SCORPION (עַקְרָב, H6832; σκορπίος, G5026; scorpion all Eng. VSS). There is no problem about the tr., for this Heb. name is used today; one route up the great escarpment across the Negev is the Ascent of the Scorpions. Of the world’s 500 species some twelve are known from the various regions of Pal., from the Negev desert to the moist woodlands of the N. Even though they vary in size, proportions and color, the outline of a scorpion, with its pair of heavy pincers and forward-curving sting-tipped tail, makes it immediately recognizable. Size itself is no indication of potency of venom; at least one Middle E species has a most serious sting, but none is likely to kill a healthy person. Scorpions are classified near the spiders and, like them, they are entirely carnivorous. The sting is used with precision to paralyze the prey, which is then consumed by pumping digestive juices into it and sucking out the broken-down tissues.

Toward nightfall scorpions emerge from the holes and crevices where they have spent the day and wander in search of prey. They do not normally attack humans but react instinctively if trodden on. Scorpions are mostly mentioned fig., with reference to their unpleasantness and danger. 1 Kings 12:11, “chastise you with scorpions,” may refer to a many-thonged whip armed with hooked metal knobs and known as the scorpion (1 Macc 6:51). The Lord’s reference, “If he asks for an egg, will [he] give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:12) could well have been made as He indicated a scorpion under a roadside stone. The contrast is striking; the “body” segment in some species is fat and almost egg-shaped, but this saying could echo a proverb.


Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 20 (1951), 137.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Note that we have here three doublets, the loaf and the stone, the fish and the serpent, and the egg and the scorpion, whereas in the passage in Matthew (7:9 f) we have only the loaf and stone and the fish and serpent. Encyclopedia Biblica (s.v. "Scorpion") ingeniously seeks to bring Lu into nearer agreement with Matthew by omitting from Luke the second doublet, i.e. the fish and the serpent, instancing several texts as authority for the omission, and reading opson, "fish," for oon, "egg."

In Re 9:2-10 there come out of the smoke of the abyss winged creatures ("locusts," akrides) like war-horses with crowns of gold, with the faces of men, hair of women, teeth of lions, breastplates of iron, and with stinging tails like scorpions. In Ecclesiasticus 26:7 it is said of an evil wife, "He that taketh hold of her is as one that graspeth a scorpion." In 1 Macc 6:51 we find mention of "pieces [@skorpidia, diminutive of skorpios to cast darts." In Plutarch skorpios is used in the same sense (Liddell and Scott, under the word skorpios.

In the passage cited from Deuteronomy, and probably also in the name "ascent of Akrabbim," we find references to the abundance of scorpions, especially in the warmer parts of the country. Though there is a Greek proverb, "Look for a scorpion under every stone," few would agree with the categorical statement of Tristram (NHB) that "every third stone is sure to conceal one." Nevertheless, campers and people sleeping on the ground need to exercise care in order to avoid their stings, which, though often exceedingly painful for several hours, are seldom fatal.

Scorpions are not properly insects, but belong with spiders, mites and ticks to the Arachnidae. The scorpions of Palestine are usually 2 or 3 inches long. The short cephalothorax bears a powerful pair of jaws, two long limbs terminating with pincers, which make the creature look like a small crayfish or lobster, and four pairs of legs. The rest of the body consists of the abdomen, a broad part continuous with the cephalothorax, and a slender part forming the long tail which terminates with the sting. The tail is usually carried curved over the back and is used for stinging; the prey into insensibility. Scorpions feed mostly on insects for which they lie in wait. The scorpion family is remarkable for having existed with very little change from the Silurian age to the present time.

It does not seem necessary to consider that the words of Rehoboam (1Ki 12:11, etc.) refer to a whip that was called a scorpion, but rather that as the sting of a scorpion is worse than the lash of a whip, so his treatment would be harsher than his father’s.

See also

  • Animals