What Do Gnats Symbolize in the Bible?

Gnats are one of the smallest and most annoying insects. Their bites cause irritation and discomfort. In the Bible, gnats take on spiritual significance and symbolize several concepts. By examining the biblical accounts involving gnats, we can uncover the deeper meaning behind these tiny pests.

What Do Gnats Symbolize in the Bible?

Gnats in Exodus

The most well-known biblical passage involving gnats is Exodus 8:16-19. This takes place during the plagues on Egypt:

So the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.’” And they did so. For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:16-17 NKJV)

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The Hebrew word translated as “lice” here can also mean “gnats.” Most modern translations use the word “gnats” instead of “lice.” God turned the dust into swarms of gnats that covered man and beast throughout Egypt.

The gnats served as the third plague, after the plague of frogs and the plague of lice. The Egyptian magicians tried to mimic this miracle with their secret arts but could not. They confessed to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

Gnats Represent God’s Judgment

The gnats in Exodus symbolized God’s judgement on the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshipped the earth as a god. By turning the dust into gnats, God displayed his power over the earth.

Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites go after this plague. But the gnats demonstrated that the God of Israel would judge all other gods.

Gnats Show God’s Attention to Detail

The plague of gnats also shows God’s sovereignty over even the smallest creatures. Of all the insects God could have used, He chose one of the smallest. Yet these tiny gnats utterly infested Egypt and caused great misery.

This reveals how nothing is too insignificant for God’s notice. He is sovereign over all creation, great and small. The God who controls galaxies also directs gnats. He is intimately involved in every detail, no matter how small.

Gnats in Other Bible Passages

Aside from the Exodus account, gnats appear a few other times in Scripture:

Gnats Contrasted with Camels

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for straining out gnats while swallowing camels:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24 NKJV)

The Pharisees obsessed over tiny details but ignored more important issues. Jesus illustrated this with the hyperbolic image of filtering out gnats while gulping down camels.

The contrast shows that the Pharisees had their priorities backward. They focused on minutiae while neglecting love, justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Gnats in Job’s Suffering

Job described his misery by listing many woes he endured, including gnats:

My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night drags on, and I go from side to side until the dawning of the day. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return. He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more. (Job 7:5, 6-10 NIV)

For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept; then had I been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth, who built desolate places for themselves; or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver; or as a hidden, untimely birth I had not been; as infants who never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master.

Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; who long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, whom God hath hedged in? For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came. (Job 3:13-26)

As part of his lament, Job mentions his flesh being “caked with worms and dust” (v. 5) and longing for the grave where “the wicked cease from troubling” (v. 17). Though not directly named, gnats almost certainly contributed to Job’s misery and desire for the peace of the tomb.

Gnats as Part of God’s Creation

The Gnat is listed along with other creatures God created:

And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25 NKJV)

Though Gnats became part of God’s judgement, they were still part of His good creation in Genesis. Along with all other creatures, great and small, gnats reflect God’s creative power and wisdom.

Lessons from Biblical Gnats

Drawing from these passages, here are some key lessons gnats can teach us:

  • God is sovereign over all of creation, even the smallest insects
  • God pays attention to minor details as well as major issues
  • God can use the smallest creatures to fulfill His righteous judgement
  • Obeying religious rules is less important than practicing justice, mercy and faith
  • In our suffering, we can look forward to the peace of being with God
  • All creatures, no matter how annoying, have a purpose in God’s creation

Though tiny in size, these pesky insects carry profound theological significance. When we reflect on what the Bible says about gnats, we gain insight into the character of God and how we should live as His people.


Gnats represent far more than just a nuisance when viewed through a biblical lens. By examining the passages where gnats are mentioned, we find deep symbolism in these tiny insects. Within their miniscule size, gnats contain reminders of God’s complete sovereignty, attention to detail, righteous judgement, and purpose for all creation.

Next time a gnat buzzes around you, remember these spiritual parallels. Though they may be bothersome, these small flies have something to teach us based on their role in Scripture. Their significance is not in their physical size, but in what they represent about God’s character and His interaction with mankind.

So the next time a gnat lands on you, don’t just swat it away in frustration. Consider what biblical truths this tiny insect might be trying to convey.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gnats symbolize God’s sovereignty over all creation
  • The plague of gnats in Exodus showed God’s power over Egypt’s gods
  • Gnats represent God’s attention to minor details
  • Jesus used gnats to illustrate misplaced priorities of the Pharisees
  • Gnats contributed to Job’s suffering and desire for the grave’s peace
  • Though irritating, gnats have significance and purpose in God’s good creation

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