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Laura Duhan-Kaplan





Locusts: YHWH’s Army



APA e-journal

Laura Duhan-Kaplan





Locusts: YHWH’s Army






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Locusts: YHWH’s Army

Be it against Egypt or Israel, YHWH unleashes locusts as a divine retribution. Scientifically, grasshoppers metamorphose into locusts as a response to environmental disruption.


Locusts: YHWH’s Army

Locust swarm in Eilat, Israel, 2004. Photo by Niv Singer / Flickr (adapted), CC.

Locusts pose a serious problem for farmers in modern day Afro-Asia as they did in ancient times. Locust swarms are densely packed with as many as 80 million locusts in half a square mile.[1] A swarm can be as big as 460 square miles in size and consume 423 million pounds of plants every day.[2] The Bible understands the sudden appearance of locusts as a result of divine punishment, as it does with many other natural phenomena whose scientific causes were unknown to the ancients.

The Plague of Locusts

After the plague of hail,[3] which destroys Egypt’s early crops, Moses warns Pharaoh that locusts will come and destroy whatever crops are left:

שמות י:ד כִּי אִם מָאֵן אַתָּה לְשַׁלֵּחַ אֶת עַמִּי הִנְנִי מֵבִיא מָחָר אַרְבֶּה בִּגְבֻלֶךָ. י:ה וְכִסָּה אֶת עֵין הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא יוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְאָכַל אֶת יֶתֶר הַפְּלֵטָה הַנִּשְׁאֶרֶת לָכֶם מִן הַבָּרָד וְאָכַל אֶת כָּל הָעֵץ הַצֹּמֵחַ לָכֶם מִן הַשָּׂדֶה. י:ו וּמָלְאוּ בָתֶּיךָ וּבָתֵּי כָל עֲבָדֶיךָ וּבָתֵּי כָל מִצְרַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא רָאוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וַאֲבוֹת אֲבֹתֶיךָ מִיּוֹם הֱיוֹתָם עַל הָאֲדָמָה עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה...
Exod 10:4 For if you refuse to let My people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts on your territory. 10:5 They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the surviving remnant that was left to you after the hail; and they shall eat away all your trees that grow in the field. 10:6 Moreover, they shall fill your palaces and the houses of all your courtiers and of all the Egyptians—something that neither your fathers nor fathers’ fathers have seen from the day they appeared on earth to this day…

The Torah explains that the locusts are brought into Egypt by an eastern wind:

שמות י:יב וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בָּאַרְבֶּה וְיַעַל עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְיֹאכַל אֶת כָּל עֵשֶׂב הָאָרֶץ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁאִיר הַבָּרָד. י:יג וַיֵּט מֹשֶׁה אֶת מַטֵּהוּ עַל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַי־הוָה נִהַג רוּחַ קָדִים בָּאָרֶץ כָּל הַיּוֹם הַהוּא וְכָל הַלָּיְלָה הַבֹּקֶר הָיָה וְרוּחַ הַקָּדִים נָשָׂא אֶת הָאַרְבֶּה.
Exod 10:12 Then YHWH said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat up all the grasses in the land, whatever the hail has left.” 10:13 So Moses held out his rod over the land of Egypt, and YHWH drove an east wind over the land all that day and all night; and when morning came, the east wind had brought the locusts.[4]

As predicted, the locusts bring total destruction to the remaining crops, leaving nothing in their wake:

שמות י:יד וַיַּעַל הָאַרְבֶּה עַל כָּל אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיָּנַח בְּכֹל גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם כָּבֵד מְאֹד לְפָנָיו לֹא הָיָה כֵן אַרְבֶּה כָּמֹהוּ וְאַחֲרָיו לֹא יִהְיֶה כֵּן. י:טו וַיְכַס אֶת עֵין כָּל הָאָרֶץ וַתֶּחְשַׁךְ הָאָרֶץ וַיֹּאכַל אֶת כָּל עֵשֶׂב הָאָרֶץ וְאֵת כָּל פְּרִי הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר הוֹתִיר הַבָּרָד וְלֹא נוֹתַר כָּל יֶרֶק בָּעֵץ וּבְעֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה בְּכָל אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.
Exod 10:14 Locusts invaded all the land of Egypt and settled within all the territory of Egypt in a thick mass; never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again. 10:15 They hid all the land from view, and the land was darkened; and they ate up all the grasses of the field and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left, so that nothing green was left, of tree or grass of the field, in all the land of Egypt.

