LOCUSTS >> Falsities in the Extremes
which consume the Truths and Goods of the Church in Man
The locust is quite a different insect from those that have been described. The changes through which it passes are not those of worm, helpless chrysalis, and winged insect; it has its insect legs from the start, and only sheds its skin repeatedly, and by degrees acquires wings (Lubbock). As there are several species of locust, and several stages of their individual life, it is not surprising to find them spoken of under different names. Some authorities regard the names rendered in our English Bible palmer worm, canker worm, and caterpillar, beetle, locust, and bald locust, as all belonging to members of this family.
(Tristram and Wood; cf. Apocalypse Explained #543).
They play an important part in the imagery of the Bible, both as plagues by reason of their numbers and destructiveness, and as themselves constituting an article of food. All the locusts are vegetable feeders, and do great harm wherever they happen to be plentiful, their powerful jaws severing even the thick grass stems as if cut by scissors. But it is only when they invade a country that their real power is felt. They come flying with the wind in such vast multitudes that the sky is darkened as if by thunderclouds; and when they settle, every vestige of green disappears off the face of the earth. Mr. Gordon Cumming once saw a flight of these locusts. They flew about three hundred feet from the ground, and came on in thick, solid masses, forming one unbroken cloud. On all sides nothing was to be seen but locusts. The air was full of them, and the plain was covered with them, and for more than an hour the insect army flew past him. When the locusts settle, they eat with such voracity that the sound caused by their jaws cutting the leaves and grass can be heard at a great distance; and even the young locusts, which have no wings, and are graphically termed by the Dutch colonists of Southern Africa “voetgangers,” or foot-goers, are little inferior in power of jaw to the fully developed insect. As long as they have a favorable wind, nothing stops the progress of the locusts. They press forward just like the vast herds of antelopes that cover the plains of Africa, or the bison that blacken the prairies of America, and the progress of even the wingless young is as irresistible as that of the adult insects. Regiments of soldiers have in vain attempted to stop them. Trenches have been dug across their path, only to be filled up in a few minutes with the advancing hosts, over whose bodies the millions of survivors continued their march. When the trenches were filled with water, the result was the same; and even when fire was substituted for water, the flames were quenched by the masses of locusts that fell into them. When they come to a tree, they climb up it in swarms, and devour every particle of foliage, not even sparing the bark of the smaller branches. They ascend the walls of houses that come in the line of their march, swarming in at the windows, and gnawing in their hunger the very woodwork of the furniture.”
These insects are . . . eaten in all parts of the world which they frequent, and in some places form an important article of diet, thus compensating in some way for the amount of vegetable food which they consume.
Herodotus, for example, when describing the various tribes of Libyans, mentions the use of the locust as an article of diet. . . . “When they have caught the insects” [he says] “they dry them in the sun, reduce them to powder, and, sprinkling them in milk, drink them.”
This is precisely the plan which is followed at the present day by the Bosjesmans of South Africa. To them the locusts are a blessing, and not a plague. . . . When they see a cloud of locusts in the distance, they light great fires, and heap plenty of green boughs upon them, so as to create a thick smoke. The locusts have no idea of avoiding these smoke columns, but fly over the fires, and, stifled by the vapor, fall to the ground, where they are caught in vast numbers by the Bosjesmans. When their captors have roasted and eaten as many as they can manage to devour, they dry the rest over the fires, pulverize them between two stones, and keep the meal for future use, mixing it with water, or, if they can get it, with milk.
In Palestine, locusts are eaten either roasted or boiled in salt and water; but, when preserved for future use, they are dried in the sun, their heads, wings, and legs picked off, and their bodies ground into dust. This dust has naturally a rather bitter flavor, which is corrected by mixing it with camel’s milk or honey, the latter being the favorite substance. (Wood’s Bible Animals)
The locust and grasshopper tribe, the most common of our summer insects, loving to eat every green thing, represent the desire to see and know what is going on, not from interest in the ends, but simply from curiosity to know every living thought and plan of life. It is a desire universal in children, and hardly less general in adults.
The same desire directed to the Word loves to know all the appearances and ways of life described in its letter. John the Baptist, therefore, who represented the literal sense of the Word in its application to life, had for his meat locusts and wild honey; the locusts representing a knowledge of the letter of the Word, and the honey the natural pleasure in such knowledge. ( Arcana Coelestia #9372, 7643.)
In ancient times, when churches were representative churches, all who were in ministries were clothed according to theirrepresentations, and also did eat according thereto. (Apocalypse Explained #543)
When the mind is good, and loves a charitable, upright life, then all this superficial knowledge of life is serviceable as food for useful thought; but when a man loves only himself, and not goodness of life, he sees and knows all the thoughts and plans of life about him only to despise and pervert them. The locusts in his mind are a plague which destroys every green and living thing.
The plagues of Egypt represented the exposure of the evils that infested men before the coming of the Lord. And one of those plagues was a cloud of locusts that “covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 10:15), by which was represented the destruction of every principle of good life in the Church, by those who intensely loved their own selfish power and evil pleasures. In like manner, the thoughts of those who from love of evil were in the doctrine of faith alone, concerning good life, were represented by locusts that came out of the smoke of the bottomless pit, by which they entirely stupefied their followers in regard to good spiritual life.
In a better sense, men, because they are in the most external appearances of the Lord’s universe, are called locusts in comparison with Him. “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22). And, again, in the sight of those who are persuaded of their own eminence, others appear even to themselves as grasshoppers: “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33). ( Apocalypse Explained #543.)
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875