what the ‘arbeh-locust left the yeleq-locust consumed,
and what the yeleq-locust left the hasil-locust consumed! 2
the yeleq-locust, the hasil-locust, and the gazam-locust –
my great army 6 that I sent against you.
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 tn Heb “I will restore to you the years.”
sn The plural years suggests that the plague to which Joel refers was not limited to a single season. Apparently the locusts were a major problem over several successive years. One season of drought and locust invasion would have been bad enough. Several such years would have been devastating.
4 sn The same four terms for locust are used here as in 1:4, but in a different order. This fact creates some difficulty for the notion that the four words refer to four distinct stages of locust development.
5 tn The term “your crops” does not appear in the Hebrew, but has been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
6 sn Here Joel employs military language to describe the locusts. In the prophet’s thinking this invasion was far from being a freak accident. Rather, the Lord is pictured here as a divine warrior who leads his army into the land as a punishment for past sin and as a means of bringing about spiritual renewal on the part of the people.