Hello all! I know that it has been quite some time since you have heard from me! Much has happened since my last blog and I have a growing list of topics that I have been wanting to write about over the past several months. But before I write any of those, I wanted to write about something fun. Every now and again I have friends that will text me various questions about the Bible and if I don’t know the answer at the moment, I open my Bible and I find the answer. So this weeks blog is inspired by my friend, Jeremiah, who sent me this question a few days ago, “Why were Pharoahs magicians able to immitate all the plagues and signs that Moses performed, except for when they got to the plague of lice? That is when the magicians said to Pharoah, ‘this is obviously the finger of God.'” If your intital reaction is, “Uhmmmmm….hmmmm… that is a very good question, what do lice have to do with the finger of God?” Then you are in great company because that was exactly my response! But after a bit of investigation, I think I found a sufficient answer…
The 3rd plague is what some translations call the plague of lice, others call it the plague of gnats. Before diving into the details of the 3rd plague, I want to give some context by covering the highlights of what happened during plagues 1-4.
As some may already know, each plague that descended upon the land of Egypt was a direct attack on some of the most revered and most “powerful” Egyptian gods. The 1st plague was the when the Nile River and any water that had been drawn from it turned to blood. This was a direct attack on Hapi, the god of the Nile, who was thought to be responsible for the annual flooding of the river that would leave rich silt deposits in the soil, making it fertile for planting. Pharoah’s magicians were able to replicate this plague, and thus, Pharoah was not phased and his heart hardened.
The 2nd plague was when frogs came up out of the Nile River and covered the land. They found there way into their houses, onto their beds, and even into their ovens. This was an attack on Heket, the goddess of childbirth and fertility, who had the head of a frog. Good fertility was something that was idolized and worshipped in every ancient pagan religion and frogs were seen as a sign of new life and rebirth. But what happens when you worship God’s gifts (fertility and children) rather than God Himself? Suddenly, the blessings you once worshipped become a curse that consumes your every thought, word and deed (frogs covering the land). It is no different in modern culture. Procreating and childbearing are a blessing, but when they are worshipped and God is no where to be found, we find ourselves in the current state of rampant sex trafficking, abortion advocating, and pornography filming. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering how many of the other plagues could be depicted in modern society. Anywho, Pharoah’s magicians were also able to replicate this plague by calling more frogs out of the water.
At the time of the 3rd plague, God had Moses tell Aaron to “smite the dust of the earth” and the dust would become lice/gnats. This was a direct attack on Geb, the god of the earth, because after Aaron struck the earth, the dust that came up from it turned into an infestation of lice/gnats. Now, I do not have a degree in etymology or translating hebrew to english, but I felt like there was a better way to translate this word that is translated as lice/gnats. It is used very few other places in Scripture so I decided to look at the context and noticed that it said these insects were everywhere on the people and on the animals. That doesn’t exactly sound like gnats to me. It could be lice but I felt like that’s a bit too specific a translation for a word that is used only a few times. One interesting note to make is that the Egyptians believed that Geb, the god of the earth, was responsible for healing scorpion stings. Could it be that the 3rd plague was actually scorpions, causing the very same afflictions that this god was supposed to help heal? Perhaps this is why the magicians believed it to be the “finger of God,” but I will admit, it’s a stretch. The plain description within the text does not exactly support this theory but its interesting to think about it. Therefore, in my humble and uneducated opinion, I think that any biting and infesting insect such as bed bugs, lice, fleas, etc could fit the bill of what is described to be the 3rd plague. Sorry for the rabbit trail, back to the narrative! This, as previously stated, is the first time that Pharoah’s magicians were not able to replicate a plague and they acknowledge that “this [plague] is the finger of God.”
