Verse 31. He spake. See the power of the divine word. He had only to say it and it was done: and there came divers sorts of flies. Insects of various annoying kinds came up in infinite hordes, a mixture of biting, stinging, buzzing gnats, mosquitos, files, beetles, and other vermin such as make men's flesh their prey, the place of deposit for their eggs, and the seat of peculiar torments.
And lice in all their coasts. These unutterably loathsome forms of life were as the dust of the ground, and covered their persons, their garments, and all they ate. Nothing is too small to master man when God commands it to assail him. The sons of Ham had despised the Israelites and now they were made to loathe themselves. The meanest beggars were more approachable than the proud Egyptians; they were reduced to the meanest condition of filthiness, and the most painful state of irritation. What armies the Lord can send forth when once his right arm is bared for war! And what scorn he pours on proud nations when he fights them, not with angels, but with lice! Pharaoh had little left to be proud of when his own person was invaded by filthy parasites. It was a slap in the face which ought to have humbled his heart, but, alas, man, when he is altogether polluted, still maintains his self conceit, and when he is the most disgusting object in the universe he still vaunts himself. Surely pride is moral madness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 31. -- Flies. This term serves to denote a kind of insect that alights on the skin or leaves of plants, by its bite inflicting pain in t}fe one case, and causing destruction in the other. The swarms of flies in Egypt are usually numerous, and excessively annoying. They alight on the moist part of the eyelids and nostrils, and inflict wounds that produce great pain, swelling and inflammation. They are also ruinous to the plants in which they lay their eggs. Philo (vit. Mos. 2 pg 110) describes the dog fly or gad fly as a grievous pest of Egypt. Gnats and mosquitoes are also abundant and virulent. A plague of such creatures would cause immense suffering and desolation. --James G. Murphy.
Verse 31. -- As an illustration of the power of flies we give an extract from Charles Marshall's "Canadian Dominion." "I have been told by men of unquestioned veracity, that at midday the clouds of mosquitoes on the plains would sometimes hide the leaders in a team of four horses from the sight of the driver. Cattle could only be recognised by their shape; all alike becoming black with an impenetrable crust of mosquitoes. The line of the route over the Red River plains would be marked by the carcases of oxen stung to death by this insignificant foe."
Verse 31. -- Lice in all their coasts. The priests, being polluted by this horrible infection, could not stand to minister before their deities. The people could not, in their uncleanness, be admitted within the precincts of their temples. If they would offer sacrifice, there were no victims fit for the purpose. Even the gods, the oxen, and goats, and cats, were defiled with the vermin. The Egyptians not only writhed under the loathsome scourge, but felt themselves humbled and disgraced by it. Josephus notices this: -- "Pharaoh," he says, "was so confounded at this new plague, that, what with the danger, the scandal, and the nastiness of it, he was half sorry for what he had done" (b. it. c. 14). The plague assumed the form of a disease, being "in the people." Exodus 8:17 . As Josephus says again, "The bodies of the people bred them, and they were all covered over with them, gnawing and tearing intolerably, and no remedy, for baths and ointments did no good." But, however distressing to their bodies, the foul and disgraceful character of the plague, and the offence brought upon their religion by the defilement of their deities and the interruption of all their religious ceremonies, was its most offensive feature. --Thomas S. Millington.
Verse 31. -- Lice. Vermin of the kind is one of the common annoyances of Egypt. Herodotus tells us ( Psalms 2:37 ) that the priests shave their whole body every other day, that no lice or other impure thing may adhere to them when they are engaged in the service of the gods. It is manifest that this species of vermin was particularly disgusting to the Egyptians. --James G. Murphy.