Fairview Baptist Church
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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: Finding Joy In What We Do!
What This Lesson Is About:
focus of this week’s study is from the Book of Exodus and is intended to
encourage believers to consider whether or not we take the time we need to
truly rest in God’s presence and glorify Him!
Who We Work For
What We Work For
Put Your Money To Work
Work Your Plan
Give Work A Rest
is a gift from God for His glory and your benefit.
Holy Obligation (Ex. 31:12-13)
A Time of Rest (Ex. 31:14-15)
A Reflection Of Our Relationship With God (Ex.
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
Even though the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings was a
sacred work, the workmen were not to overlook the sacred institution of
the Sabbath. “You must observe my Sabbaths” is emphatic (v. 13).
To violate the Sabbath even for the sake of working on the tabernacle
would result in death (vv. 14-15). “Desecrates” contrasts sharply
with “makes you holy” in v. 13. As God’s covenant people, the
Israelites were to carefully observe the sign of that covenant (vv. 16-17).
The Sabbath was the sign of “a lasting covenant” (berit ‘olam
“a perpetual covenant”), as were the rainbow (Gen 9:16), circumcision
(Gen 17:7, 13, 19), and the table of the bread of the Presence
(Lev 24:8). The Sabbath was thus a gift to Israel signifying that they
were a separate people.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House;
A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
In an effort to hold their jobs in the current
economy, many people are working longer hours. Even when they’re not
“on the job” they’re still busy; family schedules, sports, and
hobbies have become a form of work. People are constantly working in one
form or another. They may have a day off, but they’re not resting.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but close to a third of
us are getting less than six hours of sleep. From the very beginning, God
gave us the command and example to rest. We need to recapture the
importance and habit of rest as a time of refreshment, rest, and
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary;
Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay
Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Holy Obligation (Ex. 31:12-13)
12 The Lord said to Moses: 13 “Tell the
Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and
you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am Yahweh
who sets you apart.
Time of Rest (Ex. 31:14-15)
14 Observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Whoever
profanes it must be put to death. If anyone does work on it, that person
must be cut off from his people. 15 Work may be done for six
days, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest,
dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who does work on the Sabbath day must be put
does it mean to profane something?
did people profane the Sabbath in Moses’ day?
to verse 14, what was the punishment for profaning the Sabbath?
do you think that failing to honor the Sabbath was punishable by death in
does the severity of this punishment tell you about how the Israelites
considered Sabbath observance?
a person profane the Sabbath today? Why,
or why not?
so, what are some of the ways you think people profane the Sabbath today?
How does God’s view of the Sabbath differ from
our culture’s view?
on verse 15, what purpose for the Sabbath is suggested?
do you think God built rest into the fabric of His creation?
are the dangers when we fail to heed the call to rest?
can a day of public worship also be a day of rest?
you think we ought to take observance of the Sabbath as a holy day seriously?
Why, or why not? If so, why?
do you think a believer is punished for failing to observe the Sabbath today?
Lessons in Ex. 31:14-15:
Sabbath not only involves a day of worship but also a day of rest.
should never desecrate the Sabbath by failing to observe this day of rest
were not made to work seven days a week with no rest.
day of rest is holy to the Lord.
we cannot meet the righteous demands of the law, Jesus met them for us
through His death on the cross.
Reflection Of Our Relationship With God (Ex. 31:16-17)
16 The Israelites must observe the Sabbath, celebrating
it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It
is a sign forever between Me and the Israelites, for in six days the Lord
made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was
reason for Sabbath observance is given in these verses (v. 16)?
benefit was attributed to the Lord because of His rest on the seventh day (v.
does that mean for us today?
did the Israelites need to observe the Sabbath?
is the Sabbath a sign of the covenant God made with His people?
Sabbath observance is a forever
principle, why do Christians worship publicly on Sundays?
kind of example did the Lord set
concerning the Sabbath?
you think our worship services have changed on the Sabbath during your lifetime?
so, what are some of the changes you have seen?
you think we have profaned the Sabbath today?
so, why do you think this has happened?
you think we have paid a price because of this?
so, what are some of the things it has cost us?
Christians, do you think we have let this happen?
Do you think that observing a Sabbath day of
rest is a celebration of our relationship with God?
Why, or why not?
Lessons in Ex. 31:16-17:
observance was a sign of the covenant the Israelites entered into with
covenant centers on the death and resurrection of Christ, meaning Sunday
is an ideal day for Christians to observe the Sabbath principle.
God set the
example of the Sabbath when he rested on the seventh day of creation.
day is a day to rest and be refreshed.
The concept of Sabbath is a day devoted to coming to know the Lord
better, to acknowledge the relationship we have with Him, and to recognize
Him as Creator of all things. As
Creator, He has assigned us work to do that enables us to join Him in His
holy plan and purpose. He also
has provided for our need to rest, reflect, and to be refreshed and
renewed. That, too, is a gift
from Him for our benefit and for His glory.
So, how do you view Sabbath? Is
your view of Sabbath in alignment with God’s intent?
Do you use Sabbath to get to better know the Lord; to improve your
relationship with Him; and as an opportunity to thank Him for all of His
blessings? On a scale of 1
(low) to 10 (high), rate how well your view and practice of Sabbath
measures up to God’s concept of Sabbath?
How do you measure up? Do
you need improvement? If so,
in what areas? As God for
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion
adapted from the following sources:
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study;
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
(NOTE: Commentary on all verses of Focal Passage from four sources: “Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” “Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament,” Keil & Delitzsch’s Commentary On The Old Testament,” and “The Pulpit Commentary” and is provided for your study.)
FOR LESSON OUTLINE: “Give Work A Rest”
Biblical Library Commentary:
31:12. The solemn sanction of the
seventh Day Sabbath was given in the fourth commandment in the Decalogue (Exo.
