"Rimmah" and "tole'ah" are the terms most frequently employed in the Bible to connote not only the earthworm, but any elongated crawling creature, such as the maggot, caterpillar, larvaof an insect, and the like. Thus, in the account of the "worms" which appeared in the manna (Ex. xvi. 20, 24) the terms evidently refer to caterpillars which feed on putrefying matter, while the "worms" described as destroying vineyards and the gourd (Deut. xxviii. 39; Jonah iv. 7) were some variety of beetle or insect larva, and the "worms" in Isa. xiv. 11, Job xvii. 14, xxi. 26, and similar passages were maggots or larvæ which feed on dead bodies. For the meaning of "zoḥale ereẓ" (Mic. vii. 17) see Serpent.
Metaphorically, the worm symbolizes lowliness and helplessness (Isa. xli. 14; Ps. xxii. 7 [A. V. 6]; Job xxv. 6), but in Isa. lxvi. 24 the worm and fire together connote eternal pain.
There are several species of earthworm (Lumbricus) in Palestine, and Myriapoda abound.
In the Talmud also "rimmah" and "tole'ah" are found as general terms for "worm," while the generic denomination for all crawlers is "sheḳaẓim u-remasim" (see Reptiles). Several species are mentioned under special names, such as , a kind of water-worm (Nais tulifex; Zeb. 22a); , rainworm (Ḥul. 67b); , the worm which lives in the tracheæ of sheep and causes them to cough (Strongulus filaria; ib. 49a); and , worms found in the intestines of fishes (Lingula cingulum; ib. 67b). Since the raven is heartless toward its young, Providence, according to B. B. 8a, takes care of them by causing maggots to arise from their excrement, thus furnishing them with food (comp. Rashi on 'Er. 22a). With the worms which arose from rotten bran Noah fed the chameleon in the ark (Sanh. 108b). A host of worms infest the human body, both living and dead (Tem. 31a; Ab. iii. 1). There are worms in the liver (; Shab. 109b) and in the belly (), a remedy for the latter being the milk of an ass mixed with the leaves of the bay, or bread and salt taken with fresh water before breakfast (Giṭ. 69b; B. M. 107b). Garlic is a cure for worms in the great intestine (Bek. 82b), while the tapeworm is driven out by the raw meal of barley or by hyssop (Ber. 36a; Shab. 109b). is the name of a worm which finds lodgment between the prepuce and glans penis and is removed by circumcision, so that even Gentiles submitted to the operation ('Ab. Zarah 26b). From the mouths of the false spies whom Moses sent to Canaan came forth worms (Soṭah 35a), and Yer. Yoma 39a records similar phenomena proceeding from the nose of a heretic (comp. also Yoma 19b; B. M. 84b).
- Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, p. 300;
- Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmuds, p. 334.