Scientists classify locusts and grasshoppers among the Locustidae family of insects. They've been known from very ancient times, just as they still are today all around the world, as being extremely destructive to agriculture. When conditions are favorable for them, vast migrating swarms of locusts can form (in 1889, a swarm of locusts near the Red Sea was estimated to be over 2,000 square miles in size) which rapidly devour all plant material in their path, from field crops to the foliage on trees. Locusts were well-known throughout Bible History.
Classified As "Clean"
According to the Levitical dietary laws (see Clean and Unclean), locusts were classified as "clean" for food (the author of this study does not recommend trying it):
"Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those which have legs above their feet, with which to leap on the earth. Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects which have four feet are an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:21-23 RSV)
"In those days came John The Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of The Lord, make His paths straight." Now John wore a garment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:1-4 RSV)
Plagues of Locusts
Locust plagues were sometimes used as agents of God's wrath against those who opposed Him:
"Then The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left."
"So Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and The Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning the east wind had brought the locusts. And the locusts came up over all the land of Egypt, and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever shall be again. For they covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt." (Exodus 10:12-15 RSV)
Locust plagues were also sometimes used as agents of God's wrath against His own people when they were disobedient to Him:
"Then The Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice [see Temples]. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:12-14 RSV)
Locusts were also used as symbols of end-time, armor-plated, missile-firing, flying war-machines that were not known to the writers of The Bible (see also The Seven Seals):
"And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft."
"Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them."
"In appearance the locusts were like horses arrayed for battle; on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women's hair, and their teeth like lions' teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings, and their power of hurting men for five months lies in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon." (Revelation 9:1-11 RSV)
Fact Finder: Were swarms of locusts also used as a symbol of great multitudes of people?
This Week's Bible Quiz
1. What sea is located between Greece and Turkey?
2. What great river flows through Egypt?
3. What sea is located east of Jerusalem?
4. What sea is located in northern Israel near Capernaum?
5. What gulf is located along the east side of The Sinai Peninsula?
6. What sea is located on the west coast of Israel?
7. What river did the Israelites cross into the Promised Land?
8. What pool of water in Jerusalem was believed to have healing effects?
9. What delta is located in northern Egypt?
10. What river flows into the Jordan River from the east? A hint: the river's name begins with a "Y"
For the answers to this November 14 2000 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page