The original question was:  I’ve been fascinated by insects since I can remember and one thing that always bothered me is that most (if not all) Christians believe that insects are either not alive in the biblical sense or that they are not animals. One thing that they use to point that out is the fact that the Bible never states that insects have nephesh, furthermore they also bring out the fact that life (nephesh) is in the blood and insects’ blood is very different from vertebrate. In fact, nephesh comes from the word meaning breath, and insect blood doesn’t transport oxygen, so they conclude that insects do not possess nephesh life.

Answer by Diane Eager

It is true the insect blood does not have red blood cells, nor any molecules like haemoglobin to transport oxygen in the blood. Any gases in insect blood are simply dissolved in the fluid. This is not a problem for insects as they have fine tubes called spiracles that allow air to penetrate deep into an insect’s body, so oxygen does not have to travel far in the body fluids to get to its organs and muscles.

Although insect blood may not have any red blood cells it does have the equivalent of white blood cells. In fact, insect blood is more properly called haemolymph, because it is like lymph fluid in other animals, having white blood cells but not red cells. Apart from carrying white blood cells, haemolymph also carries nutrients and hormones to the insect tissues and carries away waste products, just like blood in other animals.

Even though insect blood does not have the essential oxygen carrying function seen in other creatures (including many invertebrates, such as worms and molluscs) insect blood is still essential for the insect to live, so therefore, can insects be included among the living creatures or nephesh referred to in Genesis 1? We can check this out by noting that the Hebrew word nephesh does mean ‘breath’, but it can also be used in a broader sense to mean the whole living creature. This is confirmed by the food laws given the Ancient Israelites. In Leviticus 11 there is a detailed description of what animals could and could not be eaten, which has the concluding statement: “ This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps upon the earth”. (Leviticus 11:46) The word translated as “creature” in the phrase “every creature that creeps upon the earth” is the Hebrew word nephesh. Now if you look back through the chapter to the details about creeping things, (vv21-23) insects are specifically mentioned.

John the Baptist enjoyed his dried locust and honey patties because of such rules. So yes, insects qualify as living or nephesh just as men and monkeys do.

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About The Contributor

Diane Eager