Exodus 8:16
And the LORD said to Moses, Say to Aaron, Stretch out your rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
THE THIRD PLAGUE. (16, 17)

It is disputed whether this plague was one of lice or of mosquitoes. Josephus and the Jewish commentators generally take the former view, while the latter is supported by the LXX. and Vulgate, by the authorities of Philo, Artapanus, Origen, and St. Augustine in ancient, and by those of Rosenmüller, Michaelis, Œdmann, Gesenius, Keil, and Kalisch in modern times. The word used (kinnim) seems connected with the Greek κίνψ, or κώνωψ, and is reasonably regarded as formed by onomatopoeia, from the sharp tingling sound given out by the insect when on the wing.[58] The trouble caused to the Egyptians of the Delta by mosquitoes is noticed by Herodotus (ii. 95); while moderns, as Forskal (Descript. Anim. p. 85), declare that they amount to an absolute pest at certain seasons. They are most troublesome towards October, and are said to attack not only the exposed parts of the skin, but especially the ears, the nostrils, and the eyes, where they do great damage. Some have thought that mosquitoes do not molest cattle (Exodus 8:17); but Kalisch says, “They molest especially beasts, as oxen and horses, flying into their eyes and nostrils, driving them to madness and fury, and sometimes even torturing them to death.”

[58] In Egyptian the word for “mosquito” is Khnemms, (Brugsch, Diet. Hierogl. p. 1103).

It is to be noticed that the third plague, whatever it was, came without warning. It was God’s judgment on Pharaoh for hardening his heart and breaking his promise (Exodus 8:15); and he was not given the option of avoiding it by submission to God’s will.

(16) Smite the dust of the land.—Dust prevails in Egypt to an extent that is highly inconvenient. “We travelled to Ashmim.” says one writer, “through clouds of dust, raised by a high wind, which intercepted our view as much as if we had been travelling in a fog.” “There is one great source of discomfort,” says another, “arising from the dryness of the atmosphere, namely, an excessive quantity of dust.” When “all the dust of the land became mosquitoes” (Exodus 8:17), the plague must indeed have been great.

8:16-19 These lice were produced out of the dust of the earth; out of any part of the creation God can fetch a scourge, with which to correct those who rebel against him. Even the dust of the earth obeys him. These lice were very troublesome, as well as disgraceful to the Egyptians, whose priests were obliged to take much pains that no vermin ever should be found about them. All the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians, had reference to their national crimes, or were rendered particularly severe by their customs. The magicians attempted to imitate it, but they could not. It forced them to confess, This is the finger of God! The check and restraint put upon us, must needs be from a Divine power. Sooner or later God will force even his enemies to acknowledge his own power. Pharaoh, notwithstanding this, was more and more obstinate.It is observed by Hebrew commentators that the nine plagues are divided into three groups: distinct warnings are given of the first two plagues in each group; the third in each is inflicted without any previous notice; namely, the third, lice, the sixth, boils, the ninth, darkness.

The dust of the land - The two preceding plagues fell upon the Nile. This fell on the earth, which was worshipped in Egypt as the father of the gods. An special sacredness was attached to the black fertile soil of the basin of the Nile, called Chemi, from which the ancient name of Egypt is supposed to be derived.

Lice - The Hebrew word occurs only in connection with this plague. These insects are generally identified with mosquitos, a plague nowhere greater than in Egypt. They are most troublesome toward October, i. e. soon after the plague of frogs, and are dreaded not only for the pain and annoyance which they cause, but also because they are said to penetrate into the body through the nostrils and ears.

Ex 8:16-19. Plague of Lice.

16. smite the dust of the land, &c.—Aaron's rod, by the direction of Moses, who was commanded by God, was again raised, and the land was filled with gnats, mosquitoes—that is the proper meaning of the original term. In ordinary circumstances they embitter life in Eastern countries, and therefore the terrible nature of this infliction on Egypt may be imagined when no precautions could preserve from their painful sting. The very smallness and insignificance of these fierce insects made them a dreadful scourge. The magicians never attempted any imitation, and what neither the blood of the river nor the nuisance of the frogs had done, the visitation of this tiny enemy constrained them to acknowledge "this is the finger of God"—properly "gods," for they spoke as heathens.

God, it seems, gave him no warning, because he showed himself in the very last plague to be both perfidious and incorrigible. Others think he was forewarned, though that be not here expressed.

