Friday, May 9, 2014

DOUBLE PLAGUES - PART 8f, DARKNESS

THE DOUBLE PLAGUES UPON BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY, Part 8f

Part 8e of this series.

THE NINTH PLAGUE -- THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS

At least Pharah was consistent. He had consistently underestimated the Hebrews’ God of slaves, Jehovah. And Egypt was in utter ruin as a consequence.

Like the plague of lice and the plague of boils that followed the murrain upon the cattle and livestock of Egypt, the ninth plague came without any announcement to Pharaoh.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: --Exodus 10: 21, 22

Many scholars and researchers argue that this darkness was a “haboob,” something our own southwest here in the U.S. has experienced from time to time. Some claim it was a “khamsin,” or a dust storm brought by the west wind as Egypt has certainly experienced these numerous times over the centuries.

From Dummelow:

It is not said how the darkness was produced, but in all probability it had a natural basis, like the other plagues. It resembles the darkness caused by the khamsin, a S. or SW. wind, excessively hot and charged with fine dust, which blows about the time of the vernal equinox. The darkness is often local, covering a belt or strip of the country. The unusually dense gloom would excite the superstitious fears of the Egyptians, who worshipped the sun-god Ra. (1)

However, some rabbinical scholars disagree, stating that the darkness was a “supernatural” darkness because this particular darkness COULD BE FELT. They further indicate that there were SUPERNATURAL VOICES in the darkness that caused terror to those who could hear mutterings and whisperings.

I believe it can be argued that since the Egyptians were given no warning that this was coming it is probably safe to assume they had no knowledge of how long it would last, and three days in the dark would seem interminable as it would be extremely difficult to note time. It doesn’t seem all that improbable that such an uncertain time of darkness could even bring on madness to some individuals.

Verse 23 indicates that the darkness must have been more than just an intense khamsin, for we learn that the Egyptians could not see even one another and that all of them just “stayed put” for three days.

They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

They didn’t move about. They weren’t sure where family members or companions were. Why didn’t they use candles or light of some kind? After all, the Hebrews had “light in their dwellings.”

Rabbinical scholars tell us that the darkness was like a thick fog and that there were vapors so heavy that a candle could not stay lit.

From Henry:

It was a total darkness. We have reason to think, not only that the lights of heaven were clouded, but that all their fires and candles were put out by the damps or clammy vapours which were the cause of this darkness; for it is said (v.23), They saw not one another. . . .

[. . . ]

That it was darkness which might be felt (v. 21), felt in its causes their fingers’ ends (so thick were the fogs), felt in its effects, some thing, by their eyes, which were pricked with pain, and made the more sore by their rubbing them. Great pain is spoken of as the effect of that darkness, Rev. 16:10, which alludes to this. . . .

[. . . ]

The cloud of locusts, which had darkened the land (v. 15) was nothing to this. The tradition of the Jews is that in this darkness they were terrified by the apparitions of evil spirits, or rather by dreadful sounds and murmurs which they made, or (which is no less frightful) by the horrors of their own consciences; and this is the plague which some think is intended (for, otherwise, it is not mentioned at all there) Ps. 78: 49, He poured upon them the fierceness of His anger, by sending evil angels among them; for to those to whom the devil has been a deceiver he will, at length, be a terror. . . .

[. . . ]

It continued three days, six nights (says bishop Hall) in one; so long they were imprisoned by those chains of darkness, and the most lightsome palaces were perfect dungeons. No man rose from his place, v. 23. They were all confined to their houses; and such a terror seized them that few of them had the courage to go from the chair to the bed, or from the bed to the chair. Thus were they silent in darkness, I Sam 2:9. . . .

[. . . ]

Pharaoh and his people had rebelled against the light of God’s word, which Moses spoke to them; justly therefore are they punished with darkness, for they loved it and chose it rather. . . .

