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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


1. Zoological description .—Locusts belong to the natural order Orthoptera. The members of this order are insects which undergo only a partial metamorphosis; the larva is scarcely distinguishable from the adult, unless by its smaller form and by the atrophy of its wings, which develop only gradually in proportion to its growth. Excepting this difference, it has the same form and the same habits as the adult. In its perfect state, the first pair of wings, though remaining supple, have a certain consistency. They cover the hind wings, which are membranous and transparent, and folded under the upper wings in the form of a fan. The month is of shape suitable for mastication, and the jaws act like a pair of scissors. Formerly the Orthoptera were divided into runners and leapers , but this division has been abandoned. Locusts were classed among the leapers. According to the present nomenclature, we must class them among the Orthoptera genuina . Among these appear among others ( a ) the family of Locustodeœ , to which the European grasshoppers (the subfamily of the Locustidœ ) belong; and also ( b ) the family of Acridiodeœ , which includes in its various sub-families the principal locusts of Palestine. It is of the highest importance to avoid the confusion which may arise from this misleading terminology, according to which the ‘locusts’ of the Bible do not belong to the scientific family Locustodeœ .

We are, then, to treat of the family Aeridiodeœ . Their antennae are relatively short, scarcely exceeding the length of the head, whereas the antennae of the Locustodeœ are very long, as long as their bodies. Their hind legs, adapted for leaping, have very strong thighs furnished with indentations, which are easily seen if slightly magnified. The head is vertical. The first pair of wings are more leathery than the second, but both present the same reticulated appearance. The rapid brushing of the thighs of the hind legs, furnished with indentations, against the nervures of the front wings produces, when the insect is at rest, a stridulation, the tone and height of which vary according to the species. The Acridiodeœ are generally diurnal, and their food is essentially herbaceous. In the females the abdomen ends in a pair of short pincers, whereas in the Locustodeœ this appendage is greatly prolonged like the blade of a sabre. These pincers serve to bury in the earth, one by one, the eggs, which are disposed in cylindrical masses and held together by a frothy secretion.

The insect moults six times, but the principal stages of its development are only two— larva and imago (perfect state). The intermediate state ( pupa ) which we find in other orders of insects is imperceptible in the Orthoptera. In their state of larvae, locusts, having no wings, or more correctly, merely the rudiments of wings, hop on the ground; even at this stage they are extremely destructive. Later, with the succeeding moultings, the wings develop, but remain enclosed in a membranous case; the insects now advance walking . At last, at their sixth moulting, which takes place from six to seven weeks after their coming out of the egg, locusts attain to their perfect state, and, unfolding their wings, fly through the air, producing what travellers describe as ‘a hissing or a buzzing noise.’

In Palestine as many as forty different species of Acridiodeœ have been noted. The most important of these belong to the sub-families of the Tryxalidœ , the Œdipodidœ , and the Acridiidœ properly so called. The commonest species, those which are rightly associated with the locusts mentioned in the Bible, are the Pachytylus migratorius (formerly called Œdipoda migratoria ) and the Sehistocerea peregrina (formerly called Acridium peregrinum ). The colour of these insects is generally brown bordering on green, but with a bluish tint round the mouth, and with black spots on the body and green spots on the wings. The males are coloured differently from the females. In regard to their dimensions, locusts are as much as three or even four inches long when they are full grown.

Locusts are migratory insects, as the qualifying words, migratoria, peregrina , applied to them denote. They are produced chiefly in desert regions on the lofty plateaux of the East, and, carried by their wings and driven on by the east wind, they invade western Palestine in compact bodies.

2. Biblical names .—The OT mentions locusts under at least nine different names. These are (1) אַרְבֶּה ’arbch ,  Exodus 10:4;  Exodus 10:12-14;  Exodus 10:19,  Leviticus 11:22,  Deuteronomy 28:38,  Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12,  1 Kings 8:37,  2 Chronicles 6:28,  Job 39:20,  Psalms 78:46;  Psalms 105:34;  Psalms 109:23,  Proverbs 30:27,  Jeremiah 46:23,  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25,  Nahum 3:15;  Nahum 3:17. (2) חָנָב hâgâb ,  Leviticus 11:22,  Numbers 13:33,  2 Chronicles 7:13,  Ecclesiastes 12:5,  Isaiah 40:22. (3) סָלְעָם sol‘âm ,  Leviticus 11:22. (4) חַרְנֹּל hargôl ,  Leviticus 11:22. (5) יָלָק yelek ,  Psalms 105:34,  Jeremiah 51:14;  Jeremiah 51:27,  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25,  Nahum 3:15 f. (6) חָסִיל hâsîl ,  1 Kings 8:37,  2 Chronicles 6:28,  Psalms 78:46,  Isaiah 33:4,  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25. (7) נָּוָם gûzâm ,  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25,  Amos 4:9. (8) נֵּב, נּוֹב, נּוֹבַי gçb, gôb, gôbai ,  Isaiah 33:4,  Amos 7:1,  Nahum 3:17. (9) צְלָצַל ẓĕlâẓal ,  Deuteronomy 28:42.