As he did during certain previous plagues, Pharaoh asks Moses to beg YHWH’s forgiveness and make the locusts go away (vv. 16–17), which Moses does (v. 18). As a result:

שמות י:יט וַיַּהֲפֹךְ יְ־הוָה רוּחַ יָם חָזָק מְאֹד וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת הָאַרְבֶּה וַיִּתְקָעֵהוּ יָמָּה סּוּף לֹא נִשְׁאַר אַרְבֶּה אֶחָד בְּכֹל גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם.
Exod 10:19 YHWH caused a shift to a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and hurled them into the Sea of Reeds; not a single locust remained in all the territory of Egypt.

The description here imagines locusts living as hordes in the desert, with YHWH transporting the swarm of locusts from the east and then back. But locusts do not live as locusts all of the time, waiting for a wind to blow them into new territory. When they aren’t swarming, they are simply grasshoppers.

The Grasshopper

In the Bible, grasshoppers are a symbol for small, harmless creatures. When the scouts return from their investigation of the Promised Land and speak of the giant inhabitants of the land, they compare themselves to grasshoppers:

במדבר יג:לב ... הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ בְתוֹכָהּ אַנְשֵׁי מִדּוֹת. יג:לג וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ אֶת הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן הַנְּפִלִים וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם.
Num 13:32… The country that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its settlers. All the people that we saw in it are of great size; 13:33 we saw the Nephilim there—giants are part of the Nephilim—and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.

Similarly, in describing the grandiose nature of God in relation to the created world, Deutero-Isaiah depicts earthly creatures as mere grasshoppers from the perspective of the divine:

ישעיה מ:כא הֲלוֹא תֵדְעוּ הֲלוֹא תִשְׁמָעוּ הֲלוֹא הֻגַּד מֵרֹאשׁ לָכֶם הֲלוֹא הֲבִינֹתֶם מוֹסְדוֹת הָאָרֶץ. מ:כב הַיֹּשֵׁב עַל חוּג הָאָרֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֶיהָ כַּחֲגָבִים הַנּוֹטֶה כַדֹּק שָׁמַיִם וַיִּמְתָּחֵם כָּאֹהֶל לָשָׁבֶת.
Isa 40:21 Don’t you get it? Have you not heard? Have you not been told from the very first? Have you not discerned how the earth was founded? 4:22 It is [God] who is enthroned above the circle (khug) of the earth, so that its inhabitants seem as grasshoppers (khagavim); who spread out the skies like gauze, stretched them out like a tent to dwell in—
מ:כג הַנּוֹתֵן רוֹזְנִים לְאָיִן שֹׁפְטֵי אֶרֶץ כַּתֹּהוּ עָשָׂה. מ:כד אַף בַּל נִטָּעוּ אַף בַּל זֹרָעוּ אַף בַּל שֹׁרֵשׁ בָּאָרֶץ גִּזְעָם וְגַם נָשַׁף בָּהֶם וַיִּבָשׁוּ וּסְעָרָה כַּקַּשׁ תִּשָּׂאֵם.
40:23 Bringing potentates to naught, making rulers of the earth as nothing 4:24 Hardly are they planted, hardly are they sown, hardly has their stem taken root in earth, when [God] blows upon them and they dry up, and the storm bears them off like straw.

