A locust swarm can be a plague that cause economic catastrophe to an agricultural province. God used locusts in the time of Joel the prophet as a punishment to call ancient Israel to repent of its wickedness. Moses had warned Israel of the consequences of disobedience saying: “You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule . . . . You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it” (Deuteronomy 28:37-38).
The prophet Joel wrote about four types of locusts that caused destruction to the agriculture of Israel. He said, “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4).
The devastation of the locust’s swarm was extensive. There was loss of: grapes (Joel 1:5), figs (Joel 1:7), grain (Joel 1:9; Joel 1:10), wheat and barley (Joel 1:11), the fruit from trees (Joel 1:12, olives (Joel 1:13), and the food for the livestock (Joel 1:18). All food resources were destroyed except for flesh foods.
Consequently, every citizen was affected: drunkards (Joel 1:5-7), inhabitants of Jerusalem (Joel 1:8-10), farmers (Joel 1:11-12), and priests (Joel 1:13). Therefore, the prophet Joel called all the people to fast and pray (Joel 1:14) to avoid further judgements.
Two views for the locusts
In general, two interpretation have been held regarding the plague of locusts in Joel 1:
(1) The literal view, which states that Joel is describing a mainly distressing scourge of locusts, and that the prophet makes this disaster the time of a call to repentance; the deliverance from the natural plague is then made an event for speech on the future day of the Lord, when God’s people will be saved from all their foes.
(2) The allegorical view, which holds that the description of the plague was merely a figure of a coming general judgment on the nation of Israel.
Whether we adopt the literal or allegorical view, the eschatological teachings of the book of Joel remain the same. Scholars say that the time of the fulfillment of this prophecy was likely around 845 B.C. It is possible that the prophet Joel employed a recent catastrophe of locusts that affected ancient Israel as an illustration to the Judgment Day. The recent devastation was a foretaste of a coming judgment on Israel and a later judgment upon the whole earth (Joel 2:28).
Beside the natural catastrophe, part of this prophecy was fulfilled when Israel was defeated by its enemies and taken into exile. Had the literal nation of Israel been faithful to God, they would have been liberated from their problems. But Israel did not (Matthew 23:37,38).
Bible authors affirm that the prophetic promises that failed to be fulfilled to ancient Israel’s because of its unfaithfulness, will be fulfilled to spiritual Israel which is the New Testament Church (Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 3:29).
In His service,
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