Lizards are mentioned several times in the Bible, often carrying symbolic meaning. For Bible-believing Christians, analyzing these passages can provide insight into God’s intended meaning and how it applies to our lives today. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the various mentions of lizards throughout Scripture and what they represented to the biblical authors and original audiences. We will also draw out key lessons and applications for modern day believers seeking to rightly divide God’s word.
Lizards and other reptiles are fascinating creatures that spark curiosity, apprehension, and even revulsion in many people. The Bible contains a number of references to lizards, which would have been common sights in the ancient Middle Eastern setting of the biblical narratives. Paying attention to these instances can provide insight into the cultural context of the biblical writers. More importantly, since all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), observing why lizards were included in certain passages gives glimpses into God’s purpose and meaning.
As we analyze the scriptural mentions of lizards, some key takeaways emerge:
- Lizards were considered unclean and detestable creatures under the Mosaic Law. Their repulsiveness symbolized the unrighteousness that separates humanity from God.
- John the Baptist’s austere diet in the wilderness included locusts and wild honey. This illustrated his countercultural lifestyle of repentance.
- Jesus’ statement that believers have authority to tread on serpents and scorpions contains symbolic echoes of Yahweh’s power over Egypt. This foreshadows Christ’s ultimate victory over Satan.
- The desolate ruins of Babylon would be inhabited by many lizards, indicating divine judgment had turned a mighty city into wilderness.
- A proverb describes lizards clinging to palace walls, suggesting that the proud and unwise show tenacity pursuing temporal things over eternal truth.
As we explore what various lizards and reptiles represented to biblical authors, we can gain appreciation for God’s profound truth communicated through the Scriptures. We prayerfully study the full context and history of each passage, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to rightly interpret and apply God’s word to our lives. The attributes and behaviors of lowly lizards contain countless lessons for those pursuing wholehearted devotion to Jesus Christ.
Lizards as Unclean Animals in the Mosaic Law
After delivering the Israelites from Egypt, God established guidelines for acceptable worship. Among these were specific instructions about clean and unclean animals. Leviticus 11 records animals considered ritually unclean under the Law of Moses. Verses 29-30 state:
These are unclean to you among all that creep. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until evening. And anything on which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is an article of wood or clothing or skin or sack, any article that is used for any purpose. It must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean.
The regulations continue by naming lizards in a list of swarming creatures that move along the ground, noting they are detestable and not to be eaten (Leviticus 11:41-43).
For the Israelites, lizards and crawling creatures represented something repulsive and defiling. Coming into contact with their carcasses brought ritual impurity that separated the person from acceptable worship. The unclean animals symbolized the contamination of sin and the distance it creates between the holy God and unrighteous humanity. This visual object lesson would remind the Israelites of the meticulous purity required to approach Yahweh in the Tabernacle.
As New Testament believers, we know Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law through His sinless life and sacrificial death. His blood makes us clean before God (1 John 1:7). However, the imagery of lizards as repulsive creatures can still illustrate the ugliness of sin. It should prompt us to rigorously examine our hearts for anything offensive to God, repenting and turning to Christ’s cleansing and renewal.
Locusts in John the Baptist’s Diet
All four Gospels record details about John the Baptist’s ministry preaching repentance and baptizing in the Jordan River. John’s austere lifestyle was part of his prophetic witness. Matthew 3:4 describes his clothing and diet:
John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Eating locusts (a type of large grasshopper) was unconventional but not necessarily unclean. Leviticus 11:22 states that locusts are edible insects. However, John’s subsistence diet of whatever he could forage in the wilderness showed his separation from mainstream society. His call to repentance confronted the religious establishment of the day. John’s dietary habits aligned with his countercultural message.
Furthermore, some see symbolism in the fact that locusts are creatures associated with judgment in the Old Testament. Joel 1 prophesies judgment coming on the land of Israel in the form of a massive locust plague. The insects would completely decimate crops, bringing famine and hardship. So John’s diet of locusts could hint at the looming judgment for those who refused to repent, foreshadowing Christ’s winnowing work (Luke 3:17). The curious combination of locusts and wild honey also shows the austere lifestyle of repentance need not lack God’s sweet blessings.
For believers today, the example of John the Baptist contains a stark reminder that following Christ requires embracing a countercultural identity. It may mean moving away from comforts and conveniences that compromise holiness and hinder the prophetic voice of the church. Are we willing, like John, to be outsiders for the sake of calling society to repentance in our day?
Treading on Serpents in Luke 10
In Luke 10, Jesus commissions 70 (or 72) disciples to go out in pairs, ministering and proclaiming the kingdom of God. Verses 17-20 record their joyful return, marveling at the power Jesus gave them over demons. Jesus responds:
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
By granting these disciples power over serpents, Jesus evokes imagery from the Exodus story where Yahweh defeated the serpent gods of Egypt (Exodus 7:8-13). The Exodus showed Yahweh’s absolute authority over spiritual forces opposed to Him. Jesus is showing the disciples that His arrival as Messiah ushers in an even greater spiritual deliverance.
Snakes and scorpions are also reminiscent of the craftiness and danger the Devil wields against God’s people. Psalm 91 promises protection for the righteous under Yahweh’s care: “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot” (91:13). Jesus reminds His followers of their authority in Him over serpents and scorpions – symbols of Satan and his sinister workings. The church today still has power through Christ to crush evil spiritual forces.
