This is the third in a series on the illustrations in Rev. John George Wood’s Story of the Bible Animals. What do you get if you strain at a gnat? Read on…


It has already been stated that only one species of fly is mentioned by name in the Scriptures. this is the Gnat, the name of which occurs in the familiar passage, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a ghat and swallow a camel” (Matt. xxiii. 24).

I may again mention here that the words “strain at” ought to have been printed “strain out,” the substitution of one for the other being only a typographical error. The allusion is made to a certain custom which is explained by reference to the preceding article on the fly. In order to avoid taking flies and other insects into the mouth, while drinking, a piece of thin linen stuff was placed over the cup, so that if any insects, as was usually the case, had got into the liquid, they would be “strained out” by the linen.

Whether any particular species of insect was signified by the word “gnat” is very doubtful, and in all probability the word is only used to express the contrast between the smallest known insects and the largest known beasts. Gnats, especially those species which are popularly known by the word “mosquito,” are very plentiful in many parts of Palestine, especially those which are near water, and are as annoying there as in other lands which they inhabit.

Excerpt from J. G. Wood, Story of the Bible Animals, Charles Foster Publishing Company, 1886, 685-686.

For the first part of this series on Wood’s illustrations, click here.