Exodus 8:16,17,18,19

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. 17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smite 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. 18 And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but could not; so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. 19 Then the magicians said unto Pharoah, This is the finger of God; and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

If Pharaoh's magicians had actually conjured up real snakes (tannin in Hebrew) how could they not conjure up something much simpler, lice?

  • Snakes are way cooler than lice or gnats (midges in the LXX), which were not worth the time and attention of Pharaoh's magicians. We can assume that these pests were the biting variety, whose females require a blood meal before laying their eggs.
    – Dieter
    Commented Jan 31 at 2:31
  • I have always wondered why the Egyptian wizzards wanted to copy the ‘magic’ Moses wrought. There is not much sense in multiplying the pest. It had been a lot more clever if they tried to get the lice to disappear, than to bring more of them in. Commented Jan 31 at 15:10
  • I agree. The only way it made sense is that if they could first replicate an apparent miracle, then they could reverse it after the fact.
    – RHPclass79
    Commented Jan 31 at 16:53
  • How do you explain why the Egyptian went on to produce more frogs after being unsuccessful in getting rid of the bloody water after having produced more of it? And that they then went a step further and tried to produce more lice after not being able to get rid of either the bloody water, or the frogs? Commented Feb 1 at 3:28
  • Actually that is very simple. Magic is the art of illusion. Black magic might even cast spells or possess animals. Only God can create life.
    – RHPclass79
    Commented Feb 1 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


Indeed, the Egyptian magicians performed three duplicates of Moses' miracles:

  • Ex 7:11 - magicians duplicate the staff turning to snakes
  • Ex 7:22 - magicians duplicate the water turning to blood
  • Ex 8:7 - magicians duplicate the plague of frogs

In Ex 8:18, the magicians were powerless after the plague of frogs; that is they could not produce gnats/lice, or flies or plague on the livestock, etc. That is, the plague of frogs was their final deception (interestingly, compare Rev 16:13, 14.)

Just why they could not produce further "miracles" is not stated. My personal view is that God had prevented further such deception of "magic arts". Indeed, the next verse admits as much when the magicians excuse themselves by saying:

Ex 8:19 - “This is the finger of God,” the magicians said to Pharaoh. ...

In commenting on Ex 8:18, Benson observes:

Now, as it surely was as easy to produce lice as frogs, from this it appeared by what power they had done the other two miracles; not by any virtue that was in their enchantments, but by a supernatural power which God had permitted Satan to give them, but the further operation of which he now thought proper to prevent, to show them that all their power, to whatever cause they might attribute it, was limited, and not to be compared with that of the God of Israel.


Half or more of translators use the word "gnats" rather than "lice" here. This leads to a naturalistic explanation that may have some bearing on the answer to the OP.

In vs. 14, the frogs had been "piled in heaps, and the land stank." Some species of gnats or small flies would naturally lay eggs in the rotting frog carcasses, so that when God inspired Aaron to strike the earth, gnats emerged. In other words this was a miracle of timing that utilized natural processes. The magicians' arts had no power to duplicate it, because the gnats' eggs had already hatched. So they tell the Pharaoh: "this was the finger of God." (v. 19)

Conclusion: the Egyptian magic did not work because the supernatural element of the miracle was a question of timing, and the time for the gnats to emerge had already passed.


The word serpent as used in this post is Strong's 8577 in Hebrew :

tanniym: a marine or land monster, I.e. sea-serpent or jackal;--dragon, sea-monster, serpent, whale.

In Ezekiel 29:3 the same word is used for dragon.____ Speak, and say, Thus saith Lord God; Behold, I am against the , Pharaoh King of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of the rivers, which hath said, My river is my own, and I have made it for myself.

Conclusion: Just as beast typified rulers and kingdoms in the books of Daniel and Revelation, so is Ezekiel using symbolic language for Pharaoh here. The beast in Daniel are not real ( in the sense of animals ) so I see no reason to believe in dragons or (tanniym=monster) to be real either. If you believe Pharaoh's magicians could turn their rods into sea monsters why did they not use them against the Israelites. Only God can create life. Satin only appears to.

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