Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt.'"
I. THIS PLAGUE CAME FROM THE LAND, AS THE TWO FORMER FROM THE RIVER. Aaron "smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice (Kinnim) in man, and in beast"(ver. 17). This was a new blow at Egyptian idolatry, the earth being worshipped as well as the river. The suddenness, extent, and fearfully aggravated character of the plague, and its appearance in immediate connection with Aaron's act in smiting the earth, proved it to be of supernatural origin, while cognate with the phenomena of the country.
1. At the stroke of God's anger, trouble may be made to break forth upon us from any quarter of our existence. Now, the river; again, the dust. The quarter it comes from is not likely to be that from which we are expecting it.
2. Troubles spring not from the dust (Job 5:6); but they may be made to rise so thickly around us that it may almost seem as if they did spring from it.
3. The most insignificant agencies (and circumstances) may be made the means of severe retribution. It is intensely painful to be made to suffer through things which we despise.
4. God's retributions are often such as strike home to our tenderest points. The Egyptians - especially the priestly classes - were extremely cleanly, and this plague, if it was one of vermin, must have been a grievous infliction to them.
II. THE THIRD PLAGUE CAME UNANNOUNCED. We forfeit our claim to warnings by acting presumptuously (Proverbs 29:1).
III. IT LED THE MAGICIANS TO GIVE UP THE CONTEST (ver. 19). We find them still standing before Pharaoh (Exodus 9:11), but from this point we hear of no more attempts at imitation. They may have abandoned the contest -
1. From a sense of shame. The paltriness of their attempts at imitating the miracles of Moses and Aaron was so apparent, that the magicians must almost have blushed at them. They would rather give up the attempt than expose themselves to more humiliations.
2. From astonishment. As experts in magical arts, they knew very well the difference between false miracles and real ones. They are confounded to find men who can work wonders of so stupendous a character, and this, manifestly, by the real assistance of Deity.
3. From fear and pain. They had no interest in courting a continuance of these terrible plagues, which they recognised as true works of God. They were as painful to them as to others, and they dreaded the consequences of perseverance in so unequal a conflict. We see from this
(1) That involuntary testimony to the truth is often extracted from those whose inclinations would lead them to oppose it. There are remarkable examples in the life of Christ, e.g. "Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him," etc. (John 11:47, 48); and in the lives of the Apostles, e.g. Acts 4:16; Acts 16:17. The confessions of the demons in Christ's history are of the same order. Many testimonies of an extraordinary kind have come from unbelievers.
(2) That there are great differences in degree of moral hardihood. Pharaoh held out, but the magicians gave in. They were not converted to the truth, in the sense of becoming servants of Jehovah, but they thought it prudent not to go further in open opposition. Even this degree of submission saved them from being hardened as Pharaoh was subsequently.
IV. THE PLAGUE HAD NO GOOD EFFECT ON PHARAOH (ver. 19). In itself, it was as likely to have produced submission as the previous one, and Pharaoh had now, in addition, the testimony of his own magicians to the reality of the wonder. But to place against this, there was the fact that he had already submitted, and had broken his promise. It was doubly bard to submit again, and stronger means would be required to bring him to the point of a second entreaty. Thus do the influences that work for our good gradually lose their power over us, because so frequently resisted. Every time a vow is made and token, a good resolution formed, and not kept, it is rendered harder to repeat the act. - J.O.
I. THAT MEN ARE SLOW TO RECOGNIZE THE SUPREME POWER IN THE RETRIBUTIONS OF LIFE.
1. The devil will try his utmost to counterwork God.
That it may become lice.
Homilist.I. THE PLAGUE ITSELF.
1. This punishment was sent without any previous warning.
2. This plague was inflicted by a very small insect.
3. This plague could not be imitated by the magicians. This rendered Pharaoh's refusal to humble himself all the more unpardonable.
II. ITS TEACHING.
1. Its infliction produced no real good. How soon the human mind becomes accustomed to novelties, even of the most extraordinary character. So the fallen soul becomes naturalized to the paths of sin and the lessons of God's judgment.
2. Observe the resources of God. The least thing in His hand can become an instrument of torment.
3. How foolish, then, and how mad, to resist the will of this Divine Being!
2. The devil is impotent upon the least check from God.
3. God's power sets on His judgments when the power of Satan fails (ver. 18).
4. The devil's instruments are forced at last to say they are against God, and He against them.
5. God's finger or the least of His power makes the devil and his instruments fail.
6. Innate unbelief loves to be kept up by liars, but will not yield when they fail.
7. Treble hardening comes on the wicked by treble judgments.
8. God's word faileth not which He hath spoken of the sin and judgment of wicked persecutors (ver. 19).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Because they have not right views of the character of God.
2. Because they have not a due consciousness of sin and its demerit.
II. THAT WICKED MEN ARE MADE BY CONTINUOUS RETRIBUTIONS ULTIMATELY TO RECOGNIZE THE SUPREME POWER AGAINST THEM. "Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God." God sometimes plagues men until they acknowledge Him. The events of life are charged with retributions which cannot be hidden by the art of the sorcerer.
III. THAT WHEN WICKED MEN ARE MADE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUPREME POWER IN THE RETRIBUTIONS OF LIFE THEY MAY NEVERTHELESS CONTINUE IN OPEN OPPOSITION TO IT. "And Pharaoh's heart was hardened." Lessons:
1. That the retributions of life are designed to lead men to the performance of moral duty.
2. That there are many deceptions calculated to blind men to the hand of God in the events of life.
3. That wicked men are not able to contend with God, and are at times brought to acknowledge His supremacy.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
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