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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Locust

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There are ten Hebrew words which appear to signify 'locust' in the Old Testament. It has been supposed, however, that some of these words denote merely the different states through which the locust passes after leaving the egg, viz. the larva, the pupa, and the perfect insect—all which much resemble each other, except that the larva has no wings, and that the pupa possesses only the rudiments of those members, which are fully developed only in the adult locust (Michaelis, Supplem. ad Lex. Hebr. ii. 667, 1080). But this supposition is manifestly wrong with regard to four of the terms, because, in , the word 'after his kind,' or species, is added after each of them (comp. ). It is most probable, therefore, that all the rest are also the names of species, but we know not how to distinguish the several species from each other.

Locusts, like many other of the general provisions of nature, may occasion incidental and partial evil; but upon the whole they are an immense benefit to those portions of the world which they inhabit; and so connected is the chain of being that we may safely believe that the advantage is not confined to those regions. 'They clear the way for the renovation of vegetable productions which are in danger of being destroyed by the exuberance of some particular species, and are thus fulfilling the law of the Creator, that of all which he has made should nothing be lost. A region which has been choked up by shrubs and perennial plants and hard half-withered unpalatable grasses, after having been laid bare by these scourges, soon appears in a far more beautiful dress, with new herbs, superb lilies, fresh annual grasses, and young and juicy shrubs of perennial kinds, affording delicious herbage for the wild cattle and game.' Meanwhile their excessive multiplication is repressed by numerous causes. Contrary to the order of nature with all other insects, the males are far more numerous than the females. It is believed that if they were equal in number they would in ten years annihilate the vegetable system. Besides all the creatures that feed upon them, rains are very destructive to their eggs, to the larvae, pupa, and perfect insect. When perfect, they always fly with the wind, and are therefore constantly being carried out to sea, and often ignorantly descend upon it as if upon land. Myriads are thus lost in the ocean every year, and become the food of fishes. On land they afford in all their several states sustenance to countless tribes of birds, beasts, reptiles, etc.; and if their office as the scavengers of nature, commissioned to remove all superfluous productions from the face of the earth, sometimes incidentally and as the operation of a general law, interferes with the labors of man, as do storms, tempests, etc., they have, from all antiquity to the present hour, afforded him an excellent supply till the land acquires the benefit of their visitations, by yielding him in the meantime an agreeable, wholesome, and nutritious aliment. They are eaten as meat, are ground into flour, and made into bread. They are even an extensive article of commerce. Diodorus Siculus mentions a people of Ethiopia who were so fond of eating them that they were called Acridophagi, 'eaters of locusts.' Whole armies have been relieved by them when in danger of perishing. Their great flights occur only every fourth or fifth season. Those locusts which come in the first instance only fix on trees, and do not destroy grain: it is the young before they are able to fly which are chiefly injurious to the crops. Nor do all the species feed upon vegetables; one, comprehending many varieties, the truxalis, feeds upon insects. Latreille says the house-cricket will do so. 'Locusts,' remarks a very sensible tourist, 'seem to devour not so much from a ravenous appetite as from a rage for destroying.' Destruction, therefore, and not food, is the chief impulse of their devastations, and in this consists their utility; they are in fact omnivorous. The most poisonous plants are indifferent to them; they will prey even upon the crowfoot, whose causticity burns the very hides of beasts. They simply consume everything without predilection, vegetable matter, linen, woolen, silk, leather, etc.; and Pliny does not exaggerate when he says, 'and even the doors of houses,' for they have been known to consume the very varnish of furniture. They reduce everything indiscriminately to shreds, which become manure. It might serve to mitigate popular misapprehensions on the subject to consider what would have been the consequence if locusts had been carnivorous like wasps. All terrestrial beings, in such a case, not excluding man himself, would have become their victims. There are, no doubt, many things respecting them yet unknown to us which would still further justify the belief that this, like 'every' other 'work of God is good'—benevolent upon the whole.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Locust'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/l/locust.html.

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