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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 16–19
Verses 16–19

Here is a short account of the plague of lice. It does not appear that any warning was given of it before. Pharaoh’s abuse of the respite granted to him might have been a sufficient warning to him to expect another plague: for if the removal of an affliction harden us, and so we lose the benefit of it, we may conclude it goes away with a purpose to return or to make room for a worse. Observe,

I. How this plague of lice was inflicted on the Egyptians, Exod. 8:16, 17. The frogs were produced out of the waters, but these live out of the dust of the earth; for out of any part of the creation God can fetch a scourge, with which to correct those that rebel against him. He has many arrows in his quiver. Even the dust of the earth obeys him. “Fear not then, thou worm Jacob, for God can use thee as a threshing instrument, if he please,” Isa. 41:14, 15. These lice, no doubt, were extremely vexatious, as well as scandalous, to the Egyptians. Though they had respite, they had respite but awhile, Rev. 11:14. The second woe was past, but behold the third woe came very quickly.

II. How the magicians were baffled by it, Exod. 8:18. They attempted to imitate it, but they could not. When they failed in this, it should seem they attempted to remove it; for it follows, So there were lice upon man and beast, in spite of them. This forced them to confess themselves overpowered: This is the finger of God (Exod. 8:19); that is, “This check and restraint put upon us must needs be from a divine power.” Note, 1. God has the devil in a chain, and limits him both as a deceiver and as a destroyer; hitherto he shall come, but no further. The devil’s agents when God permitted them, could do great things; but when he laid an embargo upon them, though but with his finger, they could do nothing. The magicians’ inability, in this less instance, showed whence they had their ability in the former instances which seemed greater, and that they had no power against Moses but what was given them from above. 2. Sooner or later God will extort, even from his enemies, an acknowledgment of his own sovereignty and over-ruling power. It is certain they must all (as we say) knock under at last, as Julian the apostate did, when his dying lips confessed, Thou hast overcome me, O thou Galilean! God will not only be too hard for all opposers, but will force them to own it.

III. How Pharaoh, notwithstanding this, was made more and more obstinate (Exod. 8:19); even those that had deceived him now said enough to undeceive him, and yet he grew more and more obstinate. Even the miracles and the judgments were to him a savour of death unto death. Note, Those that are not made better by God’s word and providences are commonly made worse by them.