Jewish tradition believes that it was on this day that the the ninth plague, the plague of darkness, descended upon Egypt. It’s recorded in Exodus 10:21-23.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”
There are two primary points to make here. The first one is that this is not an ordinary darkness but is described as being a “thick darkness” and one that might be felt. The root word translated as “thick” actually insinuates something that prevents light from being able to permeate it. It’s also a word that’s translated, many times, as “gloomy.” So it seems that this is more than just the absence of light. In fact, the Jewish commentator Maimonides (a.k.a. the Rambam) wrote that it was a fog-like condition that had the ability to extinguish all light. An apocryphal book called The Wisdom of Solomon, records this:
“No force of fire prevailed to give them light, neither were the bright flames of the stars strong enough to illumine that gloomy night.”
It was so intense that the Egyptians couldn’t keep track of day or night and couldn’t go anywhere or see one another. Again, this darkness seems to be more than just the absence of light and, with that in mind, it should be noted that, on many occasions in the Bible, God is associated with darkness. In Psalm 18, He makes darkness His secret place and surrounds Himself with a canopy of dark clouds (Psalm 18:11). Here is why that is of interest.
As Israel prepared to cross the Red Sea, the Pillar of Fire stood between them and the Egyptians. To the Egyptians, it was a cloud and darkness but to the Hebrews, it provided light and that brings us to our second point. In the midst of the darkness that enveloped Egypt, God’s people were given light, demonstrating that God often uses darkness to accentuate the light. Perhaps this is hinting that the darkness that fell upon Egypt was associated with the Creator. In other words, perhaps He came into Egypt, and while His Presence was darkness to His enemies, it was light to His people.
This is important to consider because, in the future, the world is going to be thrown into darkness, often described as gloominess. The prophet Joel said:
“Blow the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand: a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” (Joel 2:1-2)
That day is fast approaching and, as God’s people, we need to prepare ourselves for this visitation. It is our mission to be the light in the darkness and so we must embrace the fact that, for light to be noticed, there must also be darkness. Because He allows the darkness, we shouldn’t rely upon our own merits and abilities, but should trust in His mercy and forgiveness, as we fulfill the mandate to be the light. David alluded to this when he said, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Though we may find ourselves surrounded by spiritual darkness and wickedness, the Creator will care and provide for His people because He controls every aspect of our lives if we submit to His will.
As trying as the times may be, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Though judgment may come, while it will be punishment for the guilty, for the righteous, it can be vindication. Though it will expose the weakness of institutions, industries and even individuals, simultaneously, it can validate the strength of others. That fact brings us to this very important point: the foundation that we stand upon doesn’t need to be our righteousness or our good works. It must be in Whom we have placed our trust – the Messiah. Though darkness is descending upon us, we can take comfort in the fact that the Creator is the One who controls that darkness. Still, He expects us to be the light.