Joel 1:4
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.
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(4) That which the palmerworm hath left.—The picture is introduced suddenly and graphically. “Behold the desolation!” “Note the cause.” The earth is bared by locusts beyond all previous experience. There were different sorts of locusts; as many as ninety have been reckoned. The four names, palmerworm, locust, cankerworm, caterpiller, indicate different swarms of the insect. The first—Gazam—points to its voracity; the second—Arbeh—its multitude; the third—Yelek—its manner of “licking up” the grass like cattle; the fourth—Chasil—its destructive effect. The number enumerated, four, draws attention to the “four sore judgments” with which Ezekiel was instructed to threaten Jerusalem, and to the four foreign invasions by the Assyrians, Chaldæans, Macedonians, and Romans.

Joel 1:4. That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten — A succession of noxious creatures hath perfectly destroyed the fruits of the earth; which makes this judgment so strange and remarkable. It is usual with the prophets to speak of things which were certainly about to take place, as already come to pass; and it is likely that the prophet speaks thus here; and that the sense is, That which the palmer-worm shall leave the locust shall eat. Bochart hath assigned many probable reasons to show that the four Hebrew words here used signify four species of locusts.

1:1-7 The most aged could not remember such calamities as were about to take place. Armies of insects were coming upon the land to eat the fruits of it. It is expressed so as to apply also to the destruction of the country by a foreign enemy, and seems to refer to the devastations of the Chaldeans. God is Lord of hosts, has every creature at his command, and, when he pleases, can humble and mortify a proud, rebellious people, by the weakest and most contemptible creatures. It is just with God to take away the comforts which are abused to luxury and excess; and the more men place their happiness in the gratifications of sense, the more severe temporal afflictions are upon them. The more earthly delights we make needful to satisfy us, the more we expose ourselves to trouble.That which the palmerworm hath left, hath the locust eaten - The creatures here spoken of are different kinds of locusts, so named from their number or voracity. We, who are free from this scourge of God, know them only by the generic name of locusts. But the law mentions several sorts of locusts, each after its kind, which might be eaten . In fact, above eighty different kinds of locusts have been observed , some of which are twice as large as that which is the ordinary scourge of God . Slight as they are in themselves, they are mighty in God's Hand; beautiful and gorgeous as they are, floating in the sun's rays , they are a scourge, including other plagues, famine, and often, pestilence.

Of the four kinds, here named by the prophet, that rendered "locust" is so called from its multitude, (from where Jeremiah says "they are more numerous than the locust" See Judges 6:5; Judges 7:12; Psalm 105:34; Nahum 3:15. It is a proverb in Arabic also)), and is, probably, the creature which desolates whole regions of Asia and Africa. The rest are named from their voracity, the "gnawer," "licker," "consumer," but they are, beyond doubt, distinct kinds of that destroyer. And this is the characteristic of the prophet's threatening, that he foretells a succession of destroyers, each more fatal than the preceding; and that, not according to the order of nature. For in all the observations which have been made of the locusts, even when successive flights have desolated the same land, they have always been successive clouds of the same creature.

Over and above the fact, then, that locusts are a heavy chastisement from God, these words of Joel form a sort of sacred proverb. They are the epitome of his whole prophecy. It is "this" which he had called the old men to hear, and to say whether they had known anything like "this;" that scourge came after scourge, judgment after judgment, until man yielded or perished. The visitation of locusts was one of the punishments threatened in the law, "Thou shall carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in, for the locust shall consume it" Deuteronomy 28:38. It was one of God's ordinary punishments for sin, in that country, like famine, or pestilence, or blight, or mildew, or murrain, or (in this) potato disease. Solomon, accordingly, at the dedication of the temple mentions the locust among the other plagues, which he then solemnly entreated God to remove, when individuals or the whole people should spread forth their hands in penitence toward that house 1 Kings 8:37-38.

But the characteristic of "this" prophecy is the successiveness of the judgments, each in itself, desolating, and the later following quick upon the earlier, and completing their destructiveness. The judgments of God are linked together by an invisible chain, each drawing on the other; yet, at each link of the lengthening chain, allowing space and time for repentance to break it through. So in the plagues of Egypt, God, "executing His judgments upon them by little and little, gave them time for repentance" (Wisd. 12:10); yet, when Pharaoh hardened his heart, each followed on the other, until he perished in the Red Sea. In like way God said, "him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay" 1 Kings 19:17. So, in the Revelation, the "trumpets" are sounded Revelation 8:1-13; Revelation 9; Revelation 11:15, and "the vials of the wrath of God are poured out upon the earth, one after the other" Revelation 16. Actual locusts were very likely one of the scourges intended by the prophet. They certainly were not the whole; but pictured others fiercer, more desolating, more overwhelming. The proverbial dress gained and fixed people's attention on the truth, which, if it had been presented to the people nakedly, they might have turned from. Yet as, in God's wisdom, what is said generally, is often fulfilled specially, so here there were four great invaders which in succession wasted Judah; the Assyrian, Chaldaean, Macedonian and Roman.

