Here is, I. The plague of darkness brought upon Egypt, and a most dreadful plague it was, and therefore is put first of the ten in Ps. 105:28; though it was one of the last; and in the destruction of the spiritual Egypt it is produced by the fifth vial, which is poured out upon the seat of the beast, Rev. 16:10. His kingdom was full of darkness. Observe particularly concerning this plague, 1. That 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 (Exod. 10:23), They saw not one another. It is threatened to the wicked (Job 18:5, 6) that the spark of his fire shall not shine (even the sparks of his own kindling, as they are called, Isa. 50:11), and that the light shall be dark in his tabernacle. Hell is utter darkness. The light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee, Rev. 18:23. 2. That it was darkness which might be felt (Exod. 10:21), felt in its causes by their fingers’ ends (so thick were the fogs), felt in its effects, some think, 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. 3. No doubt it astonished and terrified them. The cloud of locusts, which had darkened the land (Exod. 10:15), 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. 4. 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, Exod. 10:23. 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, 1 Sam. 2:9. Now Pharaoh had time to consider, if he would have improved it. Spiritual darkness is spiritual bondage; while Satan blinds men’s eyes that they see not, he binds them hands and feet that they work not for God, nor move towards heaven. They sit in darkness. 5. It was a righteous thing with God thus to punish them. 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 blindness of their minds brings upon them this darkness of the air. Never was mind so blinded as Pharaoh’s, never was air so darkened as Egypt’s. The Egyptians by their cruelty would have extinguished the lamp of Israel, and quenched their coal; justly therefore does God put out their lights. Compare it with the punishment of the Sodomites, Gen. 19:11. Let us dread the consequences of sin; if three days’ darkness was so dreadful, what will everlasting darkness be? 6. The children of Israel, at the same time, had light in their dwellings (Exod. 10:23), 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, Exod. 12:7. This is an instance, (1.) Of the power of God above the ordinary power of nature. We must not think that we share in common mercies as a matter of course, and therefore that we owe no thanks to God for them; he could distinguish, and withhold that from us which he grants to other. He does indeed ordinarily make his sun to shine on the just and unjust; but he could make a difference, and we must own ourselves indebted to his mercy that he does not. (2.) Of the particular favour he bears to his people: they walk in the light when others wander endlessly in thick darkness; wherever there is an Israelite indeed, though in this dark world, there is light, there is a child of light, one for whom light is sown, and whom the day-spring from on high visits. When God made this difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians, who would not have preferred the poorest cottage of an Israelite to the finest palace of an Egyptian? There is still a real difference, though not so discernible a one, between the house of the wicked, which is under a curse, and the habitation of the just, which is blessed, Prov. 3:33. We should believe in that difference, and govern ourselves accordingly. Upon Ps. 105:28; He sent darkness and made it dark, and they rebelled not against his word, some ground a conjecture that, during these three days of darkness, the Israelites were circumcised, in order to their celebrating the passover which was now approaching, and that the command which authorized this was the word against which they rebelled not; for their circumcision, when they entered Canaan, is spoken of as a second general circumcision, Josh. 5:2. During these three days of darkness to the Egyptians, if God had so pleased, the Israelites, by the light which they had, might have made their escape, and without asking leave of Pharaoh; but God would bring them out with a high hand, and not by stealth, nor in haste, Isa. 52:12.
II. Here is the impression made upon Pharaoh by this plague, much like that of the foregoing plagues. 1. It awakened him so far that he renewed the treaty with Moses and Aaron, and now, at length, consented that they should take their little ones with them, only he would have their cattle left in pawn, Exod. 10:24. It is common for sinners thus to bargain with God Almighty. Some sins they will leave, but not all; they will leave their sins for a time, but they will not bid them a final farewell; they will allow him some share in their hearts, but the world and the flesh must share with him: thus they mock God, but they deceive themselves. Moses resolves not to abate in his terms: Our cattle shall go with us, Exod. 10:26. Note, The terms of reconciliation are so fixed that though men dispute them ever so long they cannot possibly alter them, nor bring them lower. We must come up to the demands of God’s will, for we cannot expect he should condescend to the provisos of our lusts. God’s messengers must always be bound up by that rule (Jer. 15:19), Let them ed1 return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. Moses gives a very good reason why they must take their cattle with them; they must go to do sacrifice, and therefore they must take wherewithal. What numbers and kinds of sacrifices would be required they did not yet know, and therefore they must take all they had. Note, With ourselves, and our children, we must devote all our worldly possessions to the service of God, because we know not what use God will make of what we have, nor in what way we may be called upon to honour God with it. 2. Yet it exasperated him so far that, when he might not make his own terms, he broke off the conference abruptly, and took up a resolution to treat no more. Wrath now came upon him to the utmost, and he became outrageous beyond all bounds, Exod. 10:28. Moses is dismissed in anger, forbidden the court upon pain of death, forbidden so much as to meet Pharaoh any more, as he had been used to do, by the river’s side: In that day thou seest my face, thou shalt die. Prodigious madness! Had he not found that Moses could plague him without seeing his face? Or had he forgotten how often he had sent for Moses as his physician to heal him and ease him of his plagues? and must he now be bidden to come near him no more? Impotent malice! To threaten him with death who was armed with such a power, and at whose mercy he had so often laid himself. What will not hardness of heart and contempt of God’s word and commandments bring men to? Moses takes him at his word (Exod. 10:29): I will see thy face no more, that is, “after this time;” for this conference did not break off till Exod. 11:8; when Moses went out in a great anger, and told Pharaoh how soon he would change his mind, and his proud spirit would come down, which was fulfilled (Exod. 12:31), when Pharaoh became a humble supplicant to Moses to depart. So that, after this interview, Moses came no more, till he was sent for. Note, When men drive God’s word from them he justly permits their delusions, and answers them according to the multitude of their idols. When the Gadarenes desired Christ to depart, he presently left them.