Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch 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 people of Israel had light where they lived. Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” (Exodus 10:21-29 ESV)
Can you imagine living in absolute darkness, darkness so thick that you cannot see the others around you, cannot find your way to the bathroom, can only stumble towards whatever food stores you have in your home to find a bite to eat? Can you imagine everyone in your community staying in one place for three days, frozen by the darkness? Ra, the sun god of Egypt, was at a loss as was Pharaoh and all his people, and undoubtedly many were cursing Pharaoh’s name for not sending the Israelites away. Pharaoh still wanted to impose conditions on how Israel was to obey God but Moses would not, could not, bend.
More startling than the physical darkness was the spiritual darkness in Pharaoh’s heart. This was something the restoration of light to his nation could not undo. There is a spiritual blindness that afflicts those who do not know God. Paul says we have all sought to repress the truth we know about Him rather than have to submit to Him (Romans 1:18ff). It takes the power of God to open blind eyes, but He also chooses to use emissaries of light, you and me, to shine truth into the lives of those around us. They may further harden their hearts, like Pharaoh did, or they may see the light and come to the knowledge of the truth. Lord, help us to shine the light in this darkness.
Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century. said that Jesus “did not hide his teaching in mist and darkness, as they did who threw obscurity of speech, like a kind of veil, around the mischiefs laid up within. But this man’s doctrines are clearer than the sunbeams, wherefore they have been unfolded to all men throughout the world. For he did not teach as Pythagoras did, commanding those who came to him to be silent for five years, or to sit like senseless stones; neither did he invent fables defining the universe to consist of numbers; but casting away all this devilish trash and mischief, he diffused such simplicity through his words, that all he said was plain, not only to wise men, but also to women and youths. For he was persuaded that the words were true and profitable to all that should hearken to them. And all time after him is his witness; since he has drawn to him all the world, and has freed our life when we have listened to these words from all monstrous display of wisdom; wherefore we who hear them would prefer rather to give up our lives, than the doctrines by him delivered to us.”