20:8-11). As God is the Lord over our income and all of our earthly possessions
and therefore expects a tenth of our money and our goods, so also Yahweh is Lord
of our time here on earth and rightly requires of us one whole day from each
week in which we devote ourselves to his service and worship and instruction
from his Word. This also implies spiritual fellowship with fellow believers and
deeds of kindness and mercy to those who are in need. As Jesus pointed out, even
on the Sabbath a loving concern for livestock warrants their rescue from a ditch
or well into which they have fallen. But the essence of the Sabbath is to be
found in personal study of God’s revealed word and fellowship with like-minded
believers during the hours of public worship. The Sabbath is to be free of all
manual toil and the labors performed on the other six days of the week. The
second benefit is relaxation and rest, which will serve to prepare us all the
better for our regular work during the week to come.
31:13-17. Verse 13 exalts Sabbath-keeping
as a covenant sign between God and his children, and a powerful reminder to them
that they belong to Him rather than to the world of lost sinners who have no
heavenly future to look forward to. Failure to honor the Sabbath and performance
of any act to profane its sanctity incurs the penalty of death. Such was the
fate of the first Israelite who (according to Num. 15:32-36) ventured to go out
into the field in order to get some firewood. He was stoned to death by the
congregation. Exodus 31:15 establishes this Sabbath observance as binding upon
all future generations under the Mosaic Covenant. This raises the question of
why the early Christian Church adopted the first day of the week as proper for
their services of worship. How is it that Sunday became the Christian Sabbath?
The answer is found in the fact that Jesus Christ put into effect the new
covenant when He rose from the dead on Easter morning, on the third day after
his crucifixion (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). He subsequently appeared to the
two disciples on the way to Emmaus and then later that same day He appeared to
all of the disciples in the house of John Mark (Luke 24:36-47). His next
appearance occurred in the same place to doubting Thomas, to whom He showed his
nail-pierced hands and feet, and also his wounded side. The outpouring of the
Holy Spirit took place on a Sunday (Acts 2:1-32). Later on, in the ministry of
Paul at the Sunday evening church service in Troas, he preached so long that
young Eutychus fell asleep and crashed on the street pavement below (Acts
20:7-12). Lastly, it was on Sunday (Greek the Lord’s Day) that the risen
Christ appeared to John on the Island of Patmos. All
of these episodes furnish powerful evidence that the Lord himself ordained this
shift from Saturday to Sunday as the special worship day for NT believers.
(Those who wish to read up on these passages are welcome to consult this
author’s book, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 116-121.)
The classic formulation of the sanctity and observance of
the Christian Sabbath may be found in number sixty of the Westminster Shorter
Catechism, which answers the question, “How is the Sabbath to be
sanctified?” in the following terms: “The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a
holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as
are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private
exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works
of necessity and mercy.” That was the understanding of the evangelical
Christian Church in 1648, based squarely upon the teaching of Holy Scripture. It
may be clearly recognized that to the extent that the sanctity of the Lord’s
Day has been undermined by neglect of the injunctions of the NT, our present day
churches have suffered weakening and loss of respect before society as a whole.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary –
Exodus. Copyright © 1996 by
World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament
is, I. A strict command for the sanctification of the sabbath day, v.
13-17. The law of the sabbath had been given them before any other law, by was
of preparation (ch. 16:23); it had been inserted in the body of the moral law,
in the fourth commandment; it had been annexed to the judicial law (ch. 23:12);
and here it is added to the first part of the ceremonial law, because the
observance of the sabbath is indeed the hem and hedge of the whole law; where no
conscience is made of that, farewell both godliness and honesty; for, in the
moral law, it stands in the midst between the two tables. Some suggest that it
comes in here upon another account. Orders were now given that a tabernacle
should be set up and furnished for the service of God with all possible
expedition; but lest they should think that the nature of the work, and the
haste that was required, would justify them in working at it on sabbath days,
that they might get it done the sooner, this caution is seasonably inserted, Verily,
or nevertheless, my sabbaths you shall keep. Though they must hasten
the work, yet they must not make more haste than good speed; they must not break
the law of the sabbath in their haste: even tabernacle-work must give way to the
sabbath-rest; so jealous is God for the honour of his sabbaths. Observe what is
here said concerning the sabbath day.
The nature, meaning, and intention, of the sabbath, by the declaration of which
God puts an honour upon it, and teaches us to value it. Divers things are here
said of the sabbath. (1.) It is a sign between me and you (v. 13), and again, v. 17. The institution of the sabbath was a
great instance of God’s favour to them, and a sign that he had distinguished
them from all other people; and their religious observance of the sabbath was a
great instance of their duty and obedience to him. God, by sanctifying this day
among them, let them know that he sanctified them, and set them apart for
himself and his service; otherwise he would not have revealed to them his holy
sabbaths, to be the support of religion among them. Or it may refer to the law
concerning the sabbath, Keep my sabbaths, that you may know that I the
Lord do sanctify you. Note, If God by his grace incline our hearts to keep
the law of the fourth commandment, it will be an evidence of a good work wrought
in us by his Spirit. If we sanctify God’s day, it is a sign between him and us
that he has sanctified our hearts: hence it is the character of the blessed man
that he keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, Isa. 56:2. The
Jews, by observing one day in seven, after six days’ labour, testified and
declared that they worshipped the God who made the world in six days, and rested
the seventh; and so distinguished themselves from other nations, who, having
first lost the sabbath, which was instituted to be a memorial of the creation,
by degrees lost the knowledge of the Creator, and gave that honour to the
creature which was due to him alone. (2.) It is holy unto you (v.