The 4th plague was the first plague that God did not use Moses or Aaron to initiate, it simply says that Moses told Pharoah that swarms of flies would invade the land if he did not let his people go, and then Ex. 8:24 says, “And the LORD did this.” This was a direct attack on Kephri, the god of creation, who had the face of a scarab beetle. This plague was one that I always wondered what was so terrible about a bunch of flies. I mean, yes, flies constantly buzzing around you can get obnoxious but certainly nothing compared to not having any water to drink, your house being filled with frogs, or being covered in small insects that bite you. So, as it turns out, the word “flies” is not actually in the text. It is a hebrew word which means “swarms” that is translated in english to mean “swarms of flies.” Again, no degree, I know, but what if these were swarms of scarab beetles? They’re gross, they pinch, they’re big, they’re fast, and the sound of their flight is spine-chilling. Now imagine swarms of them. Sounds like a bit more of a plague than a bunch of house flies, eh? Again, pardon my side notes. Anyway, this is the first plague that did not descend on to the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. This is also the first plague that Pharoah tells Moses, “Now pray for me(Ex 8:28).”
So now that we have a good understanding of the context and events surrounding the question, lets put it all together.
On a scientific level, looking at the 1st plague, we can think of several different ways, even supernatural ways, that the magicians could have turned the water red without being actual blood. Looking at the 2nd plague, God clearly caused a mass population of frogs to appear but all the magicians had to do was find a way to call frogs up out of the water. In other words, the magicians didn’t have to create anything. The 1st and 2nd plagues were a message from God to Pharoah that I AM the one who sustains life and gives new life (water sustains life, fertility brings new life). The 3rd plague, on the other hand, was created from the dust of the earth. Who else is made from the dust of the earth? “For dust you are and to dust you will return (Gen. 3:19).” The 4th plague was an assault on the Egyptian god of creation. The 3rd and 4th plagues sent Pharoah the message that I AM the Creator. See, in order to replicate the plagues, the magicians didn’t have to fill the role of “creator” until the 3rd plague. What I think happened in the 3rd plague is that the magicians understood that man came from dust. This plague was when Pharoah and all of Egypt recognized that whoever this “God of the Hebrews” was, that He was real, He was Almighty, and only He had the power to create. This idea is also reflected in the fact that it wasn’t until the 4th plague that the magicians stopped trying to compete with God and Pharoah acknowledged that Moses’ prayers were the only thing that would stop each plague.
One additional question to answer is why did the Israelites experience the first 3 plagues rather than not experiencing any at all? I believe its because the Israelites needed to know through firsthand experience that the God that came to save them was also more powerful than the gods of Egypt. It had been over 400 years since they had come down to Egypt and I’m sure many of them believed that even if there was a god out there that wanted to deliver them from slavery, he wasn’t going to be stronger than the gods of the people who enslaved them. How often do you feel that way in your own life? The Israelites needed to experience the power of God in the first 3 plagues so that they could recognize the counterfeit plague being offered to them by the magicians.
There is one more reflection I want to bring out of this passage regarding the magicians. That is that Satan always mimics. He cannot create. In an allegorical sense, God “struck” the “god of this world(Satan)” when Aaron struck the dust of the earth in the 3rd plague and in turn, Satan was incapable of mimicking the miracle that happened on the 3rd plague. In the same way, God crushed the serpent’s head when Jesus was resurrected on the 3rd day and there was nothing Satan could do but to acknowledge, “this is the finger of God.”
So where is it in your life that you have been taking accepting the counterfeit that the enemy is offering you? Is it short term pleasure as a counterfeit for everlasting joy? Is it control and anxiety as a counterfeit for peace? Or is it worldly/financial gain at the cost of your family as a counterfeit for seeking first the Kingdom of God and “all these things shall be added unto you?” I assure you that you don’t want to be found hardening your heart when suddenly there is no longer a satisfying counterfeit for the area of your life that only God can satisfy.
I know the tone of this post shifted quickly and I know I started writing this because it was a fun question to research and answer, but I have learned in the last 2 hours while writing, that “ALL scripture is profitable for doctrine, rebuking, for correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).” There is always something in every Scripture that can be applied to our lives, we just have to ask Him to show us. Otherwise, our study is in vain. I pray that this study and my reflections have blessed you. I hope to write again soon. Shalom!