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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Finding Joy In What We Do!

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The 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!


March 02

Good Work


March 09

Who We Work For


March 16

What We Work For


March 23

Put Your Money To Work


March 30

Work Your Plan


April 06

Give Work A Rest             






Rest is a gift from God for His glory and your benefit.


Exodus 31:12-17





A Holy Obligation (Ex. 31:12-13)

A Time of Rest (Ex. 31:14-15)

A Reflection Of Our Relationship With God (Ex. 31:16-17)


Sabbath Rest (Exodus 31:12-17)

31:12-17 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 restoration.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


A 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.








1.        Even if we feel we get enough down time, are do you think In today’s culture we truly get the rest we need?  Why, or why not?

2.        How would you describe a truly restful day?

3.        Who is the authority behind the message in these verses?

4.        What is the Sabbath?

5.        What is our Sabbath today and is it the same as the Sabbath in Moses’ time?

6.        Why did God use the plural for Sabbaths?  (See Digging Deeper.)

7.        To what did He refer?

8.        What do you think God meant when He told Moses to observe His Sabbaths?

9.        What was the sign God referred to in verse 13?

10.     How long was this sign good for? 

11.     Does this sign apply to us in the New Testament era?  Why, or why not?

12.     Based on verse 13, what was the purpose of this sign?

13.     Today, what does our Sabbath observance say about our relationship with God?

14.     Is today’s observance of the Sabbath a sign of our covenant relationship with God, as it was in Moses’ day?  Why, or why not?

15.     In summary, what does a Sabbath rest really mean to you?


Lasting Lessons in Ex. 31:12-13:

1.  God directly spoke with Moses about the importance of the Sabbath and worship.

2.  The way we keep the Sabbath is a sign throughout the generations.

3.  The Sabbath is a holy day, set apart for the Lord.



A 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 to death.

1.        What does it mean to profane something?

2.        How did people profane the Sabbath in Moses’ day?

3.        According to verse 14, what was the punishment for profaning the Sabbath?

4.        Why do you think that failing to honor the Sabbath was punishable by death in Moses’ day?

5.        What does the severity of this punishment tell you about how the Israelites considered Sabbath observance?

6.        Can a person profane the Sabbath today?  Why, or why not?

7.        If so, what are some of the ways you think people profane the Sabbath today?

8.        How does God’s view of the Sabbath differ from our culture’s view?

9.        Based on verse 15, what purpose for the Sabbath is suggested?

10.     Why do you think God built rest into the fabric of His creation?

11.     What are the dangers when we fail to heed the call to rest?

12.     How can a day of public worship also be a day of rest?

13.     Do you think we ought to take observance of the Sabbath as a holy day seriously?  Why, or why not?  If so, why?

14.     How do you think a believer is punished for failing to observe the Sabbath today?


Lasting Lessons in Ex. 31:14-15:

1.  The Sabbath not only involves a day of worship but also a day of rest.

2.  We should never desecrate the Sabbath by failing to observe this day of rest and worship.

3.  We were not made to work seven days a week with no rest.

4.  The day of rest is holy to the Lord.

5.  Through we cannot meet the righteous demands of the law, Jesus met them for us through His death on the cross.



A 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 refreshed.”

1.        What reason for Sabbath observance is given in these verses (v. 16)?

2.        What benefit was attributed to the Lord because of His rest on the seventh day (v. 17b)?

3.        What does that mean for us today?

4.        Why did the Israelites need to observe the Sabbath?

5.        How is the Sabbath a sign of the covenant God made with His people?

6.        If Sabbath observance is a forever principle, why do Christians worship publicly on Sundays?

7.        What kind of example did the Lord set concerning the Sabbath?

8.        Do you think our worship services have changed on the Sabbath during your lifetime? 

9.        If so, what are some of the changes you have seen?

10.     Do you think we have profaned the Sabbath today? 

11.     If so, why do you think this has happened?

12.     Do you think we have paid a price because of this?

13.     If so, what are some of the things it has cost us?

14.     As Christians, do you think we have let this happen?

15.     Do you think that observing a Sabbath day of rest is a celebration of our relationship with God?  Why, or why not?