It would naturally be a matter of the greatest interest to know if these various names correspond with as many different species. But before replying to this question, ( a ) we should have to be certain that the ancients, the Easterns, the Hebrews in particular, were capable of making a distinction similar to that of genus and species used by modern scholars; ( b ) we should have to be equally certain that Biblical writers employed the terms in their language in a strict and rigorous fashion (a thing which even modern writers do not always do); and ( c ) we should require sufficient data to enable us to assign such and such a Hebrew name to such and such a particular species. Now these three conditions cannot be fulfilled, and in such a case it may well seem chimerical to demand a systematic classification, in accordance with present zoological principles, of the various locusts mentioned in the Bible. We must remember that Oriental languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, possess a considerable choice of synonyms to denote one and the same animal. We note that the LXX Septuagint proceeds on no regular system. It translates the Hebrew by using the terms ἀκρίς, βροῦχος, κάμπη, ἀττέλαβος (ἁττέλεβος), ἐρυσίβν (ἐρισύβη), ἀττάκης, ὀφιομάχης, etc., in a purely arbitrary and, it would appear, conjectural manner, without taking the least care always to translate the same Hebrew by the same Greek word. The same is true of the version of Jerome and of translations into modern languages. The Authorized and Revised Versions has had no better success with its varying use of ‘locust,’ ‘grasshopper,’ ‘canker-worm,’ ‘palmer-worm,’ ‘caterpillar,’ and even ‘beetle’ (for hâgâb , manifestly a false translation).

We must also avoid the error of thinking that the various terms employed, for example, by Joel and Nahum refer to locusts at various stages in their development. The fact that the order of the four terms gâzâm, ’arbeh, yelek, hâsîl in  Joel 1:4 is followed in  Joel 2:25 by the order ’arbch, yelek, hâsîl, gâzâm , in itself disproves this theory. Besides, it would be difficult to perceive in the development of the Orthopterous insect four stages easily distinguishable by every observer, since, as we have seen, the insect changes very little from moulting to moulting.* [Note: Perhaps one might instance, to prove that the Hebrews had noticed the successive stages of development in the locust, the fact that in  Jeremiah 51:27 yelek is qualified by סָמָר sâmâr (EV ‘rough’): this might be understood to apply to the state of the insect before it has the use of its wings (?).] We must add to the passages of the canonical OT cited above  Judith 2:20,  Wisdom of Solomon 16:9,  Sirach 43:17. The term used in these three texts is ἀκρίς; the Hebrew Sirach has ’arbch .

The names that the Hebrew language gives to locusts prove that these insects were peculiarly feared ( a ) on account of their great numbers, and ( b ) on account of their voracity and their power of destruction. In fact, ’arbch probably goes back to a root meaning to be numerous, to multiply . On the other hand, gâzâm, hâsîl, yelek , and sol‘âm all have the sense of destruction (literally to clip, to cut, to devour, to swallow).† [Note: It is striking to note, in view of these names of serious and even terrible import, that similar insects in Europe (the Locustidœ) are tricked out with such innocent names as ‘grasshopper’ (German, Heuschrecke, from Heu, ‘hay,’ and the old word scricchan, ‘to leap’; in French sauterelle); note also the German Heupferd and the Italian cavaletta, due to the resemblance of the grasshopper’s head to a horse’s.] The sense of gçb ( gôb, gôbai ) and of hâgâb is a problem. Hargôl appears to signify one who gallops , and ẓĕlâẓal is a more harmless term, referring to the humming of the locust’s wings, or rather to the stridulation it makes when it is at rest (a word akin to this is used to denote cymbals).

3. Locusts in the OT .—In the books of the OT the locust is sometimes used figuratively to denote smallness ( Numbers 13:33,  Isaiah 40:22), lightness ( Ecclesiastes 12:5, but the passage is obscure and in dispute), and great numbers ( Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12,  Jeremiah 46:23). But, as a rule, when locusts are mentioned, it is usually as an instrument of destruction or as food.

The former of these last two usages is much the more frequent in the OT. Particularly forcible, vivid, and picturesque descriptions of the destructive power of the locust are given in the passages quoted above from Exodus, Joel, Amos, and Nahum. The fear-inspiring character of these insect invaders, as they advance in regular companies ( Proverbs 30:27), is in no way exaggerated. Locusts are a veritable plague. We find graphic descriptions in the writings of travellers or residents in the Holy Land, such as Wilson, Tristram, Thomson, Van-Lennep, as well as of other writers in various countries. Their accounts have, among others, been collected by Driver ( loc. cit. inf. ). Van-Lennep even says of locusts (p. 314) that ‘their voracity is such that in the neighbourhood of Broosa, in the year 1856, an infant having been left asleep in its cradle under some shady trees, was found not long after partly devoured by the locusts.’ See also the singularly graphic passage in which Thomson relates his personal experiences ( LB [Note: The Land and the Book.] ii. p. 296 f.). On a sculptured stone found at Babylon is an exact representation (reproduced in Van-Lennep, l.e. ) of two locusts devouring a bush. The present writer has seen on both sides of the Dead Sea, and also in the neighbourhood of Jericho and Gadara, locusts at the various stages of development devastating the country and making all verdure disappear in an instant. He has also been a witness of the efforts of the fellahîn , under the direction of the officials of the Turkish Government, to check the advance of the insects by lighting along their track fires fed with petroleum. Another device is to compel the Bedawîn, proportionally to the number of members of each family, to bring in a fixed weight of the eggs or larvae of locusts. The wind, which brings the swarms of locusts, also drives them hither and thither (cf.  Psalms 109:23), and sometimes carries them into the sea ( Exodus 10:19,  Joel 2:20). One who has read, for example, Joel 1-2, or has seen with his own eyes the ravages of the locusts, is not surprised to find in  Revelation 9:3-11 this insect playing an apocalyptical part and accomplishing a mission of destruction.

