Courtesy of Pinchas Amitai

Life-threatening scorpions inhabited “the great and terrible wilderness” where Moses led the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:15). Numerous Biblical references to scorpions suggest that the ancients were well acquainted with the perils of these indigenous creatures. Twenty scorpion species can be found in Israel and the Sinai desert today, including the deadly Androctonus australis shown here, with its poisonous barb at the end of its curved tail. But the Talmud, a compilation of Jewish laws and teachings, suggests the scorpion was actually a mixed blessing: Its ash acted as a cure for blindness.