Morally, also, four chief passions desolate successively the human heart. : "For what is designated by the "palmerworm," which creeps with all its body on the ground, except it be lust, which so pollutes the heart which it possesses, that it cannot rise up to the love of heavenly purity? What is expressed by the "locust," which flies by leaps, except vain glory which exalts itself with empty presumptions? What is typified by the "cankerworm," almost the whole of whose body is gathered into its belly, except gluttony in eating? What but anger is indicated by mildew, which burns as it touches? What the "palmerworm" then "hath left the locust heath eaten," because, when the sin of lust has retired from the mind, vain glory often succeeds. For since it is not now subdued by the love of the flesh, it boasts of itself, as if it were holy through its chastity. "And that which the locust hath left, the cankerworm hath eaten," because when vain glory, which came, as it were, from holiness, is resisted, either the appetite, or some ambitious desires are indulged in too immoderately. For the mind which knows not God, is led the more fiercely to any object of ambition, in proportion as it is not restrained by any love of human praise. "That which the cankerworm hath left," the mildew consumes, because when the gluttony of the belly is restrained by abstinence, the impatience of anger holds fiercer sway, which, like mildew, eats up the harvest by burning it, because the flame of impatience withers the fruit of virtue. When then some vices succeed to others, one plague devours the field of the mind, while another leaves it."

4. This verse states the subject on which he afterwards expands. Four species or stages of locusts, rather than four different insects, are meant (compare Le 11:22). Literally, (1) the gnawing locust; (2) the swarming locust; (3) the licking locust; (4) the consuming locust; forming a climax to the most destructive kind. The last is often three inches long, and the two antennæ, each an inch long. The two hinder of its six feet are larger than the rest, adapting it for leaping. The first "kind" is that of the locust, having just emerged from the egg in spring, and without wings. The second is when at the end of spring, still in their first skin, the locusts put forth little ones without legs or wings. The third, when after their third casting of the old skin, they get small wings, which enable them to leap the better, but not to fly. Being unable to go away till their wings are matured, they devour all before them, grass, shrubs, and bark of trees: translated "rough caterpillars" (Jer 51:27). The fourth kind, the matured winged locusts (see on [1129]Na 3:16). In Joe 2:25 they are enumerated in the reverse order, where the restoration of the devastations caused by them is promised. The Hebrews make the first species refer to Assyria and Babylon; the second species, to Medo-Persia; the third, to Greco-Macedonia and Antiochus Epiphanes; the fourth, to the Romans. Though the primary reference be to literal locusts, the Holy Spirit doubtless had in view the successive empires which assailed Judea, each worse than its predecessor, Rome being the climax. Four sorts of insects pernicious to all sorts of trees, corn, and herbs are here mentioned, which did succeed each other, and devoured all that might be a future support to the Jews; whence ensued a grievous famine for four years together, say the Jewish interpreters, though there is no cogent reason in what they mention for proof hereof. These insects might in the same year succeed each other, the one, as is usual, might come sooner, the rest successively, each in its season, and so spoil the springing of all things, which they did (I do believe) really; and though these might be emblems of some future devastation, yet it seems most agreeable to reason, and the context, that there should really have been such caterpillars and other vermin, and that they did devour all that was green; and though this is no where else mentioned, as I remember, in the sacred history, yet it is likely it was done, as here told, and as so done was a figure of some greater devastation made by foreign powers, as by Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar.

That which the palmer worm hath left hath the locust eaten,.... These, with the two following, are four kinds of, locusts as Jarchi observes; though it is difficult to fix the particular species designed; they seem to have their names from some peculiar properties belonging to them; as the first of these from their sheering or cropping off the fruits and leaves of trees; and the second from the vast increase of them, the multitude they bring forth and the large numbers they appear in:

and that which the locust hath left hath the canker worm eaten; which in the Hebrew language is called from its licking up the fruits of the earth, by which it becomes barren:

