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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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ארבה . The word is probably derived from רבה , which signifies to multiply, to become numerous, &c; because of the immense swarms of these animals by which different countries, especially in the east, are infested. See this circumstance referred to, Judges 6:5; Judges 7:12; Psalms 105:34; Jeremiah 46:23; Jeremiah 51:14; Joel 1:4; Nahum 3:15; Jdt_2:19-20; where the most numerous armies are compared to the arbeh, or locust.

The locust, in entomology, belongs to a genus of insects known among naturalists by the name of grylli. The common great brown locust is about three inches in length, has two antennae about an inch long, and two pairs of wings. The head and horns are brown; the mouth, and insides of the larger legs, bluish; the upper side of the body, and upper wings, brown; the former spotted with black, and the latter with dusky, spots. The back is defended by a shield of a greenish hue; the under wings are of a light brown hue, tinctured with green, and nearly transparent. The general form and appearance of the insect is that of the grasshopper so well known in this country. These creatures are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. They were employed as one of the plagues for the punishment of the Egyptians; and their visitation was threatened to the Israelites as a mark of the divine displeasure. Their numbers and destructive powers very aptly fit them for this purpose. When they take the field, they always follow a leader, whose motions they invariably observe. They often migrate from their native country, probably in quest of a greater supply of food. On these occasions they appear in such large flocks as to darken the air; forming many compact bodies or swarms, of several hundred yards square. These flights are very frequent in Barbary, and generally happen at the latter end of March or beginning of April, after the wind has blown from the south for some days. The month following, the young brood also make their appearance, generally following the track of the old ones. In whatever country they settle, they devour all the vegetables, grain, and, in fine, all the produce of the earth; eating the very bark off the trees; thus destroying at once the hopes of the husbandman, and all the labours of agriculture: for though their voracity is great, yet they contaminate a much greater quantity than they devour; as their bite is poisonous to vegetables, and the marks of devastation may be traced for several succeeding seasons. There are various species of them; which consequently have different names; and some are more voracious and destructive than others, though all are most destructive and insatiable spoilers. Bochart enumerates ten different kinds which he thinks are mentioned in the Scripture.

Writers in natural history bear abundant testimony to the Scriptural account of these creatures. Dr. Shaw describes at large the numerous swarms and prodigious broods of those locusts which he saw in Barbary. Dr. Russel says, "Of the noxious kinds of insects may well be reckoned the locusts, which sometimes arrive in such incredible multitudes, that it would appear fabulous to give a relation of them; destroying the whole of the verdure wherever they pass." Captain Woodroffe, who was for some time at Astrachan, a city near the Volga, sixty miles to the north-west of the Caspian Sea, in latitude 47 , assures us, that, from the latter end of July to the beginning of October, the country about that city is frequently infested with locusts, which fly in such prodigious numbers as to darken the air, and appear at a distance as a heavy cloud. As for the Mosaic permission to the Jews of eating the locusts, Leviticus 11:22 , however strange it may appear to the mere English reader, yet nothing is more certain than that several nations, both of Asia and Africa, anciently used these insects for food; and that they are still eaten in the east to this day. Niebuhr gives some account of the several species of locusts eaten by the Arabs, and of their different ways of dressing them for food. "The Europeans," he adds, "do not comprehend how the Arabs can eat locusts with pleasure; and those Arabs who have had no intercourse with the Christians will not believe, in their turn, that these latter reckon oysters, crabs, shrimps, cray- fish, &c, for dainties. These two facts, however, are equally certain." Locusts are often used figuratively by the prophets, for invading armies; and their swarms aptly represented the numbers, the desolating march of the vast military hordes and their predatory followers, which the ancient conquerors of the east poured down upon every country they attacked.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Locust'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​l/locust.html. 1831-2.
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