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.
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(18) The magicians did so—i.e., tried to do so—took moist earth, and dried it, and pulverised it, and tried the effect of their magic charms upon it, but. failed to produce mosquitoes, as Aaron had done. Mosquitoes were things too delicate to be caught, and manipulated, and produced at a given moment by sleight-of-hand. The magicians tried to produce a counterfeit of the miracle, but could not. Then they excused themselves to their master with the words, “This is the finger of a god.”

Exodus 8:18. The magicians did so — They also smote the dust of the earth to bring forth lice with their enchantments, but they could not — Some have said that this verse is not accurately translated, and that the true sense of it is, that the magicians endeavoured not to bring forth, but to draw off, or take away, the lice. But surely they have affirmed this without having examined the original. The words להוציא את הכנים, Lehoatsi eth hachinnim, signify to bring forth the lice, and not to take them away. Nor is the word εξαγαγειν, used by the LXX., at all inimical to this construction, signifying properly to bring out, or bring forth. So that the thing asserted, as commentators have generally understood, is, that the magicians could not produce lice, as they had frogs, much less could they take away those that God, by Moses, had produced. Now, as it surely was as easy to produce lice as frogs, from this it appeared by what power they had done the other two miracles; not by any virtue that was in their enchantments, but by a supernatural power which God had permitted Satan to give them, but the further operation of which he now thought proper to prevent, to show them that all their power, to whatever cause they might attribute it, was limited, and not to be compared with that of the God of Israel.

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.

Did so, i.e. endeavoured to do so. Thus to enter, Matthew 7:13, is put for striving to enter, Luke 13:24. Thus men are said to deliver, Genesis 37:21; to fight, Joshua 24:9; to return, Joshua 10:15; when they only attempted or endeavoured to do so. And therefore when it is said in any of the plagues that the magicians did so, it is not to be understood that they really did the same thing, but that they endeavoured to do so, and that they did something which looked like it.

It was as easy for them to produce lice as frogs, but God hindered them, partly to confound them and their devilish arts, and to show that what they did before was only by his permission; and partly to convince Pharaoh and the Egyptians of their vanity in trusting to such impotent magicians, and in opposing that God who could control and confound them when he pleased.

And the magicians did so with their enchantments, to bring forth lice,.... They made use of their magical art, and juggling tricks they were masters of, to produce the like sort of creatures, or at least to make such appear, or seem to appear, to the eyes of men:

but they could not; God would not suffer them to do it, to impose upon Pharaoh, and deceive him and the Egyptians any longer; and a stop is put to them, when such small and despicable creatures were produced, the more to put them to shame and confusion, and to show that what they did before was not real, and that what they did in appearance was only by divine permission:

so there were lice upon man and upon beast; these lay in great numbers on both, biting and distressing them in a most terrible manner; for as the magicians could not produce such creatures, it was not in their power to remove them.

And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they {e} could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.

(e) God confounded their wisdom and authority in a thing most vile.

18. This wonder the magicians (v. 7) were unable to imitate.

to bring forth] viz. from the earth.

19 This is the finger of God] i.e. the finger, or hand, of God is discernible here. The expression (though not in the same application), also, Exodus 31:18, Deuteronomy 9:10, Luke 11:20, and in the plural, Psalm 8:3.

The mosquito is so well known as a plague in Egypt, that it will not be necessary to add anything to what has been said about it on v. 16. The ‘gnats’ described here, however, differ from the mosquito in being produced, not from water, but from the dust; and also in their appearing miraculously, like the frogs, at a signal given by Aaron.

Verse 18. - The magicians did so with their enchantments. The magicians stretched out their rods over certain collections of dust, but no gnats were produced; which would be the natural result, if they had made no secret arrangements. No reason can be assigned why they should not have seemed to produce gnats, as easily as frogs, if they had employed all the arts of which they were masters in so doing. But events had convinced them that they could not cope with Moses and Aaron; and it would seem that they therefore declined further contest, Exodus 8:18"The magicians did so with their enchantments (i.e., smote the dust with rods), to bring forth gnats, but could not." The cause of this inability is hardly to be sought for, as Knobel supposes, in the fact that "the thing to be done in this instance, was to call creatures into existence, and not merely to call forth and change creatures and things in existence already, as in the case of the staff, the water, and the frogs." For after this, they could neither call out the dog-flies, nor protect their own bodies from the boils; to say nothing of the fact, that as gnats proceed from the eggs laid in the dust or earth by the previous generation, their production is not to be regarded as a direct act of creation any more than that of the frogs. The miracle in both plagues was just the same, and consisted not in a direct creation, but simply in a sudden creative generation and supernatural multiplication, not of the gnats only, but also of the frogs, in accordance with a previous prediction. The reason why the arts of the Egyptians magicians were put to shame in this case, we have to seek in the omnipotence of God, restraining the demoniacal powers which the magicians had made subservient to their purposes before, in order that their inability to bring out these, the smallest of all creatures, which seemed to arise as it were from the dust itself, might display in the sight of every one the impotence of their secret arts by the side of the almighty creative power of the true God. This omnipotence the magicians were compelled to admit: they were compelled to acknowledge, "This is the finger of God." "But they did not make this acknowledgment for the purpose of giving glory to God Himself, but simply to protect their own honour, that Moses and Aaron might not be thought to be superior to them in virtue or knowledge. It was equivalent to saying, it is not by Moses and Aaron that we are restrained, but by a divine power, which is greater than either" (Bochart). The word Elohim is decisive in support of this view. If they had meant to refer to the God of Israel, they would have used the name Jehovah. The "finger of God" denotes creative omnipotence (Psalm 8:3; Luke 11:20, cf. Exodus 31:18). Consequently this miracle also made no impression upon Pharaoh.
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