and that which the canker worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten; which has its name from wasting and consuming all that comes in its way: now these came not together, but followed one another; not one one year, and another the second, and so on throughout four years, as Kimchi thinks; for though the calamity lasted some years as is manifest from Joel 2:25; yet it is not reasonable, that, for instance what the palmer worm left the first year should remain in the fields and vineyards, on the fig trees and vines till the next year for the locust to consume and is on:, but rather these all appeared in succession in one and the same year; and so what the palmer worm left having eaten up what was most agreeable to them, the locust came and devoured what they had left; and then what they left was destroyed by the canker worm, which fed on that which was most grateful to them; and last of all came the caterpillar, and consumed all the others had left; and this might be continued for years successively: when this calamity was, we have no account in sacred history; whether it was in the seven years' famine in the days of Elisha, or the same with what Amos speaks of, Amos 4:6; is not easy to say: and though it seems to be literally understood, as the drought later mentioned, yet might be typical of the enemies of the Jews succeeding one another in the destruction of them. Not of the four monarchies, the Babylonians, Persians, Grecians, and Romans, as Lyra and Abarbinel; since the Persians particularly never entered into the land of Judea and wasted it; though this is the sense of the ancient Jews, as Jerom relates; for he says the Hebrews interpret the "palmer worm" of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans, who, coming from one climate of the world, destroyed both the ten and the two tribes, that is, all the people of Israel: the locust they interpret of the Medes and Persians, who, having overturned the Chaldean empire, carried the Jews captive: the "canker worm" is the Macedonians, and all the successors of Alexander; especially King Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who like a canker worm sat in Judea, and devoured all the remains of the former kings, under whom were the wars of the Maccabees: the "caterpillar" they refer to the Roman empire, the fourth and last that oppressed the Jews, and drove them out of their borders. Nor of the several kings of Assyria and Babylon, who followed one another, and wasted first the ten tribes, and then the other two, as Tiglathpileser, Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar, so Theodoret; since this prophecy only relates to the two tribes. Rather therefore this may point at the several invasions and incursions of the Chaldean army into Judea, under Nebuchadnezzar and his generals; first, when he came up against Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim tributary to him; a second time, when he carried Jehoiachin and his family into Babylon, with a multitude of the Jews, and their wealth; a third time, when he besieged Jerusalem, and took it, and Zedekiah the king, and carried him captive; and a fourth time, when Nebuzaradan came and burnt the temple, and the houses of Jerusalem, and broke down the walls of it, and cleared the land of its inhabitants and riches; see 2 Kings 24:1.

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.
4. The calamity to which the prophet has thus emphatically directed his hearers’ attention: a visitation of locusts, repeated for more years than one (Joel 2:25), and of unexampled severity; what had escaped the ravages of one swarm, had been speedily devoured by a succeeding one, till the crops were completely ruined, and every chance both of harvest and vintage had been utterly destroyed.

That which the shearer (gâzâm) hath left, the swarmer (arbeh) hath eaten;

And that which the swarmer (arbeh) hath left, the lapper (yéleḳ) hath eaten;

And that which the lapper (yéleḳ) hath left, the finisher (ḥâsîl) hath eaten.

The general intention of the verse is manifestly to describe a total destruction of the herbage of the land; but as we cannot identify with certainty the kinds of locust meant,—nor, if we could, should have suitable English names by which to distinguish them,—it is best to translate the terms used by words expressing the ideas which they probably suggested to the Hebrew ear. Successive swarms of locusts, appearing partly, it is probable, in the same year, partly in following years, are indicated rhetorically by four distinct names, which may partly be synonymous designations of the same species (though not of the same individual insects), partly denote different species, and partly denote the ordinary locust in different stages of its development (see p. 84 f.). The gâzâm is mentioned besides only Joel 2:25, Amos 4:9. Arbeh is the usual name of the locust in Hebrew, and may be presumed therefore to have been the name of the species which most commonly invades Palestine, the Acridium peregrinum. The yéleḳ may have denoted the ordinary locust in its wingless larva- or pupa-stage (in which state it is not less destructive than in its mature form): in this case the second line of the verse will describe how what the fully-grown parent insects left in April or May, when they laid their eggs, was destroyed by the young larvae hatched in June. The ḥâsîl is named beside the arbeh, as a plague to which Palestine was liable, in 1 Kings 8:37; this, therefore, was probably a distinct species, perhaps the Oedipoda migratoria or Pachytylus, also common in Palestine[30]. See further particulars in the Excursus at the end of the Book (p. 85 ff.).

[30] The four names cannot, as Credner and (somewhat differently) Gesenius thought, denote, as they stand, locusts in four successive stages of their development, for various reasons: (1) because not more than three stages are distinguishable by an ordinary observer [yet cf. p. 90]; (2) because, upon this view, arbeh, the most usual name of the locust, would denote only the immature insect; (3) because in Joel 2:25 the four names occur in a different order; (4) because, as swarms of locusts always move onwards, a swarm in one stage of its development could not be said to have devoured what it had left in a previous stage, since it would be upon entirely new ground. (Of course the last objection does not hold in the particular case of the larvae emerging from eggs, assumed above to represent the yéleḳ.)

