A Short Study of Exodus 8:16-17
“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 tye land of Egypt. 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.”
Because of Pharaohs rebellion to God the dust of Egypt was smitten and caused to become lice in men. This is a picture of mans fall in the garden. Because of Satan’s power and presence in the garden the man God had formed from the dust was smitten by the rod of God and sent out to become a plague in all the earth. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” was God’s words to Adam after his fall. “For out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3) It is out of the plague of smitten humanity that God will save a people for the glory of his name. As near as I can tell Israel was not exempt from this plague; nor is spiritual Israel exempt from what it stands for.
The lice is a picture of man’s fallen nature. Under the curse of God it came upon all men alike in Egypt. Paul talks about this curse in Romans 3 proving before that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. As the lice were sent by the judgment of God and entered into men so by one man sin entered into the world and spiritual death passed upon all (Romans 5:12).
What are lice and how do they picture mans nature? Lice are defined in the dictionary as a sucking, biting parasite that feeds on the flesh. Nothing I have ever read in the word of God so vividly and accurately describes man’s nature as lice. Man is a spiritual flesh eater. He has only one purpose in life and that is to gorge himself with the flesh. He has an insatiable appetite for the things of the flesh. He feeds on its passions and lusts, drinks from its pride and glory, and submerses himself in its wisdom and reason. Set before him anything that incorporates the flesh and he will swallow it without hesitation. When Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit of God to testify of man he said, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” (Romans 7:18)
To be saved is to be saved from what we are as much as it is to be saved from what we have done because we do what we do because of what we are. Only sinner’s sin! To one who carried the title of a master theologian, the Lord said “Except ye be born again ye cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God.” But how can a man be born when he is old, replied Nicodemus? And the answer is that the old man cannot be born again. The old man is a flesh eating vermin whose only cure is to go back to the dust from which he came. Why? Because “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” (John 3) We are never told that the curse of the lice was lifted and even so the curse of this old nature follows us to the grave. It is by this experience of grace and understanding that our deliverance is known.