Hornet

HORNET (צִרְעָה, H7667, hornet, Eng. VSS; wasp, LXX). This word is found three times in almost identical contexts. “I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out Hivite...” (Exod 23:28, similarly Deut 7:20; Josh 24:12). This Heb. name is given to a number of large and conspicuously banded Hymenopterous insects that live in colonies of varying sizes. The largest of all is more specifically known as hornet in Eng.; it is over one and a half inches long and its sting can be both unpleasant and dangerous, because of the large volume of venom that can be injected. The word “wasp” refers generally to a large assortment of smaller, but generally similar, insects. In contrast to bees, both hornets and wasps are basically carnivorous, and in Pal. hornets often prey on honeybees.

The true hornet is found in many parts of Pal. and in all types of country, including the desert around the Dead Sea. Although wasps have a less painful sting, some common species live in large colonies, some of which make nests suspended from tree branches. Such a nest could easily be disturbed, with serious results, by soldiers and their mounts going through scrub and woodland. The widespread occurrence of these stinging insects, whose massive interference could have caused some panic and thus affected the outcome of a battle, makes it possible that the use in these three passages is purely literal. On the other hand, Garstang (Joshua-Judges [1931] pp. 112ff., 258ff.) identified the hornet with the sacred symbol of the pharaohs and saw the fulfillment of this promise in the Egyp. campaigns in Canaan prior to the Exodus. This view is not generally accepted (NBD, p. 538).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


Hornets and wasps belong to the family Vespidae of the order Hymenoptera. Both belong to the genus Vespa, the hornets being distinguished by their large size. Both hornets and wasps are abundant in Palestine (compare Zorah, which may mean "town of hornets"). a large kind is called in Arabic debbur, which recalls the Hebrew debhorah, "bee." They sting fiercely, but not unless molested.

See also

  • Animals