The Finger of God



Exodus 8:16-19


God demonstrated His authority in the contest of staffs. When first Aaron’s staff and then the Egyptian’s staffs were changed into serpents, Aaron’s staff swallowed the staffs of Pharaoh’s servants. The staffs and the serpents were symbols of authority in Ancient Egypt.

God demonstrated He is the source of life by touching the Nile River and changing it to blood.

God demonstrated He is the source of renewal by turning the annual proliferation of frogs into a plague.

The Egyptian gods each had power over a specific aspect of nature. They worshiped these gods as their protectors and providers. However, these gods also give us a clue to what they valued. They worshiped what was important to them.

Today, we will consider yet another plague with which God struck Egypt. Exodus 8:16 says:
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.'" (Exodus 8:16 ESV)

Up to this point, God warned Pharaoh before He sent a plague. God would say, “If you refuse to let my people go, I will turn the Nile into blood.” And then, when Pharaoh refused, God sent the plague.

In this instance, God gave no warning.

God warns us because of His grace. He does not owe us a warning. For example, Pharaoh knew what was right. He knew in his heart and by his conscience that his treatment of Israel was wrong. All men of all ages have known instinctively right from wrong. Things like murder and the abuse of children are almost universally understood to be wrong, and Pharaoh had been doing both for years to control the population of the Israelites. God did not owe Pharaoh a warning, but He repeatedly warned Pharaoh.

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (I Thessalonians 5:2-4 NKJV)

The world knows about “the Day of the Lord.” The Bible, the Church and God’s messengers have been warning the world since the time of Christ. It comes up in movies and television shows. People know about it, but like Pharaoh, they harden their hearts. For those who refuse to listen, the Day of the Lord will come with seemingly no warning. However, there have been plenty of warnings.

The plagues that God sent on the Egyptians were judgments on their gods and their sins. Their worship of false gods was a sin, but the gods represented various national values that were sinful. In previous messages, we have seen how the Nile River and the frogs were represented in gods. Today, we will see how the dust or sand represented a god.

I have read two views, and God does not name which Egyptian god He is judging. So, I must admit that I have chosen the Egyptian god that I believe fits this plague, but there is another Egyptian god that would fit. However, the nature of the judgment and the sin does not change whichever god one chooses. Both are false gods, and both were shown to be powerless before the Lord our God.

Dust is quite common in Egypt. It has vast deserts covered in sand. According to Wikipedia, in a city known as “Sepermeru,” an important temple honored the god “Set,” or “Seth.” One of the names of this town was “gateway to the desert,” which fits well because Set was known as the god of the desert.[1]

Dust and sand were the domain of Set. However, that was not what he was known for. Set was a god of chaos, fire, deserts, trickery, storms, envy, disorder, violence, and foreigners in ancient Egyptian religion. ... He was lord of the red (desert) land where he was the balance to Horus' role as lord of the black (soil) land.  One of Set's major characteristics is his forceful, potent, and indiscriminate sexuality.[2]

This fascination with chaos, fire, violence and sexuality defines our present-day movies and entertainment. We have an industry that capitalizes on the things that Set immortalized.

When God judged this Egyptian God, He used gnats or lice. Equally ancient sources disagree on the meaning of the word used, making it impossible to determine whether these were gnats or lice. The root meaning of the word comes from the idea of fastening or digging in with a sting. What is clear is that they were blood-sucking tiny parasites. It is also clear that they were exceedingly numerous.

Because of the flooding of the Nile, the Nile mosquito would regularly become so numerous they would form clouds and drive animals and people crazy with their painful bites as well as getting into ears, eyes, nose and mouth. This plague was that same kind of torture multiplied.

When the Egyptian magicians tried to bring forth gnats from the sand, they could not, and they arrived at the conclusion, “This is the finger of God.”

