The third plague happened when Aaron struck the earth with his staff, and the dust became a swarm of “gnats,” but what are gnats? The Hebrew word doesn’t help us very much. It’s only found here in Exodus 8 and Psalms 105:31, which is referring to this event. The word refers to tiny two-winged insects. They could be either gnats or mosquitoes. (Although the American Standard Version, King James Version, New King James Version, and English Revised Version translate it as “lice”! The New English Bible, for some reason, has “maggots.”). The notable point of this plague is that the Egyptian magicians couldn’t reproduce it with their trickery. I like what D.K. Stuart says about this event:
What is notably different about the third plague is the failure of the magicians. They had been able to make it look as if they could change water into blood and produce frogs by their magical arts. But what magician has ever done a trick with trained mosquitoes?
Let’s reread the text:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said (Exodus 8:16–19).
Whether you picture gnats, mosquitoes, lice, or maggots, the effect is the same. It’s not pretty! I would have to agree with the magicians, “This is the finger of God.” What I can’t understand is Pharaoh’s reaction. He “hardened” his heart. He didn’t even ask for this plague to be lifted!
Sometimes we turn a blind eye to sin. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to it, we no longer even see it, or, worse, we no longer care. Have we learned to live with the bugs?