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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Exodus 8:17. The frogs were produced out of the waters, but the lice out of the dust of the earth; for out of any part of the creation God can fetch a scourge wherewith to correct those that rebel against him. This plague was probably sent because it would be peculiarly grievous to the Egyptians, as being a very cleanly people. According to Herodotus, their priests were wont to shave or scrape their whole bodies every third day, lest any lice should breed upon them.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.

The dust was not fit matter to produce lice, and therefore shows this work to be Divine and miraculous.

All the dust of the land, i.e. a great part of it, the word all being commonly so understood in Scripture. And they did so,.... As follows:

for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod; as directed and ordered:

and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man and in beast; which shows it was a miraculous operation, since lice do not usually spring from dust, but thrive in the sweat of bodies, and the nastiness of them, through sloth and idleness; and moreover, this was like the creation of man at first, which was out of the dust of the earth, and alike the effect of almighty power:

all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt; that is, the greatest part of it, not that every atom of dust became lice, nor was the land of Goshen, in which the Israelites dwelt, infected with this plague, unless where any of the Egyptians were; though Dr. Lightfoot (d) thinks, that lice were in Goshen as in other parts of Egypt, there being no severing between Goshen and Egypt mentioned until the next plague; and since Israel had partook of many of the sins of Egypt, they must partake of some of her punishments; and he thinks this is the reason that the plague of lice is not reckoned among the plagues of Egypt in Psalm 78:44 because it was common to Israel, and to the Egyptians, and which is the sense of Aben Ezra on Exodus 7:24. The account that Artapanus (e), the Heathen historian, gives of this plague, is this;"Moses smote the earth with a rod, and produced a certain flying animal, which greatly distressed the Egyptians, and raised ulcers in their bodies, which no physicians could cure.''And so Origen (f) describes this creature as"having wings and flying in the air, but so subtile and minute as to escape the eye, unless very sharp sighted; but when it lights upon a body, it stings most bitterly, so that what a man cannot see flying, he feels stinging.''Both seem to design the gnat, but this sort of vermin do not stick in and abide with men or beasts, as these here are said to do, but buzz about and bite, and then are gone.

(d) Works, vol. 1. p. 705, 706. (e) Apud Euseb. ut supra. (Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 27. p. 435.) (f) In Exod. Homil. 4. fol. 35. Colossians 2.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. with his rod] See on v. 5.Verse 17. - And in beast. Kalisch notes that mosquitoes - 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." He quotes Theodoret, Hist. Ecclesiastes 8:26. 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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