is the rendering in the A.V. of two Heb. words:
1. Akkabish (עִכָּבַישׁ; Sept. ἀράχνη; Vulg. aranea) occurs in Job 8:14; Isa 59:5. In the first of these passages the reference seems clear to the spider's web, or, literally, house (בית), whose fragility is alluded to as a fit representation of the hope of a profane, ungodly, or profligate person; for so the word חנŠ, really means, and not "hypocrite," as in our version. The object of such a person's trust or confidence, who is always really in imminent danger of ruin, may be compared for its uncertainty to the spider's web. "He shall lean upon his house (i.e. to keep it steady when it is shaken); he shall hold it fast (i.e. when it is about to be destroyed); nevertheless, it shall not endure "(Job 8:15). In the second passage (Isa 59:4) it is said, "The wicked weave the spider's web" (קורי, literally "thin threads"); but it is added "their thin threads shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works;" that is, their artifices shall neither succeed, nor conceal themselves, as does the spider's web. This allusion intimates no antipathy to the spider itself, or to its habits when directed towards its own purposes; but simply to the adoption of those habits by mall towards his fellow creatures. No expression of an abstract antipathy towards any creature whatever is to be found in Scripture. Though certain species, indeed, which for good and wise reasons were prohibited as food, are so far called "an abomination," yet revelation throughout recognizes every living creature as the work of God and deserving the pious attention of mankind. — Kitto.
In the passage from Job the special allusion is thus seen to be not to the use of the web as a snare to intercept flies, but as a structure for the concealment and protection of the artificer; and is intended to express that, notwithstanding all the ingenuity displayed in the construction of the web, and the spider's trust in it and efforts to fasten it, the material is so frail that a slight violence suffices to destroy it; so shall the artifices which the hypocrite so craftily devises, and on which he depends for concealment, fail before the judgment of God. We may suppose that the writer had his eye upon one of those species which weave an elaborate nest in the form of a wide sheet, centring in a close and cloth like tube, in which the animal lives, such as that of Agelena labysrinthica, which is so common with us in the latter part of summer. "Our readers," says Mr. Rennie, "must often have seen this nest spread out like a broad sheet in hedges, furze, and other low bushes, and sometimes on the ground. The middle of this sheet, which is of a close texture, is swung, like a sailor's hammock, by silken ropes extended all around, to the higher branches; but the whole curves upward and backward, sloping down to a long funnel-shaped gallery which is nearly horizontal at the entrance, but soon winds obliquely till it becomes quite perpendicular. This curved gallery is about a quarter of an inch in diameter, is much more closely woven than the sheet part of the web, and sometimes descends into a hole in the ground, though oftener into a group of crowded twigs or a tuft of grass. Here the spider dwells secure, frequently resting with her legs extended from the entrance of the gallery, ready to spring out upon whatever insect may fall into her sheet net" (Insect Archit. p. 357).
The prophet Isaiah appears to glance at the poisonous nature of the spider, and the object for which the web is woven. It is for the entrapping of unwary insects, which are then seized by the treacherous lier in wait, and pierced by its venomous fangs. It is true, moral feelings cannot with metaphysical propriety be attributed to an invertebrate animal, but popular prejudice in all ages and countries has sanctioned the poet's unfavorable verdict, when he says of the spider
"Cunning and fierce, mixture abhorred."
