Darkness in Hebrew can be translated into two words, araphel and choshek. Although they may mean the same in English, they are different when we look at their usage in the original language. So, how do they differ?
Hebrew words for darkness
Let us start with the Hebrew word, choshek. Choshek is the conventional “darkness.” It is found in the first two verses of the Bible. Genesis 1:2 says, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
Choshek is the absence of light. It is the same as the idea of a glass filled with water. We can always fill the glass with water, but we cannot fill it with emptiness. Emptiness is there when the water is gone. Therefore, choshek is there when there is an absence of light.
On the other hand, araphel has a spiritual significance. It means more than just darkness.
Araphel, more than just darkness
In the 16 times araphel appeared in the Bible, it is always joined with the Presence of God. Such as in Exodus 20:21, “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” Or in Psalm 72:1-2, “The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” And in 2 Chronicles 6:1, “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.”
Araphel, therefore, is God’s darkness. It is a different type of darkness. It is a deep gloom, thick darkness, and heavy cloud. We often associate darkness with evil and light with good. But, interestingly, araphel reconciles this idea. It is a darkness that is good since God, who is good, dwells in it.
Reference: Ancient Hebrew Research Center