14), that is, “It is designed for your benefit as well as for God’s
honour;” the sabbath was made for man. Or, “It shall be
accounted holy by you, and shall so be observed, and you shall look upon it a
sacrilege to profane it.” (3.) It is the sabbath of rest, holy to the
Lord, v. 15. It is separated from common use, and designed for the honour
and service of God, and by the observance of it we are taught to rest from
worldly pursuits and the service of the flesh, and to devote ourselves, and all
we are, have, and can do, to God’s glory. (4.) It was to be observed throughout
their generations, in every age, for a perpetual covenant. v.
16. This was to be one of the most lasting tokens of that covenant which was
between God and Israel.
The law of the sabbath. They must keep it (v. 13, 14, 16), keep it as
a treasure, as a trust, observe it and preserve it, keep it from polluting it,
keep it up as a sign between God and them, keep it and never part with it. The
Gentiles had anniversary-feasts, to the honour of their gods; but it was
peculiar to the Jews to have a weekly festival; this therefore they must
The reason of the sabbath; for God’s laws are not only backed with the highest
authority, but supported with the best reason. God’s own example is the great
reason, v. 17. As the work of
creation is worthy to be thus commemorated, so the great Creator is worthy to be
thus imitated, by a holy rest, the seventh day, after six days’ labour,
especially since we hope, in further conformity to the same example, shortly to
rest with him from all our labours.
The penalty to be inflicted for the breach of this law: “Every one that defileth
the sabbath, by doing any work therein but works of piety and
mercy, shall be cut off from among his people (v. 14); he
shall surely be put to death. v. 15. The magistrate must cut him off
the sword of justice if the crime can be proved; if it cannot, or if the
magistrate be remiss, and do not do his duty, God will take the work into his
own hands, and cut him off by a stroke from heaven, and his family shall be
rooted out of Israel.” Note, The contempt and profanation of the sabbath day
is an iniquity to be punished by the judges; and, if men do not punish it, God
will, here or hereafter, unless it be repented of.
The delivering of the two tables of testimony to Moses. God had promised him
these tables when he called him up into the mount (ch. 24:12), and now, when he
was sending him down, he delivered them to him, to be carefully and honourably
deposited in the ark, v. 18. 1. The ten commandments which God had spoken
upon mount Sinai in the hearing of all the people were now written, in
perpetuam rei memoriam—for a perpetual memorial, because that which
is written remains. 2. They were written in tables of stone,
prepared, not by Moses, as it should seem (for it is intimated, ch. 24:12,
that he found them ready written when he went up to the mount), but, as some
think, by the ministry of angels. The law was written in tables of
stone, to denote the perpetual duration of it (what can be supposed to last
longer than that which is written in stone, and laid up?), to denote likewise
the hardness of our hearts; one might more easily write in stone than write any
thing that is good in our corrupt and sinful hearts. 3. They were written with
the finger of God, that is, by his will and power immediately, without the
use of any instrument. It is God only that can write his law in the heart; he gives
a heart of flesh, and then, by his Spirit, which is the finger of
God, he writes his will in the fleshly tables of the heart, 2
Co. 3:3. 4. They were written in two tables, being designed to direct us in our
duty both towards God and towards man. 5. They are called tables of
testimony, because this written law testified both the will of God
concerning them and his good-will towards them, and would be a testimony against
them if they were disobedient. 6. They were delivered to Moses, probably with a
charge, before he laid them up in the ark, to show them publicly, that they
might be seen and read of all men, and so what they had heard with
the hearing of the ear might now be brought to their remembrance. Thus the
law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Keil & Delitzsch’s Commentary On The Old Testament, Vol. 1:
35:2-3). God concludes by enforcing the observance of His Sabbaths in the most
solemn manner, repeating the threat of death and extermination in the case of
every transgressor. The repetition and further development of this command,
which was included already in the decalogue, is quite in its proper place here,
inasmuch as the thought might easily have occurred, that it was allowable to
omit the keeping of the Sabbath, when the execution of so great a work in honour
of Jehovah had been commanded. “My Sabbaths:” by these we are to
understand the weekly Sabbaths, not the other sabbatical festivals, since the
words which follow apply to the weekly Sabbath alone. This was “a sign
between Jehovah and Israel for all generations, to know (i.e., by which
Israel might learn) that it was Jehovah who sanctified them,”
viz., by the sabbatical rest (see at Ex 20:11). It was therefore a holy
thing for Israel (v. 14), the desecration of which would be followed by the
punishment of death, as a breach of the covenant. The kernel of the Sabbath
commandment is repeated in v. 15; the seventh day of the week, however, is
not simply designated a “Sabbath,” but שַׁבָּתֹון שַׁבַּת
“a high Sabbath” (the repetition of the same word, or of an abstract form of
the concrete noun, denoting the superlative; see Ges. §113, 2), and
“holy to Jehovah” (see at Ex 16:23). For this reason Israel was to keep
it in all future generations, i.e., to observe it as an eternal covenant (v.
16), as in the case of circumcision, since it was to be a sign for ever between
Jehovah and the children of Israel (Ezek. 20:20). The eternal duration of this
sign was involved in the signification of the sabbatical rest, which is pointed
out in Ex 20:11, and reaches forward into eternity.
SOURCE: Commentary On The Old Testament, Vol. 1: Pentateuch; By
C. F. Keil & F.
Church Group, A Division Of Findex.Com; Omaha, Nebraska.
