What Do Beetles Represent in the Bible?

Beetles are mentioned several times in the Bible, both literally and symbolically. As with many creatures in Scripture, beetles can represent both good and evil spiritual themes. In this post, we will explore the significance of beetles throughout the Bible and what they meant to the ancient Israelites and early Christians.


Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, which contains over 350,000 different species – making them the largest order in the entire animal kingdom! Beetles have hardened front wings that protect their flexible hind wings, which they use for flying.

While we may view beetles as pests today, these insects held great symbolic meaning for cultures of the ancient Near East, including the Israelites. Beetles and scarabs (dung beetles) were prevalent in ancient Egypt and Canaan. As a result, beetles took on spiritual significance in the Bible and other ancient texts.

So what exactly do beetles represent in Scripture? Here are some key takeaways:

  • Beetles could represent cleansing and restoration, as scarabs roll dung into balls to feed their young. This reflected Egyptian beliefs about scarabs rolling the sun across the sky.
  • The iridescent wings and shell of some beetles led to associations with light, divinity, and wisdom in Near Eastern cultures.
  • Metallic green and blue beetles symbolized jewelry, wealth, and God’s glory. This is seen through the jeweled breastplate worn by the high priest.
  • Beetle infestations and consuming crops represented divine judgement and punishment for sin.
  • The sturdy shell of the beetle made it a symbol of durability and protection.

Let’s explore these themes in more depth throughout Scripture and understand what beetles really meant to the people of the Bible.

What Do Beetles Represent in the Bible?

Beetles as Symbols of Cleansing and Restoration

One of the most common beetles in the Near East was the scarab dung beetle. Scarabs roll dung into balls as food and nesting chambers for their larvae. This rolling or “balling” habit gave rise to ancient Egyptian beliefs that a giant scarab rolled the sun like a ball across the sky each day.

Consequently, scarabs took on huge symbolic significance for Egyptians as symbols of the sun, transformation, renewal, and the passage to the afterlife. The god Khepri, depicted as a scarab beetle, represented regeneration, creation, and the rising sun.

The priestly class in Egypt wore images of scarabs and used amulets of scarabs for protection and warding off evil spirits. Mummified scarabs were placed over the heart of the deceased as symbols of death and rebirth. Scarabs were associated with the cycle of the sun rising, dying, and being reborn.

This symbolism of renewal and restoration through the scarab beetle likely influenced the Israelites, as they were held captive in Egypt for over 400 years. While the Scriptures do not directly depict scarabs as bringers of restoration, the imagery of being rolled into a ball of dung and emerging renewed would not have been lost on the ancient Israelites.

This theme of cleansing is seen in Psalms 51:7, where David cries out to God:

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7 NKJV)

Though not mentioning the beetle directly, the concept of being plunged into something vile like dung and coming out clean invokes the image of the scarab’s restorative properties.

So while the Scriptures refrain from outright adopting Egyptian belief systems, the ideas of renewal and cleansing through the scarab beetle likely influenced the Israelite psyche and theology.

Beetles Representing Light and Wisdom

In addition to scarab symbolism, beetles themselves took on spiritual meaning for ancient cultures. Many beetles have iridescent coloring with metallic greens, blues, and copper. The shells and wings shine with an almost jewel-like brilliance.

As a result, beetles became associated with light and wisdom. In the ancient Near East, shiny beetles seemed to represent the glory of the gods and divinity.

We see hints of this in Scripture, as the jewels decorating the priest’s ceremonial breastplate invoke beetle imagery:

“And they shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, it shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width.” (Exodus 28:15 NKJV)

The sharing of colors – gold, blues, purples, and reds – mimic the iridescent wings of beetles. As the priests entered the presence of God, the breastplate beetle-like colors represented the wisdom, light, and glory of the Almighty.

Furthermore, the association between beetles and light is reinforced in scriptures like Matthew 17:2, where Jesus shines brightly at his transfiguration:

“And He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2 NKJV)

Here Christ radiates brilliant light, evoking the shiny brilliance of metallic beetles. So while not directly named, the beetle’s glow reflected divine wisdom and the glory of God’s presence.

