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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The only books in the NT in which reference is made to the scorpion are the Gospel according to St. Luke and the Apocalypse. Scorpions are mentioned three times in the apocalyptic vision of the Fifth Trumpet or the First Wce (Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10), and on each occasion they form part of the description of the locusts themselves or of their mission. These locusts have the power of scorpions while their tails also resemble that of a scorpion and are similarly armed with stings. The sting of the scorpion was proverbial (cf. 1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:14, 2 Chronicles 10:11; 2 Chronicles 10:14, Ezekiel 2:6, Luke 10:19), but is seldom fatal. The mission of the locusts is thus not to slay, but to inflict pain worse than death itself.

Scorpions belong to the Arachnidae or spider family. They are common in all warm climates, and are especially ubiquitous in the wilderness of Sinai (cf. Deuteronomy 8:15). During the cold weather they lie dormant, but when it becomes hot they emerge from their hiding-places and make their way even into houses. More than eight species have been noted in Palestine. They vary in size and colour; the largest and most dangerous species is black, and measures about 6 ins. in length. Others are yellow, white, black, or reddish, while others again are striped. The females carry their young on their backs until they are old enough to provide for themselves. They swarm in every part of the country and have a particular partiality for ruins (cf. Ezekiel 2:6), where they secrete themselves in the chinks of the walls, as well as under the loose stones. The scorpion resembles a lobster in shape, only it has a jointed tail, which, when running, it holds over its back in a threatening attitude. The tail has a venomous sting, and the reptile always attacks with its tail in this position, with the result that it sometimes strikes it own head and commits suicide thereby. It is carnivorous and feeds chiefly on beetles and locusts, and this fact adds to the hideousness and the formidability of the apocalyptic locusts, whose very tails are compared to the scorpions which normally feed on them. See, further, Locust.

Literature.-H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible10, London, 1911, pp. 301-303; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, new ed., do., 1910, pp. 224-225, do., ed. 1881-86, vol. ii., ‘Central Palestine and Phcenicia,’ pp. 478-480; C. Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible, do., 1903, pp. 356-357; Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , p. 832; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iv. 419; Encyclopaedia Biblica iv. 4317-4319; H. B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John 2, London, 1907, pp. 115, 116, 119.

P. S. P. Handcock.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Scorpion'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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