Exactly how dark is a plague of darkness? In the Bible, darkness symbolizes spiritual ignorance. Light symbolizes revelation from God.

The plague of darkness symbolized a defeat of the Egyptian sun god, chief over the pantheon. (Image: Gustave Doré, 1832-1883, Wikimedia Commons.)


Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Bo (בֹּא | Come)
  • Torah: Exodus 10:1-13:16
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
  • Gospel: John 19:31-37

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Exodus 10:1 The Eighth Plague: | Locusts
    • Exodus 10:21 The Ninth Plague: | Darkness
    • Exodus 11:1 | Warning of the Final Plague
    • Exodus 12:1 | The First Passover Instituted
    • Exodus 12:29 The Tenth Plague: | Death of the Firstborn
    • Exodus 12:33 The Exodus: | From Rameses to Succoth
    • Exodus 12:43 | Directions for the Passover
    • Exodus 13:3 | The Festival of Unleavened Bread
    • Exodus 13:11 | The Consecration of the Firstborn
  • Prophets
    • Jer 46:13 | Babylonia Will Strike Egypt
    • Jer 46:27 | God Will Save Israel

Portion Summary

The fifteenth reading from the Torah is named Bo (בוא), which means "Come." The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, "Then the LORD said to Moses, '[Come] to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart" (Exodus 10:1). The portion begins by concluding the narrative of the ten plagues, the tenth of which is the slaying of the firstborn. To avoid the plague, the Israelites are given the instructions for the Passover sacrifice and the laws of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Pharaoh finally consents to let Israel go, and they leave Egypt.

The ninth plague on Egypt was the plague of darkness. It was not normal darkness like that of an eclipse. It was a supernatural darkness, "even a darkness which may be felt" (Exodus 10:21). The darkness persisted for three days. Not even artificial lights such as lamps and torches could pierce the blackness. The Egyptians stayed indoors for the three-day duration. But the Israelites had light.

The plague of darkness symbolized a defeat of the Egyptian sun god, chief over the pantheon. It also symbolized the spiritual darkness of Egypt. Though the Israelites were the slaves and the Egyptians the masters, the plague of darkness illustrated that it was the Egyptians who were in servitude. They were enslaved to the adversary and their false gods. They were under the dominion of the kingdom of darkness. Though the Hebrews were slaves, they were spiritually free. As servants of the truth, they were part of the kingdom of light.

A person in spiritual bondage might not know (or will not admit) that he is in bondage. He feels as if he is in control of his life, calling the shots and making decisions, but ultimately, he serves a great emptiness.

For example, a man with an alcohol addiction tells himself that he could stop at any time, and that he only needs a drink to "take the edge off." It is obvious to everyone around him that he has a compulsive disorder and his alcohol consumption is out of control, but the man continues to deny the problem.

In the same way, human beings without faith and without God live in a state of denial. They refuse to admit that a great vacuum exists within them. Their souls are starving for light, but they don't know it, nor do they know how to feed it.

The Apostle Paul tells us to give "thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:12-14).

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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