locust (different kinds in Joel 1:4 and 2:25)

“In each of these verses there are no less than four different words for locust: gazam, ‘arbeh, yeleq, and chasil. Most commentators accept that this refers to locusts in four different stages of development. These would presumably be the swarming adult locust, the resident adult locust, the wingless hopper, and the crawling nymph.

“The Good News Bible rendering ‘Swarm after swarm of locusts settled on the crops; what one swarm left, the next swarm devoured’ conveys the general idea, but is technically inaccurate in that not all the Hebrew words necessarily refer to swarming locusts. A more precise translation would be:

What the swarming locusts left, the resident locusts ate;
What the resident locusts left, the young crawling locusts ate;
And what the young hopping locusts left, the young crawling locusts ate.
” (Source: Hope 2003, p. 207)

Earlier English translations have tried to translate this verse by using different species:

  • That which the palmerworm hath left, the locust hath eaten: and that which the locust hath left, the bruchus hath eaten: and that which the bruchus hath left, the mildew hath destroyed. (Douay-Rheims)
  • 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. (King James Version)

As Rachel Konyoro (in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 221ff. ) points out:

“It is interesting to note that most of the [East African] translations examined give specific local names for the types of stages of locusts referred to in 1:4. (…) The East African region has for many years experienced the scourge of locust devastation of crops and vegetation. The locust is therefore well known in this region and local languages obviously reflect the people’s knowledge. (…) Because locusts are so well known, verse 1:4 is indeed more dynamic in these languages than in English, and probably reflects the poetic nature of the original which English may not.”

Lingala for instance uses the different species hamhinzo, makonko, makololo, makelele for the different locusts. (Source: Maleme Taam-Ambey in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 216)

See also locust.