Rabenu Chanan'el, in his commentary to Bo 10:19, writes, in part:

מעת עתרת משה רבינו עד עכשיו אין ארבה מפסיד בכל גבול מצרים ואם יפול בארץ ישראל ויבא ומכנס בגבול מצרים אינו אוכל מכל יבול הארץ כלום עד עכשיו וזה כבר דבר ידוע הוא לכל

In my own loose translation:

From the time of Moses's prayer [in verse 18 to remove the locusts from Egypt] until now the locust does not cause damage inside the borders of Egypt. If it lands in Israel and comes over the border into Egypt, it doesn't eat any of the produce there, to this very day. This is already a well known fact.

(This is cited in Ramban ad loc.)

This no longer seems to be a well-known fact. Albawaba Business writes:

In 2004, Egypt witnessed one of the most serious locust plagues in recent history, when farmers in 15 out of the country's 27 governorates reported infestations and extensive crop damage.

At the time, the Land Centre for Human Rights, a local NGO devoted to agriculture issues, reported that 38 per cent of the nation's crops had been damaged as a result of the phenomenon.

But perhaps the fifteen governorates afflicted are not part of the biblical-era borders of Egypt. And most reports indicate that the 2013 locust swarm did little or no crop damage in Egypt; I don't know about the various swarms before 2004.

Does anyone know whether people who study such things today agree with Rabenu Chanan'el's assessment? Or, in other words, does his statement seem to fit the facts? If not, then do any later commentaries offer an explanation? Or perhaps, contrary to my implied assumption above, R. Chanan'el never intended his statement to apply to future dates and was merely stating a fact about swarms until his time?

  • 2
    This would not be the first commentary I've seen that made assumptions based on the best possible information at the time, but that turned out to be wrong.
    – Cyn
    Jan 17, 2019 at 21:28
  • At the time of the Novi yoel, there was nothing with locust plague in Egypt?
    – kouty
    Jan 17, 2019 at 21:54
  • @Cyn the question is whether locusts if biblical borders were different, i think he's looking for a source that would confirm that within the bilical borders there still has not been a major swarm of locusts. One should not be so quick to dismiss what our Rabbis who are like Malachim (see Nedarim 19a-b) say.
    – user15464
    Jan 17, 2019 at 22:45
  • @user no one was quick to dismiss their words.
    – Double AA
    Jan 18, 2019 at 4:46
  • 2
    "Arbeh" is only one of the five or more species we call locusts. (5 are kosher, and I assume that many others are not.) The plague of Moshe was only arbeh, but the greater plague in the time of Yoel was of many species, as mentioned by Rashi in Chumash. I would say in defense of Rabbeinu Chananel that he was referring to arbeh specifically.
    – shmu
    Jan 18, 2019 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


One example of a later commentary that analyzes this is RNH Wessley in Yeyn Levanon here, who notes that this was still accepted as true in his day ( 18th/19th Century). He understands Rabbeinu Chananel as being an interpretation of the Pesukim that say that there will never be such a plague again, meaning there will never be a locust plague whatsoever in the future, even through a Godly miracle.
(This can also be seen in R"aCh's words והנה דברי משה בתפלתו נאמנים לשעה ולדורות.)

Therefore, certainly by his literal understanding, this has been "disproven". (Note that he is somewhat upset with this reading, as why would Moshe want the Egyptians to never be plagued by locusts again, rather than saving the Jewish people from such plagues, but he does not seem to reject it.)

The bigger issue here is that locust plagues, albeit rare, were not entirely uncommon in Egypt, as noted by Shadal here, even in earlier times. Therefore, this Rabbeinu Chananel is likely not something meant to be taken as a literal historical fact, but perhaps is meant as saying that relative to other nations around it, it is less susceptible to severe locust plagues.

Edit: Baruch Shekivanti - this is exactly the position taken by Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman here:

נהג רוח קדים – גם נוסעים היו עדים למכת ארבה במצרים, אף כי זו כנראה נדירה שם, וכבר העיר רבנו חננאל, ״כי זה כבר דבר ידוע לכל״ שאין הארבה גורם נזקים במצרים.

  • I thought this might be the first time that someone cited Wessely in an answer, but it has actually been done once before.
    – Alex
    Jan 20, 2019 at 17:26
  • @alex I think he may have been quoted elsewhere on this site, if not as "wessley". I'll try to find it. Jan 20, 2019 at 17:39
  • I searched several variant spellings and didn’t find anything. Unless you mean that they didn’t use his name at all and referred to him by some derogatory title?
    – Alex
    Jan 20, 2019 at 17:42
  • @alex here's a variant which returns a couple of hits: judaism.stackexchange.com/search?q=Wessely Jan 20, 2019 at 17:42
  • I definitely searched that variant. Don’t know why those didn’t come up.
    – Alex
    Jan 20, 2019 at 17:51

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