God brought Pharaoh to his knees with a locust plague. It was of such devastation that the Egyptians urged Pharoah to let the Israelites go. He eventually did. I don’t think that generation of Egyptians ever forgot talking about the great locust plague. I’m sure their descendants talked about it also. Wow, just think, thousands of years later, I’m still talking about it! Israel, however, had the story of their own locust plague to talk about. Joel 1:3-4 says, “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children and their children to another generation.  What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.” Here I am again, over a thousand years later, talking about the locust plague that Joel speaks of.

Israel has had other locust plagues. Guzik described a more recent one of just a little over a hundred years ago in such a way as to help understand the different kinds of locusts involved in the plague. “In 1915 a devastating plague of locusts covered what is modern-day Israel and Syria. The first swarms came in March, in clouds so thick they blocked out the sun. The female locusts immediately began to lay eggs, 100 at a time. Witnesses say that in one square yard, there were as many as 65,000 to 75,000 eggs. In a few weeks, they hatched, and the young locusts resembled large ants. They couldn’t fly yet and got along by hopping. They marched along 400 to 600 feet a day, devouring every speck of vegetation along the way. After two more stages of molting, they became adults who could fly—and the devastation continued.”[1]

The locusts were used by Joel as a picture of a coming army to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah. The image presents one of total destruction. Nothing would be left. By most reckonings, his prophecy was around 835 BC. This would have been during the reign of the wicked daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Athaliah reigned in Judah for six or seven years and advanced Baal worship in the nation. It was the darkest time of Judah’s early history. Joel along with his contemporary, Elisha, was successful. With the advent of Joash and the next few Kings of Judah, Baal worship was suppressed, and Temple worship of God was restored. But the later kings backslid again, and eventually, Judah was destroyed by the locusts of the Babylonian army.

This warning is appropriate for every generation. All succeeding generations face the same dilemma. God takes note of all sinful behavior and offers along the way in life opportunities to repent. But one day, there will be no more opportunities. Fausett says, “The judgments of God are mutually united as the links of a chain, each link drawing on the other; and yet so arranged that at each successive stage time and space are allowed for the averting of the succeeding judgment by repentance.”[2] John the Baptist and Jesus came upon the scene preaching repentance.” Repentance for Judah meant turning back from the worship of foreign gods to the true God of Israel and the Temple sacrifices as prescribed in the Law. Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices for you and me and repentance for us means recognizing the truth of our sinful state and turning to Jesus for Salvation. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Those who have come to faith in Jesus need not fear God’s wrath. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” The prophets that speak of God’s judgment bring either fear or comfort. The unbelieving should feel fear. The believing find comfort. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

[1] Guzik, David. 2000. Joel. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[2] Patterson, Richard D., and Andrew E. Hill. 2008. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 10: Minor Prophets, Hosea–Malachi. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.