The Pulpit Commentary;
Volume 1: Genesis and Exodus:
PENALTY FOR NOT OBSERVING THE SABBATH. Various reasons have been given for this
recurrence to the sanctity of the sabbath. Kurtz connects it with the giving of
the two tables, in which “the law of the sabbath held a particularly prominent
place.” Kalisch and others view it rather as the sequel to the directions
concerning the tabernacle, and as designed to teach “that the holy service in
the tabernacle could not supersede the observance of the sabbath, but derived
front that observance its true value.” A third set of critics regard the
recurrence to the subject as purely practical — being intended to meet an
immediate danger — that of the people, in their zeal to erect the tabernacle,
setting sabbath observance at nought. (So Jarchi, Aben-Ezra, Clark, Rosenmuller,
Canon Cook, and others.) It is to be observed, however, that the present passage
is not a mere repetition. It adds to former notices (Exodus 20:8-11; 23:12) two
new points: —
the sabbath was to be a sign between God and Israel, a “distinguishing
badge,” a “sacramental bond” (Cook); and
its desecration was to be punished with death (ver. 15). These were
supplementary points of so much importance as to furnish ample reason against
their announcement being delayed.
Rosenmuller suggests, “Nevertheless.” But there is no need for any change. It
is a sign. Hitherto circumcision had been the only visible “sign” that
the Israelites were under a special covenant with God — his people, bound to
him by special ties (Genesis 17:9-14; Acts 7:8). The adoption of circumcision by
the Egyptians and other nations (Herod. 2:104) had produced the effect that this
“sign” was no longer distinguishing. It might be still” a sign of
profession “; but it had ceased to be “a mark of difference “; and some
other mark was therefore needed. Such the observance of the sabbath by entire
abstinence from servile work became. No other nation adopted it. It continued to
Roman times the mark and badge of a Jew.(Juv. Sat. 6:159; 14:96). That
ye may know, etc. By keeping the sabbath day as a day of holy rest the
Israelites would know — i.e., would realise severally in their own per
sons, that God was their sanctifier. Sanctification would be the fruit of their
14. Every one that defileth it shall
surely be put to death.
To defile the sabbath was to do any unnecessary servile work upon it. Works of
mercy, works of necessity, and works connected with religious observance were
not prohibited. (See Matthew 12:1-7; 10-12.) The penalty of death for breaking
the sabbath seems to moderns over-severe; but the erection of sabbath-observance
into the special sacramental sign that Israel was in covenant with God made
non-observance an offence of the gravest character. The man who broke the
sabbath destroyed, so far as in him lay, the entire covenant between God and his
people — not only broke it, but annulled it, and threw Israel out of covenant.
Hence, when the sin was committed, no hesitation was felt in carrying out the
law. (See Numbers 15:32-36.)
15. The sabbath of rest.
Rather, “a sabbath.” There were other sabbaths besides that of the seventh
day (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:2-12; etc.). By the expression, “a sabbath of
rest” — literally, “a rest of resting” — the idea of completeness is
given. Perhaps the best translation would be — “in the seventh is complete
16. For a perpetual covenant.
The sabbath is itself a covenant — i.e., a part of the covenant between
God and Israel (Exodus 24:4) — and it is, also, a sign of covenant — i.e.,
a perceptible indication that the nation has entered into a special agreement
with God, and undertaken the observance of special laws.
17. It is a sign.
See above, ver. 13. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth. See
the comment on Exodus 20:11. And was refreshed. Literally,” and took
breath.” The metaphor is a bold one, but not bolder than others which occur in
holy scripture (Psalm 44:23; 78:65). It does but carry out a little further the
idea implied in God's “resting.” We cannot speak of any of God's acts or
attributes without anthropomorphisms.
The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 1: Genesis
and Exodus; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Hebrew word for Sabbaths in 31:13
means “to cease” or “to rest.” The
Sabbath predated the fall of humanity (Gen. 2:2) and was mentioned also in
connection with the gift of manna to the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex.
16:23). The manna fell every day
except the Sabbath, so the Israelites had to pick up twice the amount before the
Sabbath began. By using the
plural—Sabbaths—it indicated that
God had given several types of Sabbaths.
He gave Sabbath days, Sabbath years, and the Jubilee Sabbath (Ex.
23:10-11; Lev. 25:1-55).
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Sabbaths: Sabbath comes from a word that means “to rest, to
cease.” Contrary to what many may
think. It does not mean
“seventh.” The plural use in
verse 13 may be a way of speaking of the observance of the regular weekly
Sabbath, not just one or an occasional Sabbath observance.
Perhaps God referred to them as my
Sabbaths to emphasize that they are connected to His example (Gen. 2:2-3)
and are given by His command (Ex. 20:8). Moreover,
the Sabbath is holy unto Him (31:15). In
that sense it is His.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SABBATH: The day of
rest, considered holy to God by His rest on the seventh day after creation
and viewed as a sign of the covenant relation between God and His
people and of the eternal rest He has promised them.
Old Testament: The word Sabbath
comes from the Hebrew shabbat, meaning “to cease” or
“desist.” The primary meaning is that of cessation from all work. Some
persons have traced the origin of the concept to the Babylonian calendar
which contained certain days, corresponding to phases of the moon, in which
kings and priests could not perform their official functions. Such days
bore an evil connotation, and work performed on them would have harmful effects.
The fifteenth of the month, the time of the full moon in their lunar calendar,
was shapattu, the “day of pacifying the heart” (of the god)
by certain ceremonies.
can show similarities to the Babylonian concept, the Hebrew Sabbath did not
follow a lunar cycle. It was celebrated every seven days and became basic to the
recognition and worship of the God of creation and redemption. Regulations
concerning the Sabbath are a main feature of the Mosaic laws. Both reports
of the Ten Commandments stated that the Sabbath belonged to the Lord.
On six days the Israelites should work, but on the seventh, they as
well as all slaves, foreigners, and beasts must rest. Two reasons are
given. The first is that God rested on the seventh day after creation, thereby
making the day holy (Ex. 29:8-11). The second was a reminder of their
redemption from slavery in Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15).
