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Gnats and God

The Third Plague: Gnats  –  ESV   Exodus 8:16-19

16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’ ” 17 And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

H3654  כֵּן kên, kane; from 3661 in the sense of fastening; a gnat (from infixing its sting; used only in plur. [and irreg. in Exod. 8:17, 18; Heb. 18:14]):—lice. × manner.[1]

Vernon McGee explained it this way:

Up to this point the magicians were able to duplicate every miracle wrought by the hand of God. For some reason they were powerless to reproduce this plague. If it was by trickery that they duplicated the miracles, at least during this plague they finally acknowledged the finger of God in the plagues. Gradually God was convincing the Egyptians that He alone was God.

The worship of these gods entered into the very life of the Egyptians and into their daily routines. This judgment brought loathing upon Geb, the earth god. Geb was closely related to the earth in all of its states. Geb was the one who made his report to Osiris on the state of the harvest.

The word lice could mean gnats or mosquitoes. Its root means to “cover” or “nip” or“pinch”. It is interesting that the nipping, pinching, or covering could not be fulfilled by a gnat or a mosquito. It is, however, a good description of lice. A leading zoologist has said that the mites form an enormous order whose leading function, to a large extent, is to play the scavenger. You can well imagine with the land stinking with frogs that there were crowds of lice. The lice could eventually rid the land of the frogs and could therefore become a blessing as well as a curse.

Regardless of the apparent help the lice might have been, one man tells about his experience with them in Egypt: “I noticed that the sand appeared to be in motion. Close… inspection revealed…that the surface of the ground was a moving mass of minute ticks, thousands of which were crawling up my legs…I beat a hasty retreat, pondering the words of the Scriptures, ‘the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.’”

The plague of lice could not be duplicated by the Egyptian magicians. God is beginning to level His judgment against life itself in the land of Egypt.[2]

Other texts concerning the Hebrew word H3654

Ps 105:31  ESV

31  He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats (H3654) throughout their country. [3]

Isa 51:6

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath;

       for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment,

and they who dwell in it will die in like manner H3654;                     but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

Think for a moment the power of God to bring about such a swam of gnats to cover Egypt.  Lets look at the 4th plague as this is the time that only the Egyptians felt its effect as the Children of Israel area was free from any plagues hence forth.

Confirmation by Vernon McGee:

Up until this time the plagues had touched both the lands of Egypt and Goshen where the children of Israel lived. Many people were probably telling Pharaoh that since Goshen was also affected by the plagues, the phenomena of the plagues had a natural explanation. Maybe they attributed the vexation to one of the Egyptian gods. Everything becomes crystal clear at this juncture, however, when God declares that from now on there is to be a distinction, and none of the following plagues will touch the land of Goshen, the home of Israel. From now on, judgment will fall only upon the land of Egypt.

The fourth judgment is the plague of flies. These “flies” were most likely the sacred beetle or scarab as they were known in Egypt. These scarabs, many of gold, are found in the tombs in Egypt. They were sacred to the sun god Ra. The severity of this plague is reflected in the fact that Pharaoh was willing to reach some sort of compromise with Moses at this time. Notice the proposal that Pharaoh made as the sacred beetle invaded the land.[4]

Exodus 8:30-31  NLT

30 So Moses left Pharaoh’s palace and pleaded with the Lord to remove all the flies. 31 And the Lord did as Moses asked and caused the swarms of flies to disappear from Pharaoh, his officials, and his people. Not a single fly remained.

Here we find that God not only caused a great number of these insects (files) to swam in the land of Egypt but stop them from migrating to the land where the Israelite’s resided.   NOTE, the power of God!

When we begin to question how God will resolve this mess the world is in, we might want to reflect on the majesty of God’s power and control.  POINT is that we need to place our trust in God and not try and place God within the confines of our limits.  We need to be careful that we don’t create our own God by how we construct Him in our minds.

We worship the ‘true God’ – let Him define who He is.  We need to stay in awe of His majesty and power.

[1] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 55). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 1, pp. 226–227). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 105:31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 227). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.