A genus of insects, of which there are a great many species. Moses declares them and most other insects to be unclean, Leviticus 11:42. They abound in Egypt, and are annoying and vexatious in the extreme, attacking the eyelids, etc., in swarms and with the utmost pertinacity. How intolerable a plague of flies may be, is evident from the fact that whole districts in the Levant have been for a time depopulated by them, the inhabitants being unable to stand against their incessant attacks, Exodus 8:24. The Philistines and Canaanites adored Beelzebub, the fly-god, probably as a patron to protect them against these tormenting insects.
In Isaiah 7:18, the prophet describing the armies of Egypt and Assyria, each under the symbol of one of the prevalent insects in those countries, says, "And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt;" (or rather, as the same Hebrew word is rendered in Exodus 16:35, the fly that is in the borders of the streams of Egypt,)" and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria." It is thought by some that the fly here spoken of is the zimb, or Ethiopian fly, of which Mr. Bruce says, "It is, in size, very little larger than a bee, of a thicker proportion, and has wings which are broader than those of a bee, placed separate, like those of a fly; they are of pure gauze, without color or spot upon them; the head is large. As soon as this plague appears, and their buzzing is heard, all the cattle forsake their food, and run wildly about the plain till they die, worn out with fatigue, fright, and hunger. No remedy remains but to leave the black earth, and hasten down to the sands of the desert; and there they remain while the rains last, this cruel enemy never daring to pursue them farther." The camel is also obliged to fly before these insects; and the elephant and rhinoceros coat themselves with a thick armor of mud.