locust Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
locust in Easton's Bible Dictionary
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 (Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6). By the
Mosaic law they were reckoned "clean," so that he could lawfully
eat them. The name also occurs in Rev. 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
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; Judg. 6:5; 7:12; Jer. 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 (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.
locust in Smith's Bible Dictionary
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. #Ex 10:15; Jud 6:5; Jer 46:23| Their voracity is alluded to in #Ex 10:12,15; Joe 1:4,7| They make a fearful noise in their flight. #Joe 2:5; Re 9:9| Their irresistible progress is referred to in #Joe 2:8,9| They enter dwellings, and devour even the woodwork of houses. #Ex 10:6; Joe 2:9,10| They do not fly in the night. #Na 3:17| The sea destroys the greater number. #Ex 10:19; Joe 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 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 in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
LO'CUST , an insect of the grasshopper family, remarkable for numbers and voracity, and hence one of the most dreadful scourges of Eastern countries. Locusts, when mature, can fly to a considerable height, and, occasionally alighting for food and rest, they are often borne by the wind hundreds of miles. There are many species of these insects found in the United States, but none precisely such as live in the Orient. The locusts most destructive and doubtless ordinarily referred to by the Bible are of two kinds, Acrydium peregrinum and OEclipoda migratoria. In our English Bible seven terms probably describe this insect or allied species -- viz., locust, bald locust, beetle, canker-worm, caterpillar, grasshopper, palmer-worm. These seven terms are made to translate nine Hebrew names. The confusion of the entire subject may be seen by the fact that "locust" represents four original words, "grasshopper" two, and "caterpillar" two, while two original words have each a twofold translation. Doubtless the Jews themselves applied some of these terms as loosely and widely as we do such a word as "worm." It is probable that several of the seven names mentioned describe locusts in their immature state. After leaving the egg this insect passes through changes answering to those of the butterfly, but is never dormant as a chrysalis. From first to last it is voracious, but when it is mature and can fly, it lays its eggs and drifts away in vast clouds, perhaps to perish in the ocean. The locusts which the writer saw devastating portions of Syria were fully three inches long when their wings were closed. Lev 11:22 describes four distinct insects of the locust order. "Beetle" is plainly a mistranslation for some one of these leapers, since what Locusts. 1. Truxalis. 2. Acridum peregrinum. 3. OEdipoda migratoria. (After Tristram.) ever only crept and flew might not be eaten, Lev 11:21, Heb 12:23. Joel 1:4, probably names, as has been suggested, four different kinds of locust or stages of its growth. These insects were often the instruments of divine judgment. Ex 10:4-15; Deut 28:38-42; 1 Kgs 8:37; Joel 2:1-11. The last-named passage gives a most vivid and accurate description of this fearful visitation. As locusts enter Palestine from the south or east, the "northern army," Joel 2:20, probably describes, under the figure of locusts, the Assyrians, who entered the land in similar swarms, but from a different quarter. The account in Joel 2 is illustrated by the following extract from the journal of an Eastern traveller: "The locusts, properly so called, which are so frequently mentioned by sacred as well as profane authors, are sometimes gregarious beyond expression. 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 toward the latter 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, 'the sun . . . shall be dark.' 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, when the ovaries of these insects were ripe and turgid, each of these swarms began gradually to disappear, and retired into the Metijiah and other adjacent plains, where they deposited Locust Flying. their eggs. These were no sooner hatched, in June, than each of the broods collected itself into a compact body of an eighth of a mile square, and, marching afterward directly forward toward the sea, they let nothing escape them, eating up everything that was green and juicy, not only the lesser kinds of vegetables, but 'the vine' likewise, 'the fig tree, . . . the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field,' Joel 1:11-12; in doing which, they 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, whilst the front was regardless 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.'" Van Lennep says:" The ground over which their devastating hordes have passed at once assumes an appearance of sterility and dearth. Well did the Romans call them 'the burners of the land,' which is the literal meaning of our word 'locust.' On they move, covering the ground so completely as to hide it from sight, and in such numbers that it often takes three or four