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JOEL: 1:1-12 A Plague of Locust

by Dr. D ~

In chapter one, a natural invasion of locust infests the entire land of Israel and the prophet Joel sees the plague as a judgment from God and calls for repentance. One key to understanding the purpose of this writing is in the prophet’s own name itself, Joel means: Yahweh (or Jehovah in English) is God’.

1:1-12 The Invasion of Locusts

Vs. 1-3 Joel calls the people to recall past locust infestations and no one alive can recall an invasion of this nature or magnitude in the past or even in the legends past down by their people. This invasion is unique in nature and intensity.

Vs. 4 Here Joel is claiming that the land is being devastated by locusts in every level of their development at the same time. From the larva stage to maturity and through to the swarming movement when the insects reach incredible numbers in one location.

Vs. 5 The wine drinkers and particularly the alcoholics will immediately be affected by the plague since the production of new wine will immediately cease.

Vs. 6-7 Joel likens the locust invasion to an army with devastating strength and numbers. In hyperbole he compares their teeth to those of a lion, but then talks of the destruction done by the invasion in realistic terms. All vegetation is utterly and completely destroyed.

Vs. 8 The whole nation is going to suffer anguish. A ‘virgin’ here is one who has been pledged but whose betrothed husband has died before the marriage could be consummated. The farmers have planted and tended the crops but the entire effort was in vain because it was all destroyed before the harvest.

Vs. 9-10 The priests in the Temple will not even have grain or drink offerings to give to God because everything is gone. The gain and the new wine was totally destroyed. Gain, new wine, and olive oil were the staples of the entire economy of Israel. Not only was it gone but they would not be able to continue the obligatory sacrifices to God at the very moment when they needed his help and favor.

Vs.11-12 Everything is gone, the wheat, barley, figs, vines, apples, pomegranates, and palms. It is a complete destruction of the agrarian economy of Israel. Total devastation of all the harvest.

This leaves the entire country in a dire situation. At this point many would be asking God why this was allowed to happened to their land and what to do now in the face of this crisis where potentially the entire nation could perish or suffer incredible losses? In the next section, Joel counsels the priests and the people to repent.

In the Western world today it is hard to conceive of such a situation where the entire population of a nation is threatened. However, we have seen severe famines in North Korea, Ethiopia, and several African nations which threatened the lives of millions even in our modern world.

There have also been natural catastrophes which have brought severe devastations to large areas of land recently, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis which have resulted in huge relief efforts to rescue large populations of people at risk. *Top

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8 Responses to JOEL: 1:1-12 A Plague of Locust

  1. John Davis

    Dear Dad,

    Please notice the wesley commentary on Joel, also, which talks of the locust army invaders as a lion with teeth and states ‘he’ in allusion to the king that comes and conquers the northern kingdom of Israel and lays seize by oppressive tribute to the Judah in taxation tribute exacted by Assyria and the Assyrian empire.

  2. Dr. D

    John: Please note that there is nothing in the text to connect it to an Assyrian invasion from the North. That is speculative at best.

    A natural plague of locust fits the the text perfectly here.

  3. John Davis

    Dr. D,

    Please notice the following word study regarding the original word ‘arbeh which in Hebrew may sound like the word ‘Arab’ and in the text by another believer who presented this on:



    [L]ocusts generally come out of the eastern parts: it was an east wind which brought the plague of locusts into Egypt (Exo 10:13); and the children of the east, the Arabians, are compared to grasshoppers, or locusts,

    And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.–Judges 7:12

    [Midianite–son of Abraham by Keturah and progenitor of the tribe of Midianites or Arabians; the territory of the tribe descended from Midian; located principally in the desert north of the Arabian Peninsula; land to which Moses went when he fled from Pharaoh–Strong’s

    Amalekites-descendants of Esau.

    grasshopper–Strong’s 0697 ‘arbeh translated as locust 24 times in AV and 4 times as grasshopper]

    and one of the names of a locust is, “Arbeh,” not much unlike in sound to an Arab. To which may be added, that it is a tradition of the Arabians, that there fell locusts into the hands of Mahomet [Mohammad], on whose backs and wings were written these words;

    “we are the army of the most high God; we are the ninety and nine eggs, and if the hundred should be made perfect, we should consume the whole world, and whatever is in it.”

    And it was a law established by Mahomet, ye shall not kill the locusts, for they are the army of the most high God; and the Mahometans fancy that the locusts were made of the same clay as Adam was: and besides the tradition before mentioned, they say, that as Mahomet sat at table a locust fell, with these words on its back and wings;

    “I am God, neither is there any Lord of the locusts besides me, who feed them; and when I please I send them to be food to the people, and when I please I send them to be a scourge unto them;”

    …five months is the time that locusts live, and are in their strength and power, even the five, hottest months in the year, from April to September.

    (The New John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

  4. John Davis



    Please notice the Hebrew word ‘arbeh which sounds like the root for ‘arab’.

  5. George Parks

    Question: Am I correct in assuming this was only the threat of an invasion of locusts? Not an actual invasion?

    Question: Did any such invasion of locusts actually take place insofar as we know?

  6. Dr. D

    Actually invasions of locusts took place all of the time in the Ancient Middle East. Whether this was a threat of an actual locust plague or represents an army invasion the symbols were very real to this people. Something which had been experienced several times in a generation.

  7. eliecer guillen

    I don´t believe a muslim invasion is prophesied here, because I`m an amillenialist; but please note a type of locust (another exegetes signal this are distinct phases of growing from species, i.e. cocoon, worm, adult locust,etc.) mentioned here is “gezzen”, identical name as an arab tribe, nown in western history as “ghazzanides” who invaded in old testament times, but centuries later constitued an orthodox church kingdom, allied to bizantines, finally to be destroyed by sarracens.
    Another names fix to another arab tribes also.
    Wordgames, and terms with multiple meanings are commons in Bible, as these was common in near east.

  8. eliecer guillen

    By the way:
    I want to add a prayer for God-given peace between all peoples in the world.
    Our Lord bless to every nation.
    Pray that Gospel of Peace through sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, brings peace and reconciliation to all people.

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