In illustration of the allusions to locusts, contained in this and the following chapter, numerous passages from the descriptions of naturalists and travellers have been collected by Credner (ad locc. and pp. 261–313), and after him by Dr Pusey, a selection from which (with some additions from more recent authorities) is reprinted here. In the Excursus (p. 87 ff.) will be found also some continuous descriptions, by different observers, of the invasion of a country by locusts.

Verse 4. - That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the canker-worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. Some interpreters consider, and rightly, we think, that the prophet enumerates in this verse four different species of locusts. The common or general name is arbeh, from rabhah, to be many; the gazam, or palmer-worm, is the gnawer, or biter, from a root (guzam) which signifies "to gnaw, bite, or cut off;" the yeleq, or canker-worm, is the licker, from yalaqlaqaq, to lick, or lick off; the chasil, or caterpillar, is the devourer, from chasal, to cut off. Thus we have the locust, or multitudinous one, the gnawer, the licker, and the devourer, either as

(1) four different species of locust; or

(2) the gnawer, licker, and devourer are poetical epithets of the locust, or multitudinous one.

These names do not denote the locust

(1) at different stages, according to Credner. Nor

(2) can we with propriety understand them allegorically, with Jerome, Cyril, and Theodoret, of the enemies of the Jews, whether

(a) the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Chaldeans,

(b) Medes and Persians,

(c) Macedonians and successors of Alexander, especially Antiochus, and

(d) the Romans;

or the hostile kings,

(a) Shalmaneser,

(b) Nebuchadnezzar,

(c) Antiochus, and

(d) the Romans;

or those other kings,

(a) Tiglath-Pileser,

(b) Shalma-neser,

(c) Sennacherib, and

(d) Nebuchadnezzar.

The most celebrated Hebrew commentators understand the passage of locusts in the proper and literal sense. Thus Rashi says, "The palmer-worm locust, cankerworm, and caterpillar are species of locusts; and the prophet prophesies about them that they will come; and they came in those days, and they devoured all the fruit of the trees and every herb of the field." Abon Ezra says, "This the prophet prophesied in reference to the locust which should come to destroy the land. In the days of Moses there was one kind of locust alone, but now, with the arbeh, there are the gazam and yeleq and chasil, and these three kinds are joined." He also quotes Japhet as saying "that gazam is equivalent to gozez, cutting, and the mere is like mere in chinmam reykam; and yeleq, that which licks (yiloq) with its tongue... and chasil of some signification (yachsele-nenu) as shall consume it." In like manner Kimohi gives the derivation of the words as follows: "Some say that gazam is so called because it cuts (gozez) the increase; and arbeh, because it is numerous in species; and yeleq, because it licks and depastures by licking the herb; and chasil, became it cuts the whole, from 'And the locust shall consume it' (Deuteronomy 28:38)." When, however, Kimchi distributes the comings of the locusts into four separate and successive years, we must reject his interpretation in that respect. He says, "What the gazam left in the first year, the locust ate in the second year; for the four kinds did not come in one year, but one after another in four years; and he says, ' I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten.'" Joel 1:4Joel 1:1 contains the heading to the book, and has already been noticed in the introduction. Joel 1:2. "Hear this, ye old men; and attend, all ye inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing indeed happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Joel 1:1. Ye shall tell your sons of it, and your sons their sons, and their sons the next generation. Joel 1:4. The leavings of the gnawer the multiplier ate, and the leavings of the multiplier the licker ate, and the leavings of the licker the devourer ate." Not only for the purpose of calling the attention of the hearers to his address, but still more to set forth the event of which he is about to speak as something unheard of - a thing that has never happened before, and therefore is a judgment inflicted by God - the prophet commences with the question addressed to the old men, whose memory went the furthest back, and to all the inhabitants of Judah, whether they had ever experienced anything of the kind, or heard of such a thing from their fathers; and with the command to relate it to their children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

(Note: "As he is inquiring concerning the past according to the command of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:7, he asks the old men, who have been taught by long experience, and are accustomed, whenever they see anything unusual, to notice that this is not according to the ordinary course of nature, which they have observed for so many years. And since this existing calamity, caused by the insects named, has lasted longer and pressed more heavily than usual, he admonishes them to carry their memory back to the former days, and see whether anything of the kind ever happened naturally before; and if no example can be found, the prophet's advice is, that they should recognise this as the hand of God from heaven." - Tarnov.)

