“ ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land, and it will become gnats throughout the land of Egypt.’ And they did this. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and when he struck the dust of the land, gnats were on people and animals. All the dust of the land became gnats throughout the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:16–17).
Did you catch the last sentence in verse seventeen? “All of the dust of the land...” All! When Aaron struck the Nile, “all of the water in the Nile was turned to blood” (Exodus 7:20). When Aaron struck the desert floor, all the sand was transformed. All means all.
The King James Version describes the infestation of “lice.” Most modern translations speak of “gnats.” A footnote in the Christian Standard Bible says, “Perhaps sand fleas or mosquitoes.” We can’t be sure what species of insect God sent as the third plague. I can imagine clouds of mosquitoes, the universally loathed, two-winged, blood-sucking, disease-spreading pests, that blanketed the land and every other living creature.
I remember hiking in the National Forest on Mount Jefferson in Oregon’s Cascade Range. We set up camp and spent the night at “S” Lake. I was in my early teens, decades ago, and still, I vividly remember the mosquitos. To escape the pesky parasites, we submerged ourselves in the ice-cold, glacier-fed lake. That couldn’t last long, so later we built a fire and fed the flames green boughs to create thick smoke, a defense against the biting beasts. Our repellent didn’t repel. By sunup the next morning, I was covered with itching red sores and needed a transfusion. What I experienced at that campsite was nothing compared to God’s third plague, unleashed against Egypt’s unrepentant king and his evil regime.
Read the next verse. “The magicians tried to produce gnats using their occult practices, but they could not” (Exodus 8:18).
When Moses first entered Pharaoh’s chambers, before the first plague, “Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent” (Exodus 7:10). Somehow, by trickery or by Satan’s power, the magicians were able to duplicate the miracle. When each of Pharoah’s magicians “threw down his staff, and it became a serpent... Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs” (Exodus 7:12). After the Nile River was turned to blood, “the magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their occult practices” (Exodus 7:22). Again, after God sent a zillion frogs into Egypt, “the magicians did the same thing by their occult practices and brought frogs up onto the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:7).
But after the third plague, the plague of gnats, the magicians were powerless.
Interestingly, we only read about the magicians once more. During the sixth plague, the plague of boils, “the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians” (Exodus 9:11).
The magicians tried to replicate God’s miracle, but failing, they admitted, “this is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). They were right. It only took God’s pinky finger to send the plagues. “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).