Wasps and hornets are mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, often used symbolically to represent God’s judgment, affliction, and punishment for sin. For the Israelites, wasps were a tangible reminder of the consequences of rebelling against God.
Their stings brought pain and hardship. In a similar way, God uses difficult circumstances in our lives to get our attention, convict us of sin, and encourage repentance. Examining biblical references to wasps gives insight into how God works in the lives of His people.
- Wasps represent God’s judgment and punishment for sin
- God sent swarms of wasps as affliction for the disobedient Israelites
- The imagery of wasps depicts the sharp pain and hardship that comes from rebelling against God
- God uses suffering, difficulty, and “stings” to correct and discipline those He loves
- Believers can find reassurance knowing hardship has a redemptive purpose
- If we submit to God’s work in our lives, the “wasp stings” can produce fruits of righteousness
- While punishment for sin is unavoidable, we serve a merciful God who desires restoration
- Suffering reminds us to fear the Lord and cling to Him for salvation in times of trouble
Wasps Symbolize God’s Judgment for Sin
On several occasions in Scripture, God sent swarms of wasps as judgment against His people for their disobedience and idolatry. In Exodus 23:28, God promised to send “the hornet” ahead of the Israelites to drive out their enemies in the Promised Land. Some translations use the word “terror” or “panic” instead of hornet, referring to the dread and fear the Israelites’ enemies experienced.
However, a literal interpretation suggests God used actual hornets to afflict hostile peoples and make the way clear for Israel’s conquest. Deuteronomy 7:20 affirms this view: “Moreover the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed.”
Through this painful judgment, God removed ungodly nations and gave Canaan to His chosen people. Yet when Israel rebelled, God directed the swarms against them.
In Joshua 24:12, God reminds Israel how He sent the hornet ahead of them, delivering Sihon and Og into their hands. A key lesson emerges – what God uses to judge Israel’s enemies, He will in turn use to judge them. After entering Canaan, the Israelites fell into idolatrous sin.
They worshiped Canaanite gods and “served Baals.” (Judges 2:11). So the Lord allowed enemies to oppress them. When they cried out, God sent judges to rescue them. But they quickly fell back into sin. The cycle repeated for generations.
Finally in Judges 2:15, God says clearly, “Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity.” One such calamity came from hostile swarms. Judges 2:23 says the Lord left enemies in the land “to test Israel . . . Whether they will keep the ways of the Lord.” Strong’s Concordance suggests the word “test” refers to affliction and punishment. One such test involved wasps and hornets.
In Deuteronomy 28, God lists blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience. Verse 48 warns one curse of disobedience is, “you shall serve your enemies . . . in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you.”
God then explains in vs. 38-42 this yoke will include, “severe inflammation,” “fever and inflammation,” “every sickness and every plague,” and swarms of locusts devouring the land.
This connects “yoke of iron” to “plagues” of stinging insects sent by God to afflict His people. God then warns in vs. 48, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar . . . a nation whose language you will not understand.” This prophecy finds disturbing fulfillment in 2 Chronicles 7.
2 Chronicles 7:25 describes one distressing result: “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes . . . then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” God vows to punish the people by removing them from the Promised Land.
This prophecy is fulfilled in 2 Chronicles 10:11-14 when excessive taxation and forced labor under King Rehoboam drives Israel into rebellion. The kingdom splits in two – Israel in the north, Judah in the south. Second Kings 17 recounts the chilling result for Israel – conquest by Assyria and exile for refusing to worship God. So hornets God used to drive out enemies became a plague against His people for their idolatry.
Yet God’s harshest judgment was still to come. When Judah continued in idolatry and evil, God raised up Babylon to conquer them.
Second Kings 24 describes Nebuchadnezzar besieging Jerusalem and taking King Jehoiachin captive, along with all the leaders and mighty men, craftsmen and smiths. Ten thousand captives were carried away, none remaining except the poorest people (2 Kings 24:14). Babylon’s second siege under Nebuchadnezzar eleven years later destroyed the city and Temple and took most of the population captive (2 Kings 25:1-21).