God looks down from the khug, the horizon that circles the earth, and the little creatures encircled within the khug are like khagavim, grasshoppers. Even tyrants! They, too, sprout for a short season, then wither and die.

Locust In Israel

Locusts were a constant concern in ancient Israel. Solomon’s prayer includes a hope that the building of YHWH’s Temple will help shield Israel from locusts:

מלכים א ח:לז רָעָב כִּי יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ דֶּבֶר כִּי יִהְיֶה שִׁדָּפוֹן יֵרָקוֹן אַרְבֶּה חָסִיל כִּי יִהְיֶה כִּי יָצַר לוֹ אֹיְבוֹ בְּאֶרֶץ שְׁעָרָיו כָּל נֶגַע כָּל מַחֲלָה. ח:לח כָּל תְּפִלָּה כָל תְּחִנָּה אֲשֶׁר תִהְיֶה לְכָל הָאָדָם לְכֹל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יֵדְעוּן אִישׁ נֶגַע לְבָבוֹ וּפָרַשׂ כַּפָּיו אֶל הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה. ח:לט וְאַתָּה תִּשְׁמַע הַשָּׁמַיִם מְכוֹן שִׁבְתֶּךָ וְסָלַחְתָּ וְעָשִׂיתָ...
1 Kgs 8:37 So, too, if there is a famine in the land, if there is pestilence, blight, mildew, locusts or caterpillars, or if an enemy oppresses them in any of the settlements of the land. “In any plague and in any disease, 8:38 in any prayer or supplication offered by any person among all Your people Israel—each of whom knows his own affliction—when he spreads his palms toward this House, 8:39 oh, hear in Your heavenly abode, and pardon and take action!...

Similarly, Moses threatens Israel with locusts in the future, if they violate YHWH’s covenant:

דברים כח:לח זֶרַע רַב תּוֹצִיא הַשָּׂדֶה וּמְעַט תֶּאֱסֹף כִּי יַחְסְלֶנּוּ הָאַרְבֶּה.
Deut 28:38 Though you take much seed out to the field, you shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it.

The Locust Plague in Joel

The book of Joel, a prophetic work without clear historical context—though most contemporary scholars see it as a post-exilic work[5]—describes how locusts have devasted Joel’s community.[6] In a line reminiscent of Moses’ words to Pharaoh (Exod 10:6) about Egypt—אֲשֶׁר לֹא רָאוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וַאֲבוֹת אֲבֹתֶיךָ מִיּוֹם הֱיוֹתָם עַל הָאֲדָמָה עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, “something that neither your fathers nor fathers’ fathers have seen from the day they appeared on earth to this day”—Joel says the elders of the Judean community should recognize that the locust infestation they are experiencing is the biggest swarm anyone can remember:

יואל א:א דְּבַר יְ־הוָה אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל יוֹאֵל בֶּן פְּתוּאֵל. א:ב שִׁמְעוּ זֹאת הַזְּקֵנִים וְהַאֲזִינוּ כֹּל יוֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ הֶהָיְתָה זֹּאת בִּימֵיכֶם וְאִם בִּימֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם. א:ג עָלֶיהָ לִבְנֵיכֶם סַפֵּרוּ וּבְנֵיכֶם לִבְנֵיהֶם וּבְנֵיהֶם לְדוֹר אַחֵר.
Joel 1:1 The word of YHWH that came to Joel son of Pethuel. 1:2 Listen to this, O elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land. Has the like of this happened in your days, or in the day of your fathers? 1:3 Tell your children about it and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation!

The plague seems to have lasted long enough for Joel to see four stages of locust development: the hungry young adults, the mature mating parents, the nibbling nymphs, and the bands of teenage hoppers:[7]

יואל א:ד יֶתֶר הַגָּזָם אָכַל הָאַרְבֶּה וְיֶתֶר הָאַרְבֶּה אָכַל הַיָּלֶק וְיֶתֶר הַיֶּלֶק אָכַל הֶחָסִיל.
Joel 1:4 What the cutter has left, the locust has devoured. What the locust has left, the grub has devoured. And what the grub has left, the hopper has devoured.

