Scorpions are mentioned sporadically, but meaningfully across the bible and the key religious reverence of the creature is focused around judgement, power and relational devotion. As part of the Old Testament, scorpions are often interpreted metaphorically to represent a lesson in faith, fortitude and redemption. In general, Biblical scorpions are seen to reflect the power of God — in particular His power to protect His people from physical and spiritual harm.
The first time a scorpion appears in the Bible is in Exodus 8:3, during the nine plagues God visits on the Egyptians in Egypt, just before the Israelites’ release from bondage. As a form of judgement, a plague of scorpions is set upon Pharaoh and all his people, as written in one of Moses’ responses to Pharaoh: “Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous plague, such as have not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.”
Symbolic Interpretation of Scorpions in the Bible
The symbolism of the scorpion in the bible may vary slightly between texts but is essentially one of a powerful force for evil and divine judgement but also one restrained and kept in check by God. Scorpions in the bible have a dualistic nature, being a symbol of both destruction and protection from destruction, depending on the context.
For example, in Isaiah 11:8 and 35:8, the mongoose is described as an unlikely protector of the people of Israel, ‘the Lord will protect them from the snakes, the adders and the scorpions” and in Numbers 21:7 the power of the Lord soon subdues the scorpions. On the other hand, another interpretation is that the destruction caused by the plague of scorpions is a means by which the Lord tests the faithful’s trust in Him.
Outlooks From Religious Scholars
According to many biblical scholars, the scorpion’s use in the bible is both literal and figurative. While the literal meaning is used in cases such as the plague of scorpions against Pharaoh, the figurative meaning of the scorpion is seen in its use as a symbol of punishment, destruction, and evil.
The symbolism of the scorpion has deeper meaning beyond judgement; it also implies greater power, strength and deliverance from evil. Biblical scholar Deirde N. McCloskey comments “The scorpion in the Exodus plagues signals a much broader force for destruction for those who chose not to obey the Lord. In this usage, the destruction of the scorpion can be seen as a sign not only of the power of God, but also of His willingness to protect His people”
Implications In The Bible Today
The metaphor of the scorpion in the Bible has been seen as relevant to modern times. This can be seen in its usage in contemporary sermons and Christian literature, where the scorpion’s references to judgement and protection also translate to mean menaces to the faithful, or protective sources of safety in the face of danger.
The oft-referenced verse in Psalm 91:13 is a testament to modern interpretations of the scorpion, in which the favour of the Lord is seen to keep those in the faith safe from the plague of the scorpion: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”
Scorpion Symbolism in Modern-Day Art
The metaphorical scorpion as seen in the Bible has also been used as a theme in more recent artwork and literature. The scorpion’s dualistic metaphor of safeguarding from, and bringing about destruction have been interpreted by artists to have relevance to their own times, embodying strength and power, but also danger and judgement.
A notable example of modern artwork inspired by scorpions can be seen in the works of artist Zane Lewis, whose sculpture “Beta Scorpion” is a sculptural representation of religious mythology. The sculpture features a hybrid creature with a scorpion-like tail that is seen to represent the struggle of humans to reconcile their rational beliefs and moral obligations.
Representations of Scorpions in Art and Literature
Nicholas Jones, a literature professor at Sussex University, argues that the symbol of the Bible’s scorpion has become an important trope throughout literature and art, appearing in a variety of forms in poetry, drama and prose.
He argues that the scorpion’s symbolism of power, protection and control is reflected in the works of many influential authors such as George Eliot and W. B. Yeats, who both use the scorpion in their works as a recurrent symbol of spiritual rebirth and redemption, rejecting original sin and reclaiming a higher power.
Psychological Interpretations of Scorpion Symbols
In recent years, psychologists have come to draw attention to the power of the scorpion as a symbol within religious and spiritual contexts, and its influence on the way in which believers grapple with difficult or menacing experiences in their lives. Psychologists David Jones & Scott Geller argue that the scorpion’s dualistic nature can be interpreted in such a way as to confront the very real danger of evil, but also the hope and faith for redemption in its stead.
The scorpion’s strength, resilience and potential to both harm and heal, symbolise a sense of triumphing over difficult moments, and inspiring a hope for the future in times of struggle and hardship.
Interpretations of Scorpions in Ancient Civilizations
Scorpions can be found in a variety of ancient civilizations, including Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek. Although their symbolism differs between cultures, scorpions can be interpreted in ancient civilizations as symbols of both power and protection.
In Sumerian culture, the scorpion was often associated with the god Marduk and was seen to represent a powerful force of protection and malevolence, with references to it appearing in ancient artifacts and documents.
In Babylonian culture, the scorpion was often seen as a symbol of sickness, evil and pestilence, with many references in literature being made to it as a creature of judgement.
The Egyptians too believed in the scorpion’s power, viewing it as a symbol of healing and protection, and as an embodiment of the sun god Ra.
Summary of Biblical Interpretations of the Scorpion
Overall, the symbolism of the scorpion in the bible has been interpreted as a dualistic metaphor for the power of God and His ability to both destroy and protect mankind.
Scorpions in the bible have come to embody protection against evil, judgement and protection from judgement, faith and redemption, and strength and power. This symbolism has also been used by modern authors, poets and psychologists to further emphasize spiritual rebirth and redemption, as well as reassurance in times of difficulty.
Ancient civilizations such as Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek have also used the scorpion as a symbol of both protection and power, with the meaning changing subtly between cultures.