The phrase the finger of God is found four times in the Bible, three times in the Old Testament and once in the New. It is synonymous with the supernatural power of God as it directly impacts events in this world. The first reference to the finger of God is found in Exodus. Moses had just unleashed the third plague on Egypt in an effort to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites who had been held captive for four hundred years. The Lord instructed Moses to tell Aaron to stretch out his staff and “strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:16). After Pharaoh’s magicians tried and failed to replicate the miracle, they said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).
The second reference to the finger of God also occurs in Exodus, where the phrase is used about the tablets of stone given to Moses. These tablets contained the covenant law, “inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Moses relates an account of the same incident in Deuteronomy 9:10. It is not to be supposed that God literally touched the tablets, since God is spirit and has no “fingers”; rather, the phrase the finger of God is an anthropomorphism indicating that God directly caused the commandments to be engraved upon the stone. The 1956 movie The Ten Commandments depicts the writing as coming from a finger of fire, which is probably as good a rendering of the actual act as any. However God accomplished it, the letters were devised and formed by Him, the writing was His, and the engraving on the stones was done by His own power.
The New Testament reference to the finger of God is from Jesus Himself. After freeing a blind and mute man from a demon, Jesus said to His critics, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). In a parallel passage, the phrase is the Spirit of God rather than the finger of God (Matthew 12:28). In both accounts, the meaning is that Jesus performed miracles by the overt power of God, the same power that caused the gnats to swarm and the writing to appear on the tablets of stone.
The finger of God is a reference to God’s unlimited power as He intervenes directly in the affairs of men. The working of the finger of God is unmistakable. No device of man can compete with that power, as even the heathen magicians came to recognize in Moses’ day.