4. Locusts in the Gospels .—But in the Gospels—with which this Dictionary is principally concerned—locusts are never mentioned as devastating insects. In  Matthew 3:4 and in the parallel passage  Mark 1:6 they appear only as an article of food . It is in this character, then, that we have chiefly to study them here. The word used is ἀκρίς; it is said that John the Baptist fed on ‘locusts and wild honey’ (see art. Honey). An ancient tradition of the Christian Church held that the locusts eaten by the Baptist were not insects, but the pods or husks of a tree, the carob or locust tree ( Ceratonia siliqua , Arab. [Note: Arabic.] kharrúb ). Curiously enough, this old interpretation has been resuscitated in our own times by Cheyne ( Encyc. Bibl. ii. cols. 2136, 2499), who sees in the locusts of John the Baptist ‘carobbeans,’ but for reasons which do not seem to us convincing. In fact, locusts are a well-known food in Eastern countries. Herodotus mentions this (iv. 172); Thomson says ( LB [Note: The Land and the Book.] ii. p. 301): ‘Locusts are not eaten in Syria by any but the Bedawîn on the extreme frontier. By the natives, locusts are always spoken of as a very inferior article of food, and regarded by most with disgust—to be eaten only by the very poorest people. John the Baptist, however, was of that class … he also dwelt in “the wilderness” or desert, where such food was and is still used.’ There are, according to travellers, several ways of preparing locusts for food. ‘The Bedouins cat locusts,’ says Burckhardt (p. 239), ‘which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April. 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. They are never served up as a dish, but everyone takes a handful of them when hungry. The peasants of Syria do not eat locusts.… There are a few poor fellahs in the Haouran, however, who sometimes, pressed by hunger, make a meal of them; but they break off the head and take out the entrails before they dry them in the sun. The Bedouins swallow them entire.’ ‘The wings and legs are lopped off the body,’ says Wilson (p. 330), ‘and fried with salt and pepper.’ ‘They are roasted and eaten as butter upon loaves of bread,’ says Van-Lennep (p. 319), ‘resembling shrimps in taste, or they are boiled in water with a little salt, dried in the sun, and, being deprived of their wings and legs, are packed in bags for use. They are beaten to a powder, which is mixed with flour and water, made into little cakes, and used as a substitute for bread when flour is scarce. Dried locusts are generally exposed for sale in the markets of Medina, Bagdad, and even Damascus. Palgrave goes so far as to say (p. 346), ‘Locusts are here an article of food, nay, a dainty, and a good swarm of them is begged of Heaven in Arabia no less fervently than it would be deprecated in India or in Syria.… When boiled or fried they are said to be delicious, and boiled and fried accordingly they are to an incredible extent.’ It would appear likewise, to judge from Thomson ( l.c. ), that occasionally dried, boiled, or fried locusts are eaten with honey. Even horses (Blunt, ii. p. 79) and camels (Daumas, p. 258) are fed on locusts.

The Law of Israel, which strictly forbade the eating of creeping things, insects, etc., made an exception in the case of locusts, which are mentioned under four different names, two of which ( sol‘âm and hargôl ) are found only in this one passage ( Leviticus 11:22). The Law characterizes them in this sentence: ‘Yet these may ye eat of all winged creeping things that go upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth.’

Literature.—Bochart, Hierozoicon , i. pp. 34–36, ii. pp. 441–496; Burckhardt, Travels in Syria , 1822, p. 238 f., Notes on the Bedouins , 1830, p. 269; William Rae Wilson, Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1824, pp. 329–331; Berggrèn, Guide français-arabe , 1844, p. 702 f.; Général E. Daumas, Le Grand Desert , 1856, pp. 257–265; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1867, ii. pp. 205, 340; Wood, Bible Animals , 1869, pp. 596–604; Van-Lennep, Bible Lands , 1875, pp. 313–319; Franz Delitzsch, Hoheslied und Koheleth , 1875, Excursus by Wetzstein, pp. 445–455; Lady Anne Blunt, A Pilgrimage to Nejd 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1881, i. p. 94, ii. pp. 57 f., 79; Palgrave, Central and Eastern Arabia , 1883, pp. 345–347; Tristram, Natural History of the Bible , 1885, pp. 306–318; Thomson, The Land and the Book , ii. [1883] pp. 295–302, iii. [1886] p. 130 f.; Morris, Bible Natural History , 1896, pp. 211 f., 269 f.; Driver, Joel and Amos (Cambr. Bible for Schools), 1897, Excursus on Locusts, pp. 82–91; Tümpel, Die Geradflügler Mitteleuropas , 1901; F. H. Fabre, Souvenirs entomologiques , vi. pp. 196–212, 248–297.

