The Fifth Trumpet, or First Woe (9:1-12)

Back in the 1970s, my wife and I and our two boys lived for a few montes at an ecumenical study center outside Jerusalem. One afternoon my son spotted a large scorpion in our apartment. We tried bug spray on it with little effect. It seemed in no hurry to go anywhere, so we called our friend Elias, the Palestinian Christian who worked the front desk. His advice was, "Don't do anything! Wait for me and I will be right down." We assumed Elias had an old Arab formula handed down from his ancestors and approved by the management for dealing with scorpions. When he arrived, Elias stared at our unwanted guest for a second or two. Then in one sudden move he brought his right foot down quick and hard on the tile floor, crushing the tiny monster to a pulp. This has been a standing joke in our family ever since. We all knew that any one of us could just as easily have done what Elias insisted on doing for us. The serious side is the reason we did not act—intimidation and fear of the unknown. The hostility between humans and certain creatures of the earth is very ancient, and in the Bible it becomes a symbol of the great conflict between good and evil. Jesus told his disciples in Luke, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you" (Lk 10:18-19).

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