What are Locust?
, 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.