Pharaoh tossed and turned all night. It was getting harder and harder to be the strong decisive leader his father had taught him to be. He was in agony. He didn’t want to fall asleep because every night plagued him with horrendous nightmares, dreams of frustration. The sleep state found him lost and desperate to find his way, or being chased by wild animals and not able to hide, or falling off a precipice. He was afraid of where his mind would take him, and yet his waking hours were just as horrendous. His idiotic magicians proved useless. From his birth Thutmose had always gotten his way. Anything his heart desired had only to be named and it came to him within hours, the tastiest food, the most beautiful women, the best performers of music and dance. He remembered the day that he was told that his father died and he was crowned Pharaoh as the most thrilling day of his life. Then, when his first born son was presented to him. Oh joy; what magician conjured that up! A miniature version of himself with a touch of his father and of his mother all rolled into one sweet smelling bundle of emotions. The baby smiled and gurgled so much; how he often wondered what was making this child so joyful.
Could it be that if only he would release the Israelites to go into the wilderness to pray, then their god would be pleased and restore his kingdom and his peace of mind? Thutmose could not understand why he vacillated so, and why he was being so stubborn? Why did Moses only ask for permission to go away to pray, when they both knew full well that once gone, they would never return? Why did Moses repeatedly expect him to believe the lie that they would return? He might as well have asked for permanent release. Did that false brother of his think him a fool? He should just let them go and be rid of the whole lot!
NO NO NO, what demon placed that thought in his mind? Absolutely not. He would not be bullied by that god of theirs. Pharaoh admitted that he showed his weakness too often when he asked Moses for prayer and offered to let them go. He really had to stop that. He must win. He must show himself strong and decisive. If only he could get a good night’s sleep, everything would be better. He needed a sleeping potion. He would try one more time to clear his mind of thoughts and focus on resting his every muscle from his royal toes up through his body until he reached his mind, the summit of his being and even there he must be in control enough to sweep away any thought that displeased him. Pharaoh craved rest, to fall into the warm soothing waters of oblivion.
Meanwhile, back on the hill, the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.”
Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh stayed in his bedroom and tried to sleep as long as he could. His man servant entered holding a candle and said, “Sire, how long shall this darkness last? The people have stopped working. The cows have stopped giving milk. The roosters won’t crow. The people want to know when the light will return. What shall I tell them?”
“How should I know!” shouted Pharaoh. “Tell them that the light will return when they have pleased their gods. Tell them that I proclaim a holiday and that they need not report to work until the darkness is lifted. Tell them to pray to the gods that their rest is deep and restorative. Now GO and leave me be!”
“I have one more message Sire.” added the daring messenger.
“What is it peon?” replied Pharaoh nastily.
“I am told that Gotham is bathed in light. They have no darkness there.”
“How can that be?” replied Pharaoh incredulously.
“We don’t know.”
“Then they should be working! Order the slaves of Goshen to clean their streets and their fields. I will send inspectors in three days and expect to see Goshen spotless! And while you are there order Moses to return to me. Now please leave me!”
The messenger walked out after kissing the hand of Pharaoh and bowing low. His first stop was to the municipal room to tell the officials about the holiday. They chuckled at the news.
Then the messenger turned to start his trek to Goshen to give them their orders. He had a very difficult time making his way through the streets of Egypt. His candle blew out. The darkness was so dense and pure that he had to walk waving his hands out in front of him and around his sides. No one else was out, which made it easier than it otherwise might have been.
As he approached Goshen he was shocked to see the dull luminous fog that made it much easier to walk. The closer he got to Goshen, the more light. It was amazing, it was dumbfounding. Goshen was filled with light, as opposite as the darkness of the rest of Egypt could be. He looked up at the sky for the sun, but found not the familiar ball. The messenger wondered if the light came from their God. Was He showing Egypt that He was indeed the God of light, and they were people of darkness?
With no task masters showing up for work, with all the merriment he observed, it appeared that they were the ones having the holiday. The messenger went directly to the Town Square and announced the requirement to clean their streets.
Then the messenger walked to the home of Miriam where he found Moses and Aaron eating lunch as if it was a typical day in paradise. He ordered them to return with him to the palace.
Moses didn’t seem to have half the trouble walking back to the palace as the messenger had had wading through the darkness. Either he was being guided by an inner light, or the path was so familiar that Moses could walk it in his sleep.
They arrived to find lit candles everywhere. Pharaoh’s throne room was bathed in jittery candle light.
