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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Scorpion

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( עַקְרָב akrab, Deuteronomy 8:15; Ezekiel 2:6; σκορπίος, Luke 10:19; Luke 11:12; Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:5; Revelation 9:10), a well known injurious insect of hot climates, belonging to the class Arachnida and order Pulmonaria, which is shaped very much like a lobster. It lives in damp places under stones, in clefts of walls, cellars, etc.; and in summer nights even creeps about in streets and on steps (Russell, Aleppo, 2, 119). The head and breast are closely joined, and there are two large feelers in front. The eyes are arranged much as in the spiders one pair in the center of the thorax, the rest symmetrically on each side of the front. In the genus Scorpio proper there are six of these organs, in Buthus eight, and in Androctonus twelve. All these, however, may be quite correctly considered as scorpions. There are eight feet, covered with hair. There is a very active tail, of six joints, which ends in a crooked point (Pliny, 11, 62) like a fowl's claw (Schulz, Leitung, 4, 351). They are carnivorous in their habits, and move along in a threatening attitude with the tail elevated. The sting, which is situated at the extremity of the tail, has at its base a gland that secretes a poisonous fluid, which is discharged into the wound by two minute orifices at its extremity. The scorpion makes a painful wound in men and beasts (Pliny, 11, 62; Host, Marokko, p. 302; camp. Minutoli, Tray. p. 205) which produces fatal results (Pliny, 11, 30; Sonnini, Tray. 2, 312; Prosp. Alpin. Rer. Aegyp. p. 206; camp. Latorde, Voyage, p. 50), Unless speedy remedies be provided (such are scarifying the wound, sucking out the poison, etc. [Russegger, Reis. 2, 2, 223]). This is true, however, only of the Oriental scorpion (though Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 379, says its bite is never fatal in Syria), that mentioned in the Bible (see description and plates in Rosel, Insecten-Belustig, 3, 370 sq., Tab. 65; camp. Sirach 26, 10; Ezekiel 2:6); for the wound of the European, or Italian, scorpion is less dangerous. The former is distinguished by its shining black breastplate, which has given it the name Scorpio afer. (Many plates are given in Ehrenberg's Icon. et Descript. Animal. Icon. 1, Der Animal Evertebr.; but without descriptions. Three kinds of scorpions are named in the Descript. de Egypte, 22, 409 sq.)

The wilderness of Sinai is especially alluded to as being inhabited by scorpions at the time of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 8:15), and to this day these animals are common in the same district as well as in some parts of Palestine. Ehrenberg (Symb. Phys.) enumerates five species as occurring near Mt. Sinai, some of which are found also in the Lebanon. Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:6) is told to be in no fear of the rebellious Israelites here compared to scorpions. There are many scorpions in Palestine in the plains of Jordan, on the mountains of Judah, etc. (Troilo, Trav. p. 433; Schulz, Leitung, 4. 352, Thomson, Land and.Book, 1, 378 sq.), and they are proverbially common in Banias (Caesarea Philippi). A part of the mountains bordering on Palestine in the south was named from them Acrabbim. See Bochart, Hieroz. 3, 538 sq.; Shaw, Tray. p. 168. On the scorpion of Asia Minor, see Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 309 sq.; and on those of Egypt, Olivier, Voyage, 5, 171. Those found in Europe seldom exceed two or three inches in length, but in the tropical climates they are occasionally found six inches long. Those of Palestine are from one to three inches in length. There are few animals more formidable, and none more irascible, than the scorpion; but, happily for mankind, they are equally destructive to their own species as to other animals. Maupertius put about a hundred of them together in the same glass and they scarcely came into contact when they began to exert all their rage in mutual destruction, so that in a few days there remained but fourteen, which had killed and devoured all the rest. But their malignity is still more apparent in their cruelty to their offspring. He enclosed a female scorpion, big with young, in a glass vessel, and she was seen to devour them as fast as they were extruded. There was only one of the number that escaped the general destruction by taking refuge on the back of its parent; and this soon after avenged the cause of its brethren by killing the old one in its turn. Such is the terrible nature of this insect; and it is even asserted that when placed in circumstances of danger, from which it perceives no way of escape, it will sting itself to death. Ordinarily, however, it is said to be extremely fond of its young, which it carries about on its back.

A scorpion for an egg (Luke 11:12) was probably a proverbial expression. According to Erasmus, the Greeks had a similar proverb (ἀντὶ περκῆς σκορπίον ). But the creature has, of course, no likeness to an egg, as some have supposed that this passage implies (comp. Thomson, Land and.Book, 1, 379 sq.). The apostles were endued with power to resist the stings of serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19). In the vision of St. John (Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:10) the locusts that came out of the smoke of the bottomless pit are said to have had "tails like unto scorpions," while the pain resulting from this Creature's sting is alluded to in Revelation 9:5. The prophecy here has received many fanciful interpretations. (See REVELATION, BOOK OF). The "scorpions" of 1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:14; 2 Chronicles 10:11; 2 Chronicles 10:14, have clearly no allusion whatever to the animal, but to some instrument of scourging, unless, indeed, the expression is a mere figure. Celsius (Hierob. 2, 45) thinks the "scorpion" scourge was the spiny stem of what the Arabs call Hedek, the Solanum melongena, var. esculentum, eggplant, because, according to Abul-Fadli, this plant, from the resemblance of its spines to the sting of a scorpion, was sometimes called the "scorpion thorn;" but, in all probability, this instrument of punishment was in the form of a whip armed with iron points, "Virga si nodosa vel aculeata, scorpio rectissimo nomine vocatur, qui arcuato vulnere in corpus infigitur" (Isidore, Orig. Lot. 5, 27; and see Jahn, Bibl. Ant. p. 287). In the Greek of 1 Maccabees 6:51, some kind of war missile is mentioned under the name σκορπίδιον but we want information both as to its form and the reason of its name. See Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiquities, art. "Tormentum." Another tropical use of the word is given in the Mishna (Chelim, 12:3).


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

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