GNAT (כִנִּ֖ם, כֵּנ6, H4031, κώνωχ, lice KJV, ASV, gnats RSV, Exod 8:16ff; gnat, Matt 23:24, all Eng. VSS). Found in proverbial form in NT: “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” This corrects a confusing tr. in KJV “strain at a gnat.” It refers to the orthodox habit of straining wine or drinking it through a piece of cloth to avoid ritual contamination by taking forbidden meat. Probably a general word for a small fly. The Gr. word is found today in Conopidae, a family of two-winged flies.
See Lice for full discussion of cause of third plague in Egypt.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(in English Versions of the Bible, only in Mt 23:24, konops. In Ex 8:16, for English Versions of the Bible "lice," one of the plagues of Egypt, kinnim, kinniym, or kinnam, we find in the Revised Version, margin "sand flies" or "fleas" (Gesenius "gnat"; Mandelkern "culex"). For kemo ken (Isa 51:6), English Versions of the Bible "in like manner," Septuagint hosper tauta, Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) sicut haec, the Revised Version, margin has "like gnats" since ken, elsewhere "thus," may here be taken to be a singular of the form kinnim, which occurs in Ex 8): In the New Testament passage, the difference between the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) should be noted. "Strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" is changed to "strain out the gnat and swallow the camel," the reference being to the inconsistency of the Jewish religious leaders in taking extraordinary pains in some things, as in the preparation of food, while leaving weightier matters unattended to.
In Isa 51:6, the suggestion of the Revised Version, margin, "They that dwell therein shall die like gnats," seems a decided improvement on the "shall die in like manner" of English Versions of the Bible, especially as ken, "thus" (see supra), is a repetition of kemo, whose meaning is practically the same, "in like manner" being the rendering in English Versions of the Bible of kemo ken.
As to the creatures, kinnim, of the Egyptian plague, there is little choice between "lice" of English Versions of the Bible and the others suggested, except as we may be influenced by the Septuagint rendering, skniphes, which may mean "gnats" or "mosquitoes."
See Flea; Lice.
Alfred Ely Day