This fulfilled the “yoke of iron” in Deut. 28:48, a dual prophecy of hostile insects and foreign oppressors God would use to punish disobedience. Jeremiah 24:10 likens Babylon’s siege to the sting of wasps: “And I will send against them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, till they are consumed from the land . . . and I will send the sword after them till I have consumed them.”
For Judah, the stinging affliction of wasps described in Deuteronomy became the sharp pains of siege, starvation, disease, death, and exile in Babylon. The same hornets God used to drive out the Canaanites were turned against His people for their sin. Wasps vividly symbolized God’s judgment.
God Sent Wasps to Afflict the Disobedient
Beyond judging the nations, God used wasps to directly punish individual disobedience. After being struck with leprosy for trying to steady the ark when it tottered, Uzzah was killed by God for his irreverence (2 Samuel 6:6-7). David feared moving the ark any further. So he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months (vs. 10-11).
First Chronicles 13:13-14 notes during this time, “God struck the household of Obed-Edom with tragedy.” The Hebrew denotes great evil, calamity, or crushing disaster. Second Samuel 6:11 clarifies the nature of this tragedy – “the LORD blessed Obed-Edom and all his household” – the same blessing He removed from Uzzah.
First Chronicles 26:4-5, 15 provides more insight. Obed-Edom was a doorkeeper for the ark with the special duty “to minister morning and evening” before it with thanksgiving by divine appointment. God blessed him for his reverence in keeping the ark. But why would God then strike his household with calamity?
The answer may be found in Joshua 7. After Israel’s defeat at Ai due to Achan’s sin, God commands Joshua to sanctify the people. “Go and say to them, ‘Consecrate yourselves'” (vs. 13). This act set them apart from worldly things to approach the presence of God.
Next God directs Joshua to identify the offender by having each tribe, clan, family, and household come near so “that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire.” (vs. 14-15).
Achan sins but all Israel suffers for it. So the corporate body must sanctify itself through purification. Could a similar situation have occurred with Obed-Edom? As guardian of the ark, it was his duty to lead his household in consecration and worship. If anyone sinned or became defiled, Obed-Edom as head would be at fault for not keeping his household sanctified.
The “great evil” God struck them with could refer to the pain of removing idolatry and sin. The blessing on Obed-Edom’s house came from the refinement of its suffering. Where sin remained, God afflicted them as discipline. The hornets came, delivering the sting of conviction, purging spiritual complacency. What the Israelites viewed as punishment for sin, in reality had a redemptive purpose for Obed-Edom’s family.
The Pain of Rebellion Teaches Fear of God
When Israel rebelled in the wilderness, God sent poisonous serpents among them (Numbers 21:4-6). After much death, the people admitted their sin and asked Moses to intercede. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so anyone bitten could look at it and live.
The fiery serpent bites taught Israel to fear and obey God. Through the pain, they learned faith. In Psalm 118, when enemies surrounded the psalmist and pushed him to the brink of death, he cried out to the Lord and God answered with “the voice of rejoicing and salvation” (vs. 5-14).
The affliction led to deliverance. Out of that experience, the psalmist declares in vs. 17-18 – “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.”
Note the connection between God’s discipline, suffering and the resulting reverence: “The Lord has chastened me severely, but . . .” Chastening leads to revelation of God’s mercy. Affliction deepens awareness that God alone saves from death. Through survived tribulations, we declare His works and submit to His sovereignty. Difficulty creates an opportunity to witness God’s faithfulness.
Proverbs 23:17 tells us, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” Wasps forcefully instill the fear of God. This godly fear is not terror of punishment, but awe and willingness to obey.
As Hebrews 12 notes, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Scourging and chastening yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb 12:6-11). Suffering has a redemptive purpose.
Stings of Affliction Produce Fruits of Righteousness
In Deuteronomy 8 after the Israelites spent forty wilderness years dependent on God for daily bread, Moses warns them once they enter Canaan and prosper,
“When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God . . . Otherwise, when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses . . . and your silver and gold is multiplied . . . then your heart will become proud, and you will forget the LORD your God.” (vs. 10-14).
