Great civilizations often achieve great things because they have a great leader who casts a vision, marshals their resources, organizes their members, inspires their action, and of course, goes before them.
Great civilizations often achieve great things because they have a great leader who casts a vision, marshals their resources, organizes their members, inspires their action, and of course, goes before them. People generally fare better when they have a leader, when someone helps them cooperate and accomplish what can only be achieved with a coordinated effort. But what if there is no leader?
The Hebrew sage Agur penned just two lines about the locust, but those lines refer to a phenomenon that every citizen of Israel had personally witnessed. Agur referred to the locust, an insect very similar to the grasshopper, the primary difference being their tendency to swarm.
Farmers feared few things more than they feared a plague of locusts. Those insects can breed out of control, congregate, and then begin to move from field to field, consuming every crop they encounter. Each adult can eat its own weight in food. Multiply that one locust by the hundreds of thousands, give them crops to eat, and you have a first-rate, Old Testament pestilence on your hands. Some swarms sound like a commercial jetliner passing overhead.
According to the wise man, however, these creatures have no leader, no one to plan, organize, coordinate, and execute. Nevertheless, locusts become a strategically aligned team that “[goes] out in ranks” to wreak havoc on endless acres of crops, which they devour with terrifying efficiency. The word translated “ranks” usually refers to archers, who maintained a prescribed space between each man. The writer used this image to emphasize the presence of cooperation within the swarm.
The secret to the success of a locust swarm is cooperation. They could all fly off in a hundred different directions. Instead, they move together from place to place, flying in formation, as it were, feeding and breeding until they become an unstoppable force. They illustrate a principle that wise people do not neglect: what we cannot accomplish on our own, we can achieve together.