insects of this kind; but some of these probably designate different forms or stages in life of the same species. The Bible represents their countless swarms as directed in their flight and march by God, and used in the chastisement of guilty nations, De 28:38-42; 1Ki 8:37; 2Ch 6:28. A swarm of locusts was among the plagues of Egypt; they covered the whole land, so that the earth was darkened, and devoured every green herb of the earth, and the fruit of every tree which the hail had left, Ex 10:4-19. But the most particular description of this insect, and of its destructive career, in the sacred writings, is in Joe 2:3-10. This is one of the most striking and animated descriptions to be met with in the whole compass of prophecy; and the double destruction to be produced by locusts and the enemies of which they were the harbingers, is painted with the most expressive force and accuracy. We see the destroying army moving before us as we read, and see the desolation spreading. It should also be mentioned, that the four insects specified in Joe 1:4, the palmer-worm, the locust, the canker-worm, and the caterpillar, are strictly, according to the Hebrew, only different forms of locusts, some perhaps without wings, as mentioned below. The following extracts from Dr. Shaw and Mr. Morier, which are also corroborated by Niebuhr, Burckhardt, and other travelers, may serve as a commentary upon this and other passages of Scripture.
Dr. Shaw remarks, "Those which I saw, were much bigger than our common grasshoppers, and had brown spotted wings, with legs and bodies of a bright yellow. Their first appearance was towards the end of March, the wind having been some time from the south. In the middle of April, their numbers were so vastly increased, that in the heat of the day they formed themselves into large and numerous swarms, flew in the air like a succession of clouds, and as the prophet Joel expresses it, they darkened the sun. When the wind blew briskly, so that these swarms were crowded by others, or thrown one upon another, we had a lively idea of that comparison of the psalmist, Ps 109:23, of being tossed up and down as the locust. In the month of May, these swarms gradually retired into the Metijiah and other adjacent plains, where they deposited their eggs. These were no sooner hatched, in June, than each of the broods collected itself into a compact body of a furlong or more square, and marching afterwards in a direct line towards the sea, they let nothing escape them; eating up every thing that was green and juicy, not only the lesser kinds of vegetables, but the vine likewise, the fig-tree, the pomegranate, the palm, and the apple-tree, even all the trees of the field, Joe 1:12; in doing which, kept their ranks like men of war, climbing over, as they advanced, every tree or wall that was in their way; nay, they entered into our very houses and bedchambers like thieves. The inhabitants, to stop their progress, made a variety of pits and trenches all over their fields and gardens, which they filled with water; or else they heaped up therein heath, stubble, and such like combustible matter, which were severally set on fire upon the approach of the locusts. But this was all to no purpose, for the trenches were quickly filled up and the fires extinguished by infinite swarms succeeding one another, while the front was regarded less of danger and the rear pressed on so close that a retreat was altogether impossible. A day or two after one of these broods was in motion, others were already hatched to march and glean after them, gnawing off the very bark and the young branches of such trees as had before escaped with the loss only of their fruit and foliage. So justly have they been compared by the prophet to a great army; who further observes, that the land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness."
Mr. Morier says, "On the 11th of June, while seated in our tents about noon, we heard a very unusual noise, that sounded like the rustling of a great wind at a distance. On looking up, we perceived an immense cloud, here and there semi-transparent, in other parts quite black, that spread itself all over the sky, and at intervals shadowed the sun. These we soon found to be locusts, whole swarms of them falling about us. These were of a red color, and I should suppose are the red predatory locusts, one of the Egyptian plagues. As soon as they appeared, the gardeners and husbandmen made loud shouts, to prevent their settling on their grounds. They seemed to be impelled by one common instinct, and moved in one body, which had the appearance of being organized by a leader, Joe 2:7."
