The Plagues of Egypt: Lesson 11: The Plague of Locusts

Exodus 10.1-20

Now we come to one of the plagues that everyone has heard about — the plague of the locusts. As with all of the other plagues, this one is also designed to show who the true Sovereign is.

The last plague was unheard of in Egypt. Hail was not (and still is not) a problem in Egypt. If they get hail, it is insignificant. Unlike the hail, the locusts were an occasional problem. This time they were miraculously multiplied.


The nature of the plague

Locusts were one of the most dreaded insects of the Ancient Near East (ANE). It is common knowledge that locusts destroy crops. In a culture without crop dusters and modern chemicals to control locusts, a locust plague brought considerable destruction. Even, today, with all of our technology, pesticides are still not very effective.

Notice some interesting facts about locusts:

  • Locusts are able to flap their wings non-stop for seventeen hours.
  • Locusts can fly at 10-12 miles an hour for twenty hours or more.
  • Locust swarms have been spotted 1,200 miles out at sea.
  • Locusts swarms have an average density of about 130,000,000 per square
  • Locusts destroy everything edible with voracious appetites.

When locusts swarm, the results are devastating. Throughout history, locust swarms have produced great famines.

  • In 1865 locusts covered the ground of Joppa. So numerous were the locusts that the ground was covered to a height of several inches for miles.
  • In 1889 a locust swarm covered an area of 2,000 square miles.
  • In 1915 a locust swarm flew over Palestine for five days, darkening the sky and leaving droppings.
  • From 1926 40 locusts swarmed the plains of Africa including Timbuktu, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Khartoum. The swarm lasted fourteen years devastating five-million square miles of Africa (double the size of USA).
  • In 1963 locusts invaded South Africa. The Department of Agriculture pushed 200 spray trucks into service, 1,000 volunteers, and $30,000 a day was spent to control the pests, yet the modern day technology still could not detain the devastation until 30,000 square miles were destroyed (an area about the size of Maine).

Even though locusts have produced famines before, the locust plague of 1444 BC (circa) was the most severe.

… they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. (10.14)

Why the locusts?

With the previous plagues, the Egyptians have already lost much cattle, crops, and servants. With the locust plague, the devastation completes the destruction on Egypt s crops.

Besides the obvious vegetation destruction, this plague would constitute yet another blow to their religious system. There was a god who protected against the locust (Senehem). He was a minor deity. Yet, it was the function of many gods to protect the fields, vegetation and all that was destroyed by the locusts. This plague adds to the cumulative effect that Pharaoh is impotent and their gods are not able to secure order.

Application:

This plague ends with the statement: “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” As mentioned in a previous lesson, there are three words used throughout the plague narrative which is translated “hardened.” This is the word kazaq, which means “to grow firm, stout, rigid, or hard.”

In verse 16, we see that Pharaoh is getting more desperate (“quickly summoned”), yet he will not bow to God’s wishes, EVEN after just giving a statement of repentance.

 

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