I am thrilled to be back this week once more looking at Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.” While my previous studies on light are in no way comprehensive, I am moving on from “I form the light” and am beginning to look at “and create darkness.” I noted it once before but it’s worth repeating: the word translated “create” here is the Hebrew word bara which does indeed mean “to create”. It’s the same word as that found in Genesis 1:1: God created the heavens and the earth. It does not mean “allow” or “permit” as I’ve found in some other’s commentaries on this passage. The truth is stated plainly. God creates the darkness.
I will say this portion of the passage has never bothered me. I’ve always liked the darkness-nighttime anyway. It is only at night and far away from the artificial lights of modern civilization, that the spectacular beauty of the cosmos can be seen. Nighttime has always been a sacred time to be alone in the presence of God. I used to like to withdraw from the conversations around the campfire, to sit by myself listening to the sounds of the night, and just be in the presence of God. Of course, I never strayed too far because I never wanted to become lost in the darkness or misstep and harm myself because my vision was obscured so I realize that even in those moments of peace and quiet, there was a wariness of the dark.
There have been times when I’ve been in darkness and felt that wariness turn to fear. Have you ever gone on a cave tour? There’s that moment when the guide switches off the lights and darkness is experienced in a way that isn’t possible on the surface of the earth. We all wave our hands in front of our faces and cannot see them. I don’t know about you but I have a vivid imagination. I wonder what it would be like to remain in that darkness. Would I be able to remain calm if the electricity failed and I had to feel my way out of the depths of the earth? It is a scintillating moment of fear, a safe thrill because the lights have never failed to come back on.
As I began this study on darkness, I remember a book I purchased and read some years ago. It is called At Days Close Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch. I was curious if anything in it would pertain to my study and so I began rereading it. I was fascinated as I read about the fear of the darkness. In his preface, Mr. Ekirch writes, “One can only speculate about when an inherent fear of darkness might first have taken root in the human psyche. In view of the terror that must have struck our earliest ancestors, very likely this most ancient of human anxieties has existed from time immemorial…”1
But did it? The Hebrew word translated “darkness” in my study passage is choshek (Strong’s, H2822). It’s the same word as “darkness” in Genesis 1:2 and, when I look at Genesis, I see no fear associated with darkness. It’s there on the face of the deep in those first moments of creation. God divides the darkness from the light and names it “Night” on the first day. He sets a light to rule it on the fourth. There is nothing frightening about the darkness: it just is. In fact, I see night as a gift from God to humankind. As the sun sets and evening sets in, the work of the day is done. There is nothing to do but eat and rest. God’s covenant with the earth means the sun will rise, there will be morning, and there is nothing to fear (See Jeremiah 33:25-26). That was true as long as humankind stayed in relationship with their Creator.
It’s so important to look at the Serpent’s words in Genesis 3. The intimation of The Lie is that God isn’t really trustworthy, in fact He’s a liar (“you will not surely die”), He’s keeping something good from humankind, and it would be best if humans did away with Him entirely and became gods in their own right. When both chose to believe the Serpent rather than God, one of their first acts were to hide themselves from each other and then to hide from the One who had been their companion in the Garden (Genesis 3:7-9). With such a devastating breaking of relationship and this new fear causing our parents to be unsure whether or not God could really be trusted, I am not surprised that Mr. Ekirch’s research caused him to conclude fear of the dark has existed since time immemorial.
This fear of the darkness is found in religion. Mr. Ekirch writes, “It would be difficult to exaggerate the suspicion and insecurity bred by darkness….Just as heaven glowed with celestial light, darkness foreshadowed the agonies waiting transgressors after death. Often likened to hell (“eternal night”), nighttime anticipated a netherworld of chaos and despair, black as pitch, swarming with imps and demons….Indeed, it was the conviction of some divines that God created night as proof of hell’s existence. ‘Like the face of hell,’ was how a seventeenth-century Venetian described the advance of evening.2
Further on in the Chapter, I read, “Night,” cautioned a proverb, “belongs to the spirits.” The uninviting climes of evening-their horrible sights and foreign sounds, their noisome vapors-beckoned a host of demons and spirits, which the Stuart playwright John Fletcher called the “blacke spawne of darknesse.” The sky was their empire, the night air their earthy domain. None, of course, was more feared than Satan, the “Prince of Darkness,” whose misdeeds were legion, spread far and wide with the growth of printing by popular tracts and scholarly texts.”3
I had not remembered how many quotes by different believers through the ages were shared by Mr. Ekirch. I found the substance of these quotes surprising although I don’t know why I did. I read popular tracts and scholarly texts written in this day and age that tell me this fear of the darkness and the belief that Satan rules over it is not something left back in earlier centuries. It is terribly sad that believers don’t seem to know that Jesus has come! Through His death and resurrection, He has destroyed the one who had the power of death and He now holds the keys to both death and hell [or the grave-the word hades has been translated both ways (Hebrews 2:15, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Revelation 1:18)]. All authority is His (Matthew 28:18). There is no need whatsoever to fear the darkness.
While darkness itself is not something to be feared, there is no denying the deeds humans choose to do in it make it worthwhile to exercise caution. I am under no illusions as to the state of the heart of some humans and am extremely careful when and how I make any after-dark forays. I am not suggesting our freedom from fear should then make us foolhardy. The point I am trying to make is that when God created darkness, He did not create something bad. Night does not belong to the spirits nor does it belong to those who seek to hide their deeds in it. It belongs to the One who created it and I trust Him to watch over me. He is the Covenant Father and, resting in Him, I know that when I lie down I will not be afraid and my sleep will be sweet (Proverbs 3:24).
Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
- Ekirch, Roger A., At Day’s Close Night in Times Past, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, New York, 2005, Page 3
- Ibid., Page 8
- Idib., Page 15