Saturday, November 1, 2008

When Was the Sabbath Made?

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). When was it made? Some might think that the Sabbath did not exist before Moses, and they say that there is no record of the Sabbath being kept before Israel began to keep it in the wilderness.

There are two examples of Sabbath keeping in the first 30 chapters of Genesis.

There is one very specific example, directly tied to the Sabbath, and also a more general example that shows that someone was keeping the Sabbath when you put a few scriptures together.

When was the Sabbath made, and how was it made? Part of the answer to the question of HOW the Sabbath was made is given in the fourth of the ten commandments: "...Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). God made the Sabbath by blessing it and hallowing it, or in other words, putting a special honor upon it and setting it apart from other days for a special purpose.

When did this event occur? It happened at the time of creation. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:3).

God Himself observed the Sabbath when He created it, by resting on that day, setting an example for mankind (Genesis 2:1-3). He created the Sabbath by keeping it Himself as well as by blessing and sanctifying it. God often teaches by example (John 13:12-16). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, lived an entire perfect life without sin as an example of how His followers should live. God rested on the Sabbath, keeping it, for the sole purpose of making the Sabbath, creating the Sabbath day as a special day for mankind, as Jesus said (Mark 2:27-28). There was no other reason for God to rest. God did not need to rest because He was tired. He rested to create the Sabbath by His example. And He created it for mankind immediately after He created mankind, so He intended it to be kept by mankind from the beginning. He sanctified it and set it apart for a holy purpose. That was the first Sabbath. The exact parallel of wording between the commandment in Exodus 20:11 and creation of the Sabbath day in Genesis 2:3 shows that they are talking about exactly the same thing.

The second example is where God said that Abraham kept an entire body of God's law. Genesis 26:5 says, "because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." This shows that the law of God existed before Moses. It also shows that just because a law is not specifically mentioned before Moses does not mean it didn't exist or wasn't observed. The evidence that the Sabbath was included in this law is the reference to "My law" that God makes in Exodus 16:4-6 when He says that He will test Israel to see if they will keep God's law. God is not creating a new law. He is making reference to a law that already existed prior to the ten commandments and prior to the Old Covenant. This has to be the same law that Abraham obeyed. There is no record of God changing any laws from the time of the flood until Moses, and no record of God creating the Sabbath day by blessing it and sanctifying it after Genesis chapter 2. So since the Sabbath law existed before the Old Covenant, it must have been included in the same body of law that Abraham kept. The whole context of the test of Israel was their willingness to obey the Sabbath law (Exodus 16:27-30).

Notice, in the fourth commandment, God says, "...Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). The parallel wording shows that this is pointing to the seventh day of creation when God rested, "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:3). This answers the question of when God made the Sabbath day. It was made when God blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. When was that? It was at creation, because Genesis says God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. What this shows is that the seventh day of creation which God blessed was not just that one day, but the Sabbath day itself, every seventh day from that time, which is what the Sabbath is, a re-occurring day of the week. Therefore the Sabbath must have existed in Abraham's day, and since God says that Abraham obeyed God's laws, he must have kept the Sabbath.

Some Bible readers might think that because there is no record before Moses of a codified law that says, "you shall rest on the Sabbath", the law of the Sabbath did not exist before Moses. But that line of reasoning is invalidated by God's statement about Abraham's obedience. Abraham obeyed God's laws, yet those laws are not codified in Genesis. The lack of mention of the codification of those laws in Abraham's day doesn't mean they did not exist at that time. God's laws existed before they were codified with Moses. There would be no need for Moses, who wrote Genesis, to itemize all the laws that Abraham obeyed because Moses wrote those laws as God gave them to him in Exodus.

Joseph knew about God's law because he knew what sin is (Genesis 39:9). He knew that to commit adultery with his master's wife was a violation of God's commandment against adultery, the seventh commandment, and therefore was a sin against God. He knew what sin was by the commandments of God. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, King James Version). Which law? The ten commandments. Paul said that he knew that coveting was a sin because the tenth of the ten commandments said, "You shall not covet" (Romans 7:7). See also James 2:10-11.


josiah said...

The scripture says "he rested on the seventh day". You say God had no need to rest on the seventh day. So do we understand that God does nothing on the seventh day?

