LOCUST. Nine Heb. words are tr. locust in one or other Eng. VS, as follows:
(1) אַרְבֶּה, H746, from רָבָה, H8049, to multiply. Locust most Eng. VSS; grasshopper, also swarming locust (
(2) סָלְעָם, H6155. Bald locust all Eng. VSS (
(3) חַרְגֹּל, H3005. Beetle KJV; Cricket RSV, (
(4) חָגָב, H2506. Cf. to hide (?) the sun. Tr. grasshopper most Eng. VSS; locust once only (
(5) גֹ֣וב. A swarm (
(6) גָּזָם, H1612. To cut off, palmerworm (
(7) יֶ֫לֶק, H3540. To lick, cankerworm (
(8) חָסִיל, H2885. To consume. Caterpillar (
(9) צְלָצַל, H7526. To whirr. Locust, all Eng. VSS,
Only one Gr. word is used ἀκρίς, G210, locust.
Difficulty of identifying species.
This rich vocabulary is evidence of the importance of these insects in the life of the Israelites. Including the four NT references, these words occur some fifty-six times, and it is generally agreed that they all refer to one or other kind or species of locust. They are found in many different books and contexts, yet these provide little incidental information. No. 4 could be an exception; tr. “grasshopper” four times and “locust” once, it is used three times as a measure of smallness; e.g.
Are Hebrew names species or phases?
From the list in
Description of locust family.
In Europe locusts are often the larger members of the family and grasshoppers the smaller, but the criterion is sometimes that locusts swarm and migrate, while grasshoppers are more or less solitary. In America the connotation is different and the words are nearly interchangeable; even cicadas, of another insect order, may be called locusts. The name strictly belongs to a number of large insects of the family Acridiidae (Gr. ἀκρίς, G210) of the order Orthoptera—straight-winged. The main characteristic of locusts is that from time to time they multiply at a frightening rate and move in huge swarms, often over great distances. Their antennae are short and the female has a short, stubby ovipositor. Locusts are entirely vegetarian, which is a reason why they were allowed the Israelites as food, and they eat a wide range of green stuff. Much research work has been done on this major pest and it is now known that all locusts exist in two phases, solitary and gregarious, with intermediate forms. These differ in appearance, and within each phase there is variation in color, size and proportions. Swarming is in part a physiological response to conditions and is a way of colonizing new areas.
Species now found in Palestine.
The Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria), in many races, is found in most warm parts of the world except America. The other two likely to do damage in Pal. are the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) and the Moroccan Locust (Dociostaurus maroccanus). Eggs are laid in small packets near the surface of the soil; hatching sometimes depends on moisture, and the eggs of some species, e.g. S. African Brown Locust can survive for three and one half years in dry ground, but hatch in ten days if the soil is damp. The young that emerge have the same general shape as adults, but no wings, and they pass through five or six moults, growing larger after each and gradually acquiring wings. The narrow forewings are like parchment, while the hind-wings, which are folded like a fan when at rest, are broad and membranous, sometimes with a color pattern.
In their early stages locusts move only by crawling or hopping, being known as hoppers. These are less mobile and thus easier to destroy, and control organizations aim at forecasting swarm formation and movement in order to do this. Many swarms fly out to sea or into true desert and so destroy themselves. Numbers can be astronomical; a Desert Locust swarm that crossed the Red Sea in 1889 was estimated to cover 2,000 square m. Such swarms are like dark clouds and contain countless millions. Wind is the main factor in determining the direction taken by a swarm. Locusts usually approach Pal. from the Arabian deserts to the SE, but they may also come from other directions. Locusts have always been a scourge, esp. in the Middle E, but modern materials, and communications based on a degree of co-operation rare in that area, have greatly reduced the damage done annually.
Locusts in the Bible narrative.
Locusts appear mainly in three settings:
a. The cause of the eighth plague, nine times.
b. A destroyer, both literal and fig. (twenty-five times).
c. A source of human food (six times).
