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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Fly

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is the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of two Heb. words. (Egli has a curious article on the name of the butterfly among the Hebrews, in the Zeitschr fur uissenschaftl. Theologie, Jena, 1864, 1.) (See ANT); (See BEE);(See FLEA); (See GNAT); (See HORNET); (See LICE); (See LOCUST); (See SCORPION,) etc.

1. Zebub' ( זְבוּב Sept. μυῖα, Vulg. musca) occurs only in two passages (comp. Wisdom of Solomon 16:9; Wisdom of Solomon 19:10), namely, Ecclesesiastes 10:1, "Dead zebubim cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor," and in Isaiah 7:18, where it is said, "The Lord shall hiss for the zebub that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt." The Hebrew name, it is probable, is a generic one for any insect, but the etymology is a matter of doubt (see Gesenius, Thes. p. 401; Heb. and Chald. Lex. s.v.; and Furst, Heb. Concord. s.v.). The word zebub, fly, enters as an element into the name originally appropriated to an idol worshipped at Ekron, Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2); but, according to the English version and the Vulgate, in the time of our Lord applied to the prince of daemons, interchangeable with "Satan" (Matthew 12:24; Matthew 12:26-27). . This "lord of flies" corresponds to the Ζεὺς ἀπόμυιος and the ᾿Ηρακλῆς μυίαγρος of time Greeks and Romans, as if a defender from flies (see Kitto, Pict. Bible, note on 2 Kings 1:2). The Greek in the New Testament reads Beelzebul (Βεελ - ζεβούλ, which is said to mean "lord of dung" instead of "lord of flies," and has been considered as one of those contemptuous puns which the Jews were in the habit of making by slight changes of letters. There might be a peculiar sting in this particular case, from the circumstance that flies are chiefly bred in dunghills, and many species do greatly congregate thither; hence the deity in question, being confessedly a "lord of flies," must ipso facto be a "dungy lord." One of the names by which "idols" are expressed in the Old Testament is גַּלּוּלַים, which has the closest affinity with גֵּלֶל, ge'lel, dung. The margin of the English Bible, indeed gives "dungy gods" as the rendering of this Word in Deuteronomy 29:17. (See BEELZEBUL).

In the first quoted passage allusion is made to flies, chiefly of the family Muscidae, getting into vessels of ointment or other substances: even in this country we know what an intolerable annoyance the houseflies are in a hot summer when they abound, crawling everywhere and into everything; but in the East the nuisance is tenfold greater. There the common houseflies (Musca domestica) swarm in immense numbers; and though they inflict no physical injury, yet, from their continual settling on the face, they are inexpressibly annoying. (Rosenmuller, Alterth. IV, 2:420 sq.; Russel, Aleppo, 2:123 sq.; Tavernier, 1:74; compare Prosp. Alp. Dassr. AEgypt. 4:3, p. 207). In Egypt the peasants are so subject to a virulent kind of ophthalmia that almost every second person is said to be affected with it, and multitudes are blind of either one or both eves. The complaint is greatly augmented by the constant presence of the flies, which congregate around the diseased eyes, attracted by the moisture which exudes; and so useless is it to drive them away, that the miserable people submit to the infliction, and little children are seen with their eyes margined with rows of black flies, of whose presence they appear unconscious, though presenting a most painful sight to Europeans (Lorent. pages 25, 48; compare Forskal, Descr. Anim. page 85; Rosenmuller, in Bochart's Hieroz. 3:342). Thee "ointment of the apothecary," composed of substances perhaps peculiarly attractive to these impudent intruders, would be likely to become choked up with their entangled bodies, which, corrupting, would be the more offensive for their contrast with the expected odor. Thus would little follies render despicable him who bad a reputation for wisdom. The man is the ointment, his reputation the perfume, his little folly the dead fly, his disgrace the stinking savor. (See UNGUENT).

Is the other passage, the zebub from the rivers of Egypt has by some writers, as by Oedmann (Vermisch. Samm. 6:79), been identified with the zimb of which Bruce (Trav. 5:190) gives a description, and which is evidently some species of Tabanus. Sir G. Wilkinson has given some account (Transac. of the Entomological Soc. 2, page 183) of an injurious fly under the name of dthebab, a term almost identical with zebub. It would not do to press too much upon this point when it is considered that Egypt abounds with noxious insects; but it must be allowed that there is some reason for this identification; and though, as was stated above, zebub is probably a generic name for any flea, in this passage of Isaiah ei may be used, to denote some very troublesome and Injurious fly, κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν . "The dthebab is a long gray fly which comes out about the rise of the Nile, and is like the cleg of the north of England; it abounds in calm hot weather, and is often met with in June and July, both in the desert and on the Nile." This insect is very injurious to camels, and causes their death if the disease which it generates is neglected; it attacks both man and beast. The phrase hissing, or, rather, histing, for the fly (Isaiah 7:18) is explained in the article BEE (See BEE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Fly'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/f/fly.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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