[. . . ]

The children of Israel, at the same time, had light in their dwellings (v. 23), not only in the land of Goshen, where most of them dwelt, but in the habitations of those who were dispersed among the Egyptians; for that some of them were thus dispersed appears from the distinction afterwards appointed to be put on their door-posts (Ex. 12). . . . (2)

Henry’s comments are rich with insights, this one of which I would like to address further.

Pharaoh and his people had rebelled against the light of God’s word, which Moses spoke to them; justly therefore are they punished with darkness, for they loved it and chose it rather.

Rebellion against the light of God’s word is just as fierce today as it was in this Pharaoh’s ancient Egypt. Since it is impossible to deter the Holy and Just Word of God then audiences today must seek to deter the messenger who would dare repeat the light of God’s Word. They must ban such heart-disturbing, conscience troubling, sin-defying speech from all television programs or public speeches. If the messenger won’t listen to “reason” by accepting arguments that the speech is offensive, then the messenger must be bullied into giving an apology and then forced to retreat. The messenger must lose his job or means of income until sufficiently repentant. The messenger must be shamed with tweets and overwhelmed with Facebook insults until he, or she, shuts up. The goal of such ganging up is as much to discourage others (usually thru fear) from agreeing to the message as it is to shut up the messenger.

But God has a promise in Isaiah that many Christians have cherished in their hearts as comfort that their efforts will not be in vain.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. --Isaiah 55:11

The darkness that overwhelmed the Egyptians was as much physical as it was spiritual, and there was precious little about it that was “symbolic.” Many prefer to believe that judgments spoken of in the Bible are primarily symbolic of some greater, almost mystical, spiritual truth. The Egyptians sitting terrified in their darkened abodes were not terrified of something symbolic! In fact, if past experience with Moses and Aaron and the plagues they had called forth were to be any kind of guide, the Egyptians had to surely know that they could not anticipate how this plague would play out. The previous judgments (with the exception of the very first) had been events that had occurred before, but at Moses’ direction had become unprecedented in scope. This darkness would be no different -- it would be unprecedented!

A khamsin, only intensified? Khamsins occur naturally, and if they are all as difficult as this 9th plague, we would certainly hear more often of periods of darkness overcoming Egypt, darkness where many are terrified and gripped in fear, but we don’t. This is the only occasion where we see such a description where, otherwise, would only be descriptions of inconvenience.

From the apochrypha Book of Wisdom, Chapter 17:

1 For great are thy judgments, and cannot be expressed: therefore unnurtured souls have erred.

2 For when unrighteous men thought to oppress the holy nation; they being shut up in their houses, the prisoners of darkness, and fettered with the bonds of a long night, lay [there] exiled from the eternal providence.

3 For while they supposed to lie hid in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished, and troubled with [strange] apparitions.

4 For neither might the corner that held them keep them from fear: but noises [as of waters] falling down sounded about them, and sad visions appeared unto them with heavy countenances.

Lockyer makes this observation:

. . . the God who said, “Let there be light,” can also command darkness to cover any part of the earth. Goshen was not robbed of light. In many parts of the Bible, “darkness” is presented as one of God’s agents (Joshua 24:7, Ex 20:21, Is 50: 3-6). He who can create darkness can also hide in it (Mt 27: 45). (3)

As the frightened Egyptians sat in darkened corners in astonishment and fear, the Israelites had light in their dwellings.

They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. --Exodus 10:23

Henry makes this observation:

The Israelites had light, and could have fled while darkness was so thick upon the Egyptians, but they did not. God intended to bring them out “With a high hand, and not by stealth, not in haste, Is lii.12)” (4)

After the three days of darkness, Pharaoh called for Moses. He does not feign repentance. He does not denounce himself as wicked. He does not ask Moses to entreat for him, nor does he ask him, yet again, who all Moses would take with him if he consents to let the Israelites go. Instead, he tells him, “Go . . . “

What a contrast to his arrogant and haughty demeanor when speaking to Moses on their first encounter, when he claimed that he did not know who the God of the Hebrews was. One can almost sense the disgust as we read verse 24: “Go you, serve the Lord . . .”

