What Do Worms Symbolize In The Bible?

Charles Robert Darwin was a geologist, naturalist, and biologist best known for the theory of natural selection. His contributions to evolutionary Biology, has earned him a special place in the history of mankind.

In one of his submissions, Darwin suggested that the earth worm plays such a crucial role in the history of the world despite the size of the creature.

Looking at a worm, some of the things that you will obviously notice is that they are eyeless, boneless, and earless. The combination of all these features makes them appear insignificant.

This notwithstanding, worms feel even the slightest vibration within the earth, an ability that many other animals do not have. Being able to sense such vibrations gives worms the unique psychic gift of clairsentience.

Other than the psychic world and all the other symbols worms have, the Bible also has its input concerning its perception on worms. In the sections that follow, we shall look at the Biblical symbolism of worms.

Symbol of Hell

Symbol of Hell

Ancient Jerusalem had a garbage dump, a place locally referred to as Gehenna. This was a place of ceaseless agonies, illustrative of hell. In the Old Testament, Gehenna was the place where children were being sacrificed to idols.

During Jesus time, Gehenna was still in existence but had been reduced to a place of constant fires, consuming the waste that was dumped there. Everyone in Jerusalem viewed Gehenna as a place of impurity and curses.

In Mark 9:43, Gehenna is translated hell. Jesus uses this word to give an illustration of what hell looks like, a place of spiritual torment and death.

In Mark 9:48, the Bible says, “where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’’

In this passage of scripture, Jesus is quoting another passage in Isaiah 66:24 that says,

“And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

The picture painted here brings up thoughts of eternal torment where worms are eating rotten corpses. Christ figuratively speaking said that it is much better for your hand to be chopped off than to go to hell.

In referring to worms that live forever, Jesus was not meaning the literal worms. He was referring to the unending suffering that is symbolic of hell. In the same way the worm never ceases to cause torment, hell doesn’t stop to cause suffering to those who will find their way there.

Symbol of Punishment

In the Book of Acts 12:23, the Bible describes a few of the details surrounding the death of Herod Agrippa I. This is what the Bible says,

“Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

Herod was the first true king who took over way after the death of Herod the Great. His rulership brought a lot of territory under him and his relationship with Jewish leaders was considerably good.

However, because of pride that grew with time, he appropriated the glory that was due to God and took it for himself. The Bible records that he died as his bowels were consumed by worms. The worms are a symbol of punishment and destruction that were meted unto Herod who had attempted to take the place of God.

Modern scholars have added that the worms could have been part of a serious bowel disease. Perhaps it could also be a punishment for the suffering that he inflicted upon the apostles of Jesus. For instance, he beheaded James and had Peter imprisoned.

Symbol of Vileness and Impotence

Symbol of Vileness and Impotence

In the Book of Job 25, the Bible brings us to Bildad’s final speech where he muses upon the greatness of God. In the second section of his speech, Bildad looks at man in comparison to the greatness of God. In verse 5 and 6, the Bible says,

“If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is but a maggot, and the son of man, who is but a worm!”

Bildad considers the glorious aspects of creation and concludes that even those fall short of God’s glory. In comparing man to a worm, the symbolism is that humans are vile and impotent, coming forth from corruption and to corruption they will return. In whichever dimension, man doesn’t qualify to appear before God who is holy and mighty.

Because Job was contending with God, Bildad thought that Job was guilty and should not even appear before God. The worm or maggot reflects the lowliness of man to the extent of his incapability to argue anything before God. In a similar verse in Isaiah 41:14, the Bible says,

“Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

Symbol of Disobedience

God is our provider and sustainer, and he is faithful to the very end. Whenever he commands us to do something, he has a reason why he says so. In the Desert of Sin, the Israelites had began grumbling against both Moses and Aaron.

They referred to the times they were in Egypt, the pots of meat they ate and whatever food they wanted they could get it for themselves. In the desert, they had the feeling that they were almost starving to death.

In response, God reigns bread from heaven for them with the instruction that they should not keep it until morning. However, some of them in disobedience paid no attention to Moses.

As a consequence, the leftovers that they kept until the following day were full of maggots and stinking. This is a classic example of man’s disobedience and the immediate repercussions from God. The worms not only represent destruction but also symbolize the overall theme of disobedience to the word of God.

Conclusion

When the Bible refers to worms, it means so many different things. Some of the references symbolize the lowliness of man, in other instances, it is a symbol of destruction while you may also draw symbolism of disobedience and the punishment of hell.

Whichever the case, worms do not generally depict positive things as far as the Bible symbolism is concerned.

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