Growing up in Arkansas, I remember the roar of cicadas in the afternoon. Ugly Creatures looked like a 1950s monster movie to me. Enlarge them on the screen and you have a terrifying creature mutated by radioactivity.
Seashells have always fascinated all children. My brothers would tear up empty carcasses from trees and chase me with them. After finding out that there was no bug inside, I also explored the stuck scabs.
2021 is the emerging year for the 17-year-old Brood X cicada which primarily affects the eastern United States. There are over 3,000 species of cicadas, but are they found in the Bible? By exploring the scriptures and the characteristics, life cycle and behavior of cicadas, we can find the answer to this question.
Differences between cicadas and locusts
Male cicadas make their loud noise by vibrating timpani at the base of their abdomen. In large groups, the buzzing can get so loud that it is possible to damage a human’s hearing. The sound has been compared to that of tractors, lawn mowers and motorcycles. The female lays her eggs on deciduous plants. The eggs fall to the ground where the hatched nymphs burrow into the ground to remain there for several years.
Cicadas are often referred to as grasshoppers. However, these two insects belong to different species. They are often confused with each other as they both fly and make humming noises. Locusts will swarm and devastate crops, while cicadas will remain at their food source – attached to the tree – which is why we see their exoskeletons thrown over tree trunks.
Cicadas look like an aphid, while locusts are actually grasshoppers. The lifespan of a grasshopper is only a few months. Adult cicadas live 4 to 6 weeks after laying, but nymphs can live 13 to 17 years underground.
Spiritual lessons and symbolism of cicadas
Locusts are known for plagues like those described in the book of Exodus (Exodus 10: 13-14).
They leave havoc in their wake as there is nothing green left on the stem. Locusts and grasshoppers are the only flying insects that the Torah allowed Jews to eat.
Of these, you can eat any type of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs are to be considered unclean. (Leviticus 11:22)
Although cicadas are not mentioned in scripture, their symbolism has been used by many to display spiritual lessons. When we read the story of John the Baptist in the Bible, we think of a rough-looking man dressed in camel hair eating grasshoppers and honey.
John wore camel hair clothes, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate grasshoppers and wild honey. (Mark 1: 6)
Because these insects spend so much time underground, when they emerge and sing their song, it was considered a liberation song just like the music Miriam and the other women made with their tambourines afterwards. cross the red sea.
Then Miriam the Prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dances. (Exodus 15:20)
Seventeen years ago, the appearance of the cicada coincided with Shavuot and was seen as a call to action for Jewish lives. Since cicada nymphs rest underground for years and then appear with reproductive vision, this symbolism was seen as an invitation to the Jewish people to live productively.
God uses the animal world to teach us
God has used the animal world many times in the Bible to teach us lessons like a donkey talking to Balaam (Numbers 22:28), a raven feeding Elijah (1 Kings 17: 6), and a rooster reminding Peter of his reckless comment (Mark 14:72).
God‘s world can be mysterious to us in some ways, but we know that nature and all created beings have a purpose. At the beginning of time, God called all good. This means that at this time in the history of the earth, no living thing had destructive qualities. Yet even after the Fall, God’s imprint was upon all nature as He instilled checks and balances that would preserve the earth. Predators keep overpopulation at bay, and creatures with strange life cycles like the cicada have a reason to be here.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)
Superstitions and myths surround the cicada, but these sometimes ancient beliefs do not change where our source of life comes from. Our hope is in the resurrection of Christ, not in an insect.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he gave us a new birth in a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1: 3)
Cicadas in mythology
Cicadas appeared in Native American folklore and ancient Greek literature. It was believed that they blessed the crops by bringing abundance. The critters usually appeared around the time the bean crops were ready to be harvested, so superstition was linked to the appearance of the insects. In some cases, the bugs were powdered and used on wounded warriors as they were believed to have healing powers. The Hopi believed that their ancestor had an insect form and was called cicada kachina, or be spiritual.
The hunchbacked flute player, Kokopellie, has been described as being influenced by cicadas and is often seen on Native American pottery found in the Southwestern United States.
The ancient Greeks believed that insects symbolized immortality due to their underground development. They saw it as an image of rebirth.
Eastern cultures also considered the loss of skin of the nymph as a symbol of rebirth. Cicadas carved from jade have been found from the Han Dynasty dating back to 1500 BC They would place these figurines on the tongue of the dead in the hope of a resurrection
Benefits of cicadas for the earth
Laying eggs on sapling twigs can break weaker branches. It could be considered destructive, but actually serves as a pruning process. A fabric that allows air to enter can be wrapped around trees to prevent damage from the cicada population if something goes wrong. The surface of the pupa through the soil aerates the soil. Insects are used as food for birds and even people are known to roast and eat them. With the increase in the food supply, the bird population may increase. And because they are no longer in the ground to provide food for moles, the population of tunnel vermin is decreasing. The bodies of cicadas that die after spawning produce nitrogen which nourishes the soil.
See God through the cicadas
As the Brood X covers the ground and the trees, we may know that this noisy mystery is temporary. New eggs will be laid, the hatched young will enter the soil and begin the life cycle anew.
In 1225, Saint Francis of Assisi wrote these words as part of a poem which was later set to music by the Englishman William Draper, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and sing with us. “
As the comparisons show us, the cicadas were not the same meat that was on John’s menu, nor the same insect as the grasshoppers that infested Egypt. The Bible does not mention them by name, but when we hear the humming symphony of cicadas, may we see it as the creation of God praising him.
Praise the Lord from the earth… the creeping things and the flying birds. (Psalm 148: 7, 10)
Photo credit: © GettyImages / miwa_in_oz
Barbara Latta is a true southerner and is transplanted from Arkansas to Georgia. She writes a monthly column in her local newspaper and contributes to devotional websites, ezines, and has articles in several anthologies. She is the author of God maps, inspirational stories and direction for bikers. She enjoys traveling with her prince Harley on his motorbike enjoying the creativity of nature. Drinking coffee on the patio while the sun is rising is her favorite time of day. Barbara talks about walking in grace and thriving in hope on her blog, Navigating Life’s Curves, at www.barbaralatta.blogspot.com. She cherishes her role in life as a wife, mother of two grown sons and Mimi of a granddaughter.