Keeping the Sabbath

Covenant with Israel.

Whenever this covenant is spoken about with regard to its relationship with mankind it is, without exception, related to the people of Israel. It is nowhere referred to as an all-encompassing world-wide concept.

See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days;” Exodus 16:29

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore;” Exodus 31:13

Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.” Exodus 31:16

Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.” Leviticus 24:8

He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgements unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgements, they have not known them.” Psalm 147:19, 20

Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:10-12

Since the covenant was exclusively for the Israelites, we can appreciate why no mention whatever is made of the sabbath prior to Israel being in the wilderness. Consider the unambiguous words of Nehemiah when writing of the Israelites,
And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:” Nehemiah 9:14

Nehemiah clearly expresses in this passage the fact that if the sabbath observance had not been made by the hand of Moses, then they would have remained ignorant of it.

Resting.

Before that covenant had been made through Moses, there was no mention of a sabbath, or an inference of any valid base. Take, for example, a verse frequently used to support this claim, to be found in Exodus 5.
And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.” Exodus 5:5

It would appear inconceivable that the Egyptians would have allowed foreign slaves to have every seventh day as a day off work, when their own workers had no such luxury! Why were the Egyptians searching for ways to make them work harder, such as to gather their own straw, when they could merely have withdrawn their seventh-day ‘perk’!

Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.” Exodus 5:7

The Hebrew word translated in Exodus 5:5 as ‘rest’ is ‘shabath’, meaning to repose, (intransitive) to desist (from exertion), to cease, to leave off. The most basic meaning for this word is found in Genesis 8:22.
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.

It is also the same word that is used in Genesis 2:2,3. God’s work was completed, and, therefore, there was no need to continue. He did not need to rest like a weary man, but he only ‘ceased’ his creative activity. The word ‘shabath’ is used some 200 times in the Old Testament, and the primary idea appears to be ‘to sit down’ or ‘to stand still’. Check out this fact for yourself. There is no foundation for asserting that the Israelites observed a sabbath each week in Egypt; and certainly it is not implicit in Exodus 5:5. The context clearly shows that the rest to which Pharaoh was referring was their stated desire to absent themselves ‘for a feast’.

“And afterwards Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. … The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God.” Exodus 5:1,3

A new experience.

If , as some claim, the sabbath was being kept through the Egyptian period (for the incident in Exodus 5:5 was only about nine months prior to their departure from Egypt), then why was it when someone broke the sabbath law (by picking up sticks), that no-one, not even Moses, knew what had to be done!

And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said to Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: ..” Numbers 15:32-35

If, as sometimes claimed, Moses had been making the Israelites in Egypt observe the sabbath, how did it arise that he had never needed to take corrective action for a sabbath breaker? This is especially so if the phrase of God at Mount Sinai applied to a pre-given sabbath, “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?” Exodus 16:28

If such were true, then how weak was Moses as a leader! For up to that time he had never had experience of rebuking a sabbath breaker!

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    BobbyB YoungNoel GoetzKshearesJason Recent comment authors
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    thomas
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    thomas

    How comes all 9 laws(commandments) are still put into practice till now while the 4th law being ended? no place where the bible abolished that commandment.
    why you said that these laws have being replaced by grace through Jesus while others still active? why the one to be abolished while the rest still in use?

    Jason
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    Jason

    Hi Thomas,Thank you for your comment.Let’s not confuse two issues: those that are timeless and that which is not. The law against murder is timeless—it has been since Creation: Cain was guilty of it. The Sabbath observance however was only introduced at the time of the Ten Commandments and was exclusively given to the Israelites.“Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy… Read more »

    Ksheares
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    Ksheares

    I encourage all to let scripture be your guide and not mans opinion… The word of God cannot contradict itself. If there is a contradiction found one must attribute it to mans incorrect interpretation. Exodus 31:16 ESV Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant FOREVER. -God explained the Sabbath was to be observed FOREVER! So weather given before Moses or for the first time in the wilderness, forever means forever… If it was the intent of God to do away with it once the Messiah came, HE (not being… Read more »

    Bobby
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    Bobby

    To answer Noel’s query, there is not one law for the Jews and one law for the gentile believer:
    Lev 24:22 Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.

    Noel Goetz
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    Noel Goetz

    Exodus 31:16 “Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath.”- I take it people of Israel means the Jews. Therefore, if you are a Jew you should thereby keep the commandment. If you are not, then you are under no compulsion.

    B Young
    Editor

    Hi Noel, You are correct in your thinking. It was also re-stated in Ezekiel 20:19–20 as a reminder, “I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.” It was specifically to those in Israel, and of course their descendants who would be the Jews of today. However, it was introduced just days prior to the Law of Moses, which of course was done away with in… Read more »

    Bobby
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    Bobby

    Could you elaborate where in scripture G-d expunged non-observance of Shabbat.

    Robert Janko
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    Robert Janko

    “Im a Christian but i believe the Ten Commandments still abide. Iam writing this with nothing but loved but you forgot to quote the second part of hebrews 8 so u made it seem that the new covanent was going to be something completely different from the ten comandments but if you read hebrews 8:10 “”This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” so this… Read more »

    Suday Kumar Rout
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    Suday Kumar Rout

    “It seems that Jesus Christ has been replaced with Paul (a self styled apostle). At the outset of His famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells “”Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or Prophets ; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfil (Matt.5:17).”” No weekly days has been mentioned in the Bible i.e. Sunday, Monday or Friday etc. Israelites were counting the days by observing the moon. Very simple commandment has been given by our Almighty Father God Through Moses that””Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day… Read more »

    Bobby
    Guest
    Bobby

    Exactly Suday. Sabbath was never a token numbered day, it simply means ‘a complete cessation of ceasing’. There was a Sabbatical year – the shmita, a rest to the land. To add to Mat 5;17, which I am sure you are completely aware many Christians believe that fulfill think that this equates to completion, hardly, the Greek G4137 πληρόω plēroō play-ro’-o From G4134; to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, Misunderstanding this integral element of the jig-saw puzzle will render most of Paul (shau’ul’s) writing and… Read more »