Lucien Gautier.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

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,  Deuteronomy 28:38-42   1 Kings 8:37   2 Chronicles 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,  Exodus 10:4-19 . But the most particular description of this insect, and of its destructive career, in the sacred writings, is in  Joel 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  Joel 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,  Psalm 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,  Joel 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,  Joel 2:7 ."

The locust was a "clean" animal for the Jews,  Leviticus 11:22 , and might be used for food. In  Matthew 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  Revelation 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 hayhorses.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

(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):  Amos 7:1.  Nahum 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 ( Numbers 13:33;  Ecclesiastes 12:5);  Isaiah 40:22, "grasshopper," thus Gowb = Chagab . They all are Οrthoptera 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" ( Leviticus 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 ( Exodus 10:15;  Joel 2:3;  Joel 2:5;  Joel 2:10). 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" ( Leviticus 11:22) translate " Chargowl ," some kind of the locust or grasshopper " Saltatoria ", from the Arabic Hardjal "to leap." The Tsaltsal occurs only in  Deuteronomy 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):  Amos 4:9;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 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  Jeremiah 51:27 "the rough caterpillars" refer to the spinous nature of the tibiae) which is translated "caterpillar" also in  Psalms 105:34, elsewhere "cankerworm."

Locusts appear in swarms extending many miles and darkening the sunlight ( Joel 2:10); like horses, so that the Italians call them " Cavaletta ", "little horse" ( Joel 2:4-5;  Revelation 9:7;  Revelation 9:9); with a fearful noise; having no king ( Proverbs 30:27); impossible to withstand in their progress; entering dwellings ( Exodus 10:6;  Joel 2:8-10); not flying by night ( Nahum 3:17;  Exodus 10:13 "morning".) Birds, as the locust bird, which is thought to be the rose-colored starling, devour them; the sea destroys more ( Exodus 10:19). Their decaying bodies taint the air ( Joel 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]


(1) ’arbeh (root = ‘to multiply’) occurs more than 20 times; in   Judges 6:5;   Judges 7:12 ,   Job 39:20 , and   Jeremiah 46:23 it is, however, tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘grasshopper’ in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] .

(2) châgâb (tr. [Note: translate or translation.] AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘locust’ in   2 Chronicles 7:13 , elsewhere ‘grasshopper’), possibly a small locust: see   Leviticus 11:22 ,   Numbers 13:33 ,   Ecclesiastes 12:5 ,   Isaiah 40:22 .

(3) gçbîm (pl.),   Amos 7:1 , AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘grasshoppers,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘locusts,’ AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ‘green worms’; gôbai ,   Nahum 3:17 , AV [Note: Authorized Version.] great grasshoppers,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘swarms of grasshoppers.’

The remaining words are very uncertain. (4) gâzâm , tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘palmer worm’ ( i.e . caterpillar). (5) yeleq , tr. [Note: translate or translation.] (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) ‘ canker-worm .’ (6) châsîl , tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘ caterpillar .’ (  Joel 1:4;   Joel 2:25 etc.) may all be stages in the development of the locust, or they may, more probably, be some varieties of grasshoppers. (7) chargôl ,   Leviticus 11:22 (mistranslated in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘ beetle ’; RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ cricket ’), and (8) Sol‘âm ,   Leviticus 11:22 . (tr. [Note: translate or translation.] AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ bald locust ’), are also some varieties of locust or grasshopper (it is impossible to be certain of the varieties specified). (9) tsÄ›l âtsal ,   Deuteronomy 28:42 , from a root meaning ‘whirring,’ may refer to the cicada , which fills the countryside with its strident noise all through the hot summer.

Locusts and grasshoppers are included in the family Acrididæ . The latter are always plentiful, but the locusts fortunately do not appear in swarms, except at intervals of years. The most destructive kinds are Acridium peregrinum and Ædipoda migratoria . When they arrive in their countless millions, they darken the sky (  Exodus 10:15 ). The poetical description in   Joel 2:1-11 is full of faithful touches; particularly the extraordinary noise they make (v. 5) when they are all feeding together. Their voracious onslaught is referred to in   Isaiah 33:4 , and their sudden disappearance when they rise in clouds to seek new fields for destruction is mentioned in   Nahum 3:17 . They clear every green thing in their path (  Exodus 10:15 ). No more suitable figure can be conceived for an invading army (  Judges 6:5;   Judges 7:12 ,   Jeremiah 46:23 ). When, some forty years ago, the Anezi Bedouin from E. of the Jordan swarmed on to the Plain of Esdraelon, an eye-witness looking from Nazareth described the plain as stripped utterly bare, ‘just as if the locusts had been over it.’ When locusts are blown seaward, they fall into the water in vast numbers (  Exodus 10:19 ). The present writer has seen along the N. shore of the Dead Sea a continuous ridge of dead locusts washed up. The smell of piles of rotting locusts is intolerable. The feebleness and insignificance of these little insects, as viewed individually, are referred to in   Numbers 13:33 ,   Psalms 109:23 ,   Isaiah 40:22 . Locusts are still eaten (cf.   Matthew 3:4 ). See Food, 8 .