Bejeweled Beetles Symbolizing Wealth

In addition to light, the jewel-encrusted appearance of some beetles led to associations with wealth, riches, and prosperity. The insect’s sparkling colors evoked images of glittering gems and precious metals.

We can see this symbolism play out in the prophet Isaiah’s description of articles of clothing:

“Instead of bronze I will bring gold, Instead of iron I will bring silver, Instead of wood, bronze, And instead of stones, iron. I will also make your officers peace, And your magistrates righteousness.” (Isaiah 60:17 NKJV)

Here the wearing of ornate metals and jewels mirrors the bejeweled wings of beetles. Their iridescence represented wealth and the prosperity of God’s kingdom.

Later in Isaiah, the same imagery is employed in describing New Jerusalem:

“I will make your pinnacles of rubies, Your gates of crystal, And all your walls of precious stones.” (Isaiah 54:12 NKJV)

The shining city decorated with rubies and gems calls to mind beetles’ brilliant colors. So within the Bible, the extravagance of beetle-like jewelry symbolized earthly and divine riches.

Beetle Infestations Representing Judgement

However, not every mention of beetles in the Bible carries positive symbolism. In Joel 1:4, a beetle infestation ravaging crops is equated with divine judgement:

“What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; What the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; And what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.” (Joel 1:4 NKJV)

Here, four distinct insect invasions are depicted as progressively decimating the land. The last wave described as the “consuming locust” employs the Hebrew word “arbeh”, meaning locust or grasshopper. However, some scholars contend this term was mistakenly translated, and actually refers to the beet webworm.

This interpretation seems valid, as the passage describes progressive destruction moving from grasshoppers to wingless crawling locusts to the beetle larvae “arbeh” that completely finish off the plants.

Whether the consuming insect is a locust or beetle, the passage clearly depicts the insects as divine judgement. Just as God sent plagues of locusts on Egypt during the Exodus, this beetle infestation punishes wayward Israel.

The beetles’ role in completely destroying the crops emphasizes the severity of judgement. Other prophetic books like Amos, Nahum, and Zephaniah echo this image of insect pests sent by God to enact deserved punishment on sinful nations.

Beetle Shells Representing Durability and Protection

Finally, the sturdy shells and armor of beetles led to them symbolizing durability and divine protection. In contrast to the vulnerability of locusts and moths, a beetle’s hard covering shielded it from threats.

In Jeremiah 51:27, God summons foreign armies as instruments of judgement against Babylon:

“Set up a banner in the land, Blow the trumpet among the nations! Prepare the nations against her, Call the kingdoms together against her: Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz.” (Jeremiah 51:27 NKJV)

The Hebrew word for “prepare” comes from the root “kutha”, meaning to cover over with armor or overlay as with metal plates. This evokes the image of battle-ready beetles suited up with sturdy body armor. Just as a beetle’s shell protects it, God armors the opposing nations to shatter Babylon’s defenses.

Here the beetle’s durability allows it to withstand danger – similar to how God coats his chosen instruments of judgement so they are impervious to attack. The beetle-inspired armor emphasizes God’s complete protection over those carrying out his will.


From symbols of restoration to images of judgement, beetles in the Bible represent a wide range of spiritual themes. Their prevalence in ancient Near Eastern cultures, including Egypt, made them symbols of rebirth and wisdom. The jewel-like wings of some beetles inspired imagery of light, wealth, and glory reflecting God’s blessings.

Yet too many beetles consuming crops meant devastation – a form of divine punishment. And the impenetrable shell of the beetle made it a metaphor for the durability and safety granted by following God’s will.

So while the lowly beetle may seem a strange source of inspiration, these insects held deep theological significance for cultures of the Biblical era. Their layered symbolism reveals the richness of meaning woven throughout the Scriptures.

The next time you spot a shimmery beetle, consider the spiritual truths it may represent. Just as the scarab rolls the sun into being and armor shields warriors, everyday beetles in the Bible point to profound theological revelations about cleansing, judgement, light, and protection. A closer look at these crawling creatures uncovers surpassingly deep wisdom within the Word of God.

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