Also, are the "sabbath" and "the seventh day" always the same? said...

I didn't say God does nothing on the seventh day. Genesis just says that He "rested" on the seventh day.

The "Sabbath" and "seventh day" were the same in the Genesis account because the wording in the fourth commandment parallels the Genesis account and refers to it, showing that the seventh day in Genesis is the Sabbath.

josiah said...

For the record I did not say that you said God does nothing on the seventh day. I was only asking a question regarding the following statement you did make: "There was no other reason for God to rest. God did not need to rest because He was tired". You also said that God himself kept the sabbath. Did he then keep the sabbath as he commanded Israel to? As per Exodus 16:29, 31:14?

If you check your Strong's concordance you will find that the wording in Genesis 2:3 and Exodus 20:11 are not "The exact parallel" of each other. said...

By parallel, I do not mean that every word is exactly the same. The wording of Exodus is close enough to the wording in Genesis that its shows that they are referring to the same event.

No, not every detail of how God instructed man to keep the Sabbath is the same as the way God observed it by resting after the six days of creation. Some details that apply to men do not apply to God. Nevertheless, God did rest, as the Bible says. God made a point of saying in the Bible that He rested, so in some way, He rested.

Reina said...

That passage you refer to in Romans (7:7) about knowing what is sin because the law said so, seems contradictory to me. The six verses before that seem to imply that we are no longer subject to that law because we are under the "newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter". And then all the verses after it seem to further confuse the issue by referring to the old law being death and the new law being life.

So which is it? Are we freed from the law because of Jesus? Or are we still subject to the law with a new layer that includes life and the Spirit? said...

Some of Paul's writings are hard to understand, as Peter wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 3:15-16). He seems to use the word "law" in different ways and different contexts, and that can make it seem as if he is contradicting himself. Yet I am sure he never intended to contradict himself, and I have proved for myself that God inspired the Bible and therefore the Bible cannot contradict itself. So when I find an apparent contradiction, I try to study it deeper to understand what is intended. I do not claim to be able to answer every apparent contradiction, and I do not understand everything Paul wrote, but I try to keep learning.

I am not sure what Paul is referring to when he says "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by". There are possibilities. He could be referring here to the penalty of the law. In other words, we are free from the penalty that the law imposes, which is death. That would make sense. We are free from the death penalty because Christ paid the penalty in our place. Since the death of Christ is attributed as payment in full for our sins, it is as if we have paid the death penalty ourselves. In that sense, we have died to the law. Another possibility is that Paul is referring to the whole Levitical system with its regulations imposed by the Levitical priesthood under the Old Covenant. There may be other interpretations.

But I know that Paul is not saying that the law of the Ten Commandments is no longer in force. I know that because, besides Paul's own statements in support of the Ten Commandments in other places, there are very clear New Testament scriptures that show that the Ten Commandments are still the law of God under the New Covenant, such as James 2:10-11 and Mark 10:17-20 (I go into more detail about Mark 10:17-20 in my post A Question and Answer about the New Covenant).

We are certainly to obey the spirit of the law under the New Covenant, as Jesus made clear in the sermon on the mount. This does not abolish the Ten Commandments, but expands their scope to cover even our thoughts and intents as well as actions. For example, under the New Covenant, if one even is angry with his brother without cause he could be guilty of breaking the sixth commandment against murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

So to answer your last question, I would say that we are free from the penalty of the law, which is death, because Christ paid that penalty for us, and we are free from the rules and regulations particular to the Levitical priesthood, which has been replaced by the priesthood of Jesus Christ. But the Ten Commandments still describe God's law and are expanded to include the spiritual intent of the law, not just the letter.

The New Covenant writes God's law in our hearts, whereas the Old Covenant did not (Hebrews 10:16-17). Also, the New Covenant provides forgiveness, but the Old Covenant did not. But it is the same law, and we should obey it.

We are not free from our obligation to obey the law of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments define the way of righteousness (Psalm 119:172), and violation of the Ten Commandments is sin (1 John 3:4). We are to be slaves of righteousness as Paul puts it in Romans 6:18-23. This means we are to obey the Ten Commandments in their fullest spiritual intent.