The day became
a time for sacred assembly and worship (Lev. 23:1-3), a token of their covenant
with God (Ex. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12-20). Death was the penalty for
desecration (Ex. 35:1-3). The true observance of not following one’s own
pursuits on that day would lift a person to God’s holy mountain and bring
spiritual nourishment (Isa. 56:1-7; 58:13), but failure to keep the Sabbath
would bring destruction to their earthly kingdom (Neh. 13:15-22; Jer.
Sabbath became the heart of the law, and the prohibitions were expanded.
Thirty-nine tasks were banned, such as tying or untying a knot. These in turn
were extended until ingenious evasions were devised that lost the spirit
but satisfied the legal requirement.
New Testament: The habit of Jesus
was to observe the Sabbath as a day of worship in the synagogues (Luke
4:16), but His failure to comply with the minute restrictions brought conflict
(Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:1-18). At first, Christians
also met on the Sabbath with the Jews in the synagogues to proclaim Christ
(Acts 13:14). Their holy day, the day that belonged especially to the Lord,
was the first day of the week, the day of resurrection (Matt. 28:1; Acts
20:7; Rev. 1:10). They viewed the Sabbath and other matters of the law as a shadow
of the reality which had now been revealed (Col. 2:16-23), and the Sabbath
became a symbol of the heavenly rest to come (Heb. 4:1-11).
Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers;
Profanes—The Hebrew word in 31:14 could be translated profanes
(HCSB, ESV), descrates (NIV), or defileth (KJV). It could
refer to detestable actions, such as sexual perversion.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Difileth: In verse 14 defileth
(KJV) comes from a word that meant “to bore, wound, dissolve.”
Used figuratively, it has the sense of “to profane, pollute, to make
common, to dishonor.” To defile
the Sabbath was to make it like any other day in defiance of God’s intent that
the day be set aside for His purposes.
To treat that which is holy as common. Profane often approximates defile in
Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers;
Mark Terry is adjunct professor of missions, Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
understands the power of example. When
Jesus wanted to teach His disciples about humility and servanthood, He washed
the disciples’ feet. In the same
way, because God wanted to set an example for His people about observing the
Sabbath, He “rested” on the seventh day of creation.
In both cases the illustration proved more powerful than mere words.
Throughout the Old Testament one can find examples that point to the
importance of the Sabbath for God’s people.
God meant the Sabbath to be a cornerstone of Israel’s religious life.
English word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word sabbat, which means
“to cease” or “to desist.” The
meaning conveyed is to cease from all work.
The Lord wanted the Israelites to set apart the Sabbath as a day to
worship and rest. That emphasis
required them to cease working.1
observance of the Sabbath goes back to God’s example for His people.
Genesis 2:2 tells how God “rested” on the seventh day.
While the word “Sabbath” is not in the Genesis 2 text, the Hebrew
root word is (v. 2). God worked for
six days, creating the world, but on the seventh He ceased His labors.
This example is portrayed in a way the people could understand.
God is not a worker who needs physical rest, but the Hebrews understood
what it meant to work hard and then rest. In
Genesis 2 God established an example for all humans to follow.
2 states that God blessed and consecrated the seventh day.
In fact, the word “seventh” is repeated again and again for emphasis.
The literary description of the seventh day is completely different from
the preceding six days. This change
and distinction are meant to focus attention on the seventh day and prompt the
Israelites to observe it. If the
seventh day was “blessed” and counted “holy” (set apart) by God, how
much more must God’s people honor the seventh day?2
The Sabbath in Other
Some writers have tried
to trace Israel’s observance of the Sabbath to other neighboring cultures,
especially the Babylonian culture. History
shows that the Babylonian calendar did set aside particular days, especially the
15th day of each month. The
Babylonians called this day shapattu, and they revered it as the day of
the full moon. The full moon was
significant because they worshiped the moon.
Their calendar was a lunar calendar with 28-day months.
They also marked “evil” days at 7-day intervals on which it was taboo
to do certain things.3
efforts to trace Israel’s Sabbath observance to the Babylonian practice,
though, are not convincing. For one
thing, the Babylonians observed a five-day week, not seven.
Further, the Babylonians did not cease their work on the sabbatum.
The Mari tablets show that the Babylonians worked continuously without
stopping for a day of rest.4
conclusion must be that the Hebrews did not “borrow” the Sabbath Day from
the Babylonians. The Hebrew calendar
reflected the days, months, and years of solar and lunar cycles, but the Sabbath
was independent of the sun’s and moon’s movements.
The Sabbath was uniquely tied to the Israelites and uniquely tied to
their faith. The observance was not
dependent on nature; instead, it pointed toward a Creator who was completely
distinct from nature. The Sabbath
was a practice modeled and decreed by God, not an observance of human invention.5
The Sabbath in the Book
The word “Sabbath”
appears for the first time in the Bible in Exodus 16:23.
This passage is significant for three reasons.
First, it connects the Sabbath with the provision of manna.
Both the Sabbath and manna are gracious gifts God gave to bless His
people. Second, this passage shows
that Israel knew about the Sabbath before Moses gave them the Ten Commandments.
Sabbath observance is commanded here, not explained.
Finally, because the Sabbath is a “holy” day, it represents a
concrete way to honor God and show reverence for Him.6
fourth Commandment (20:8-11) clearly states that the Sabbath is God’s day.
He created, modeled, and blessed it.
God ordained it as a way for
Israel to honor Him as Creator and Lord. Exodus
20:8-11 explains and offers application to God’s action in Genesis 2.
It connects God’s “resting” in Genesis 2 with His people’s
observing the Sabbath. Observing the
Sabbath testified to God’s work in creating the world.
