Before I proceed I want to mention here 3 important principles in interpreting prophetic symbols :
1 – the Bible is sufficient (2nd Timothy 3:16-17) and interprets itself so we are encouraged to compare Scripture with Scripture
2 – we must use clearer passages to help us interpret the more difficult ones and not vice versa
3 – there is safety in a multitude of counsellors (Proverbs 24:6); it’s better to trust the consensus of doctrinally-sound, godly men over a long period of time rather than the arbitrary interpretations of one person
Now let us look at a few key passages in the Old Testament which mention locusts/grasshoppers or scorpions.
PASSAGE #1 : Proverbs 30:27
Solomon wrote these words concerning LITERAL locusts : “THE LOCUSTS HAVE NO KING, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” (Proverbs 30:27)
Let us compare this information with Revelation 9: 11 : “And they [the “LOCUSTS” of verse 3] HAD A KING OVER THEM, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”
Literal locusts have no king over them but the “locusts” of Revelation chapter 9 do have a king so that tells us that the locusts in Revelation 9 are not to be understood as literal locusts.
PASSAGE #2 : Exodus 10:13
The first mention of locusts in the Bible is in the Book of Exodus and they were used by God as a PLAGUE AGAINST Egypt, a kingdom of IDOLATERS:
“And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, THE EAST WIND brought the locusts.” (Exodus 10:13)
The first mentioned locusts in Scripture come from the East. EAST OF EGYPT. One of the countries east of Egypt is ARABIA.
Let me quote part of Albert Barnes’s commentary on Revelation 9:1 :
“The symbol [of locusts] is ORIENTAL, and would most naturally refer to SOMETHING THAT WAS TO OCCUR IN THE EAST. As locusts have appeared chiefly in the East, and as they are in a great measure an Oriental plague, the mention of this symbol would most naturally turn the thoughts to that portion of the earth. The symbols of the first four trumpets had no special locality, and would suggest no particular part of the world; but on the mention of this, the mind would be naturally turned to the East, and we should expect to find that the scene of this woe would be located in the regions where the ravages of locusts most abounded.”
The connection of LOCUSTS with JUDGMENT AGAINST IDOLATERS is found in Revelation chapter 9:
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and IDOLS of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:” (Revelation 9:20)
PASSAGE #3 : Exodus 10:12
Literal locusts are associated with eating vegetation :
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and EAT EVERY HERB OF THE LAND, even all that the hail hath left.” (Exodus 10:12)
In Revelation 9:4 we read that the “locusts” in the vision will not eat vegetation :
“And it was commanded them that THEY SHOULD NOT HURT THE GRASS OF THE EARTH, NEITHER ANY GREEN THING, NEITHER ANY TREE; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”
This is another Scriptural clue telling us that the “locusts” in Revelation 9 are not to be understood as literal locusts.
PASSAGE #4 : Nahum 3:17
Men are compared to locusts/grasshoppers in the Old Testament. The prophet Nahum wrote these words concerning the Assyrians, a people from THE EAST:
“THY CROWNED ARE AS THE LOCUSTS, AND THY CAPTAINS AS THE GREAT GRASSHOPPERS, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known where they are.” (Nahum 3:17)
We also have this verse in the Book of Judges which likens an invading army, a great MULTITUDE WITHOUT NUMBER, to grasshoppers:
“For they [the Midianites, the Amalekites and the CHILDREN OF THE EAST] came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came AS GRASSHOPPERS FOR MULTITUDE; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.” (Judges 6:5)
Notice again the Scriptural association of CHILDREN OF THE EAST with a figurative use of the word grasshoppers. And lest we forget this association the Holy Spirit guided the human author of the Book of Judges to repeat the figurative association of locusts with “children of the east” :
“And the MIDIANITES and the Amalekites and all the CHILDREN OF THE EAST lay along in the valley LIKE GRASSHOPPERS FOR MULTITUDE; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.” (Judges 7:12)
Among these “children of the east” were DESCENDANTS OF ISHMAEL. We read in the following chapter :
“And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were ISHMAELITES.)” (Judges 7:24)
It is also good to remember that the words “Midianites” (compared to grasshoppers in Judges 7:12) and “Ishmaelites” are used synonymously in the Book of Genesis for example. Let us compare the last verse of Genesis chapter 37 with the first verse of chapter 39:
“And THE MIDIANITES SOLD HIM INTO EGYPT unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.” (Genesis 37:36)
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, BOUGHT HIM OF THE HANDS OF THE ISHMEELITES, which had brought him down thither.” (Genesis 39:1)
Here we see that the Bible uses the locusts symbolically to represent a large army of men. The figurative use of the insect in reference to men should not be viewed as an offensive racial slur like “sand monkey” or “jungle bunny” but should rather be understood as conveying at least 3 pieces of information : 1) a very large army is intended and that army is 2) used by God to judge wicked men and 3) inspires terror and fear. In the Book of Judges we see the symbolic use of locusts in reference to an INVADING ARMY FROM THE EAST used by God to PUNISH IDOLATERS among His people. This means that it is possible that the locusts of Revelation 9 during this “time of the Gentiles” might have been used or will be used in judgment as an invading army (possibly from the East and possibly composed of descendants of Ishmael) against idolaters who profess Christianity (e.g. Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church). It’s a prophetic possibility in light of the Scriptural facts I have presented thus far.
Speaking of a GREAT MULTITUDE ASSOCIATED WITH THE EAST I can’t move on without quoting these verses concerning Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arab people:
“And the angel of the LORD said unto her [Hagar, the mother of Ishmael], I will multiply THY SEED exceedingly, that IT SHALL NOT BE NUMBERED FOR MULTITUDE.” (Genesis 16:10)
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and WILL MULTIPLY HIM EXCEEDINGLY; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” (Genesis 17:20)
PASSAGE #5 : Ezekiel 2:6
Associated with the “locusts” of Revelation 9 are TAILS of SCORPIONS. Scripturally scorpions can be used figuratively in speaking of wicked men:
“And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them [the rebellious house of Israel – see Ezekiel 2:3], neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and THOU DOST DWELL AMONG SCORPIONS: BE NOT AFRAID OF THEIR WORDS, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:6)
Literal scorpions don’t speak words so this use of the word “scorpions” in Ezekiel is figurative. Speaking of evil or false words A TAIL IS USED FIGURATIVELY OF A FALSE PROPHET who teach lies:
“The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and THE PROPHET THAT TEACHETH LIES, HE IS THE TAIL.” (Isaiah 9:15)
PASSAGE #6 : Deuteronomy 8:15
Scorpions in the Bible are associated with the wilderness.
“Who led thee through that great and terrible WILDERNESS, wherein were fiery serpents, and SCORPIONS, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;” (Deuteronomy 8:15)
What wilderness could that verse be referring to? Where was Mount Sinai? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer:
“For this Agar is MOUNT SINAI IN ARABIA, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” (Galatians 4:25)
The scorpion is associated with the Arabian wilderness. Here’s a photo of an Arabian scorpion:
Let us not forget that Ishmael like the scorpion is also associated Scripturally with the wilderness:
“And God was with the lad [Ishmael]; and he grew, and DWELT IN THE WILDERNESS, and became an archer.” (Genesis 21:20)
Though I may not agree with everything on the following website I find this archaeological article about Mount Sinai being in Arabia quite interesting:
I hope in the next post to continue my exposition of Revelation chapter 9 which is based upon the research and studies of godly Bible teachers of the past. I am putting forth nothing new.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1st Thessalonians 5:21)