The locust was a "clean" animal for the Jews, Le 11:22, and might be used for food. In Mt 3:4, it is said of John the Baptist, that "his meat was locusts, and wild honey." They are still eaten in the East, and regarded by some as a delicacy, though usually left to the poorest of the people. Niebuhr remarks, "Locusts are brought to market on mount Sumara I saw an Arab who had collected a whole sackful of the. They are prepared in different ways. An Arab in Egypt, of whom we requested that he would immediately eat locusts in our presence, threw them upon the glowing coals, and after he supposed they were roasted enough, he took them upon the glowing coals, and after he supposed they were roasted enough, he took them by the legs and head, and devoured the remainder at one mouthful. When the Arabs have them in quantities, they roast or dry them in an oven, or boil the locusts, and then dry them on the roofs of their houses. One sees there large baskets full of them in the markets."
Burckhardt also relates the fact in a similar manner: "The Bedaween eat locusts, which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April, when they are easily caught. After having been roasted a little upon the iron plate on which bread is baked, they are dried in the sun, and then put into large sacks, with the mixture of a little salt."
In Re 9:7-10, there is a terrific description of symbolical locusts, in which they are compared to war-horses, their hair to the hair of women, etc. Niebuhr heard an Arab of the desert, and another in Bagdad, make the same comparison. They likened "the head of the locust to that of the horse; its breast to that of the lion; its feet to those of the camel; its body to that of the serpent; its tail to that of the scorpion; its antennae, if I mistake not, to the locks of hair of a virgin; and so of other parts." In like manner, the Italians still call locusts little horses, and the Germans hay-horses.
There are ten Hebrew words used in Scripture to signify locust. In the New Testament locusts are mentioned as forming part of the food of John the Baptist (Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6). By the Mosaic law they were reckoned "clean," so that he could lawfully eat them. The name also occurs in Re 9:3,7, in allusion to this Oriental devastating insect.
Locusts belong to the class of Orthoptera, i.e., straight-winged. They are of many species. The ordinary Syrian locust resembles the grasshopper, but is larger and more destructive. "The legs and thighs of these insects are so powerful that they can leap to a height of two hundred times the length of their bodies. When so raised they spread their wings and fly so close together as to appear like one compact moving mass." Locusts are prepared as food in various ways. Sometimes they are pounded, and then mixed with flour and water, and baked into cakes; "sometimes boiled, roasted, or stewed in butter, and then eaten." They were eaten in a preserved state by the ancient Assyrians.
The devastations they make in Eastern lands are often very appalling. The invasions of locusts are the heaviest calamites that can befall a country. "Their numbers exceed computation: the hebrews called them 'the countless,' and the Arabs knew them as 'the darkeners of the sun.' Unable to guide their own flight, though capable of crossing large spaces, they are at the mercy of the wind, which bears them as blind instruments of Providence to the doomed region given over to them for the time. Innumerable as the drops of water or the sands of the seashore, their flight obscures the sun and casts a thick shadow on the earth (Ex 10:15; Jg 6:5; 7:12; Jer 46:23; Joe 2:10). It seems indeed as if a great aerial mountain, many miles in breadth, were advancing with a slow, unresting progress. Woe to the countries beneath them if the wind fall and let them alight! They descend unnumbered as flakes of snow and hide the ground. It may be 'like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them is a desolate wilderness. At their approach the people are in anguish; all faces lose their colour' (Joe 2:6). No walls can stop them; no ditches arrest them; fires kindled in their path are forthwith extinguished by the myriads of their dead, and the countless armies march on (Joe 2:8-9). If a door or a window be open, they enter and destroy everything of wood in the house. Every terrace, court, and inner chamber is filled with them in a moment. Such an awful visitation swept over Egypt (Ex 10:1-19), consuming before it every green thing, and stripping the trees, till the land was bared of all signs of vegetation. A strong north-west wind from the Mediterranean swept the locusts into the Red Sea.", Geikie's Hours, etc., ii., 149.
(See JOEL.) The arbeh is the migratory devastating locust. The gowb, "grasshopper," is a species of gryllus, with voracity like the migratory locust, but small in size (Smith's Bible Dictionary makes gowb the nympha state of the locust): Am 7:1. Na 3:17; "the great grasshoppers (Hebrew: "the locust of locusts") which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth flee away," etc. The locust lays its eggs under shelter of hedges; they are hatched by the sun's heat in the spring; by June the young are so matured as to be able to flee away. So Assyria shall disappear. The chagab is another of the Gryllidae (Nu 13:33; Ec 12:5); Isa 40:22, "grasshopper," thus gowb = chagab. They all are Orthoptera with four wings; jaws strong and formed for biting.
