16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. 17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. 18 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. 19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. (Exodus 8:16–19)
I. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD RENDERED
Exodus 8:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
Exodus 8:17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
Sometime after the second plague, and this time without a warning, the Lord sent the third plague.
A. Tiny Bugs Everywhere!
The Hebrew word for “lice” here is only used in passages referring to this plague, so it’s difficult to know what exactly the small bug was that infested Egypt. Other than “lice,” the possibilities include: fleas, sandflies, gnats, and mosquitoes.
This plague would have been similar to the frog plague, in that God produced an over-abundance of a creature to disturb and inconvenience the Egyptians.
It says that the bugs came from the “dust of the land” and that “all the dust of the land became lice.” This is hyperbole, but it does indicate that the abundance of these tiny, irritating bugs were more than anyone could stand.
B. How Did It Happen?
Some scholars speculate that the Nile was flooded, which would have been a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. So when all the frogs died after the second plague, nothing was left to keep the mosquitoes in check and they overpopulated quickly.
The problem with this view is that it ignores what the Scripture says about the origin of the insidious insects. Where did they come from? The “dust of the land.” Bugs normally come from wet regions, but in this case, God supernaturally created them from dust.
One Bible scholar wrote that there are several indicators that these plagues were supernatural acts of God, not natural events that were turned into the stuff of legend.
– They were intense far beyond normal measure.
– They were were often predicted as to the precise time of their occurrence.
– They were discriminating in that they spared the Israelites (8:22).
– They were orderly in that they increased in severity until the death of the firstborn.
– They served purpose in that they discredited specific Egyptian gods and demonstrated the power of the Lord.
(adapted from Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005], 239.)
C. Why Lice?
One more question to think about is “why lice (or gnats or whatever)”? The plagues, as we just mentioned, served a purpose. Often, part of that purpose was to knock down a specific Egyptian god.
Even though these were false gods with no power, the people perceived them to have power and so God chose to react against them. It’s similar to when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant.
2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. (1 Samuel 5:2–3)
The Philistines were in the same predicament as the Egyptians. They were to send the Ark back home and turn to the Lord. Through their priests the Lord spoke:
4 Then said they [the Philistines], What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They [the priests] answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. 5 Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. 6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? (1 Samuel 6:4–6)
The plague of the lice was possibly an attack against Set, the god of the desert. That’s why it’s important that the tiny bugs were created from the “dust of the land.” It showed that the false god of the desert had no power at all. The Lord showed that the Egyptians could not depend on their gods at all.
We would be remiss to say that we don’t have things in our lives that we depend on more than the Lord Jesus. Those things are our false gods.
I won’t say that every bad thing that happens to us is the judgment or discipline of God, but we should realize that sometimes those bad things go a long ways in revealing areas where we depend on something more than the Lord.
A financial crisis might reveal the dependence we have on money and possessions. An injury could reveal our dependence on our own strength and so on. Don’t waste your trials by being grumpy and wallowing in pity…ask yourself: what is the Lord revealing to me through this?
II. THE JUDGMENT OF GOD RECOGNIZED
A. The Magicians Fail To Duplicate The Miracle
Exodus 8:18 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.
For the first time, the magicians are unable to duplicate the miracle in any form. If they used illusion, as I tend to think, they had been able:
– to turn a stick into a snake (perhaps by paralyzing the snake);
– make water look like blood (maybe by using a red dye);
– and appear to produce frogs (like a magician who makes doves appear out of thin air).
But what magician has ever worked with trained mosquitos! One scholar speculated that…
The magicians may have tried long and hard to duplicate the miracle (v. 18), but capturing enough mosquitoes to make an impressive display when released, keeping them alive and confined until the right time, and being able to release them in such a way that they would promptly and visibly swarm on people and animals in significant numbers would surely have proved too complicated.
(Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006], 211)
If the magicians were empowered by Satan to duplicate the miracles they did, then this shows that Satan’s power has limits.
B. The Magicians Recognize The Finger Of God
Exodus 8:19 Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
Pharaoh, of course, continued to reject the Lord and harden his heart. But magicians show at least a little hope.
Perhaps up to this time, the magicians were thinking that Moses and Aaron were like them—illusionists—and it was a matter of the one with the best trick wins.
What did they mean by “the finger of God”? The same thought is conveyed in similar phrases in the Bible:
20 But if I [Jesus] with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)
The “finger of God” is a way of expressing God’s activity, not a literal description of God—God is a Spirit.
The magicians recognized that there was a higher power at work here. That, remember, was one goal that the Lord wanted to achieve through the plagues—to bring people to know that he was God.
17 Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. (Exodus 7:17)
C. Knowing God Isn’t Enough
Were the magicians saved? Perhaps, but that they recognized God at work doesn’t mean they were saved. A person can believe that God exists without being saved.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)
As one commentator wrote:
In fact, if the surveys are correct, most people believe in God. They acknowledge the existence of a Creator. They confess their need for “a Higher Power.” They speak of “the Man Upstairs.” When there is a natural disaster, they refer to it as “an act of God.” They often use one of God’s names when they curse. (Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005], 244)
But their belief in God does not equal their salvation. Before J. Warner Wallace was a Christian, he studied the gospels with a detective’s eye. One day, after months of study:
I leaned over [to my wife] and said, “I think it may be true.” “What may be true?” asked Susie. “Christianity,” I responded. “The more I look at the Gospels, the more I think they look like real eyewitness accounts.” I spent months examining the claims of the Gospels, evaluating them with the template I typically apply to eyewitnesses in my criminal investigations. At the end of my examination, I was confident in their reliability. I believed the Gospels were telling me the truth about Jesus. But I wasn’t yet a Christian…
For months I had been focused on testing the reliability of the Gospels without really embracing the teachings of Jesus related to my own condition as a human. I can still remember where I was when I first read through the accounts from a new perspective, searching this time for what they said about my own human nature. It was convicting.
I was never someone who saw myself as a bad person. In fact, my role as a police officer only amplified my own pride and sense of “goodness”. I took bad guys to jail. I thought I understood the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. I was on one side of the bars; bad people were on the other.
But the New Testament eroded my confidence in my own righteousness. As I saw myself on the pages of Scripture, I had to admit their accuracy. They described me perfectly. The more I read, the more I recognized my need for a Savior. Suddenly the Gospel made sense…
This investigation of the Gospels led me to a place of readiness. I was prepared, as a result of my investigation, to hear what Jesus had to say about me. (http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/the-difference-between-believing-the-gospels-and-trusting-the-gospel/#sthash.wg65J9jt.dpuf)
Do you simply know about God, or do you know Jesus Christ and are saved through his blood shed for you?