The craft and apparent treachery of its actions; its ferocity even to its own kind; the dark, sombre colors; the hairiness; and in many species the swollen, bloated form of the abdomen; the repulsive aspect of the head and mouth; and, in particular, the fatality of the venom injected by those formidable fangs — sufficiently warrant the general dislike in which the Arachnida are held, even though we readily grant that they are but fulfilling the instinct which an all-wise God has implanted in them, and concede their utility even to man in diminishing the swarms of annoying insects. The organs of destruction in a spider form an interesting study, and can be examined to great advantage in the slough, or cast skin, which we so often find in the haunts of these creatures. There are in the front of the head — in Clubiona atrox, for example, a common species — two stout brown organs, which are the representatives of the antennae in insects, though very much modified both in form and function. They are here the effective weapons of attack. Each consists of two joints — the basal one, which forms the most conspicuous portion of the organ, and the terminal one, which is the fang. The former is a thick hollow case, somewhat cylindrical, but flattened sidewise, formed of stiff chitin, covered with minute transverse ridges on its whole surface, like the marks left on the sand by the rippling wavelets, and studded with stout, coarse black hair. Its extremity is cut off obliquely, and forms a furrow, the edges of which are beset with polished conical points resembling teeth. To the upper end of this furrowed case is fixed by a hinge joint the fang, which is a curved claw like organ, formed of hard chitin, and consisting of two parts — a swollen oval base, which is highly polished, and a more slender tip, the surface of which has a silky luster, from being covered with very fine and close set longitudinal grooves. This whole organ falls into the furrow of the basal joint when not in use, exactly as the blade of a clasp knife shuts into the haft; but when the animal is excited, either to defend itself or to attack its prey, the fang becomes stiffly elected. By turning the object on its axis under the microscope, and examining the extreme tip of the fang, we may see that it is not brought to a fine point, but that it has the appearance of having been cut off slant wise just at the tip; and that it is tubular. Now this is a provision for the speedy infliction of death upon the victim; for both the fang and the thick basal joint are permeated by a slender membranous tube, which is the poison duct and which terminates at the open extremity of the former, while at the other end it communicates with a lengthened oval sac where the venom is secreted. This, of course, we should not see in the slough, for it is not cast with the exuviae, but retained in the interior of the body; but in life it is a sac extending into the cephalothorax — as that part of the body which carries the legs is called — and covered with spiral folds produced by the arrangement of the fibers of its contractile tissue. When the spider attacks a fly, it plunges into its vietim the two fangs, the action of which is downward, and not right and left, like that of the jaws of insects. At the same instant a drop of poison is secreted in each gland, which, oozing through the duct, escapes from the perforated end of the fang into the wound, and rapidly produces death. The fangs are then clasped down, carrying the prey, which they powerfully press against the toothed edges of the stout basal piece, by which means the nutritive fluids of the prey are pressed out and taken into the mouth; after which the dry and empty skin is rejected. The poison is of an acid nature, as experiments performed with irritated spiders prove, litmus paper pierced by them becoming red as far around the perforation as the emitted fluid spreads.
There are very many species of spider in Palestine, some which spin webs like the common garden spider; some which dig subterranean cells, and make doors in them, like the well known trap-door spider of Southern Europe; and some which have no web, but chase their prey upon the ground, like the hunting and wolf spiders (Wood, Bible Animals, p. 644). Notice is taken in the Bible, however, only of those that spin webs, — but the particular species is not indicated. A venomous spider is noticed by several travelers (Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 418).
2. Semamith (שׂמָמַית; Sept. καλαβώτης; Chald. אקמהא; Vulg. stellio; translated by the A.V. "spider" in Pr 30:28, the only passage where the word is found) has reference, according to most interpreters, to some kind of lizard (Bochart, Hieroz. 2, 510). It is mentioned by Solomon as one of the four things that are exceeding clever, though they be little upon earth. The semamith taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces." This term exists in the modern Greek language under the form σαμιάμινθος. "Quem Graeci hodie σαμιάμινθον vocant, antiquae Graeciae est ἀσκαλαβώτης, id est stellio — quae vox pura Hebraica est et reperitur in Pr 30:28, שׂמָמַית" (Salmasii Plin. Exercit. p. 817, b. G). If a lizard be indicated, it must evidently be some species of gecko, a notice of which genus of animals is given under the article SEE LIZARD . Thus the Sept. rendering designates a clinging lizard, able to hold on against gravity, and most modern commentators incline to follow this interpretation. However, as the gecko could never be other than a casual intruder into a palace, and as the selection of a dwelling, implying sagacity, seems indicated by the moralist, some are rather disposed to accept the rendering of our English Version, and to understand the house spider (Aranea domestica), which mounts by means of her "hands" to secure corners, even in royal palaces, and there makes her home.