Joel offers the longest and most vivid description of a locust plague in the Bible.[8] The nymphs eat all the soft moist greens; the hoppers eat the hardier greens; and the adults eat flowers, fruits, or vegetables—they are not picky.[9] So now, there is nothing left:

יואל א:יז עָבְשׁוּ פְרֻדוֹת תַּחַת מֶגְרְפֹתֵיהֶם נָשַׁמּוּ אֹצָרוֹת נֶהֶרְסוּ מַמְּגֻרוֹת כִּי הֹבִישׁ דָּגָן. א:יח מַה נֶּאֶנְחָה בְהֵמָה נָבֹכוּ עֶדְרֵי בָקָר כִּי אֵין מִרְעֶה לָהֶם גַּם עֶדְרֵי הַצֹּאן נֶאְשָׁמוּ.
Joel 1:17 The seeds have shriveled under their clods. The granaries are desolate, barns are in ruins, for the new grain has failed. 1:18 How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are bewildered because they have no pasture, and the flocks of sheep are dazed.

A Locust Army

Together with his feelings of desolation and dread, Joel expresses some admiration for these grasshoppers-turned-locusts, whom he compares to war chariots.

יואל ב:ד כְּמַרְאֵה סוּסִים מַרְאֵהוּ וּכְפָרָשִׁים כֵּן יְרוּצוּן. ב:ה כְּקוֹל מַרְכָּבוֹת עַל רָאשֵׁי הֶהָרִים יְרַקֵּדוּן כְּקוֹל לַהַב אֵשׁ אֹכְלָה קָשׁ כְּעַם עָצוּם עֱרוּךְ מִלְחָמָה.
Joel 2:4 They have the appearance of horses, they gallop just like steeds. 2:5 With a clatter as of chariots, they bound on the hilltops, with a noise like a blazing fire consuming straw; like an enormous horde arrayed for battle.

Joel then adjusts his simile, and compares the locusts to soldiers who fight in perfect formation:

יואל ב:ז כְּגִבּוֹרִים יְרֻצוּן כְּאַנְשֵׁי מִלְחָמָה יַעֲלוּ חוֹמָה וְאִישׁ בִּדְרָכָיו יֵלֵכוּן וְלֹא יְעַבְּטוּן אֹרְחוֹתָם. ב:ח וְאִישׁ אָחִיו לֹא יִדְחָקוּן גֶּבֶר בִּמְסִלָּתוֹ יֵלֵכוּן...
Joel 2:7 They rush like warriors, they scale a wall like fighters, and each keeps to his own track. Their paths never cross; 2:8 no one jostles another, each keeps to his own course…

The idea of locusts as an army is not unique to Joel. We see it in the description of the Midianite, Amalekite, and Eastern forces in the story of Gideon:

שופטים ז:יב וּמִדְיָן וַעֲמָלֵק וְכָל בְּנֵי קֶדֶם נֹפְלִים בָּעֵמֶק כָּאַרְבֶּה לָרֹב וְלִגְמַלֵּיהֶם אֵין מִסְפָּר כַּחוֹל שֶׁעַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם לָרֹב.
Judg 7:12 Now Midian, Amalek, and all the Kedemites were spread over the plain, as thick as locusts; and their camels were countless, as numerous as the sands on the seashore.[10]

In Joel, the image is inverted: the army is not like locusts, but locusts are like the army. Perhaps most strikingly, Joel goes on to present the locusts as YHWH’s own army:

יואל ב:יא וַי־הוָה נָתַן קוֹלוֹ לִפְנֵי חֵילוֹ כִּי רַב מְאֹד מַחֲנֵהוּ כִּי עָצוּם עֹשֵׂה דְבָרוֹ כִּי גָדוֹל יוֹם יְ־הוָה וְנוֹרָא מְאֹד וּמִי יְכִילֶנּוּ.
Joel 2:11 And YHWH roars aloud at the head of His army; for vast indeed is His host, numberless are those that do His bidding. For great is the day of YHWH, most terrible—who can endure it?

