what the ‘arbeh-locust left the yeleq-locust consumed,
and what the yeleq-locust left the hasil-locust consumed! 2
There are so many of them they are too numerous to count. 6
Their teeth are like those 7 of a lion;
they tear apart their prey like a lioness. 8
they have turned our 12 fig trees into mere splinters.
They have completely stripped off the bark 13 and thrown them aside;
2 tn The four Hebrew terms used in this verse are of uncertain meaning. English translations show a great deal of variation in dealing with these: (1) For ָגּזָם (gazam) KJV has “palmerworm,” NEB “locust,” NAB “cutter”, NASB “gnawing locust,” NIV “locust swarm,” NKJV “chewing locust,” NRSV, NLT “cutting locust(s),” NIrV “giant locusts”; (2) for אַרְבֶּה (’arbeh) KJV has “locust,” NEB “swarm,” NAB “locust swarm,” NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NLT “swarming locust(s),” NIV “great locusts,” NIrV “common locusts”; (3) for יֶלֶק (yeleq) KJV has “cankerworm,” NEB “hopper,” NAB “grasshopper,” NASB “creeping locust,” NIV, NIrV “young locusts,” NKJV “crawling locust,” NRSV, NLT “hopping locust(s)”; (4) for חָסִיל (khasil) KJV has “caterpillar,” NEB “grub,” NAB “devourer,” NASB, NLT “stripping locust(s),” NIV, NIrV “other locusts,” NKJV “consuming locust,” NRSV “destroying locust.” It is debated whether the Hebrew terms describe different species of locusts or similar insects or different developmental stages of the same species, or are virtual synonyms. While the last seems more likely, given the uncertainty over their exact meaning, the present translation has transliterated the Hebrew terms in combination with the word “locust.”
sn Four different words for “locust” are used in this verse. Whether these words represent different life-stages of the locusts, or whether virtual synonyms are being used to underscore the severity of damage caused by the relentless waves of locust invasion, is not entirely certain. The latter seems more likely. Many interpreters have understood the locust plagues described here to be symbolic of invading armies that will devastate the land, but the symbolism could also work the other way, with real plagues of locusts described in the following verses as an invading army.
3 sn As becomes increasingly clear in what follows, this nation is to be understood figuratively. It refers to the locust invasion as viewed from the standpoint of its methodical, destructive advance across the land (BDB 156 s.v. גּוֹי 2). This term is used figuratively to refer to animals one other time (Zeph 2:14).
4 tn Heb “has come up against.”
5 tn Heb “my.”
6 tn Heb “[It] is huge and there is not number.”
7 tn Heb “its teeth are the teeth of a lion.”
8 tn Heb “its incisors are those of a lioness.” The sharp, cutting teeth are metonymical for the action of tearing apart and eating prey. The language is clearly hyperbolic. Neither locusts nor human invaders literally have teeth of this size. The prophet is using exaggerated and picturesque language to portray in vivid terms the enormity of the calamity. English versions vary greatly on the specifics: KJV “cheek teeth”; ASV “jaw-teeth”; NAB “molars”; NASB, NIV, NRSV “fangs.”
9 tn Heb “it.” Throughout vv. 6-7 the Hebrew uses singular forms to describe the locust swarm, but the translation uses plural forms because several details of the text make more sense in English as if they are describing the appearance and effects of individual locusts.
10 tn Heb “my.”
11 tn Both “vines” and “fig trees” are singular in the Hebrew text, but are regarded as collective singulars.
12 tn Heb “my.”
13 tn Heb “it has completely stripped her.”
14 tn Heb “her.”
15 tn Heb “grow white.”
sn Once choice leafy vegetation is no longer available to them, locusts have been known to consume the bark of small tree limbs, leaving them in an exposed and vulnerable condition. It is apparently this whitened condition of limbs that Joel is referring to here.