“Darkness that can be felt” Exodus 10:21

The Plague of Darkness

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived (Exodus 10:21 – 23).

The tour operators in commercial caverns seem to get a perverse delight in turning the lights off. I remember visiting a cavern in Kentucky with my family as a boy. We were all huddled together. Then the guide told us to “Stand still! I’m going to turn the lights off.” He flipped the switch. Darkness pressed in on us just as God described. It was a “darkness that can be felt.” It was overwhelming. After a minute, one man could stand it no longer. He reached in his pocket, pulled out his lighter, and “flicked his Bic.” That tiny flame brought welcome relief to us all and a scowl, I’m sure, to the face of that sadistic tour guide.

I have a lot of questions about this plague. Did the darkness extinguish the light of the Egyptians’ torches too? How did Pharaoh’s messengers find Moses in the dark? Why did it take so long (three days) for Pharaoh to give in? Why did this plague seem so much worse than the other plagues to Pharaoh? It was so bad; it made Pharaoh stop resisting. (Was Pharaoh afraid of the dark?)

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind” (Exodus 10:24). 

However, the Lord wasn’t finished with Pharaoh: “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go” (Exodus 11:27). It is important to remember the purpose of the plagues. Do you recall how before the plague of locusts, the Lord told Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 10:1, 2).

The purpose was “that you may know that I am the Lord.” Here then is the key: Pharaoh claimed to be a god. He set himself up in the place of the Lord! This contest was no contest, and that is our lesson for today. Do we ever sit on the Lord’s throne? Do we ever act like Pharaoh? Maybe it’s time to reach in our pockets and shine a light.

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