Exodus 8:16-19

16. And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

16. Tunc dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Loquere ad Aharon, Extende virgam tuam, et percute pulverem terrae, ut sit in pediculos per totam terram Aegypti.

17. And they did so: for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man and in beast: all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

17. Et fecerunt sic: et extendit Aharon manum suam cum virga sua, et percussit pulverem terrae: ut fuit in pediculos in homine et jumento, totus pulvis terrae fuit in pediculos per universam terram Aegypti.

18. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man and upon beast.

18. Et sic fecerunt magi incantationibus suis ut producerent pediculos: sed non potuerunt.

19. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.

19. Tunc dixerunt magi ad Pharaonem, Digitus Dei est hic. Et roboratum fuit cor Pharaonis, nec audivit eos, sicut loquutus erat Jehova.

16. And the Lord said unto Moses. In this place again, as before, Aaron is commanded to act as the inferior of Moses in punishing the tyrant; and this as being more ignominious than as if Moses alone had been employed. The nature of this third plague is very remarkable. God troubles Egypt not only with frogs, but with lice; for although the Hebrews are not entirely agreed as to the Mnk, kinim, yet they admit that they were little animals or insects, which produced shame together with annoyance even to the meanest of men. We see then how magnificently God trampled upon the pride of Egypt, by inflicting a punishment full of affront and disgrace; for although it would have been painful to sink under a powerful and warlike enemy, yet was it far more sad to be basely destroyed by lice. Nor can we doubt that God prepared such an army as this, principally that He might openly manifest how easily He can bring to nought in derision all earthly strength and power. And surely, unless the Egyptians had been something more than stupid and beside themselves, this calculation would have come into their minds; what would hereafter happen, if the Maker of heaven and earth should apply Himself to their destruction with all His might, when they perceived themselves to be wasted away in this almost ludicrous contest with Him? But let us learn from this history, that all creatures are ready at God's lightest command, whenever He chooses to make use of them to chastise His enemies; and again, that no animal is so vile and contemptible as not to have the power of doing injury when God employs it; and, finally, that reprobates obtain this at last by their proud doings, viz., that they are, with the greatest infamy, made to yield to the worms themselves, or to lice.

18. And the magicians did so. They "did" is here put for "they tried to do;" for they did not succeed, as presently appears. They are therefore said to have done, what they in vain attempted, or what they essayed, but without success. And in this way God took away from Pharaoh whatever excuse remained, under pretext of being deceived; for although he had previously himself sought for these deceptions, still his obstinacy was not without color of excuse, as long as the magicians rivaled Moses in the contention; but when he sees their art fail, he professedly sets himself in opposition to God. Although it was not with reference to him alone that God restrained these impostors, but He exposes them to the ridicule of all, in order to assert altogether for Himself alone the glory of perfect power. Hence we gather how well, according to His inestimable wisdom, He represses whatever license He for a time permits to the ministers of Satan; for when, by bearing with their audacity, He has sufficiently proved the faith of His people, He compels them to stop abruptly, as it were, that they may sink in confusion, and "proceed no further," as Paul says, when recounting this history. (2 Timothy 3:9.)

19. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh. It is probable that they were reproved harshly, because they had come to a stop in their rivalry with the servants of God; wherefore they excuse themselves by saying, that there is no more room for their wisdom and magical arts. We gather from hence that they had so been able to delude by their sorceries, that they thought themselves very good and praiseworthy artificers of deception. For on no other account had the people accounted them wise than because they had themselves first attained this confidence; therefore they oppose the finger of God to their subtlety and skill, as much as to say, that there is no longer any question as to the excellence of their art, but that whatever could be required from astrologers and masters of juggling, was now brought to nought by the extraordinary power of God. They do indeed contradict themselves; because what could have been their object in contending with Moses and Aaron, except they had boasted that God was on their side? But if they had been acting under the auspices of God, how ridiculous was it to confess that those, whom they had before opposed, were their superiors, and to accord them the praise of the victory, because they were endued with power from God? We see then how infatuated they were with all their cunning. But in the meantime we must recollect what I have lately glanced at, that they not only led others into error, but were also deceived, because they thought there was some science in the deceptions of their magic; as now-a-days we see that the fortune-tellers and other impostors, who call themselves judicial astrologers, so pride themselves in their follies, as to have no hesitation in taking the first rank amongst the learned. Besides, ambition itself impelled the magicians to say, that God wrought by the hand of Moses; for they were ashamed to confess that any human being excelled them in wisdom. But the confession was extorted from them, that they might greatly magnify the glory of the one true God, and at the same time bear witness to the legitimate vocation of Moses; for if the power of God is manifested conspicuously in Moses, it follows that he is a true and divine Prophet. But, because He does not equally work in them, but brings their efforts to confusion, it may thence be concluded that they are enemies of God. That they should have contended unsuccessfully, and have been foiled in the midst of their attempts, was sufficient to restrain their vanity; but this was much worse, that they should make out God to be the enemy of their art. It is true that they spoke this inconsiderately, because they only wished to consult their own fame, and to defend the false honors of their learning; but it pleased God thus to convict them, so that Pharaoh should perceive that he had entered into contention with the living God, and not with two ordinary men. As to the form of expression, it is clearly metaphorical; for in Luke's Gospel the Spirit is called "the finger of God," (Luke 11:20;) as likewise, in many passages, the same Spirit is intended by "the hand of God." Still, we must mark the reason, lest any unlearned person should take it literally, as if the Spirit, who truly is Eternal God, were but some portion of the Divinity. 1 But since the magicians were compelled at length to recognise God's power in the miracle, our folly will be worse than base if this same consideration does not obtain with us. Although it becomes us to acknowledge the hand of God in two ways; for neither when He acts by means, (as it is called,) does He detract from Himself at all; and, therefore, His hand may be seen with the eyes of faith in the whole course of nature; but, since He stirs up our indifference by miracles, therein it shines forth more conspicuously. Because, however, we shall soon see that the magicians did not therefore repent of their folly, let us learn sincerely and cordially to humble ourselves beneath God's powerful hand, as soon as it appears. That Pharaoh, when deserted by the magicians, did not cease at all from his obstinacy, is a proof to us that, however wickedness may seek for its support in different directions, still the corruption is implanted within, which is of itself at enmity with God.

1 In the Fr. there is the following addition: -- "C'est dont selon nostre infirmite que la vertu essentielle de Dieu est appellee sa main ou son doigt;" it is then in reference to our infirmity that the essential virtue of God is called His hand, or this finger.


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