The hind limbs of the saltatoria are largely developed, the thighs long and thick, the shanks still longer; thus "they have legs (the tibiae, so placed) above their feet to leap withal upon the earth" (Le 11:21). The migratory locust is two inches and a half long, the forewings brown and black, and the thorax crested. Their devastations are vividly depicted (Ex 10:15; Joe 2:3,5,10). The 'arbeh and the sol'am ("the bald, smooth headed, locust," nowhere else mentioned; some of the winged orthopterous saltatoria; the Hebrew is related to the Egyptian for "locust") and the grasshopper (chagab) might be eaten (Leviticus 11). They are generally thrown alive into boiling water with salt, the wings, legs, and heads being pulled off; the bodies taste like shrimps, and are roasted, baked, fried in butter, ground, pounded, and mixed with flour for cakes, or smoked for after rise.
For "beetle" (Le 11:22) translate "chargowl," some kind of the locust or grasshopper "saltatoria", from the Arabic hardjal "to leap." The tsaltsal occurs only in De 28:42, the locust that makes a shrill noise, from a root "to sound" (Gesenius), very destructive: one of the Cicadae. The "palmerworm" (gazam) is probably the larva state of the locust (Gesenius): Am 4:9; Joe 1:4; 2:25. Septuagint translated "caterpillar" by which KJV translated chaciyl, which is rather one of the winged Gryllidae ("the consuming locust".) Gazam is the gnawing locust, 'arbeh the swarming locust, yeleq the licking locust (in Jer 51:27 "the rough caterpillars" refer to the spinous nature of the tibiae) which is translated "caterpillar" also in Ps 105:34, elsewhere "cankerworm."
Locusts appear in swarms extending many miles and darkening the sunlight (Joe 2:10); like horses, so that the Italians call them "cavaletta", "little horse" (Joe 2:4-5; Re 9:7,9); with a fearful noise; having no king (Pr 30:27); impossible to withstand in their progress; entering dwellings (Ex 10:6; Joe 2:8-10); not flying by night (Na 3:17; Ex 10:13 "morning".) Birds, as the locust bird, which is thought to be the rose-colored starling, devour them; the sea destroys more (Ex 10:19). Their decaying bodies taint the air (Joe 2:20). Barrow (Travels, 257) says the stench of the bodies on the shore was smelt 150 miles off. Joel's phrase "the northern army" implies that he means human invaders from the N., the point of entrance to the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Reichardt (Jewish Intelligence, Feb., 1867) notices the Hebrew letters of gazam = 50, exactly the number of years that the Chaldees ruled the Jews from the temple's destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 B.C., to Babylon's overthrow by Cyrus, 538 B.C. 'arbeh = 208, the period of Persia's dominion over the Jews from 538 to 330 B.C., when Alexander overthrew Persia. yeleq = 140, the period of Greek rule over the Jews from 330 to 190 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes, Israel's persecutor, was overcome by the Roman L. Scipio. chaciyl = 108, the exact number of years between 38 B.C., when Rome placed the Idumean Herod on the throne, and A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish nationality. Thus, the four successive world empires and the calamities which they inflicted on Israel are the truths shadowed forth by the four kinds of locusts in Joel.
a well-known insect, of the grasshopper family, which commits terrible ravages on vegetation in the countries which it visits. "The common brown locust is about three inches in length, and the general form is that of a grasshopper." The most destructive of the locust tribe that occur in the Bible lands are the (Edipoda migratoria and the Acridium peregrinum; and as both these species occur in Syria and Arabia, etc., it is most probable that one or other is denoted in those passages which speak of the dreadful devastations committed by these insects. Locusts occur in great numbers, and sometimes obscure the sun.
Their voracity is alluded to in
They make a fearful noise in their flight.
Their irresistible progress is referred to in
They enter dwellings, and devour even the woodwork of houses.
They do not fly in the night.
The sea destroys the greater number.
