Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007


by Jim Jordal

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.

Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine,

Because of the new wine, for it has been cut off from your mouth.

For a nation has come up against My land, strong and without number;

His teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a fierce lion.

He has laid waste My vine, and ruined My fig tree:

He has stripped it bare and thrown it away; its branches are made white.


Joel 1:5-7 (NKJV)

In his short prophecy, Joel (meaning Jehovah is God) seizes upon an unparalleled disaster in the southern kingdom of Judah to reveal God's plan of deliverance for His people. Vast, conquering swarms of chewing, swarming, crawling, consuming locusts have descended upon the nation as a result of Divine judgment for sin. The land is utterly destroyed; trees broken and stripped naked, vines denuded, fields wasted, and farmers and vineyard workers devastated and in deep mourning.

Into this catastrophe steps Joel, an almost unknown member of the priesthood, whom God now calls to reveal His plan for future national deliverance and restoration. His writing first calls the elders (leaders) of the nation to give attention to this unparalleled, legendary catastrophe. He says, "Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you drinkers of wine." In other words, he challenges leaders to drop their egotism and to learn from this God-appointed disaster. He goes on to liken the locusts to a nation having teeth like a lion that has laid waste to the land of Judah. The problem is potentially fatal, he says, and you must now "consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord" (1:14). That's good advice for any person or nation facing disaster. And it's what the United States has not yet learned--but soon will--as we fall increasingly under the rod of God for our materialistic idolatry and oppression of the poor and helpless.

According to Unger's Bible Dictionary, "the locust is used in Scripture as a symbol of destructive enemies" (p. 664). Unger also quotes (p. 61-62) from Jahn's Bible Archaeology, graphically describing the plague: "…they go in immense numbers (Jer. 46:23)…and are so deep that the sun cannot penetrate through them….The sound of their wings is terrible (Joel 2:2)….They fill the ditches which are dug to stop them with their bodies, and extinguish by their numbers the fires which are kindled. They pass over walls and enter the doors and windows of houses (Joel 2:7-9). They devour everything …green, strip off the bark of trees, and even break them to pieces by their weight (Ex. 10:12-19)."

One can easily identify with the trauma of the ancient Jewish nation under this plague. Judah was predominantly an agrarian society, with an economy largely dependent upon agriculture. By destroying this economic base the locusts seriously threatened the people and nation. What one horde of locusts missed, others would destroy. If one swarm came under control, others would take their place. So getting rid of the locusts and restoring their economic base had high priority for the people of Judah. But they also, as Joel urged, needed to ascertain the hand of God in their disaster, and to turn to Him for deliverance.

But what is Joel's message for Christians today as modern-day "locusts" once again attempt to strip the land of prosperity for all but a favored few? Some predatory, rapacious multi-national corporations now have more money and power than do many nation states. They use this power to suborn legislative bodies, corrupt administrations, dominate elections, pillage resources, control trade, and impoverish native peoples.

They can truly be likened to destroying locusts, since they strip the land of its economic support base.

We generally consider Americans to be middle-class in origin and values. But as poverty devours lower socio-economic groups, it now threatens to move into the middle class, corrupting values, destroying jobs, perverting institutions, and damaging families. Are we truly destined to become a nation of mostly poor people controlled by a small class of elite, super-rich, manipulators of power?

God says, "No!" But our deliverance will come only as we follow Joel's advice to gather for a time of national contrition, repentance, and a turning from our wicked ways. Then God can do as He promised: "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten" (2:25).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Discussion questions for use by study groups:

  1. Read the description of the hordes of swarming locusts? Was there any effective way to stop them?
  2. Discuss the term "locust plague" as metaphor for what would later in history befall God's people.
  3. What current national and world events or situations might well be modern visitations of the locust plague?
  4. What policies or actions in America today might be the same? With what results?
  5. Are you a victim of any of these plagues? What can you do?
  6. Consider ways in which the Lord might "restore the years the locust has eaten."
  7. A precondition for deliverance back then was that the nation turn back to God. Is this also necessary today? How might we best do this?
  8. What will your role be in the coming restoration of "the years the locust has eaten"?