days for the mighty host to pass by. When seen at a distance this swarm of advancing locusts resembles a cloud of dust or sand, reaching a few feet above the ground as the myriads of insects leap forward. The only thing that momentarily arrests their progress is a sudden change of weather, for cold benumbs them while it lasts. They also keep quiet at night, swarming like bees on the bushes and hedges until the morning sun warms and revives them and enables them to proceed on their devastating march. Nah 3:17. They 'have no king' nor leader, yet they falter not, but press on in serried ranks, urged in the same direction by an irresistible impulse, and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left for any sort of obstacle. Prov 30:27. When a wall or a house lies in their way they climb straight up, going over the roof to the other side, and blindly rush in at the open doors and windows. Ex 10:6; Joel 2:9. When they come to water, be it a mere puddle or a river, a lake or the open sea, they never attempt to go round it, but unhesitatingly leap in and are drowned; and their dead bodies, floating on the surface, form a bridge for their companions to pass over. The scourge thus often comes to an end, but it as often happens that the decomposition of millions of insects produces pestilence and death. Joel 2:20. History records a remarkable instance which occurred in the year 125 before the Christian era. The insects were driven by the wind into the sea in such vast numbers that their bodies, being driven back by the tide upon the land, caused a stench, which produced a fearful plague, whereby 80,000 persons perished in Libya, Cyrene, and Egypt. "The locust, however, soon acquires its wings, and proceeds on its way by flight whenever a strong breeze favors its progress. Our attention has often been attracted by the sudden darkening of the sun in a summer sky, accompanied by the peculiar noise which a swarm of locusts always makes moving through the air, and, glancing upward, we have seen them passing like a cloud at a height of 200 or 300 feet. Joel 2:10. Some of them are constantly dropping to the earth, and, after resting a while, are driven by a common impulse to rise again and proceed with the wind; so that, besides the principal cloud, single locusts or a few together may be seen in almost every part of the sky. During a great flight they sometimes drop so thickly upon the ground that it is impossible to step without treading upon some of them, and the poor villagers, in consternation, busy themselves kindling fires, whose smoke serves to prevent the locusts from alighting upon their fields, orchards, or vineyards. The people of Syria believe noise to be as effectual in driving away locusts as in attracting a swarm of bees; hence, upon the appearance of a flight of these dreaded insects the inhabitants of the villages, men, women, and children, rush out, armed with any tin or copper pans or kettles or rattles they can lay hold of, and strive, by their deafening shouts and din, Jer 51:14, to scare the unwelcome visitors away." Some species of the locust are eaten at this day in Eastern countries, and are even esteemed a delicacy when properly cooked. Lev 11:22; Matt 3:4. After tearing off the legs and wings and taking out the entrails, they stick them in long rows upon wooden spits, roast them at the fire, and then proceed to devour them with great zest. There are also other ways of preparing them. For example, they cook them and dress them in oil, or, having dried them, they pulverize them, and when other food is scarce make bread of the meal. The Bedouins pack them with salt in close masses, which they carry in their leathern sacks. From these they cut slices as they may need them. When the Arabs have them in quantities, they roast or dry them in an oven or boil them and eat them with salt. The Arabs in the kingdom of Morocco boil the locusts, and the Bedouins 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. They are never served up as a dish, but every one takes a handful of them when hungry. The food of John the Baptist consisted of such dried locusts, and not of the fruit of the carob tree. See Husks. In the book of Revelation, Rev 9:7, we have a literal description of the symbolical locust, which gives us a terrific impression of their power, and which is curiously illustrated by a passage from an Eastern traveller. An Arab from Bagdad, he says, compared 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; and so of other parts. In like manner the Italians still call locusts little horses, and the Germans call them hayhorses.
locust in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(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 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" (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 2:3,5,10). 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" (Leviticus 11:22) translate " chargowl ," some kind of the lo cust 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; 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
Psalm 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 9:7,9); 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 (verse
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.