Ancient Near East
Images & Art
Maps & Geography
Mythology & Beliefs
People in History
Timelines & Charts
Hebrew "rest." Applied to the days of rest in the great feasts, but chiefly to the seventh day rest (Exodus 31:15; Exodus 16:23). Some argue from the silence concerning its observance by the patriarchs that no sabbatic ordinance was actually given before the Sinaitic law, and that Genesis 2:3 is not historical but anticipatory. But this verse is part of the history of creation, the very groundwork of Moses' inspired narrative. The history of the patriarchs for 2,500 years, comprised in the small compass of Genesis, necessarily omits many details which it takes for granted, as the observance of the sabbath. Indications of seven-day weeks appear in Noah's twice waiting seven days when sending forth the dove (Genesis 8:10; Genesis 8:12); also in Jacob's history (Genesis 29:27-28). G. Smith discovered an Assyrian calendar which divides every month into four weeks, and the seventh days are marked out as days in which no work should be done. Further, before the Sinaitic law was given the sabbath law is recognized in the double manna promised on the sixth day, that none might be gathered on the sabbath (Exodus 16:5; Exodus 16:23).
The meaning therefore of Genesis 2:3 is, God having divided His creative work into six portions sanctified the seventh as that on which He rested from His creative work. The divine rest was not one of 24 hours; the divine sabbath still continues. There has been no creation since man's. After six periods of creative activity, answering to our literal days analogously, God entered on that sabbath in which His work is preservation and redemption, no longer creation. He ordained man for labour, yet graciously appointed one seventh of his time for bodily and mental rest, and for spiritual refreshment in his Maker's worship. This reason is repeated in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:10-11); another reason peculiar to the Jews (their deliverance from Egyptian bondage) is stated Deuteronomy 5:14-15; possibly the Jewish sabbath was the very day of their deliverance. All mankind are included in the privilege of the seventh day rest, though the Jews alone were commanded to keep it on Saturday.
Besides its religious obligation, its physical and moral benefit has been recognized by statesmen and physiologists. Its merciful character appears in its extension to the ox, ass, and cattle. Needless and avoidable work was forbidden (Exodus 34:21; Exodus 35:3). But like other feasts it was to be a day of enjoyment (Isaiah 58:13; Hosea 2:11). Only the covetous and carnal were impatient of its restraints (Amos 8:5-6). In the sanctuary the morning and evening sacrifices were doubled, the shewbread was changed, and each of David's 24 courses of priests and Levites began duty on the Sabbath. The offerings symbolized the call to all Israel to give themselves to the Lord's service on the Sabbath more than on other days. The 12 loaves of shewbread representing the offerings of the 12 tribes symbolized the good works which they should render to Jehovah; diligence in His service receiving fresh quickening on the day of rest and holy convocation before Him. The Levites were dispersed throughout Israel to take advantage of these convocations, and in them "teach Israel God's law" (Deuteronomy 33:10).
The "holy convocation" on it (Leviticus 23:2-3) was probably a meeting for prayer, meditation, and hearing the law in the court of the tabernacle before the altar at the hour of morning and evening sacrifice (Leviticus 19:30; Ezekiel 23:38). In later times people resorted to prophets and teachers to hear the Old Testament read and expounded, and after the captivity to synagogues (2 Kings 4:23; Luke 4:15-16; Acts 13:14-15; Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21). Philo (De Orac. c. 20; Vit. Mos. 3:27) and Josephus (Ant. 16:2-3; Apion, 1:20, 2:18) declare the earliest Jewish traditions state the object of the sabbath to be to furnish means for spiritual edification (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:10). Isaiah (Isaiah 1:13) condemns hypocritical keeping of sabbath. So Christ condemns the burdensome sabbath restraints multiplied by the Pharisees, violating the law of mercy and man's good for which the sabbath was instituted (Matthew 12:2; Matthew 12:10-11; Luke 13:14; Luke 14:1; Luke 14:5; John 7:22; Mark 2:23-28); yet inviting guests to a social meal was lawful, even in their view (Luke 14:5).
Not inaction, but rest from works of neither mercy nor necessity, is the rule of the sabbath. Man's rest is to be like God's rest. His work did not cease at the close of the six days, nor has it ceased ever since (John 5:17; Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 95:4-5). God's rest was satisfaction in contemplating His work, so "very good," just completed in the creation of man its topstone (Genesis 1:31). So man's rest is in the sabbath being the dose of week day labour done in faith toward God. God orders "six days shalt thou labour," as well as "remember the sabbath" (Exodus 20:8-11). "Remember" marks that the sabbath was already long known to Israel, and that they only needed their "minds stirred up by way of remembrance." The fourth commandment alone of the ten begins so. The sabbath is thus a foretaste of the heavenly (sabbatism) "keeping of sabbath" (Hebrews 4:9-10 margin), when believers shall rest from fatiguing "labours" (Revelation 14:13). The Sabbath reminds man he is made in the image of God.