This last phrase invokes the trope of YHWH’s day, ostensibly a time when people are punished for their sinfulness. [11] In this case, the day begins with a punishment for Israel itself.

Israel Must Repent to Stop the Locusts

Joel then shifts to how Israel can save themselves from this divine fury:

יואל ב:יב וְגַם עַתָּה נְאֻם יְ־הוָה שֻׁבוּ עָדַי בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם וּבְצוֹם וּבִבְכִי וּבְמִסְפֵּד. ב:יג וְקִרְעוּ לְבַבְכֶם וְאַל בִּגְדֵיכֶם וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם כִּי חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם הוּא אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חֶסֶד וְנִחָם עַל הָרָעָה.
Joel 2:12 “Yet even now”—says YHWH—“Turn back to Me with all your hearts, and with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.” 2:13 Rend your hearts rather than your garments, and turn back to YHWH your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, and renouncing punishment.[12]

If Israel does this, YHWH will bless them with bounty to compensate them for the destruction caused by YHWH's army of locusts:

יואל ב:כד וּמָלְאוּ הַגֳּרָנוֹת בָּר וְהֵשִׁיקוּ הַיְקָבִים תִּירוֹשׁ וְיִצְהָר. ב:כה וְשִׁלַּמְתִּי לָכֶם אֶת הַשָּׁנִים אֲשֶׁר אָכַל הָאַרְבֶּה הַיֶּלֶק וְהֶחָסִיל וְהַגָּזָם חֵילִי הַגָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר שִׁלַּחְתִּי בָּכֶם. ב:כו וַאֲכַלְתֶּם אָכוֹל וְשָׂבוֹעַ וְהִלַּלְתֶּם אֶת שֵׁם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה עִמָּכֶם לְהַפְלִיא וְלֹא יֵבֹשׁוּ עַמִּי לְעוֹלָם.
Joel 2:24 And threshing floors shall be piled with grain, and vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. 2:25 I will repay you for the years consumed by swarms and hoppers, by grubs and locusts, the great army I let loose against you. 2:26 And you shall eat your fill and praise the name of YHWH your God who dealt so wondrously with you—My people shall be shamed no more.

A Militant End of Days: Inverting Isaiah’s Peaceful Prophecy

Once Israel repents, their agriculture will return to normal, and they themselves, as opposed to the locusts, will become YHWH’s soldiers. At this time, YHWH’s wrath will turn against the nations who have abused Judah in its time of weakness:

יואל ד:ט קִרְאוּ זֹאת בַּגּוֹיִם קַדְּשׁוּ מִלְחָמָה הָעִירוּ הַגִּבּוֹרִים יִגְּשׁוּ יַעֲלוּ כֹּל אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה. ד:י כֹּתּוּ אִתֵּיכֶם לַחֲרָבוֹת וּמַזְמְרֹתֵיכֶם לִרְמָחִים הַחַלָּשׁ יֹאמַר גִּבּוֹר אָנִי.
Joel 4:9 Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for battle! Arouse the warriors, let all the fighters come and draw near! 4:10 Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears. Let even the weakling say, “I am strong.”

