Locusts as food

Robert Mill R.Mill at RBGE.ORG.UK
Fri Nov 17 18:28:16 CST 1995

Like many other Christians I too have been under the impression that
John the Baptist's locusts were the fruit of Ceratonia siliqua. The
current correspondence has been of much interest.

F. Peabody's statement giving the nutritional analysis of locust
insects makes me think otherwise too. No one seems to have mentioned
(in the short time I've been a Taxacom subscriber) that what JTB ate
was "locusts AND WILD HONEY." A diet of locust insects and wild
honey would surely have been much more balanced than one of carob
and wild honey. (There is a Talmudic story however, quoted by
Michael Zohary in Plants of the Bible p. 63, of a Jewish rabbi who
hid in Galilean caves for fear of capture by the Romans, and is said
to have lived for 12 years on carobs alone).

Also, JTB was in the Desert of Judaea (Matthew 3: 1); the carob is
more a plant of the coastal plain of Israel and in Galilee and
Samaria. It is unlikely there would have been many carob trees there
but there would have been plenty of hoppers assuming it was a
"locust year". (Since his other food was wild honey might he have
been preparing the way in a "desert bloom" year? A delightful

The Prodigal Son was mentioned: the Greek word in that passage is
keronia, so the carob tree is definitely referred to there.

The Hebrew words for carob and locust (insect) are very similar:
haruv, haruvim (with dot under the h) for Ceratonia siliqua, hagavim
(with dot under h) for locust insects (source: Zohary op. cit.; yes,
I am aware that there are at least 4 words for locust in the Old
Testament, to denote juvenile and adult stages etc, but do not
have them to hand!).

I'll stick to carob meantime but if I ever need to do some desert
survival it's nice to know that eating the other sort would not be
out of the ordinary and could help to keep me alive!

Robert Mill

      (Dr) ROBERT R MILL
      Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
      20a Inverleith Row, EDINBURGH EH3 5LR, SCOTLAND, U.K.

      Electronic Mail:   R.Mill at OR robert at
      Telephone:         + 44 131 552 7171 exts. 240 or 449
      Facsimile:         + 44 131 552 0382


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