Summary: What an incredible creature, the locust. How has God used it to judge those who needed it?
JOEL, JOHN, and the COMING LOCUSTS
A. LOCUSTS in our Earth and in History
Locusts have a locally prominent place in Scripture. You’ll see them at the beginning of the Bible story, a little past the middle, and at the end. When they show up, they take over the text, as in real life they take over their surroundings.
Locusts can be a phase of certain grasshoppers at certain times. The word for them is even translated “grasshopper” in the Biblical text, because of the overlap. Fascinatingly, something happens in the brain of this select species of grasshoppers when drought, followed by rapid vegetation growth, occurs. They multiply quickly, come together in huge numbers, and even begin to migrate. Wings are added. They then become agents of destruction, consuming everything green wherever they settle.
The Proverb (30:27) marvels at the fact that although the locusts have no “king”, yet they all go out in ranks. Yes, they are united and travel as one huge body when “something” tells them to. The Christian student of the Bible could easily add that that “something” that happens in their brain is orchestrated by the Lord Himself, so that these creatures can be used to do His will when humanity needs a good shaking.
Indeed, this behavior has, at certain points in history, helped cause famines and even human migration.
“The devastations they make in Eastern lands are often very appalling. The invasions of locusts are the heaviest calamites that can befall a country.
“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 (Exodus 10:15; Judges 6:5; 7:12; Jeremiah 46:23; Joel 2:10).
“It seems indeed as if a great aerial mountain, many miles in breadth, were advancing with a slow, un-resting progress. Woe to the countries beneath them if the wind falls and lets 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 (Exodus 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 With the Bible, ii., 149.
We all know of that famous Bible story in Exodus.
Says Geike, "Their numbers exceed computation: the Hebrews called them 'the countless,' and the Arabs knew them as 'the darkeners of the sun.' ”
Other literature documents devastating locust events: Wikipedia relates,
“The Ancient Egyptians carved locusts on tombs in the period 2470 to 2220 BC, .Plagues of locusts are also mentioned in the Quran. In the ninth century BC, the Chinese authorities appointed anti-locust officers. Aristotle studied locusts and their breeding habits and Livy recorded a devastating plague in Capua in 203 BC. He mentioned human epidemics following locust plagues which he associated with the stench from the putrefying corpses; the linking of human disease outbreaks to locust plagues was widespread. A pestilence in China in 311 AD that killed 98% of the population locally was blamed on locusts, and may have been caused by an increase in numbers of rats (and their fleas) that devoured the locust carcasses.”
“A large swarm of locusts can consist of billions of them, spread out over an area of thousands of square kilometers, with a population of up to eighty million individuals per square kilometer (two hundred million per square mile).”
Modern man has learned to control their behavior and growth by insecticides, but the threat is always present. If the climate is right, and men forget to do their part, and especially if men forget to obey God en masse, devastation can be wrought by these curious insects at any time.
173 outbreaks, recorded over a period of nearly 2,000 years, have shown up in China. In America the horrendously destructive Rocky Mountain locust swarm covered nearly 200,000 square miles, weighed 27.5 million tons, and contained perhaps 12.5 trillion locusts! But eventually that family died out, and has not been seen since 1902.