"The inhabitants of the land" are the inhabitants of Judah, as it was only with this kingdom that Joel was occupied (cf. Joel 1:14 and Joel 2:1). זאת is the occurrence related in Joel 1:4, which is represented by the question "Has this been in your days?" as a fact just experienced. Yether haggâzâm, the leavings of the gnawer, i.e., whatever the gnawer leaves unconsumed of either vegetables or plants. The four names given to the locusts, viz., gâzâm, 'arbeh, yeleq, and châsil, are not the names applied in natural history to four distinct species, or four different generations of locusts; nor does Joel describe the swarms of two successive years, so that "gâzâm is the migratory locust, which visits Palestine chiefly in the autumn, 'arbeh the young brood, yeleq the young locust in the last stage of its transformation, or before changing its skin for the fourth time, and châsı̄l the perfect locust after this last change, so that as the brood sprang from the gâzâm, châsı̄l would be equivalent to gâzâm" (Credner). This explanation is not only at variance with Joel 2:25, where gâzâm stands last, after châsı̄l, but is founded generally merely upon a false interpretation of Nahum 3:15-16 (see the passage) and Jeremiah 51:27, where the adjective sâmâr (horridus, horrible), appended to yeleq, from sâmâr, to shudder, by no means refers to the rough, horny, wing-sheath of the young locusts, and cannot be sustained from the usage of the language, It is impossible to point out any difference in usage between gâzâm and châsı̄l, or between these two words and 'arbeh. The word gâzâm, from gâzâm, to cut off (in Arabic, Ethiopic, and the Rabb.), occurs only in this passage, in Joel 2:25, and in Amos 4:9, where it is applied to a swarm of flying locusts, which leave the vine, fig-tree, and olive, perfectly bare, as it is well known that all locusts do, when, as in Amos, the vegetables and field fruits have been already destroyed. 'Arbeh, from râbhâh, to be many, is the common name of the locust, and indeed in all probability of the migratory locust, because this always appears in innumerable swarms. Châsı̄l, from châsal, to eat off, designates the locust (hâ'arbeh), according to Deuteronomy 28:38, by its habit of eating off the field crops and tree fruits, and is therefore used in 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28; Psalm 78:46, as synonymous with hâ'arbeh, and in Isaiah 33:4 in its stead. Yeleq, from yâlaq equals lâqaq, to lick, to lick off, occurs in Psalm 105:34 as equivalent to 'arbeh, and in Nahum as synonymous with it; and indeed it there refers expressly to the Egyptian plague of locusts, so that young locusts without wings cannot possibly be thought of. Haggâzâm the gnawer, hayyeleq the licker, hechâsı̄l the devourer, are therefore simply poetical epithets applied to the 'arbeh, which never occur in simple plain prose, but are confined to the loftier (rhetorical and poetical) style. Moreover, the assumption that Joel is speaking of swarms of locusts of two successive years, is neither required by Joel 2:25 (see the comm. on this verse), nor reconcilable with the contents of the verse itself. If the 'arbeh eats what the gâzâm has left, and the yeleq what is left by the 'arbeh, we cannot possibly think of the field and garden fruits of two successive years, because the fruits of the second year are not the leavings of the previous year, but have grown afresh in the year itself.

(Note: Bochart (Hieroz. iii. p. 290, ed. Ros.) has already expressed the same opinion. "If," he says, "the different species had been assigned to so many different years, the 'arbeh would not be said to have eaten the leavings of the gâzâm, or the yeleq the leavings of the 'arbeh, or the châsı̄l the leavings of the yeleq; for the productions of this year are not the leavings of last, nor can what will spring up in future be looked upon as the leavings of this. Therefore, whether this plague of locusts was confined to one year, or was repeated for several years, which seems to be the true inference from Joel 2:25, I do not think that the different species of locusts are to be assigned to different years respectively, but that they all entered Judaea in the same year; so that when one swarm departed from a field, another followed, to eat up the leavings of the previous swarm, if there were any; and that this was repeated as many times as was necessary to consume the whole, so that nothing at all should be left to feed either man or beast.")

The thought is rather this: one swarm of locusts after another has invaded the land, and completely devoured its fruit. The use of several different words, and the division of the locusts into four successive swarms, of which each devours what has been left by its precursor, belong to the rhetorical drapery and individualizing of the thought. The only thing that has any real significance is the number four, as the four kinds of punishment in Jeremiah 15:3, and the four destructive judgments in Ezekiel 14:21, clearly show. The number four, "the stamp of oecumenicity" (Kliefoth), indicates here the spread of the judgment over the whole of Judah in all directions.

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