On previous occasions, Pharaoh had added a caveat to his permission, and this time was no exception.

Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed:

Once more Pharaoh cannot bring himself to let the people and their possessions leave. He is still trying to find a “grand bargain” by which Moses will compromise. He is still probing for the chink in Moses’ armor.

But with Pharaoh, there was always a catch, and all Moses had to do was wait for it.

“. . . let your flocks and your herds be stayed

Then, before Moses can respond, Pharaoh allows one more concession, the VERY concession that he had deemed “evil” in just the prior plague, the plague of locusts -- Pharaoh adds, “and, by the way, you can take your children with you.”

So here we have it -- Pharaoh is telling Moses he and his people can go but . . . “let your flocks and your herds be stayed.” (Ex. 10:24)

Pharaoh’s own flocks and herds had been decimated by the plague of murrain and the plague of hail; their putrid carcasses lay rotting under the hot Egyptian sun. Pharaoh may have wanted the Israelites' herds for three reasons: for food possibly, to be able to continue the sacrifices to the gods, and to starve the Israelites. See, fresh fruits and vegetables, which were most likely quite scarce because of the hail and locusts would be perishable and not last very long, barely the three days that Moses had requested to go into the wilderness to sacrifice. Also Pharaoh knew that the herds would be used for sacrifice to Jehovah, and he probably feared that the sacrifices would make Jehovah even stronger (a principle for why pagans even today offer the blood of animals, to strengthen the entities they worship).

Pharaoh, now willing to let Moses and the people go just not the flocks, became angry when Moses did not agree. Pharaoh ordered Moses away from him and said, “see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die,” to which Moses responded with “as you say.”

According to Lockyer, Pharaoh’s rejection of Moses’ demand was “rude, fierce, and uncourteous. “ (5)

A common trait we can still see even today from the heart of arrogant rulers toward those they despise.

The natural disasters that befell the arrogant Pharaoh and his once-prosperous land all came from the quiver of arrows of the Holy God of Heaven. These nine plagues that assaulted Pharaoh in rapid succession over a space of about nine months were meant to show Pharaoh the power of Jehovah, that Jehovah had a prophet here on this earth, that all of nature is at His command, that the fallen evil forces of Satan that work in shadows amidst murmurings and incantations are subject to Him, that Pharaoh had no decree or weapon that could equally challenge or stand before Him, and that this Holy God had long ago made a promise to His friend Abraham that his descendants would not only be as numerous as the sand on the seashore but would be His chosen people. God makes promises that He intends to keep.

Pharaoh chose to be stubborn -- the Scriptures tell us so. In the process of digging in, Pharaoh was turned over to Satan, and as a result, his stubbornness began to take on a life of its own. When a ruler becomes stubborn and defiant to the extent that it is clear that repentance will never take place, then that ruler will be given over to a hard taskmaster. And when that occurs, the bodies of the dead lying in the streets will have no effect upon his heart -- all that matters to such a corrupt leader is the protection of his own pride and his own self image. All can be stripped of him -- his nation’s wealth, his nation’s resources, his nation’s beauty, his nation’s people, but he (or she) will become willfully oblivious to it all for what does not fit the leader’s narrative must be disdained as not existing at all.

And this is the place Pharaoh found himself though he could not, or would not, see it for himself. He looked upon himself as a survivor of the worst that this “desert” God could throw at him, and he remained mostly personally unscathed. Little did he perceive that the very last words hurled out of his own mouth at Moses would truly, undeniably, and earth-shatteringly so, finally rock his world. For as what he wished unto this prophet of Israel would now come upon him.

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Notes:

1. The One Volume Bible Commentary, edited by J. R. Dummelow, 1909, pg 57

2. A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1, Genesis to Deuteronomy, Matthew Henry, undated printing, pg 313, bold emphasis Henry's

3. All the Miracles of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, 1961, pg 58

4. Henry, pg 314, bold emphasis Henry's

5. Lockyer, pg 58