Q&A: Spider or Lizard?
Proverbs 30:24-28 mentions four tiny, exceedingly wise animals. The King James Bible called the last one “spider,” but the Amplified version called it “lizard.” These two species are unrelated and totally different. Which of the Bible translations renders the last animal right as compared to the Hebrew word?
Sometimes the meaning of a Bible word can be difficult to pinpoint, especially when it is used only one time and particularly if it refers to a specie of animal. The Hebrew lacked specificity on such technical distinctions. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) used the word kalaboteis1 which classical scholars Liddell and Scott identify as equivalent to askalaboteis defined as the “spotted lizard, gecko.”2 The current most popular Hebrew lexicon also identifies the creature as a type of lizard, specifically, the gecko.3 The Septuagint used the same Greek word in Leviticus 11:30 for a different Hebrew word (anacah) which is also identified as a gecko.4 Most English translations have “lizard” rather than “spider,” including the ASV, ESV, NASB, NIV, RSV, and NRSV. The important thing to focus on is the meaning intended by the context—which is stated in verse 24: “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise.” That’s the point the inspired writer is making.
1 Edwin Hatch and Henry Redpath (1897), A Concordance to the Septuagint (Oxford: The Clarendon Press), 2:712.
2 Henry Liddell and Robert Scott (1940), A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: The Clarendon Press), pp. 256,865.
3 L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner, M.E.J. Richardson, & J.J. Stamm (1994-2000), The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, electronic ed.), p. 1338.
4 Ibid., p. 73.
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