Besides being painful, itchy and very annoying, these gnats would have also had another consequence. Egyptian religious practices required that the priest or worshiper not be defiled by any vermin or insects. So, during the plague, the priests would not have been able to offer sacrifices or perform their religious rites because they would have been unclean or defiled.

It is instructive to recognize that God used dust from the domain of their false god to defile them and make them unacceptable to that same god.

When we make sexuality our god, we end up defiling ourselves, making ourselves unacceptable even to ourselves. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says:
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (I Corinthians 6:18 NKJV)

There is no better picture of sinning against our own bodies than a picture of a body crawling with lice or gnats so that there is not an inch of exposed skin that is not covered. There would be nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

This brings up another issue that was becoming abundantly clear to the Egyptians when they said, “This is the finger of God.”

There was nowhere to go for shelter from or to hide from this God of the Hebrews. They had no means of controlling, avoiding or mitigating the effects of this plague. The pests were too small and too numerous to be stopped.

When the Psalmist thought about God, he said:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. (Psalms 139:7-10 NKJV)

The gnats would have been like this. With nowhere to go for relief, the magicians were finally confronting Pharaoh with their own helplessness in the face of this onslaught.

The sand has another significant point. Sand is used in Scripture to reference things too numerous to count. For example, God told Abraham, “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:7, NKJV) Few things are said to be as numerous as the sand, but in Psalms 139, where it says one cannot flee from the presence of the Lord, it also says:
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. (Psalms 139:17-18 NKJV)

The Psalmist takes great comfort in the knowledge that God’s thoughts toward him are more numerous than the sand. He is on God’s mind. We can take great comfort in knowing that God’s plans for us are to give us a hope and a future. However, what if we have set ourselves up in opposition to God. What if we are covered in lice or gnats and realize that they represent the finger of a God whom we have set ourselves against and against whom we have hardened our hearts? What if all those thoughts are our enemy?

Exodus 8:19 says:
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 8:19 ESV)

Pharaoh would not listen. At first, he would not listen to Aaron and Moses. Now, he will not listen to his own advisors, the people he paid to keep him on top.

This is what happens when we choose our sin over God. There is nowhere to run. We see ourselves as defiled and touched by the finger of God, but not as a friend. The idols, the false gods, serve to hide us from the conviction of our sin. Men say foolish things like “There is no God,” to cover up their own unworthiness and sense of uncleanness. In short, they harden their hearts.

No matter how much we say, “God loves us,” or “God wants me to be happy,” we know in our hearts that our loose and indiscriminate sexuality is displeasing to God.

We may say we are not hurting anybody and that what two consenting adults do is their own business, but we are only kidding ourselves. For example, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 40-50 million abortions take place every year. This corresponds roughly to 125,000 abortions every day. The USA accounts for approximately 3,000 abortions per day.[3]

Let me remind you what I said earlier:
Pharaoh knew what was right. He knew in his heart and by his conscience that his treatment of Israel was wrong. All men of all ages have known instinctively right from wrong. Things like murder and the abuse of children are almost universally understood to be wrong, and Pharaoh had been doing both for years to control the population of the Israelites.

We can say all we want that abortion is about a woman’s right over her own body, but in our hearts we know that murder is wrong, especially the murder of babies.

Millions, literally millions, of mothers, doctors and men are walking around covered with the gnats of their own conscience and uncleanness with nowhere to run or hide.

Please hear me.

God can help. God can free us. His plague, although a judgment, was meant to get Pharaoh to wake up and repent. God does love us. God does want us to be happy, but He cannot help us if we harden our hearts and will not listen.

He gave His only Son to pay the price for our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, but only if we confess our sins, only if we recognize that we have been doing wrong.

If we harden our hearts and refuse to listen to God, we, like the Egyptians, will experience ever-worsening plagues until the Day of the Lord comes upon us seemingly without warning.

Will you not make peace with God now, while there is time?


[2] ibid.
[3] https://www.worldometers.info/abortions. Accessed August 17, 2019.

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