E. W. G. Masterman.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

ארבה . The word is probably derived from רבה , 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,   Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12;  Psalms 105:34;  Jeremiah 46:23;  Jeremiah 51:14;  Joel 1:4;  Nahum 3:15; Jdt_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,  Leviticus 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.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Locust. 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.  Exodus 10:15;  Judges 6:5;  Jeremiah 46:23. Their voracity is alluded to in  Exodus 10:12;  Exodus 10:15;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 1:7. They make a fearful noise in their flight.  Joel 2:5;  Revelation 9:9. Their irresistible progress is referred to in  Joel 2:8-9. They enter dwellings, and devour even the woodwork of houses.  Exodus 10:6;  Joel 2:9-10. They do not fly in the night.  Nahum 3:17. The sea destroys the greater number.  Exodus 10:19;  Joel 2:20.

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 comes, 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.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Matthew 3:4 Mark 1:6 Revelation 9:3,7

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 ( Exodus 10:15;  Judges 6:5;  7:12;  Jeremiah 46:23;  Joel 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' ( Joel 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 ( Joel 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 ( Exodus 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.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Locust. A well-known insect 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. Locusts occur in great numbers, and sometimes obscure the sun.  Exodus 10:15;  Judges 6:5;  Jeremiah 46:23. Their voracity is alluded to in  Exodus 10:12;  Exodus 10:15;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 1:7. They make a fearful noise in their flight.  Joel 2:5;  Revelation 9:9. Their irresistible progress is referred to in  Joel 2:8-9. They enter dwellings, and devour even the woodwork of houses.  Exodus 10:6;  Joel 2:9-10. They do not fly in the night.  Nahum 3:17. The sea destroys the greater number.  Exodus 10:19;  Joel 2:20. The flight of locusts is thus described: "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." Locusts have been used as food from the earliest times.  Leviticus 11:21-22;  Matthew 3:4;  Mark 1:6. Herodotus speaks of a Libyan nation who dried their locusts in the sun and ate them with milk. The more common method was to pull off the legs and wings and roast the bodies in an iron dish. Then they were thrown into a bag, and eaten like parched corn, each one taking a handful when he chose. Sometimes locusts 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; or stewed or fried in butter.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [9]

1: Ἀκρίς (Strong'S #200 — Noun Feminine — akris — ak-rece' )

occurs in  Matthew 3:4;  Mark 1:6 , of the animals themselves, as forming part of the diet of John the Baptist; they are used as food; the Arabs stew them with butter, after removing the head, legs and wings. In  Revelation 9:3,7 , they appear as monsters representing satanic agencies, let loose by Divine judgments inflicted upon men for five months, the time of the natural life of the "locust." For the character of the judgment see the whole passage.

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

Orthoptera Acrididae  Leviticus 11:21-22 Mark 1:6

The locust plague is used in the Bible as a symbol for what God's judgment will be like ( Joel 2:1 ,Joel 2:1, 2:11;  Revelation 9:3 ,Revelation 9:3, 9:7; compare  Exodus 10:3-20;  Deuteronomy 28:38 ). The image of the locust plague was also used to symbolize being overwhelmed by a large and powerful army ( Judges 6:5;  Isaiah 33:4;  Jeremiah 46:23;  Jeremiah 51:27;  Joel 2:20;  Nahum 3:15 ). Similar imagery is used in other Ancient Near Eastern literature.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [11]

 Psalm 109:23 (a) This is emblematic of the weakness and the helplessness of our blessed Lord as He was sent from one persecutor to another just as the wind blows the locusts about.

 Proverbs 30:27 (c) This is a figure used to illustrate the blessedness of mutual fellowship regardless of leadership. Also that the problems of life require united effort though there be no adequate leadership.

 Revelation 9:3 (c) Here we see a type of some form of curse which GOD will send upon the earth against His enemies.

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( n.) The locust tree. See Locust Tree (definition, note, and phrases).

(2): ( n.) Any one of numerous species of long-winged, migratory, orthopterous insects, of the family Acrididae, allied to the grasshoppers; esp., (Edipoda, / Pachytylus, migratoria, and Acridium perigrinum, of Southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the United States the related species with similar habits are usually called grasshoppers. See Grasshopper.

King James Dictionary [13]

LO'CUST, n. L. locusta. An insect of the genus Gryllus. These insects are at times so numerous in Africa and the S. of Asia as to devour every green thing, and when they migrate, they fly in an immense cloud.

LO'CUST, n. A name of several plants and trees as a species of Melianthus, and of Ceratonia.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

lō´kust  : The translation of a large number of Hebrew and Greek words:

