Sermon Illustrations

THE LOCUST PLAGUE DESCRIBED

The judgment in the book of Joel centers on the warning of a plague of locusts. Now you may think, "Ah, little grasshoppers. Not much of a problem, eh." History records a similar event. Let me read to you:

In 1915 a plague of locusts covered Palestine and Syria from the border of Egypt to the Taurus Mountains. The first swarms appeared in March. These were adult locusts that came from the northeast and moved toward the southwest in clouds so thick they obscured the sun. The females were 2.5 to 3 inches long, and they immediately began to lay eggs by digging holes in the soil about four inches deep and depositing about 100 eggs in each. The eggs were neatly arranged in a cylindrical mass about one inch long and about thick as a pencil. These holes were everywhere. Witnesses estimated that as many as 65,000-75,000 eggs were concentrated in a single square meter of soil, and patches like this covered the entire land from north to south. Having laid their eggs the locusts flew away.

Within a few weeks the young locusts hatched. These resembled large ants. They had no wings, and within a few days they began moving forward by hopping along the ground like fleas. They would cover four to six hundred feet a day, devouring any vegetation before them. By the end of May they had molted. In this stage they had wings, but they still did not fly. Instead they moved forward by walking, jumping only when they were frightened. They were bright yellow. Finally the locusts molted again, this time becoming the fully developed adults that had invaded the land initially.

According to a description of this plague by John D. Whiting in the December 1915 issue of National Geographic Magazine, the earlier stages of these insects attacked the vineyards. "Once entering a vineyard the sprawling vines would in the shortest time be nothing but bare bark. When the daintier morsels were gone, the bark was eaten off the young topmost branches, which, after exposure to the sun, were bleached snow-white. Then seemingly out of malice, they would gnaw off small limbs, perhaps to get at the pith within."

Whiting describes how the locusts of the last stage completed the destruction begun by the earlier form. "They attacked the olive trees, whose tough, bitter leaves had been passed over by the creeping locusts. They stripped every leaf, berry, and even the tender bark." They ate away "layer after layer" of the cactus plants, "giving the leaves the effect of having been jackplaned. Even on the scare and prized palms they had no pity, gnawing off the tenderer ends of the sword like branches and, diving deep into the heart, they tunneled after the juicy pith."

(From "The minor prophets" Vol 1 by James Montgomery Boice, "Joel")

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