The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel . Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.( Joel 1:1-3)
The Prophet Joel saw something frightening and devastating, a Locust invasion.
A Locust invasion would be a nightmare, especially in an agricultural society.
It would be difficult for us to imagine the horror of a Locust infestation, but we had them here in the Midwest in the 1930s. The cloud of locusts blackens the sky, some of these locust clouds have been reported to be as large as 1200 miles long. Driven by hunger and often blown in by the wind, seemingly out of nowhere, Locusts drop out of the sky in ravenous swarms and devour anything in their path.
On June 12, 1873, farmers in southwestern Minnesota saw what looked like a snowstorm coming towards their fields from the west. Then they heard a roar of beating wings and saw that what seemed to be snowflakes were in fact locusts. In a matter of hours, knee-high fields of grass and wheat were eaten to the ground by hungry insects Armstrong economics
The sound of wings and jaws clicking has been likened unto a roar, and within minutes corn, barley and wheat fields have been wiped off of the face of the earth.
When the Prophet Joel experienced a Locust invasion about 800 years before Christ, He saw in it the “Day of the LORD”, and warned us of it.
The “Day of the LORD” is a reference in scripture to the time of direct, Divine intervention in human affairs. It often comes as a Judgment upon nations for their unrepentant sinfulness.
Joel makes reference to the locusts using four distinct terms for them,
Palmerworm, The first—Gazam—”the Gnawer” points to its voracious appetite to consume.
locust, the second—Arbeh—which means “The Swarmer” points to the multitude of the invaders.
Cankerworm, the third—Yelek—“The Licker” for its manner of “licking up” the grass like cattle.
Caterpillar-the fourth—Chasil—“The Destroyer” for its destructive effect.
The Locusts would descend out of nowhere and eat everything green almost immediately, they would then burrow holes in the ravaged ground and deposit eggs everywhere. Just when you think the last one had left after a few weeks of devastation, the eggs would hatch so that the larva could devour any new growth in sight. As the Larva grew, they would look for leaves, branches, even the bark of trees to devour.
These terms are thought to be different stages in the development of locusts. The point is that they come in waves, and take everything, leaving nothing.
This literally happened in Joel’s day, but he saw it as a sign pointing to ominous future events for Israel and eventually the world.
The Elders and fathers had seen locusts before but nothing like this invasion. They were to make sure their children and children’s children knew of it.
The Nation of Judah would experience this in the future in geopolitical terms, the Day of the LORD would come, and as the locusts were a scourge, so also there would be others; Assyrians,Babylonians,Romans, Arabs, Turkish Ottomans, they would be coming in wave after wave in the future, devouring everything before them, leaving nothing behind, denuding the people and the Land, destroying all that was meant as a blessing to the people.
Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it. Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume. Deuteronomy 28:38-42
God had warned them that it would happen if they forsook him. Now Joel saw it, and in what Joel saw, he saw the reflection of the entire history of Judah, all the way down to the end of the Age.
The Prophet Joel also told the nation, (and all who would listen to the Word), what to do about this dire warning. He shows us the necessity of repentance. We can turn to the LORD whom we have forsaken, and find forgiveness and mercy in Him, if we would but repent.