1. Names:

(1) אתבּה , 'arbeh from the root רבה , rābhāh , "to increase" (compare Arabic raba' , "to increase"). (2) סלעם , sāl'ām , from obsolete root סלעם , ṣal'am , "to swallow down," "to consume." (3) חרגּל , ḥargōl (compare Arabic ḥarjal , "to run to the right or left," ḥarjalat , "a company of horses" or "a swarm of locusts," ḥarjawan , a kind of locust). (4) חגב , ḥāghābh (compare Arabic ḥajab , "to hide," "to cover"). (5) גּזם , gāzām (compare Arabic jazum , " to cut off") (6) ילק , yeleḳ , from the root לקק , lāḳaḳ "to lick" (compare Arabic laḳlaḳ , "to dart out the tongue" (used of a serpent)). (7) חסיל , ḥāṣı̄l , from the root חסל , ḥaṣāl , "to devour" (compare Arabic ḥauṣal , "crop" (of a bird)). (8) גּוב , gōbh , from the obsolete root גּבה , gābhāh (compare Arabic jâbı̂ , "locust," from the root jaba' , "to come out of a hole"). (9) גּב , gēbh , from same root. (10) צלצל , celācal from root צלל , cālal (onomatopoetic), "to tinkle," "to ring" (compare Arabic ṣall , "to give a ringing sound" (used of a horse's bit); compare also Arabic ṭann , used of the sound of a drum or piece of metal, also of the humming of flies). (11) ἀκρίς , akrı́s (genitive ἀκρίδος , akrı́dos  ; diminutive ἀκρίδιον , akrı́dion , whence Acridium , a genus of locusts).

2. Identifications:

(1), (2), (3) and (4) constitute the list of clean insects in  Leviticus 11:21 f, characterized as "winged creeping things that go upon all fours, which have legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth." This manifestly refers to jumping insects of the order Orthoptera , such as locusts, grasshoppers and crickets, and is in contrast to the unclean "winged creeping things that go upon all fours," which may be taken to denote running Orthoptera , such as cockroaches, mole-crickets and ear-wigs, as well as insects of other orders.

'Arbeh (1) is uniformly translated "locust" in the Revised Version (British and American). the King James Version has usually "locust," but "grasshopper" in   Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12;  Job 39:20;  Jeremiah 46:23 . Septuagint has usually ἀκρίς , akrı́s , "locust"; but has βροῦχος , broúchos , "wingless locust," in  Leviticus 11:22;  1 Kings 8:37 ( akris in the parallel passage,  2 Chronicles 6:28 );  Nahum 3:15; and ἀττέλεβος , attélebos , "wingless locust," in  Nahum 3:17 . 'Arbeh occurs (Ex 10:4-19) in the account of the plague of locusts; in the phrase "as locusts for multitude" ( Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12 ); "more than the locusts ... innumerable" ( Jeremiah 46:23 );

"The locusts have no king,

Yet go they forth all of them by bands" ( Proverbs 30:27 ).

'Arbeh is referred to as a plague in   Deuteronomy 28:38;  1 Kings 8:37;  2 Chronicles 6:28;  Psalm 78:46; in Joel and in Nahum. These references, together with the fact that it is the most used word, occurring 24 times, warrant us in assuming it to be one of the swarming species, i.e. Pachtylus migratorius or Schistocerca peregrina , which from time to time devastate large regions in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

Ṣāl‛ām (2), English Versions of the Bible "bald locust," occurs only in   Leviticus 11:22 . According to Tristram, NBH , the name "bald locust" was given because it is said in the Talmud to have a smooth head. It has been thought to be one of the genus Tryxalis ( T. unguiculata or T. nasuta ), in which the head is greatly elongated.

Ḥargōl (3), the King James Version "beetle," the Revised Version (British and American) "cricket," being one of the leaping insects, cannot be a beetle. It might be a cricket, but comparison with the Arabic (see supra ) favors a locust of some sort. The word occurs only in   Leviticus 11:22 . See Beetle .

Hāghābh (4) is one of the clean leaping insects of   Leviticus 11:22 (English Versions of the Bible "grasshopper"). The word occurs in four other places, nowhere coupled with the name of another insect. In the report of the spies (  Numbers 13:33 ), we have the expression, "We were in our own sight as grasshoppers"; in  Ecclesiastes 12:5 , "The grasshopper shall be a burden"; in  Isaiah 40:22 , "It is he that sitteth above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers." These three passages distinctly favor the rendering "grasshopper" of the English Versions of the Bible. In the remaining passage ( 2 Chronicles 7:13 ), "...if I command the locust (English Versions) to devour the land," the migratory locust seems to be referred to. Doubtless this as well as other words was loosely used. In English there is no sharp distinction between the words "grasshopper" and "locust."

The migratory locusts belong to the family Acridiidae , distinguished by short, thick antennae, and by having the organs of hearing at the base of the abdomen. The insects of the family Locustidae are commonly called "grasshoppers," but the same name is applied to those Acridiidae which are not found in swarms. The Locustidae have long, thin antennae, organs of hearing on the tibiae of the front legs, and the females have long ovipositors. It may be noted that the insect known in America as the seventeen-year locust, which occasionally does extensive damage to trees by laying its eggs in the twigs, is a totally different insect, being a Cicada of the order Rhynchota . Species of Cicada are found in Palestine, but are not considered harmful.

The Book of Joel is largely occupied with the description of a plague of locusts. Commentators differ as to whether it should be interpreted literally or allegorically (see Joel ). Four names 'arbeh (1), gāzām (5), yeleḳ (6) and ḥāṣı̄l (7), are found in   Joel 1:4 and again in   Joel 2:25 .