Also the Sabbath is presented as God’s special gift to the people, and
not only for them. They in turn were
meant to grant rest to their servants and animals.
God meant the Sabbath to be a day of rest, refreshment, and spiritual
reflection. He wanted His people to
imitate the example He set at creation. He
wanted them to understand that work is not the end or the goal of life.
A relationship with God is the aim of life.
One works in order to find “rest” in God.7
repeated the Ten Commandments on the Plains of Moab as narrated in Deuteronomy
5. In Deuteronomy he restated and
explained God’s law for the younger generation that was about to enter Canaan.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 explains Exodus 20:8-11 in the same way that Exodus
20:8-11 explains Genesis 2. The word
“remember” used in Exodus 20 is changed to “observe” in Deuteronomy 5 (NASB).
Beyond that, in Deuteronomy 5 Moses declared that observing the Sabbath
was a way to remember and express thanks to God for delivering them from slavery
in Egypt. The parallel is clear.
At creation God rested on the seventh day, and by means of the exodus
from Egypt, God provided rest for His chosen people.8
The Sabbath in the
In Exodus 31:12-17
Moses called the Sabbath “a sign” and “perpetual covenant” (HCSB).
Observing the Sabbath was a way the Israelites could maintain their
relationship with God and keep their covenant with Him.
Thus their observance of the Sabbath (or lack thereof) reflected their
spiritual condition; it was a measure of their righteousness.
Beyond this, in Leviticus 25:1-7 the Israelites were enjoined to observe
the sabbatical year. This was a year
in which the Israelites were not to plant crops; instead, God promised them a
doubly abundant harvest in the sixth year. Crops
that grew voluntarily in the sabbatical year were designated for the benefit of
the poor. Thus the land was to enjoy
a sabbatical rest along with the people.9
The Sabbath in the
The former or earlier
prophets offered scant reference to the Sabbath.
In the latter prophets, however, one finds many indictments of Israel in
regard to Sabbath breaking. In
Isaiah 1:13, the prophet castigated the people for their abuse of the Sabbath
and their insincere worship. Ezekiel
declared that Israel suffered destruction and captivity because she profaned the
Sabbath. Thus it is no surprise that
Ezra and Nehemiah emphasized careful observance of the Sabbath as a way to avoid
future punishment. Indeed, this
emphasis on careful Sabbath observance became an obsession with the scribes and
Pharisees during the intertestamental period and provoked many heated exchanges
between them and Jesus Christ.10
Israelites’ understanding of the Sabbath developed during the Old Testament
period as God revealed more about it. Initially,
observing the Sabbath demonstrated their belief that God created the world.
Later they understood that the Sabbath was God’s special gift to them,
their servants, and their animals – a gift of rest.
After God gave them the Ten Commandments, they understood that observing
the Sabbath was a way in which they could maintain their covenant relationship
with Him. Finally, they understood
that the Sabbath rest pointed to their ultimate and eternal rest in the kingdom
J. Young, “Sabbath” in The New Bible Dictionary (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1032.
A. Matthews, Genesis in The New American Commentary, vol.1a
(Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 180.
179. See also Young.
G. Shead, “Sabbath” in The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, T.
Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, eds. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 2000), 746.
Hardin is pastor, First Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Kentucky.
HIS RESURRECTION, Jesus
appeared several times to His disciples during a 40-day period, showed them
proofs that He was alive, gave instructions about the kingdom of God, and spoke
of the promised Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:2-8).
At the end of the 40 days, Jesus ascended into heaven.
The disciples, somewhat dazed by this happening, looked
intently into the sky. Two men,
dressed in white apparel, came to stand beside the disciples and declared the
confident assurance that Jesus would return one day (1:9-11).
Acts 1:12 explains that the disciples returned to Jerusalem about “a
Sabbath day’s journey away” from where Jesus’ ascension had occurred.
word Sabbath means “to cease, to desist.”1 Genesis 2:2-3 states
that, after six days of creative work, God rested on the seventh day.
God then blessed the seventh day. God
then blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
The seventh day became the Jewish Sabbath.
God’s example of resting on the seventh day formed the basis for the
Fourth Commandment, “Remember to dedicate the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8).2
Bible’s first mention of the Sabbath occurs in Exodus 16:23.
God provided manna for His people as they sojourned in the wilderness.
The Lord commanded the people to gather each day enough manna for that
day. On the sixth day, they could
gather twice the manna needed. But
they were forbidden to gather manna on the seventh day because it was a “day
of complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (v. 23).
This text shows that Sabbath teachings were given to God’s people prior
to the giving of the Ten Commandments.3
purposes did the Sabbath serve? First,
the Sabbath provided a day for physical rest.
The fourth Commandment prohibited people from working so they could get
needed physical rest. Even slaves,
foreigners, and livestock were to have a day of rest.
God explained to Moses that the Lord’s seventh day of rest
“refreshed” Him (31:17).
the land received needed rest. God
instituted the Sabbatical Year. This
observance allowed God’s people to plow, till, and sow the land for six years,
but they could not during the seventh year so the land could rest (Lev. 25:1-5).
the Sabbath set aside one day each week as a special day dedicated to the Lord.
“The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” (Ex. 20:11).
The day became a time for worship and the sacred assembly of God’s
people (Lev. 23:1-3). On the Sabbath
Day, the priests replaced the bread of the Presence in the tabernacle with fresh
the Sabbath Day provided a reminder of Israel’s redemption from slavery in
Egypt (Deut. 5:15). The observance
of the Sabbath emphasized God’s role as Redeemer.
the Sabbath Day affirmed Israel as God’s covenant people (Ex. 19:4-6;
31:12-13). The covenant
distinguished Israel from other nations. As
God’s people observed the Sabbath, they were reminded of their special role in
God’s plan of redemption.
seriousness with which God’s people were to practice their Sabbath observances
can be seen in God’s commands about profaning the Sabbath.
