“Thereupon the LORD spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron: Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, and it will turn into gnats throughout the land of Egypt.
They did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came upon human being and beast alike. All the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the land of Egypt.
Though the magicians did the same thing to produce gnats by their magic arts, they could not do so. The gnats were on human being and beast alike, and the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” Yet Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.”
On a recent episode of the Exodus series on The Faith Explained, Cale looked at the early plagues that God inflicted upon Pharaoh and his people as they continued to refuse to free the Israelites. He also broke down the way in which the plagues symbolize direct affronts to the false gods of the Egyptian pantheon and how the power of God that freed the Israelites is the same power that Jesus used to exorcise demons
While we don’t know exactly the nature of the attack from the gnats, we do know this was part of the cycle that afflicted the land of Egypt. The first three had afflicted the water: Aaron’s staff turned into a sea dragon, the water turned into blood, and the frogs overran Egypt.
In the Egyptian pantheon, the Egyptians worshipped a god named Geb. Geb was essentially the Egyptian version of mother earth but was depicted as a male. His lover, according to mythology was a goddess named Nut. While Geb represented the earth, Nut represented the sky. When Nut would send down the rain, Geb would allow the fields to flood, water the crops, and produce a fruitful season for the Egyptian people.
God sent swarms of these gnats to fill the ground which the Egyptians believed Geb had control of. There is no such thing as Geb or Nut, otherwise, they would have protected the Egyptians and the ground from these insects. The God of Israel is the one true God, and He is commanding Pharaoh to let His people go. This is the first plague that the Egyptian magicians are unable to replicate in any way. They had recreated the first three plagues to try to disprove the God of Moses, but this time, they were unable to do so.
“‘This is the finger of God.’” (Exodus 8:15)
There are other times we see that phrase, “finger of God”: when God inscribed Hebrew Law onto the two stone tablets: the Ten Commandments. While God doesn’t have “fingers” per se, as He has no body, the author is using anthropomorphism to say that God Himself is the one who directly inscribed the two tablets with the Ten Commandments. We can assume that that same anthropomorphism is being used in this situation with the Egyptian magicians. They aren’t saying that God’s literal fingers are the things causing the gnats to swarm. They’re saying that it is by God’s power, by His divine will, that these gnats were commanded to swarm.
“‘If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ That’s an incredible statement by Jesus,” said Cale. “What Jesus is doing here is He’s clearly referencing the Book of Exodus: these plagues, the ten commandments, the finger of God. It’s the same power of God that freed the Israelites from slavery, by way of these plagues; the same power of God that wrote on these stone tablets the divine law. That’s what’s operational in and through Him because He is God the Son.”
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