The imagery here seems to be a conscious inversion of the famous oracle,[13] found both in Micah and Isaiah, about the future day of YHWH:

מיכה ד:ג וְשָׁפַט בֵּין עַמִּים רַבִּים וְהוֹכִיחַ לְגוֹיִם עֲצֻמִים עַד רָחוֹק וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבֹתֵיהֶם לְאִתִּים וַחֲנִיתֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת לֹא יִשְׂאוּ גּוֹי אֶל גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא יִלְמְדוּן עוֹד מִלְחָמָה.
Mic 4:3 Thus He will judge among the many peoples, and arbitrate for the multitude of nations, however distant; And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.
ישעיה ב:ד וְשָׁפַט בֵּין הַגּוֹיִם וְהוֹכִיחַ לְעַמִּים רַבִּים וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבוֹתָם לְאִתִּים וַחֲנִיתוֹתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת לֹא יִשָּׂא גוֹי אֶל גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִלְחָמָה.
Isa 2:4 Thus He will judge among the nations and arbitrate for the many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war.

Joel too envisions a future in which YHWH judges the peoples of the world, but instead of imagining the warrior nations becoming peace-loving, he pictures the agricultural Judahites becoming militant. Like the locusts, they will be YHWH’s weapon of choice on earth, in this case, to avenge the wrongs done to them by the nations.

Recognizing Locusts as Punishment

The biblical authors of the exodus story and the book of Joel envision locusts as a tool in YHWH’s arsenal.[14] Moses first presents his threat to Pharaoh, noting that the monarch’s refusal to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt and worship YHWH in the wilderness is the cause of all this trouble:

שמות י:ג וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֶל פַּרְעֹה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו כֹּה אָמַר יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִים עַד מָתַי מֵאַנְתָּ לֵעָנֹת מִפָּנָי שַׁלַּח עַמִּי וְיַעַבְדֻנִי.
Exod 10:3 Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says YHWH, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go that they may worship Me.’”

The mere threat of locusts causes the Egyptians to panic, and they beg Pharaoh to give in to Moses’ demands:

שמות י:ז וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַבְדֵי פַרְעֹה אֵלָיו עַד מָתַי יִהְיֶה זֶה לָנוּ לְמוֹקֵשׁ שַׁלַּח אֶת הָאֲנָשִׁים וְיַעַבְדוּ אֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם הֲטֶרֶם תֵּדַע כִּי אָבְדָה מִצְרָיִם.
Exod 10:7 Pharaoh’s courtiers said to him, “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Let the men go to worship YHWH their God! Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?”[15]

When Moses states his demands, however, Pharaoh again stubbornly refuses to acquiesce; this brings on the plague of locusts. Similarly, Joel also understands the locust plague as divine punishment and claims that repentance will bring it to an end.

Locusts and Global Warming

The ancients had no way of understanding the science behind why locusts suddenly appear, but we now know that swarms of locust form in response to environmental disruption. Desert locusts (schistocerca gregaria) spend most of their lives as solitary grasshoppers. Normally, they prefer personal space, and thus avoid touching other grasshoppers.

When desert drought gets extreme, they congregate around the few moist patches that are left. Eventually the area gets so crowded that the grasshoppers can’t move without rubbing up against one another. They then adapt: their brain chemistry changes; their serotonin levels rise; their bodies harden; they eat more; they mate more and develop a group mind. And they fly off together in search of food.[16]

In recent years, rapid changes in the global atmosphere due to carbon emissions and habitat destruction have produced more locust swarms.[17] Fortunately, we know today that when environmental conditions stabilize, and spacious grasshopper habitats become available, the metamorphosis stops.[18] If we can beat our greenhouse gas producing energy into something greener, we can live a world where “locusts turn to grasshoppers,”[19] and not vice versa.[20]


January 18, 2024


Last Updated

March 26, 2024


View Footnotes

Dr. Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan is Director of Inter-Religious Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology. She is also Rabbi Emerita of Or Shalom Synagogue, Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a faculty member at ALEPH Ordination Programs. She holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Claremont Graduate University and rabbinic ordination from ALEPH. Duhan-Kaplan's recent books include Mouth of the Donkey: Re-Imagining Biblical Animals (2021) and her most recent co-edited anthologies are Visions of the End Times (2022) and Multireligious Reflections on Friendship (2023). She has received many teaching awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Cannon award (2022).