One who dishonored the Sabbath by doing work received the penalty of
death (v. 14). The Book of Numbers
even records the stoning of a man who gathered wood on the Sabbath (Num.
did the prophets view the Sabbath? Isaiah
believed the proper observance of the Sabbath lifted a person to God’s holy
mountain and the experience of joy (Isa. 56d:1-7).
Isaiah saw keeping the Sabbath as a matter of turning from sin rather
than adhering to a ritual (1:10-15). Isaiah
knew some people treated the Sabbath Day as anything but holy (58:13) 4
to keep the Sabbath, said Jeremiah, would result in devastating consequences.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos all regarded the destruction of Jerusalem and
the captivity of God’s people as due, in part, to their defiling the Sabbath (Jer.
17:19-27: Ezek. 20:23-24; Amos 8:1-8).5
helped to revive Sabbath observances during the period of the exile.
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he felt disgusted when he saw the
widespread desecration of the Sabbath Day (Neh. 13:15-22).
the time of Ezra to the intertestamental Period, many of God’s people lived
many miles from Jerusalem and the temple. The
rise of synagogues occurred during this time.
Synagogues served as religious gathering places on the Sabbath and as
schools during the week. Attendance
at a synagogue became customary on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).6
served as synagogue and community leaders and also as interpreters of God’s
law. Since people looked to the
rabbis for explanations about what was proper and not proper, a body of oral law
was established during the Intertestamental Period.
Sabbath observances became a focal point of these oral laws, and many
Sabbath prohibitions were expanded.
collection of oral laws, known as the Mishnah, developed fully during the
period of 50 B.C. to A.D. 220. The
Pharisees, the driving force behind the Mishnah, zealously followed Old
Testament laws, as well as their own oral traditions.
literature during this period reflected the influence of these oral traditions
and enjoined strict Sabbath observances. Included
among the many restrictions were rules that forbade these Sabbath Day
activities: untying a knot – if it required both hands, walking more than
2,000 cubits (about .56 mile), lifting a stone, setting a broken bone, rescuing
an animal from a well or a pit, and eating food intentionally prepared on
six divisions of the Mishnah were divided into tractates.
Two tractates of the Mishnah (“Erubin” and “Sabbath”) were
devoted to rules and regulation regarding the Sabbath and defined “work”
under 39 headings – in an attempt to show what was allowed or prohibited on
the Sabbath. Examples of restricted
Sabbath work activities included lighting a fire, striking a hammer, sowing,
reaping, shearing wool, preparing food, tying or untying a know, hunting, and
slaughtering animals.7 These legalistic rules satisfied religious
leader’ requirements for observing the Sabbath but ignored God’s original
purposes for the Sabbath. These
rules and regulations were in place at the beginning of the New Testament
wonder Jesus’ Sabbath ministry works conflicted with the Pharisees and their
devotion to oral law. One Sabbath
Day Jesus and His disciples traveled through a grain field (Mark 2:23-24).
The disciples, who were hungry, picked some heads of grain to eat.
The Pharisees, who regarded the disciples’ behavior as work, were quick
to point out that Jesus’ disciples had done something unlawful on the Sabbath.
responded in two ways. First, He
pointed to an Old Testament example where human need took precedence over the
law. David and his soldiers, in need
of food, entered the tabernacle and ate the bread of the Presence (1 Sam.
Jesus gave a principle for all Sabbath observances: “The Sabbath was made for
man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore
the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
Jesus believed God had instituted the Sabbath for the benefit of people,
not for mere adherence to legalistic rules.
The lordship of Jesus, not petty regulations, should determine how people
observe the Sabbath.
times in the Gospel accounts Jesus defended the works He did on the Sabbath (see
Mark 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:1-18; 9:1-41).
Jesus always placed human need above external observances of Sabbath
laws. Jesus emphasized the purposes
and the spirit of Sabbath law, instead of the external regulations of the oral
Christians who had come out of Judaism to faith in Christ initially worshiped in
the temple at Jerusalem and attended synagogue services (Acts 2:46; 13:14;
14:1). Later in the New Testament
era, Christians changed their day of worship from the seventh day of the week in
recognition of Jesus’ resurrection. Christians
referred to this day of worship, the first day of the week, and the Lord’s Day
(20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).
stated that the Sabbath actually pointed to Christ.
He said that Old Testament laws, festivals, and holidays were a
“shadow” of the reality that was to come – Christ Himself (see Col.
writer of Hebrews viewed the Sabbath as a symbol of the heavenly rest that is to
come (see Heb. 4:1-11). This
“rest” is a foretaste of the joy and peace of eternal life.
Our Sabbath rest in Christ begins when we trust Jesus as our Savior and
culminates when we rest in the place Christ has prepared for us (John 14:1-4).
See Barbara J. Bruce, “Sabbath” in Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent C.
Butler, gen. ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 1216.
2 Unless otherwise noted,
all Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
3 G. H. Waterman,
“Sabbath” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (ZPEB),
Merrill C. Tenney, gen. ed. vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,
4 Ibid., 185.
6 W. White, Jr.,
“Synagogue” in ZPEB, 556.
7 “Shabbath” in The
Mishnah, Herbert Danby, trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 7.2,
of the Sabbath
By James F.
Strange is dean, college of arts and letters, University of South Florida,
“SABBATH” IS DERIVED from the Hebrew verb shabat which occurs first in Genesis 2:2: “And He rested (ceased,
desisted) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (NASB).
The technical term “Sabbath” does not occur there, but the concept is
found in this verse.
Genesis God not only established the Sabbath by personal example, but He blessed
and hallowed that day. In other
words, the observance of Sabbath is understood to relate to the nature of God
Himself, who rested from creation.
