Caterpillar is the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of two Hebrews words: 1. Invariably of חָסַיל, chasil´ (occurs 1Ki 8:37; 2Ch 6:28; Ps 78:43; Isa 33:4; Joe 1:4; Joe 2:25); 2. Occasionally (Ps 105:34; Jer 51:14,27) of יֶלֶק, ye/lek, elsewhere "canker-worm" (q.v.).
The English word caterpillar belongs strictly to the larvae of the genus Lepidoptera, and more especially to the larvae of a section of it, the Papilionidae. It is, however, far from proved that the chasil is any species of caterpillar. The root חָסִל, chasal´, signifies to "consume" or "devour," and it is especially used to denote the ravages of the locust (De 28:38). The word βροῦχος, by which it is frequently rendered in the Sept., from βρώσκω, "I eat up," conveys also the idea of ravenousness. The Arabic and Syriac terms also indicate a creature whose chief characteristic is voracity, and this attaches to all the species of locusts. The ancients, indeed, concur in referring the word to the locust tribe of insects, but are not agreed whether it signifies any particular species of locust, or is the name for any of those states or transformations through which the locust passes from the egg to the perfect insect. The Latin fathers take it to mean the larva of the locust, and the Greek understand it as the name of an adult locust. The Latins give the name bruchus to the young locust before it has wings, call it attelabus when it begins to fly, and locusta when it is fully able to fly. The superior antiquity, however, of the Sept. entitles its opinion to preference, and in some passages it ascribes flight to the βροῦχος, and speaks of it as a distinct species; and in the former particular, especially, it is difficult to suspect it of an egregious error. The statement of Aristotle is also worthy of notice, who speaks of the attelabos as. a mature insect, for he refers to its parturition and eggs (Hist. An. 5:29). The arguments and speculations of the most eminent modern writers may be seen in Bochart, Heroz. ed. Rosenmüller, 3:256 sq. (Lips. 1793-6). SEE LOCUST.