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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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עיש , Job 4:19; and עשש , Job 13:28; Job 27:18; Psalms 6:7; Psalms 31:9-10; Psalms 39:11; Isaiah 50:9; Hosea 5:12 . The clothes moth is the tinea argentea; of a white, shining silver, or pearl colour. It is clothed with shells, fourteen in number, and these are scaly. Albin asserts this to be the insect that eats woollen stuffs; and says that it is produced from a gray speckled moth, that flies by night, creeps among woollens, and there lays her eggs, which, after a little time, are hatched as worms, and in this state they feed on their habitation, till they change into a chrysalis, and thence emerge into moths. "The young moth, or moth worm," says the Abbe Pluche, "upon leaving the egg which a papilio had lodged upon a piece of stuff commodious for her purpose, finds a proper place of residence, grows and feeds upon the nap, and likewise builds with it an apartment, which is fixed to the groundwork of the stuff with several cords and a little glue. From an aperture in this habitation, the moth worm devours and demolishes all about him; and, when he has cleared the place, he draws out all the fastenings of his tent; after which he carries it to some little distance, and then fixes it with the slender cords in a new situation. In this manner he continues to live at our expense, till he is satisfied with his food, at which period he is first transformed into the nympha, and then changed into the papilio." The allusions to this insect in the sacred writings are very striking: "Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool." They shall perish with as little noise as a garment under the tooth of a moth, Isaiah 51:7-8 . In the prophecies of Hosea, God himself says, "I will be as a moth unto Ephraim, and as a lion;" that is, I will send silent and secret judgments upon him, which shall imperceptibly waste his beauty, corrode his power, and diminish his strength, and will finish his destruction with open and irresistible calamities. Or the meaning may be, As the moth crumbles into dust under the slightest pressure, or the gentlest touch, so man dissolves with equal ease, and vanishes into darkness, under the finger of the Almighty. Deeply sensible of this affecting truth, the royal Psalmist earnestly deprecates the judgments of God, humbly confessing his own weakness, and the inability of every man to endure his frown: "Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed, by the blow of thy hand. When thou with rebukes doth correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah," Psalms 39:10-11 . Such, in the estimation of Job, is the fading prosperity of a wicked man: "He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh," Job 27:18 . His unrighteous acquisitions shall be of short continuance; they shall moulder insensibly away, returning to the lawful owner, or pass into the possession of others. It is in this sense that the Lord threatens: "I will be unto Ephraim as a moth," Hosea 5:12 . By the secret curse of God he shall fade away, and whatever is most precious in his estimation shall be gradually dissolved and consumed, as a garment eaten by the moth. The same allusion is involved in the direction of our Lord to his disciples: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal,"

Matthew 6:19-20 . The word treasure commonly suggests to our minds the idea of some durable substance, as precious stones, gold, and silver, upon which the persevering industry of a moth can make no impression; but, in the language of inspiration, it denotes every thing collected together which men reckon valuable. The Jews had treasures of raiment as well as of corn, of wine, of oil, of honey, Jeremiah 41:8; and of gold, silver, and brass, Ezekiel 33:4; Daniel 11:43 . The robes of princes were a part of their treasure, upon which they often set a particular value. Rich vestments made a conspicuous figure in the treasury of Ulysses. These were, from their nature, exposed to the depredations of the moth; fabricated of perishing materials, they were liable to be prematurely consumed, or taken away by fraud or violence; but the favour of God, and the graces of his Spirit, and the enjoyment of eternal happiness, are neither liable to internal decay nor external violence, and by consequence, are the proper objects of our highest regard, chief solicitude, and constant pursuit. It is also likely, that by "moth" our Lord meant all the kinds of small insects which devour or spoil the different kinds of property, such as corn, honey, fruits, &c, which were treasured up for the future. These, in warm countries, are very numerous and destructive.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Moth'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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