As soon as he spotted Moses, Pharaoh said, “Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” Pharaoh felt, that by saying this he was being generous and yet, authoritative enough to demand reasonable limitations. He expected Moses to comply and he looked forward to the end of the standoff. Sitting in darkness, Pharaoh had no clue that the worse was yet to come.
Without hesitation, without compromise, Moses replied, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.”
Pharaoh was angry that Moses wouldn’t take the olive branch that had been so hard for him to offer. This demanding, unyielding, uncompromising opponent would not get the best of him. Pharaoh had no power over the light; he didn’t know the reason for the strange darkness, or when the light would return, but he still had it in his power to keep Israel from leaving, and that would be good enough. Good enough for this meeting. Good enough for this dark day. He would just try to fall asleep again.
Pharaoh turned his stubborn heart inside out and barked, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day that you see my face, you shall die.”
Moses replied, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”
Then the brothers departed from the palace for what they figured was the very last time. As they walked through the dark halls into the pitch blackness, they knew not what time of day it should be. All was darkness, all was stillness, like the day before creation, like the day of death. Moses and Aaron walked back to Goshen in silence as they tried to maneuver the streets without stumbling and falling.
They finally spotted the dim yet welcome light of Goshen in the far distance and used it to guide them home quickly. They went straight to their hill and waited, but not for very long.
Moments after they arrived the Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed when he lets you go, he will drive you away. Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.”
Moses and Aaron were immensely relieved to hear that the end was indeed near, as they had suspected.
On the third day the people of Goshen could see the light of their district expand throughout Egypt. The days of darkness were over.
The Egyptian people, tired, and hungry, innocent victims of the battle between egotistical Pharaoh and the powerful God of Moses were thoroughly drained; they had lost everything, their fields, their herds and flocks, their air of superiority.
It was clear to everyone that Pharaoh with his useless demands was the weak one, the loser. Many of them wanted to leave with Israel. The Egyptians through all of these calamities saw what Pharaoh was blind to. Sitting on his throne, his own people rooted for Israel to win the battle and move on. Moses was clearly the victor, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of his people.
As they were told to do, the Israelites took advantage of the favor they sensed from their neighbors. The women went into the Egyptian neighborhoods, knocked on doors and asked for items of silver and gold to take with them. By then it was not a matter of whether they would leave, but when. Egyptian women gladly handed over their precious metals as a prayer offering to the god of the Hebrews. Each household tried to out do its neighbor in generosity to the slaves and their powerful God. Little did they know that their biggest sacrifice was yet to come.
Strengthened by the return of light to Egypt, and by the treasure they were given by the people, Moses sensed too that he had won. Their God won! Only now, the plague was yet to come. Until this time, in spite of all the loss, not one human life had been taken. God thought it only fair to give Pharaoh a warning of the tenth and final event, the plague, that would break Pharaoh’s God-produced strong will.
The guards saw Moses and Aaron approach and sent a messenger to ask Pharaoh if they should be admitted. Feeling better after the three day rest, and the morning light, he consented to receive the brothers. Perhaps they were coming to concede, he thought. Perhaps, they were willing to leave something precious behind to insure their return. That’s all he ever really wanted anyway. He didn’t care that they had a holiday, he just wanted to retain their usefulness, and his power over them.
Moses entered the throne room with an air of confidence and solemnity that shook the better mood out of Pharaoh. Aaron said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as never been or ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites-not at people, not at animals-so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me , and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that, I will leave.”
Moses had worked himself into a fury with this message. He was angry that it should come to this, the killing of so many innocents to force their release. By the time Aaron finished speaking, Moses was clearly fed up and in hot anger he turned without saying a word and walked out with Aaron at his heels.
The Lord spoke to Moses’ heart, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
Moses was comforted by those words; he understood that God’s ways are mysterious. It was more important to God that His power and favoritism of Israel be recognized, than all the destruction and death that it took to make it obvious to Pharaoh, to the Egyptians, and to Israel.
Gracefeld and Perambula were both very pleased with themselves for so successfully helping the Lord carry it off. These angels had never worked so hard, neither in the galaxies, nor on earth. They expected great rewards would follow and their names to be written in the Angel Hall of Fame.
Moses and Aaron too clearly sensed that these were holy days. For all the frustration and suffering, surely future generations would hear of the marvels and the plague that was to come, and stand amazed that God orchestrated such an epic release from the chains that had bound them to Egypt and to Pharaoh for centuries.
However, it wasn’t over yet; the Lord still hardened Pharaoh’s heart, in spite of the threat of the death that would ensue, through his able emissary Gracefeld, and he did not let them go.