Verse 34. He spoke, and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number. One word from the Captain and the armies leap forward. The expression is very striking, and sets forth the immediate result of the divine word. The caterpillar is called the licker, because it seems to lick up every green thing as in a moment. Perhaps the caterpillar here meant is still the locust in another form. That locusts swarm in countless armies is a fact of ordinary observation, and the case would be worse on this occasion. We have ourselves ridden for miles through armies of locusts, and we have seen with our own eyes how completely they devour every green thing. The description is not strained when we read, "And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground." Nothing escapes these ravenous creatures, they even climb the trees to reach any remnant of foliage which may survive. Commissioned as these were by God, we may be sure they would do their work thoroughly, and leave behind them nothing but a desolate wilderness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 34. -- Locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number. In this country, and in all the dominions of Prete Janni, is a very great and horrible plague, which is an innumerable company of locusts, which eat and consume all the corn and trees; and the number of them is so great, as it is incredible; and with their multitude they cover the earth and fill the air in such wise, that it is a hard matter to be able to see the sun...We travelled five days journey through places wholly waste and destroyed, wherein millet had been sown, which had stalks as great as those we set in our vineyards, and we saw them all broken and beaten down as if a tempest had been there; and this the locusts did. The trees were without leaves, and the bark of them was all devoured; and no grass was there to be seen, for they had eaten up all things; and if we had not been warned and advised to carry victual with us, we and our cattle had perished. This country was all covered with locusts without wings; and they told us these were the seed of them which had eaten up all, and that as soon as their wings were grown they would seek after the old ones. The number of them was so great, that I shall not speak of it, because I shall not be believed: but this! will say, that I saw men, women, and children sit as forlorn and dead among the locusts. --Samuel Purchas, 1577-1628.
Verse 34. -- Locusts and caterpillars. God did not bring the same plague twice; but when there was occasion for another, it was still a new one; for he has many arrows in his quiver. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 34. -- Without number. A swarm of locusts, which was observed in India in 1825, occupied a space of forty English square miles, contained at least forty millions of locusts in one line, and cast a long shadow on the earth. And Major Moore thus describes an immense army of these animals which ravaged the Mahratta country: "The column they composed extended five hundred miles; and so compact was it when on the wing, that like an eclipse, it completely hid the sun, so that no shadow was cast by any object." Brown, in his travels in Africa, states that an area of nearly two thousand square miles was literally covered by them; and Kirby and Spence mention that a column of them was so immense, that they took four hours to fly over the spot where the observer stood. --M. Kalisch.
Verse 34. -- Came...and that without number.
Onward they came, a dark continuous cloud
Of congregated myriads number less;
The rushing of whose wings was as the sound
Of some broad river, headlong in its course,
Plunged from a mountain summit; or the roar
Of a wild ocean in the autumnal storm,
Shattering its billows on a shore of rocks,
Onward they came, the winds impelled them on. Robert Southey, 1774-1843.