Philo calls it "the imaging forth of the first beginning." It was to the Israelite the center of religious observances, and essentially connected with the warning against idolatry (Leviticus 19:3-4; Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:20). As the Old Testament Sabbath was the seal of the first creation in innocence, so the New Testament Lord's day is the seal of the new creation. The Father's rest after creation answers to Christ's after redemption's completion. The Sabbath was further a "sign" or sacramental pledge between Jehovah and His people, masters and servants alike resting, and thereby remembering the rest from Egyptian service vouchsafed by God. The weekly Sabbath, moreover, was the center of an organized system including the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year. The Sabbath ritual was not, like other feasts, distinguished by peculiar offerings, but by the doubling of the ordinary daily sacrifices. Thus it was not cut off from the week but marked as the day of days, implying the sanctification of the daily life of the Lord's people.
Leviticus 23:38 expressly distinguishes "the Sabbaths of the Lord" from the other Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16-17), namely, that of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles, which ended with the cessation of the Jewish ritual (Leviticus 23:32; Leviticus 23:37-39). The Decalogue was proclaimed with peculiar solemnity from Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-24); it was written on tables of stone, and deposited in the ark (representing Himself) covered by the mercy-seat on which rested the Shekinah cloud of His glory; Moses significantly states "these vows the Lord spoke, and He added no more." The Decalogue was "the covenant," and the ark containing it "the ark of the covenant;" and therefore the Decalogue sums up all moral duty. The Sabbath stands in the heart of it, surrounded by moral duties, and must therefore itself be moral. God, who knows us best. has fixed the mean between the too seldom and the too often, the exact proportion in which the day devoted to His service ought to recur, best suited to our bodily and spiritual wants.
The prophets foretell its continuance in the Messianic age (Isaiah 56:6-7; Isaiah 58:13-14; Isaiah 66:23). Christ moreover says "the sabbath was made for man," i.e. not for Israel only, but for universal "man" (Mark 2:27-28). The typical Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9) must remain until the antitypical sabbatism appears. In Romans 14:5 the oldest manuscripts omit "he that regardeth not the day to the Lord he doth not regard it." As the month of Israel's redemption from Egypt became the beginning of months, so the day of Christ's resurrection which seals our redemption is made the first day Sabbath. The Epistle of Barnabas, Dionysius of Corinth writing to Rome A.D. 170 ("we spent the Lord's day as a holy day in which we read your letter"), and Clemens Alex., A.D. 194, mention the Lord's day Sabbath. The judgment on the Jews for violating the Sabbath was signally retributive (2 Chronicles 36:21). The Babylonians carried them captive "to fulfill the word of the Lord by Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten years" (Leviticus 26:34-36).
There are exactly 70 years of Sabbaths in the 490 between Saul's accession, 1095 B.C., and Jehoiakim's deposition by Nebuchadnezzar 606 B.C. Even Adam in innocence needed the Sabbath amidst earthly works; much more we need it, who are fallen. The spirit of the command remains, though the letter is modified (Romans 13:8-10); the consecration of one day in seven is the essential thing. The choice of the first day is due to Christ's appearing on that day and to apostolical usage. Revelation 1:10 first mentions "the Lord's Day" . frontLORD'S DAY; REST.) The early church met to break bread on the first day (Acts 20:7); it was the day for laying by of alms for the poor (1 Corinthians 16:2). No formal decree changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day; this would only have offended the Jews and weak Christians.
At first both days were kept. But when Judaizing Christians wished to bring Christians under the bondage of the law, and the Jews became open antagonists of the church, the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was tacitly laid aside, and the Lord's day alone was kept; see Colossians 2:16. Moses, the law's representative, could not lead Israel into Canaan. The law leads to Christ, there its office ceases: it is Jesus, the Antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest (Hebrews 4:8-9). So legal sacrifices continued until the antitypical sacrifice superseded it. As the antitypical Sabbath rest will not be until Christ comes to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue until then. A lawful Sabbath day's journey (Acts 1:12) was reckoned from the distance between the ark and the tents, judged by that between the ark and the people in Joshua 3:4, to repair to the ark on the Sabbath being a duty; namely, 2,000 paces, or about six furlongs, reckoned not from each man's house but from the wall of the city.
The Levites' suburbs extended to the same distance from their walls (Numbers 35:5). (See GEZER.) Ganneau thinks Bethphage marked on the E. the boundary of the sabbatic zone which on every side surrounded the city. The Mount of Olives was exactly, as the writer of Acts says, "a sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem." What point in the mountain could this be except the village of the mountain, which occupied its principal summit, and now bears its name (Kefr et Tur, i.e. "village of the mount"; Bethphage)? (Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, Apri1 1878, p. 60). Christ tells His disciples, as retaining Jewish feelings, in Jerusalem to pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath, when they could only go 2,000 paces front the city walls (Matthew 24:20). Exodus 16:29 refers to not going from their place to gather manna on the Sabbath. frontMOUNT.)
Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
Online Bible (KJV)
Naves Topical Bible
Smith's Bible Dictionary
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Matthew Henry Bible Commentary
Hitchcock's Bible Dictionary
Related Bible History