Book of Exodus underscores the special status of the Sabbath day and its
holiness by relating the manna incident during the wilderness trek.
There God supplied the manna miraculously throughout six days, but gave a
double portion on the sixth day, two omers for each person.
Thus it was unnecessary for the Israelites to set foot outside their
tents to gather manna on the Sabbath. Moses
explained that the seventh day, after all, was “a day of solemn rest, a holy
Sabbath to the Lord” (Ex. 16:23, RSV).
holiness of the Sabbath emerges again as the fourth commandment in Exodus
20:10-11. In this text God gives a
rationale that repeats some of the language of Genesis 2:1-2.
Thus, God reminds Israel that the foundation of the Sabbath day was laid
in creation itself. It was not a
The understanding of the Sabbath as blessed and holy for
Israel expands to include draft animals and slaves in Exodus 23:12 and 34:21.
Not only does God command that all work cease on these days during
periods that are ordinarily demanding, but even during the days of unremitting
labor such as harvest and plowing. Deuteronomy
repeats this theme in 5:14-15 (a second version of the Ten Commandments) and
adds that God commands no work for anyone at all on that day, including the
“stranger that is within thy gates.” The
motive for keeping the Sabbath was that God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt,
so they should keep His day.
of the command to keep the Sabbath could be severe. In
Numbers 15:32-36, the man who was caught collecting firewood on the Sabbath was
sentenced to death by stoning.
the other hand reverence for this day was reinforced by the necessity of
bringing to God a special Sabbath offering.
This offering was as large as that for the other days put together, which
stressed the special sanctity of the day (Num. 28:9-10).
must not think, however, that observance of the Sabbath was regarded as a
burdensome duty. It appears in Hosea
2:11 that Sabbaths, feast days, the festivals of new moon, and “appointed
feasts” were among the joys (or “mirths”) of Israel.
Isaiah 58:13 insists that the Sabbath is to be a “delight.”
Observance of the Sabbath was a way of practicing a distinctive identity
as an Israelite before a pagan world.
ancient Babylonians had a mildly similar custom in their observance of the shapattu,
[shah-pah-TOO] or midmonth day of the full moon.
This day was a day of good omen, called “the day of calming the
heart.” The heart in question
belonged to one’s special god or goddess.
However, the Babylonians also observed “evil days” during the month,
at seven day intervals, during which days the activities of the king were
curtailed severely. If there is any
relationship between these curious days and the Israelite Sabbath, it must have
been as ancient Israel radically reinterpreted the Babylonian custom.
the intertestamental period the story is told of how Jews kept the Sabbath so
strictly that they allowed themselves to be attacked and killed by the Syrian
army rather than fight and thus desecrate the Sabbath (1 Maccabees 2:31-38).
This gave rise to an important reinterpretation of the Law, first found
in 1 Maccabees 2:41, that henceforth those who would attack Israel on the
Sabbath day would suffer a counterattack. That
is, one may of necessity profane one Sabbath in order to preserve life and
observe subsequent Sabbaths.
rabbis of the first and second centuries waxed eloquent on the virtues of
Sabbath observance: “If Israel keeps the Sabbath as it should be kept, the
Messiah will come. The Sabbath is
equal to all the other precepts of the Law” (Ex. Rabbah 25:12).
Israel was to regard the Sabbath as a festival day.
Everyone was to eat three meals, though they had to be cooked on Sabbath
eve (Shabbath 118a). Rabbi Hanina
used the say on the Sabbath eve, “Come, let us go out to meet the bride, the
Queen,” while Rabbi Jannai used to dress in his best and say, “Come O Bride,
come O Bride” (Shabbath 119a).
important was the Sabbath in Israel that one entire “tractate” (book) of the
Mishnah, the compilation of the oral Jewish law completed at Sepphoris in
Galilee about AD 200, was devoted to regulations about the Sabbath.
This tractate is called “Sabbath” and is the second largest in the
to this tractate there are thirty-nine forbidden labors on the Sabbath.
These labors include sowing, weeding, plowing, lighting a fire, watering
plants, handling tools, handling money, riding a horse, instructing a Gentile to
do work, gathering wood, preparing food, or cooking.
the other hand, according to the same tractate, one may move a large tool in
order to feed a child, clear away straw to make room for guests, carry an animal
its fodder, and so forth. The
principle is that one may not cause suffering or death for the sake of the Law,
since God says to do these laws “that ye may live” (Deut. 4:1).
the light of these laws it is no surprise that Jewish followers of Jesus would
observe the Sabbath, as in Luke 23:56. It
is also no surprise that the teaching of Jesus about the Sabbath (“The Son of
man is Lord also of the Sabbath,” Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5), coupled with His
stunning but predicted resurrection on the first day of the week, resulted in
Christian observance of the first day rather than Sabbath.
one of the most significant events in early Christian history, perhaps second
only to the resurrection, came about on the first day of the week, or on a
Sunday. According to the second
chapter of Acts the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Shavuoth
in Hebrew, meaning “Weeks”). This
festival took place fifty days (seven weeks) after the offering of the omer or
first barley sheaf, which always came on a Sunday.
The coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) made an indelible mark on the
early Christian movement and seemed to seal Sunday as the Christian Sabbath.
Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention;
Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013.
What Is The Answer
To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (04/06/14) Who
said how a husband should treat his wife?
(This is a two part
answer.) Answer next week:
The answer to last
week’s trivia question: (03/30/14) Whose wife went into labor when she heard what two things?
(This is a two-part answer.) Answer: (Part 1) Phinehas’ wife;
(Part 2) When she heard that (1) the Ark of God had been captured and that (2)
her father-in-law and husband were dead; 1 Sam. 4:19.
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