For the etymology of these names, see 1 above. Gāzām (  Amos 4:9;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25 ) is in the Revised Version (British and American) uniformly translated "palmer-worm" Septuagint κάμπη , kámpē , "caterpillar"). Ḥāṣı̄l in the Revised Version (British and American) ( 1 Kings 8:37;  2 Chronicles 6:28;  Psalm 78:46;  Isaiah 23:4;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25 ) is uniformly translated "caterpillar." The Septuagint has indifferently brouchos , "wingless locust," and ἐρυσίβη , erusı́bē , "rust" (of wheat). Yeleḳ ( Psalm 105:34;  Jeremiah 51:14 ,  Jeremiah 51:27;  Joel 1:4;  Joel 2:25;  Nahum 3:15 ,  Nahum 3:16 ) is everywhere "canker-worm" in the Revised Version (British and American), except in  Psalm 105:34 , where the American Standard Revised Version has "grasshopper." the King James Version has "caterpillar" in Psalms and Jeremiah and "canker-worm" in Joel and Nahum. Septuagint has indifferently akris and brouchos . "Palmerworm" and "canker-worm" are both Old English terms for caterpillars, which are strictly the larvae of lepidopterous insects, i.e. butterflies and moths.

While these four words occur in  Joel 1:4 and   Joel 2:25 , a consideration of the book as a whole does not show that the ravages of four different insect pests are referred to, but rather a single one, and that the locust. These words may therefore be regarded as different names of the locust, referring to different stages of development of the insect. It is true that the words do not occur in quite the same order in 14 and in  Joel 2:25 , but while the former verse indicates a definite succession, the latter does not. If, therefore, all four words refer to the locust, "palmer-worm," "canker-worm," "caterpillar" and the Septuagint erusibē , "rust," are obviously inappropriate.

Gōbh (8) is found in the difficult passage (  Amos 7:1 ), "...He formed locusts (the King James Version "grasshoppers," the King James Version margin "green worms," Septuagint akris ) in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth"; and ( Nahum 3:17 ) in "...thy marshals (are) as the swarms of grasshoppers (Hebrew gōbh gōbhay  ; the King James Version "great grasshoppers"), which encamp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are." The related gēbh (9) occurs but once, in  Isaiah 33:4 , also a disputed passage, "And your spoil shall be gathered as the caterpillar ( ḥāṣı̄l ) gathereth: as locusts ( gēbhı̄m ) leap shall men leap upon it." It is impossible to determine what species is meant, but some kind of locust or grasshopper fits any of these passages.

In  Deuteronomy 28:42 , "All thy trees and the fruit of thy ground shall the locust (English Versions of the Bible) possess," we have (10) celācal , Septuagint erusibē ). The same word is translated in  2 Samuel 6:5 and   Psalm 150:5 bis "cymbals," in   Job 41:7 "fish-spears," and in   Isaiah 18:1 "rustling." As stated in 1, above, it is an onomatopoetic word, and in   Deuteronomy 28:42 may well refer to the noise of the wings of a flight of locusts.

In the New Testament we have (11) akris , "locust," the food of John the Baptist (  Matthew 3:4;  Mark 1:6 ); the same word is used figuratively in  Revelation 9:3 ,  Revelation 9:1; and also in the Apocrypha (Judith 2:20; The Wisdom of Solomon 16:9; and see 2 Esdras 4:24).

3. Habits:

The swarms of locusts are composed of countless individuals. The statements sometimes made that they darken the sky must not be taken too literally. They do not produce darkness, but their effect may be like that of a thick cloud. Their movements are largely determined by the wind, and while fields that are in their path may be laid waste, others at one side may not be affected. It is possible by vigorous waving to keep a given tract clear of them, but usually enough men cannot be found to protect the fields from their ravages.

Large birds have been known to pass through a flight of locusts with open mouths, filling their crops with the insects. Tristram, Nhb , relates how he saw the fishes in the Jordan enjoying a similar feast, as the locusts fell into the stream. The female locust, by means of the ovipositor at the end of her abdomen, digs a hole in the ground, and deposits in it a mass of eggs, which are cemented together with a glandular secretion. An effective way of dealing with the locusts is to gather and destroy these egg-masses, and it is customary for the local governments to offer a substantial reward for a measure of eggs. The young before they can fly are frequently swept into pits or ditches dug for the purpose and are burned.

The young are of the same general shape as the adult insects, differing in being small, black and wingless. The three distinct stages in the metamorphosis of butterflies and others of the higher insects are not to be distinguished in locusts. They molt about six times, emerging from each molt larger than before. At first there are no wings. After several molts, small and useless wings are found, but it is only after the last molt that the insects are able to fly. In the early molts the tiny black nymphs are found in patches on the ground, hopping out of the way when disturbed. Later they run, until they are able to fly.

In all stages they are destructive to vegetation. Some remarkable pictures of their ravages are found in  Joel 1:6 ,  Joel 1:7 , "For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number; his teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the jaw-teeth of a lioness. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my figtree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white" (see also  Joel 2:2-9 ,  Joel 2:20 ).