The flight of locusts is thus described by M. Olivier (Voyage dans l' Empire Othoman, ii. 424): "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 (Acridium peregrinum), 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." "Locusts have been used as food from the earliest times. Herodotus speaks of a Libyan nation who dried their locusts in the sun and ate them with milk. The more common method, however, was to pull off the legs and wings and roast them in an iron dish. Then they thrown into a bag, and eaten like parched corn, each one taking a handful when he chose." --Biblical Treasury. Sometimes the insects are ground and pounded, and then mixed with flour and water and made into cakes, or they are salted and then eaten; sometimes smoked; sometimes boiled or roasted; again, stewed, or fried in butter.
LOCUST, ????. The word is probably derived from ???, which signifies to multiply, to become numerous, &c; because of the immense swarms of these animals by which different countries, especially in the east, are infested. See this circumstance referred to, Jg 6:5; 7:12; Ps 105:34; Jer 46:23; 51:14; Joe 1:4; Na 3:15; Judith 2:19, 20; where the most numerous armies are compared to the arbeh, or locust.
The locust, in entomology, belongs to a genus of insects known among naturalists by the name of grylli. The common great brown locust is about three inches in length, has two antennae about an inch long, and two pairs of wings. The head and horns are brown; the mouth, and insides of the larger legs, bluish; the upper side of the body, and upper wings, brown; the former spotted with black, and the latter with dusky, spots. The back is defended by a shield of a greenish hue; the under wings are of a light brown hue, tinctured with green, and nearly transparent. The general form and appearance of the insect is that of the grasshopper so well known in this country. These creatures are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were employed as one of the plagues for the punishment of the Egyptians; and their visitation was threatened to the Israelites as a mark of the divine displeasure. Their numbers and destructive powers very aptly fit them for this purpose. When they take the field, they always follow a leader, whose motions they invariably observe. They often migrate from their native country, probably in quest of a greater supply of food. On these occasions they appear in such large flocks as to darken the air; forming many compact bodies or swarms, of several hundred yards square. These flights are very frequent in Barbary, and generally happen at the latter end of March or beginning of April, after the wind has blown from the south for some days. The month following, the young brood also make their appearance, generally following the track of the old ones. In whatever country they settle, they devour all the vegetables, grain, and, in fine, all the produce of the earth; eating the very bark off the trees; thus destroying at once the hopes of the husbandman, and all the labours of agriculture: for though their voracity is great, yet they contaminate a much greater quantity than they devour; as their bite is poisonous to vegetables, and the marks of devastation may be traced for several succeeding seasons. There are various species of them; which consequently have different names; and some are more voracious and destructive than others, though all are most destructive and insatiable spoilers. Bochart enumerates ten different kinds which he thinks are mentioned in the Scripture.
Writers in natural history bear abundant testimony to the Scriptural account of these creatures. Dr. Shaw describes at large the numerous swarms and prodigious broods of those locusts which he saw in Barbary. Dr. Russel says, "Of the noxious kinds of insects may well be reckoned the locusts, which sometimes arrive in such incredible multitudes, that it would appear fabulous to give a relation of them; destroying the whole of the verdure wherever they pass." Captain Woodroffe, who was for some time at Astrachan, a city near the Volga, sixty miles to the north-west of the Caspian Sea, in latitude 47 , assures us, that, from the latter end of July to the beginning of October, the country about that city is frequently infested with locusts, which fly in such prodigious numbers as to darken the air, and appear at a distance as a heavy cloud. As for the Mosaic permission to the Jews of eating the locusts, Le 11:22, however strange it may appear to the mere English reader, yet nothing is more certain than that several nations, both of Asia and Africa, anciently used these insects for food; and that they are still eaten in the east to this day. Niebuhr gives some account of the several species of locusts eaten by the Arabs, and of their different ways of dressing them for food. "The Europeans," he adds, "do not comprehend how the Arabs can eat locusts with pleasure; and those Arabs who have had no intercourse with the Christians will not believe, in their turn, that these latter reckon oysters, crabs, shrimps, cray- fish, &c, for dainties. These two facts, however, are equally certain." Locusts are often used figuratively by the prophets, for invading armies; and their swarms aptly represented the numbers, the desolating march of the vast military hordes and their predatory followers, which the ancient conquerors of the east poured down upon every country they attacked.