Lice, so the Hebrew word is rendered by all the Jewish and most other interpreters. But it is probable that what is said of the locusts, Exodus 10:14, was true of these, that they were much more loathsome and troublesome than ordinary. And the Lord said unto Moses,.... On the twenty seventh day of the month, according to Bishop Usher, the same day the flogs were removed; no warning is given him of the next plague, at least there is no account of any:

say unto Aaron, stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land; in some one part of the land, that place nearest to him where there was a quantity of dust; for it cannot be imagined that he should smite all the dust of the land in every part of it, but smiting one part served for the whole:

that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt: not gnats, as some, nor flies, as others, but lice, though perhaps not of the common and ordinary sort, but new and extraordinary, and it may be of different sorts, suitable to different creatures.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. lice] Marg. gnats. The Heb. kinnîm or kinnâm occurs only Exodus 8:16-18, Psalm 105:31, and doubtfully in the sing. Isaiah 51:6; and it as been differently interpreted. Both the renderings here given are ancient: gnats are found in LXX. (σκνῖφες1[121]), Vulg. sciniphes; lice in Pesh. and Targ. (so Jos. Ant ii. 14. 3). Gnats, or, as we should say, mosquitos, are abundant in Egypt: they are generated from the water (which is full of their larvas); and in the autumn especially, when the Nile is still overflowing, and the rice-fields stand in water, they rise from it in such swarms that the air is sometimes darkened with them. Their sting occasions swelling and irritation; and the annoyance caused by them is often alluded to by travellers in Egypt. Lice, on the other hand, are nothing characteristic of Egypt. Hence most moderns (Ges., Keil, Dillm. &c.) agree that gnats is the most probable rendering. The gnats in Egypt often look like clouds of dust; accordingly, they are described here as produced from the dust.

[121] Philo (Vit. Mos., p. 97) describes the σκνῖφες as small insects, which not only pierced the skin, but also set up intolerable itching, and penetrated the ears and nostrils; and OriExo (Hom. in Exodus 4:6) as small stinging insects, i.e. mosquitos. Herodotus (ii. 95) also mentions how troublesome the κώνωπες, another species of gnat, were in Egypt.

16–19. The third plague. The dust of the land turned to gnats. Entirely P.Verses 16-19. - THE THIRD PLAGUE. The breach of promise on the part of Pharaoh (ver. 15), was punished by the third plague, which was inflicted without being announced. It is disputed among the best critics, whether the plague was really one of "lice"(as given in the Authorised Version) or of mosquitoes. To the present writer the arguments in favour of mosquitoes seem to preponderate; and he believes the kinnim to represent those subtle pests. Such is the view of the LXX. translators, of Philo, Artapanus, Origen, Rosenmuller, Gesenins, Geddes, Boothroyd, Keil, and Kalisch. Mosquitoes are, under ordinary circumstances, a terrible annoyance in Egypt, when the inundation is going off, especially about October. Their power to annoy is witnessed to in ancient times by Herodotus (2:95), Philo (Vit. Mos. 2. p. 97), and St. Augustine; in modern by Wilkinson and others. That Aaron was ordered to produce them out of "the dust of the land," whereas mosquitoes come from larvae deposited in stagnant waters (Cook), is only a proof that God can transform any kind of matter into any other. He who made man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) could with still greater ease have transformed that dust into gnats. It is undoubtedly remarkable that the magi-clans could not produce the kinnim; but this disability does not help us to determine what exactly the kinnim were. Conceivably, the magicians were tired of the contest, and feeling that they would ultimately be worsted in it, . withdrew before the circumstances compelled them to withdraw. Verse 16. - Lice. Kinnim - the word is only found here and in the Psalms which celebrate the Exodus (Psalm 78:46; Psalm 105:31). It was understood as "lice"by Josephus, the Talmudical writers, Bochart, Pool, and our translators in the reign of James I. But the great weight of authority is in favour of the rendering "gnats" or "mosquitoes." See the preceding paragraph. It must also be berne in mind that the nearest Egyptian equivalent, khennems, has the signification of mosquito (Speaker's Commentary, vol. 1. p. 490). The king appointed the following day, probably because he hardly thought it possible for so great a work to be performed at once. Moses promised that it should be so: "According to thy word (sc., let it be), that thou mayest know that there is not (a God) like Jehovah our God." He then went out and cried, i.e., called aloud and earnestly, to Jehovah concerning the matter (דּבר על) of the frogs, which he had set, i.e., prepared, for Pharaoh (שׂוּם as in Genesis 45:7). In consequence of his intercession God took the plague away. The frogs died off (מן מוּת, to die away out of, from), out of the houses, and palaces, and fields, and were gathered together by bushels (חמרים from חמר, the omer, the largest measure used by the Hebrews), so that the land stank with the odour of their putrefaction. Though Jehovah had thus manifested Himself as the Almighty God and Lord of the creation, Pharaoh did not keep his promise; but when he saw that there was breathing-time (רוחה, ἀνάψυξις, relief from an overpowering pressure), literally, as soon as he "got air," he hardened his heart, so that he did not hearken to Moses and Aaron (והכבּד inf. abs. as in Genesis 41:43).
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