LOCUST: A common and familiar insect of the East. Locusts are counted among the small winged animals which "go upon all four" and were all regarded as unclean, with the exception of those which had two hind legs projecting above their feet "to leap withal upon the earth" (Lev. xi. 21-22). These legs for leaping are a characteristic of the locust, while other marks are a head set at right angles with the body, armed with strong mandibles and having two antennae, large eyes, and a body formed of nine annulets. The four wings are of nearly equal length, but the rear ones are considerably broader than those in front. The female with her ovipositor thrusts the eggs, after they are fertilized, into the loose earth. In the spring, when the sun warms the ground, the larvae creep out, greenish white or black, small as flies, in shape like the full-grown locusts, only without external sexual organs. They cast their skin four times; after the third casting the sexual parts appear and after the fourth the insects are able to fly. In Syria locusts begin to breed by the middle of April.

The two species which are moat common in Syria (Aeridium Peregrinum and (Edipoda migratoria) are particularly dreaded on account of their voracity and their great numbers. When the desert winds drive the immense swarms through the air (Ex. x. 13; Prov. xxx. 27) they darken the sun like heavy clouds and the rattling of their wings sounds like the noise of chariots (Joel ii. 2, 5; Rev. ix. 9). Wherever they settle down, the verdure immediately disappears, even the Garden of Eden becomes a desert (Joel ii. 3). Those which are not yet winged crawl on the ground and no obstacle can stop them or divert them from the path they have chosen (Ex. x. 6; Joel ii. 7, 9). Broad ditches and large fires avail little to destroy the swarms, and even the red-hawk and the rosy grackle (turdus roseus), which fly along with them and devour many, scarcely lessen the swarms. Rain is their most dangerous enemy, as it destroys their eggs, and a severe storm does away with them altogether by sweeping them into the sea (Ex. x. 19; Joel ii. 20).

Locusts were looked upon as clean according to Lev. xi. 22, and they were eaten by the poor as they are today by the Bedouins (cf. Matt. iii. 4; Mark i. 5). By the Assyrians they were regarded as a delicacy. They are often mentioned in the Old Testament as a type of an enormous multitude (Judges vi. 5; Jer. xlvi. 23; Nah. iii. 15; Eccles. xliii. 17); of littleness, unimportance, and transitoriness (Num, xiii. 33; Ps. cix. 23; Isa. xl. 22; Nah. iii. 17); of greed (Deut. xxviii. 38; Isa. xxxiii. 4), and of destruction (Amos vii. 1). Their advancing in bands is described in Prov. xxx. 27; in their leaping and in their appearance they are. compared to horses (Joel ii. 4; Rev. ix. 7). A plague of grasshoppers was one of the most dreadful judgments of God (Deut. xxviii. 38; I Kings viii. 37; Amos iv. 9). A highly poetical description of a swarm of locusts and the destruction and waste they left behind them is given by Joel (chaps. i.-ii).

The Old Testament has many names to designate locusts. The one most generally used, 'arbeh, is a generic name (cf. Ex. x. 4 sqq.) as well as the name of a particular species, probably the flying, migratory locust (gryllus migratorius), which is said to bear this name in Bagdad at the present day. In Lev. xi. 22, sal'am, hargal, and haghabh are named as different species; haghabh, however, seems to be also a common designation. The names in Joel (i. 4, ii. 25) are popular expressions (cf. hasil, " the devourer," Deut. xxviii. 38; Pa. lxxviii. 46) which serve everywhere as general designations (Jer. li. 27; Amos iv. 9; Nah. iii. 16). To these may be added gebh and gobh (Isa. xxxiii. 4; Amos vii. 1; Nah. iii. 17)--an exceptional wealth of synonyms easily understood from the great part the locust played everywhere in the land. Some of these synonyms may have had their origin in the various dialects of the country.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Bochart, Hierozoicore, II, iv. 1, 3 vols., Leipsic, 1793-96; J. L. Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabis, London, 1830; H. B. Tristram, Natural Hist.of the Bible, dpp. 306 eqq., ib. 1880; A. Munro, The Locust Plague and its Suppression, ib. 1900; DB, iii. 130-131; EB, iii, 2807-10; JE, viii. 147; and the commentaries on Leviticus at xi. 22, and on Joel, particularly that by Driver, in the Cambridge Bible, containing an excursus on locusts and giving the literature.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 10/03/03. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely