The Bible is a very special book. One thing that makes it so special is that it contains passages where it predicts the future. But sometimes those predictions only become clear many years after the events have taken place. One example is a prediction about the rise and fall of some powerful empires that came and went a long time ago.

The future for Israel

This prediction was made and recorded in the Bible by a prophet called Joel. Writing under inspiration from God about 3,000 years ago, he described the future of the nation of Israel and this is what he wrote:

“What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten” (Joel 1:3-4 KJV)

The verses describe devastating attacks on Israel using as an illustration the four stages in the life cycle of the locust. This could refer to a literal locust plague – common in those countries – but it could also be describing the future invasions of Israel by foreign armies. 

It has been suggested that the four ‘locust’ invasions refer to the four major powers that subdued Israel after Joel was inspired by God to write his prophecy.  They were Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, empires which are also described by another Bible prophet who wrote under inspiration, Daniel.

A hidden secret!

Anybody looking at an old clock face will be familiar with the use of letters to represent numbers. For example, ‘V’ is used for ‘5’ and ‘X’ is used for ’10’. Similarly, this Bible prophecy was written in Hebrew, which is a language that doesn’t have any numbers at all. So it only uses letters from its alphabet to represent numbers. As a result, some Hebrew names can also represent numbers, by adding up the numerical value of each of the letters in the name.

Apparently the numerical value of each of the four Hebrew words used by Joel in his prophecy is exactly the same as the length of time during which each of the four empires dominated the nation of Israel:

“Chewing locust” This has a numerical value of 50. This is the number of years that Babylon devastated Israel (BC 588-538).

“Swarming locust” This has numerical number of 208. This is the length of time that Persia dominated Israel (BC 538-330).

“Crawling locust” This has a numerical value of 140, the exact time during which the Greeks dominated Israel (BC 330-190).

“Consuming locust” This the length of time that Rome ruled over Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel (BC 38 – AD 70). 

If this reasoning is correct, it’s a wonderful example of the power of inspiration, hidden within these names. But with the benefit of hindsight, their meaning becomes clear!

The lessons for us

Being able to predict the future makes the Bible very special indeed. Human predictions about the future only rarely prove true. Even those whose job it is to predict the outcome of elections just a few days away often fail miserably!

Lesson 1: We have every reason to trust the Bible and what it tells us about God’s future plans for our world. That’s because all the Bible is what it claims to be – the inspired words of God himself.

And this prophecy is prefaced by the comment:

“Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation” (Joel 1:3 KJV)

Lesson 2: The Bible may be a very old book, but Bible prophecies and the vitally important message the Bible contains should be read by every generation. It makes a very good read!

Are you willing to learn these valuable lessons too?

To help you read the Bible, download this leaflet: Bible Ready Reference