4. Figurative:

Locusts are instruments of the wrath of God ( Exodus 10:4-19;  Deuteronomy 28:38 ,  Deuteronomy 28:42;  2 Chronicles 7:13;  Psalm 78:46;  Psalm 105:34;  Nahum 3:15-17; The Wisdom of Solomon 16:9;  Revelation 9:3 ); they typify an invading army ( Jeremiah 51:14 ,  Jeremiah 51:27 ); they are compared with horses ( Joel 2:4;  Revelation 9:7 ); in  Job 39:20 , Yahweh says of the horse: "Hast thou made him to leap as a locust?" the King James Version "Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper?" Locusts are among the "four things which are little upon the earth, but ... are exceeding wise" ( Proverbs 30:27 ). Like the stars and sands of the sea, locusts are a type of that which cannot be numbered ( Judges 6:5;  Judges 7:12;  Jeremiah 46:23; Judith 2:20). Grasshoppers are a symbol of insignificance ( Numbers 13:33;  Ecclesiastes 12:5;  Isaiah 40:22; 2 Esdras 4:24).

5. Locusts as Food:

The Arabs prepare for food the thorax of the locust, which contains the great wing muscles. They pull off the head, which as it comes away brings with it a mass of the viscera, and they remove the abdomen (or "tail"), the legs and the wings. The thoraxes, if not at once eaten, are dried and put away as a store of food for a lean season. The idea of feeding upon locusts when prepared in this way should not be so repellent as the thought of eating the whole insect. In the light of this it is not incredible that the food of John the Baptist should have been "locusts and wild honey" ( Matthew 3:4 ). See Insects .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Locust'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

There are ten Hebrew words which appear to signify 'locust' in the Old Testament. It has been supposed, however, that some of these words denote merely the different states through which the locust passes after leaving the egg, viz. the larva, the pupa, and the perfect insect—all which much resemble each other, except that the larva has no wings, and that the pupa possesses only the rudiments of those members, which are fully developed only in the adult locust (Michaelis, Supplem. ad Lex. Hebr. ii. 667, 1080). But this supposition is manifestly wrong with regard to four of the terms, because, in , the word 'after his kind,' or species, is added after each of them (comp. ). It is most probable, therefore, that all the rest are also the names of species, but we know not how to distinguish the several species from each other.

Locusts, like many other of the general provisions of nature, may occasion incidental and partial evil; but upon the whole they are an immense benefit to those portions of the world which they inhabit; and so connected is the chain of being that we may safely believe that the advantage is not confined to those regions. 'They clear the way for the renovation of vegetable productions which are in danger of being destroyed by the exuberance of some particular species, and are thus fulfilling the law of the Creator, that of all which he has made should nothing be lost. A region which has been choked up by shrubs and perennial plants and hard half-withered unpalatable grasses, after having been laid bare by these scourges, soon appears in a far more beautiful dress, with new herbs, superb lilies, fresh annual grasses, and young and juicy shrubs of perennial kinds, affording delicious herbage for the wild cattle and game.' Meanwhile their excessive multiplication is repressed by numerous causes. Contrary to the order of nature with all other insects, the males are far more numerous than the females. It is believed that if they were equal in number they would in ten years annihilate the vegetable system. Besides all the creatures that feed upon them, rains are very destructive to their eggs, to the larvae, pupa, and perfect insect. When perfect, they always fly with the wind, and are therefore constantly being carried out to sea, and often ignorantly descend upon it as if upon land. Myriads are thus lost in the ocean every year, and become the food of fishes. On land they afford in all their several states sustenance to countless tribes of birds, beasts, reptiles, etc.; and if their office as the scavengers of nature, commissioned to remove all superfluous productions from the face of the earth, sometimes incidentally and as the operation of a general law, interferes with the labors of man, as do storms, tempests, etc., they have, from all antiquity to the present hour, afforded him an excellent supply till the land acquires the benefit of their visitations, by yielding him in the meantime an agreeable, wholesome, and nutritious aliment. They are eaten as meat, are ground into flour, and made into bread. They are even an extensive article of commerce. Diodorus Siculus mentions a people of Ethiopia who were so fond of eating them that they were called Acridophagi, 'eaters of locusts.' Whole armies have been relieved by them when in danger of perishing. Their great flights occur only every fourth or fifth season. Those locusts which come in the first instance only fix on trees, and do not destroy grain: it is the young before they are able to fly which are chiefly injurious to the crops. Nor do all the species feed upon vegetables; one, comprehending many varieties, the truxalis, feeds upon insects. Latreille says the house-cricket will do so. 'Locusts,' remarks a very sensible tourist, 'seem to devour not so much from a ravenous appetite as from a rage for destroying.' Destruction, therefore, and not food, is the chief impulse of their devastations, and in this consists their utility; they are in fact omnivorous. The most poisonous plants are indifferent to them; they will prey even upon the crowfoot, whose causticity burns the very hides of beasts. They simply consume everything without predilection, vegetable matter, linen, woolen, silk, leather, etc.; and Pliny does not exaggerate when he says, 'and even the doors of houses,' for they have been known to consume the very varnish of furniture. They reduce everything indiscriminately to shreds, which become manure. It might serve to mitigate popular misapprehensions on the subject to consider what would have been the consequence if locusts had been carnivorous like wasps. All terrestrial beings, in such a case, not excluding man himself, would have become their victims. There are, no doubt, many things respecting them yet unknown to us which would still further justify the belief that this, like 'every' other 'work of God is good'—benevolent upon the whole.