The remaining sixteen occurrences are in a variety of contexts, mostly fig., some of which have already been mentioned.
This tr. is amply confirmed by the details in the narrative (
As a destroyer.
From antiquity the locust has been almost synonymous with destruction.
As food permitted to Hebrews.
The regulations about food in Mosaic law were not arbitrary rules such as one finds in food taboos among primitive tribes today, but divinely inspired keys for easy recognition of safe and harmful kinds. Where distinction was hard, the good was forbidden along with the bad.
Value of locusts as human food.
Except for termites in some areas, locusts are more important than any other insect as a source of food, and they have been used as such since antiquity. Stone carvings in the palace of Ashurbanipal (8th cent. b.c.) show locusts on sticks being carried to a royal banquet. Diodorus of Sicily (2nd cent. b.c.) (Historia III. 2) among other Gr. historians, refers to Acridiphagi, or locust-eaters, of Ethiopia. Locusts are permitted food for Muslims and tradition has it that Mohammed himself used to eat them. Some African tribes still largely depend on locusts for their protein for much of the year; after eating as many as possible roasted and boiled they preserve large quantities by drying or grinding into flour. Until recent years, and perhaps now, the nomads of Algeria tried to store about 450 lbs. per tent. The recent influx of oil wealth into N Africa and other Arab lands is changing many old habits but in poorer areas locusts are still a welcome and valuable addition to an often marginal diet. It is not stated directly that the Israelites ate locusts in the desert, but this can reasonably be assumed. The food laws were first given at Sinai, early in the journey, and, as for locusts, this permission prob. codified a practice of long standing. Their routes must have crossed the lines taken by many swarms, and though the desert would offer no green food at most seasons, locusts cannot fly indefinitely and would be compelled to land at intervals, thus coming within reach of the travelers. Locusts are a useful source of protein, fat and calories; they also have a fair amount of mineral salts, but are not rich in vitamins. Dried locusts contain more than fifty per cent protein and a variable amount of fat—up to twenty percent. When was reported to be living on “locusts and wild honey” (
H. B. Tristram, Theof the Bible 9th ed. (1898), 306-318; F. S. Bodenheimer, Insects as Human Food (1951); P. Pesson, The World of Insects (1959).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
lo’-kust: The translation of a large number of Hebrew and Greek words:
(1) ’arbeh from the root rabhah, "to increase" (compare Arabic raba’, "to increase").
(2) sal`am, from obsolete [?] cal`am, "to swallow down," "to consume."
(3) chargol (compare Arabic charjal, "to run to the right or left," charjalat, "a company of horses" or "a swarm of locusts," charjawan, a kind of locust).
(4) chaghabh (compare Arabic chajab, "to hide," "to cover").
(5) gazam (compare Arabic jazum, " to cut off")
(6) yeleq, from the root laqaq "to lick" (compare Arabic laqlaq, "to dart out the tongue" (used of a serpent)).
(7) chacil, from the root chacal, "to devour" (compare Arabic chaucal, "crop" (of a bird)).
(8) gobh, from the obsolete root gabhah (compare Arabic jabi, "locust," from the root jaba’, "to come out of a hole").
(9) gebh, from same root.
(10) tselatsal from [?] tsalal (onomatopoetic), "to tinkle," "to ring" (compare Arabic call, "to give a ringing sound" (used of a horse’s bit); compare also Arabic Tann, used of the sound of a drum or piece of metal, also of the humming of flies).
(11) akris (genitive akridos; diminutive akridion, whence Acridium, a genus of locusts).
(1), (2), (3) and (4) constitute the list of clean insects in
"The locusts have no king,
Yet go they forth all of them by bands" (
’Arbeh is referred to as a plague in
Chargol (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
Haghabh (4) is one of the clean leaping insects of
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 Joe 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), gazam (5), yeleq (6) and chacil (7), are found in
While these four words occur in
Gobh (8) is found in the difficult passage (
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
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" (