Lasting Lessons in Ex. 31:16-17:

1.  Sabbath observance was a sign of the covenant the Israelites entered into with God.

2.  The new covenant centers on the death and resurrection of Christ, meaning Sunday is an ideal day for Christians to observe the Sabbath principle.

3.  God set the example of the Sabbath when he rested on the seventh day of creation.

4.  The Sabbath 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 help!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, 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, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



(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.)

commentary FOR LESSON OUTLINE:  Give Work A Rest”

I.     A Holy Obligation (Ex. 31:12-13) - Commentary

II.   A Time of Rest (Ex. 31:14-15) - Commentary

III.  A Reflection Of Our Relationship With God (Ex. 31:16-17) - Commentary


Complete 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.

SOURCE:  The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Exodus.  Copyright © 1996 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.


Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament

Exodus 31:12-18

Here 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.

1. 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.

2. 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 carefully observe.

3. 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.

4. 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.

II. 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 memoriamfor 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: Pentateuch

Exodus 31:12-17

(cf. Ex 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. Delitzsch; Parsons Church Group, A Division Of Findex.Com; Omaha, Nebraska.


The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 1: Genesis and Exodus:

Chapter 31:12-17:

Verses 12-17.  THE 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: —

1. That the sabbath was to be a sign between God and Israel, a “distinguishing badge,” a “sacramental bond” (Cook); and

2. That 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.

Verse 13.  Verily. 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 obedience.

Verse 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.)

Verse 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 rest.”

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

SOURCE: The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 1: Genesis and Exodus; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.




Sabbaths—The 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).

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

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.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

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.

Although one 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. 17:21-27).

Interbiblical:  The 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).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

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.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

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.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Profane: To treat that which is holy as common. Profane often approximates defile in meaning.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




OBSERVING The SABBATH: An Old Testament Perspective

By J. Mark Terry

J. Mark Terry is adjunct professor of missions, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

CLEARLY, THE LORD 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.

The First Sabbath

Our 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

The 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.

Genesis 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 Cultures

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

These 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

The 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 of Exodus

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

The 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

Moses 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 Pentateuch

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 Prophets

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

The 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 of God.

1.  Edward J. Young, “Sabbath” in The New Bible Dictionary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 1032.

2.  Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis in The New American Commentary,  vol.1a (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 180.

3.  Ibid., 179.  See also Young.

4.  Ibid.

5.  Matthews, 179.

6.  Young.

7.  A. 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.

8.  Ibid., 747.

9.  Ibid.

10. Ibid., 748.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 32, Number 4; Summer 2006.



By Gary Hardin

Gary Hardin is pastor, First Baptist Church, Shepherdsville, Kentucky.


FTER 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.

The 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

The 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


What 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).

Even 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).

Second, 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 loaves (24:5-8).

Third, 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.

Fourth, 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.

The 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. 15:32-36).


How 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

Failure 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

Nehemiah 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).

From 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

Rabbis 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.

This 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.

Qumran 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 the Sabbath.

The 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 period.

No 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.

Jesus 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. 21:1-6).

Second, 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. 

Several 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 law.

Early 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).

Paul 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. 2:16-17).

The 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).

1 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, 1976), 184.

4 Ibid., 185.

5 Ibid.

6 W. White, Jr., “Synagogue” in ZPEB, 556.

7 “Shabbath” in The Mishnah, Herbert Danby, trans. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 7.2, 106.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 30, Number 3; Spring 2004


The History of the Sabbath

By James F. Strange

James Strange is dean, college of arts and letters, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


HE WORD “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.

In 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.

The 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).

The 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 recent formulation.

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.

Enforcement 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.

On 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).

We 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.

The 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.

During 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. 

The 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).

Furthermore, 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).

So 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 Mishnah.

According 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.

On 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).

In 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.

Furthermore 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.                                                                                       Bi

SOURCE: Biblical 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.