Fly; Flies

fli fliz `arobh (Ex 8:21 ff; Ps 78:45; 105:31; Septuagint kunomuia; "dog-fly"), zebhubh (Ec 10:1; Isa 7:18; Septuagint muiai, "flies"); compare ba`al-zebhubh, "Baal-zebub" (2Ki 1:2 ff), and beelzeboul, "Beelzebul," or beelzeboub, "Beelzebub" (Mt 10:25; 12:24,27; Lu 11:15,18-19); compare Arabic dhubab, "fly" or "bee"; (Note: "dh" for Arabic dhal, pronounced like "d" or "z" or like th in "the"): The references in Psalms as well as in Exodus are to the plague of flies, and the word `arobh is rendered "swarm of flies" throughout, except in Ps 78:45; 105:31 the King James Version, where we find "divers sorts of flies" (compare Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) omne genus muscarum). In Ex 8:21 we read, "I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are"; in Ex 8:24, .... "the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies"; in Ps 78:45, "He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them." There has been much speculation as to what the insects were, but all the texts cited, including even Ps 78:45, may apply perfectly well to the common house fly (Musca domestica). Some species of blue-bottle fly (Calliphora) might also suit.

The other word, zebhubh, occurs in Ec 10:1, "Dead flies cause the oil of the perfumer to send forth an evil odor; so doth a little folly outweigh wisdom and honor"; and Isa 7:18, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that Yahweh will hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria:" The house fly would fit perfectly the reference in each, but that in Isa would seem to suggest rather one of the horse flies (Tabanidae) or gad flies (Oestridae). Whatever fly may be meant, it is used as a symbol for the military power of Egypt, as the bee for that of Assyria.

Owing to deficiencies in public and private hygiene, and also for other reasons, house flies and others are unusually abundant in Palestine and Egypt and are agents in the transmission of cholera, typhoid fever, ophthalmia and anthrax. Glossina morsitans, the tsetse fly, which is fatal to many domestic animals, and Glossina palpalis which transmits the sleeping sickness, are abundant in tropical Africa, but do not reach Egypt proper.


Alfred Ely Day

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