Forgetting God leads to idolatry, which assures affliction will follow. God uses suffering to turn His people back to Him. But the pain serves a greater purpose.
Moses explains in vs. 15-16 – God “led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock . . . that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end.”
Moses reveals God has a redemptive design in affliction. The thorns have a purpose. Out of the hardships in the desert came humility and trust. Through the serpents and scorpions, they learned to cry out to God. They witnessed His power and provision.
Shared suffering forged them into a nation reliant on the Lord. It prepared them for the Promised Land where prosperity would test their allegiance. The pains of the past created wisdom for the future.
In a similar way, the thorns in our lives have purpose. As Hebrews 12 notes, hardship disciplines us to “bear the fruits of righteousness.” Difficulties prune away sin, strengthen faith, and nourish virtues that lead to greater intimacy with Christ. Suffering teaches what we can live without. It reveals where we still cling to self-reliance. Troubles make us desperate for God.
Trials strip away superficial beliefs, showing what we truly believe about God’s sovereignty. Wasps sting us out of complacency. Their torment sounds an alarm, warning of areas that need repentance. For the wayward, it’s the merciful wake-up call of a loving Father.
Punishment for Sin is Unavoidable, But God Seeks Restoration
Isaiah 53:5 prophesies “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” The cross shows that judgment for sin is unavoidable. But Christ took that judgment so we could have peace.
Similarly, the pain we experience – whether consequences of personal sin or shared suffering in a fallen world – serves a redemptive purpose. The difference is Christ alone was perfect and sinless. Yet God allows suffering for spiritual growth, to humble us and lead us back to Him.
Lamentations 3:31-33 assures, “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
God takes no pleasure in afflicting His people. But He uses difficulty to purify and restore. Laments turns to hope in vs 39 – “Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” The sooner we accept suffering as discipline for sin, the quicker we can experience God’s compassion.
In Psalm 94, the writer observes the prosperity of the wicked and cries out for God to judge them (vs. 1-7). Yet after pleading for vengeance, his tone changes in vs. 10-13 – “He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge?
The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.” Moving from indignation to humility, in vs. 12 the psalmist realizes “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity.”
Admitting his own need for correction, the cry for justice on the wicked changes to a prayer for God’s mercy to discipline and teach His people. The psalm ends in hope that after “the days of adversity,” God will bring “rest” and blessings will return to the righteous (vs. 14-15). Once again, suffering leads to wisdom. Affliction becomes instruction. The wasp’s sting leads to counting blessings. Even in wrath, God aims for restoration.
Times of Trouble Remind Us to Fear God and Trust in His Salvation
Nahum 1:2-3 assures that while God may unleash His anger for a time, He is also good and cares for His people: “God is jealous, and the LORD avenges . . . . The LORD is slow to anger and great in power. And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. . . . The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.”
Wasps and hornets symbolize the wrath all sin provokes. But through the prophets, God repeatedly promised a day when Messiah would come to redeem mankind from sin’s punishment. Isaiah 11 prophesies, “He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked” (vs. 4).
Yet for those who trust in the Lord, “the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy . . .” (vs. 8-9).
Jeremiah 30 predicts a time of great trouble coming, “a time of distress for Jacob” (vs. 7). But there is hope – “I will break his yoke from your neck, and will tear off your bonds; and strangers shall no more make him their slave” (vs. 8). God would redeem His people from bondage. Ezekiel 34:25 echoes this promise of peaceful days ahead: “I will make a covenant of peace with them . . . the shower shall be one of blessing.”
Hosea 2:18 reveals more about this future covenant of peace between God and His people: “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth.”
Through Christ, God would bring a new creation of harmonious peace, reversing the curse of Genesis 3 when creation turned against man because of sin. The hornets and vipers would no longer inject their venom.
Christ fulfilled these prophecies by taking the venomous sting of sin upon Himself. Through His shed blood, those who believe are passed over in the Day of Judgment, spared from the plagues of God’s wrath poured out on sin. By bearing the curse, He opened the way for blessings.
For believers, the wasps become a reminder of God’s mercy and Christ’s finished work in removing the sting of sin and death. Their pain is but momentary, yielding fruits of righteousness.