At the same time, Jesus tells the disciples not to rejoice in this authority for its own sake. Our joy comes from belonging to the kingdom of heaven. The Exodus generation rejoiced at seeing God’s mighty hand against Egypt. But most failed to embrace Yahweh Himself, missing out on the promised land. The disciples must not repeat this mistake. Using spiritual authority to build our own kingdom leads to pride and ruin. Instead, we tread on the Devil to advance Christ’s kingdom for His glory alone.
Desolate Babylon Haunted by Lizards
The books of the prophets contain dire warnings of judgment on nations opposing God’s purposes. These visions employ vivid imagery to convey devastation. Isaiah 34 foretells the destruction coming on Edom. Verses 11-14 describe the aftermath:
But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plumb line of emptiness. Its nobles—there is no one there to call it a kingdom, and all its princes shall be nothing. Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, an abode for ostriches. And wild animals shall meet with hyenas; the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; indeed, there the night bird settles and finds for herself a resting place.
The once mighty and luxurious kingdom will become inhabitable, inhabited only by wild animals seeking desolation. The prophets repeatedly employ this motif of ruins overrun by wildlife to depict complete societal breakdown under judgment.
Jeremiah similarly prophesies the fate awaiting Babylon. The superpower that took Judah captive will face divine wrath because of her idolatry and injustice. Jeremiah 50:39 states:
Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations.
Why does Jeremiah specify that ostriches and hyenas will inhabit the ruins of Babylon? Archaeologists have discovered that ancient Babylon’s walls and buildings were decorated with images of dragons and serpent gods. It seems Jeremiah intentionally predicts that lizards and unclean animals will infest the vacated halls that once glorified pagan deities. The downfall of the mighty manifests Yahweh’s supremacy above all other gods and powers.
The sober warning for all generations is to avoid idolatry and wickedness that kindle God’s wrath. The rise and fall of nations proves everyone is accountable to the Creator. Our lives are short compared to God’s eternal time scale. If we set our hearts on temporary treasures over the fear of the Lord, we are no wiser than vanished empires now haunted by lizards.
Lizards Grasping Palace Walls
In Proverbs 30, Agur reflects on his limitations compared to the Creator. Verses 28-31 make observations about animals:
The lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.
Though small and seemingly feeble, lizards can scale walls and gain access to places meant to exclude them. Their sticky feet allow them to tenaciously cling to smooth surfaces. Agur sees a meaningful comparison to the tendency of foolish and presumptuous people to exalt themselves. Just as a lizard grasps the palace wall, the proud disregard wisdom and truth to scramble for status and recognition.
The context is Agur’s confession that he has not attained wisdom on his own. True understanding comes from God’s revelation alone. Though prideful people may temporarily prosper by craftiness, their foundations are fragile. Jesus told a parable comparing a house built on rock to one built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Only by humbly fearing the Lord can we establish an unshakable life.
For believers, the tenacity of lizards should warn against clinging to earthly ambitions at the cost of spiritual integrity. temporal success never equals eternal significance. The glitter of influence or fame often conceals a hollow reality. Like lizards invading palaces, pride and self-exaltation often creep into the church. We must examine our hearts, keeping Christ as supreme, not our own egos. The lizard’s persistence comes to nothing when removed; so too our self-glorification will crumble at God’s reproof.
Throughout Scripture, lowly lizards carry surprising spiritual significance through their symbolic attributes and habits. As detestable creatures, they represented the defilement of sin and need for righteous cleansing. John the Baptist’s dietary asceticism contained prophetic overtones of judgment and repentance. Jesus empowered His disciples to prevail over serpents, echoing Exodus deliverance and foreshadowing victory over Satan’s schemes. The prophets predicted ruined cities becoming lizard haunts as a picture of divine wrath on the idolatrous and unjust. Agur’s proverb about lizards in palaces conveys the tendency of folly to exalt itself through fleeting, empty pursuits.
By thoughtfully examining the context and history of biblical passages mentioning reptiles, modern readers can gain wisdom for applying God’s word to their lives. Though cultures and customs change over time, human nature remains the same. The symbolic insights communicated through seemingly insignificant creatures reveal timeless spiritual truths. May we learn to reject temptation’s slick grasp; embrace righteous living, however peculiar; walk in authority over evil; flee from deadly idols; and fix our hearts on eternal treasures. Let us also extol the richness of God’s Word, which employs even lowly lizards to reflect His glory and reveal His profound purposes.
- Lizards were considered ritually unclean under the Mosaic Law, symbolizing the contamination of sin separating humanity from holy God.
- John the Baptist’s unusual diet of locusts and wild honey illustrated his countercultural call to repentance in wilderness asceticism.
- Jesus giving His disciples power to tread on serpents contains echoes of the Exodus, foreshadowing His victory over Satan.
- Prophecies of lizards inhabiting the ruins of Babylon and Edom show divine judgment on their idolatry and injustice.
- The proverb about lizards grasping the walls of palaces conveys how foolish pride clings to temporary pursuits rather than God’s eternal truth.
- All of the biblical mentions of lizards, though brief, communicate profound spiritual significance through thoughtfully examining context, history and symbolism.