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Bible Study on the Sabbath


An introduction to the Sabbath:

We have often heard in our church congregation that on the 7th day God rested and have perhaps been challenged by critical thinkers to explain why the Sabbath is no longer relevant to our modern time. Is the Sabbath still in effect to this day? How did Christ abolish this particular commandment? I will answer all of these questions and more to the best of my ability.

God rested because all of his work had been completed and sanctified the seventh day for humanity's benefit. The concept of rest is common in ancient near eastern literature. A god's rest is done in a temple generally as a result of the established order. Although the god disengaged from creation, engages in maintaining order as the god takes place at the helm. The building of the cosmos is configured in temple building and dedication terms. It parallels the building of temples for divine rest. The temple was at the center of the universe and a microcosmos. The temple was the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain. Ps. 78:69 communicates the idea the temple was based on the universe. Ideas like this are found in Mesopotamian literature where temples are compared to the heavens and earth. Temples are given cosmic location and function.

The Sanctification of the 7th day:

When the glory of God was shown in his awe-filled and marvellous creation after he had made it, the Bible tells us in Gen. 2:1-3 "2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." We must focus on asking questions that will enlighten our understanding of the commonly quoted commandment in Exodus 20. Why did God rest on that day? Did the act of creation tire him? Moreover, why did he bless and sanctify this specific day rather than all the others? How does this relate to humanity and his obligation to rest from work in the old testament?

A closer examination at the ancient Hebrew text would show us that there is a Hebrew word left out of the English translation. This is because there is no word equivalent to it in English. The word found is "Et" which is a ploughshare. A ploughshare was used in ancient cultures to make marks in the ground. The ancient pictograph of the word "Et" is an ox and a plow, hence what is described is ploughing. This would seem to depict God as a worker in his grand process of creation.

The Hebraic concept of time is measured by actions and events. The Seventh day was special as it was the day creation was finished. As the creation is still complete, the Seventh day still continues to this day.

Now, Lets focus on the word "Sanctification." The Hebrew significance of this word is "to set apart, to be made hallow, to dedicate."

It is widely believed that numbers have a divine meaning in Hebrew, especially the number 7. The word 7 symbolically means "Perfection and completion." On the contrary, the number 6 represented the weakness and in-completion of man since God had not yet finished his creation. Furthermore, when God finished creating the universe by his divine power and wisdom, the creation became complete on the seventh day, hence why he rested.

We know that God is no mortal man who needs to rest to cover from hard labour. Interestingly, the word "Rest" comes from the Hebrew word "shabath" which practically means "To cease from exertion."

The concept of blessing is to introduce benefits into something or someone which would further bless others. The root of the word "blessing" comes from a word meaning "to kneel." God's blessing enables us to be bestowed with his favor and goodness.

No other ancient religion has a parallel of the Sabbath, the Sabbath is unique only to Israel.

Wilderness of sin

Wilderness of sin

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai

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King Ashurbanipal feasting with a royal queen in the royal garden.

King Ashurbanipal feasting with a royal queen in the royal garden.

Shofar blowing for the Sabbath day.

Shofar blowing for the Sabbath day.


The Sabbath in the 10 commandments:

Exodus 16:21-30

"21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded : ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest [Shabaton], a holy [Qodesh] sabbath [Shabbat] to the Lord [YHWH]. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded [tsavah], and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands [mitsvah] and my instructions [Torah]? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested [Shabbat] on the seventh day."

The Septuagint reads in Exodus 16:28 " 28 And the Lord said to Moses, How long are ye unwilling to hearken to my commands and my law?"

Morning is symbolic of justice Zeph. 3:5

"The Lord is righteous within her;
He will do no injustice.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He does not fail.
But the criminal knows no shame."

2 symbolize union.

An omer is one tenth of an ephah. Ancient peoples had laid iron pans on sand or stones when making food. The Hebrew word "Shabbat" can simply mean "rest", however the word "Shabbaton" is commonly used to refer to the observance of God's rest and providence that is to be kept as commanded by God. "Qodesh" is translated as "separated." Tsavah in Hebrew means "laying of a charge.." "Mitsvah" is a commandment, while the word "Torah" means "instructions." Torah comes from the Hebrew root of Yareh which is an arrow shooting into a mark. The mark is the truth and reality of God, thus the Torah is a set of teachings on who God is. This is the first time God had given Israel the observance of the Sabbath before the ten commandments were given.

Moses receive the law of God on mount Sinai and on stone, God wrote with his finger according to Exodus 20:8-11 "8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor [abad] and do all your work [milakah], 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

I find it surprising that the penalty for violating such a holy day is death (Exodus 31:14.) The Hebraic concept of remembering was not only to recall the Sabbath as a holy day, but to act and keep it. The same word used here for labor "abad" is the same word used for "work" in Genesis 2:5:

"And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till [abad] the ground."

Genesis 2:15

" And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress [abad] it and to keep it."

Strangers would typically work within gates having 3 chambers and 4 sets of doors. Chambers are roofed and available for public buildings. They served as offices for city administration. Market stalls could be seen out of the gates.

Exodus 23:10-12

10 “Sow your land for six years and gather its produce. 11 But during the seventh year you are to let it rest [shamat] and leave it uncultivated [natash], so that the poor among your people may eat from it and the wild animals may consume [yether] what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

12 “Do your work for six days but rest on the seventh day so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave as well as the foreign resident may be refreshed [naphash].

Septuagint version of Exodus 23:10-13 " 10 Six years thou shalt sow thy land, and gather in the fruits of it. 11 But in the seventh year thou shalt let it rest, and leave it, and the poor of thy nation shall feed; and the wild beasts of the field shall eat that which remains: thus shalt thou do to thy vineyard and to thine oliveyard. 12 Six days shalt thou do thy works, and on the seventh day there shall be rest, that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and that the son of thy maid-servant and the stranger may be refreshed.13 Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and ye shall make no mention of the name of other gods, neither shall they be heard out of your mouth."

The Hebrew word "shamat" means "to let drop, to release, to rest." "Natash" means "to leave." "Yether" conveys the meaning of "remainder, excess, remnant." Naphash suggests restoring the human being to a state of wholeness and in rest.

According to Hebrew estimates, a week was in total 7 days patterned after the creation of the universe. The Sabbath lasted from sunset Friday to sunset on Saturday. The Israelite calendar was made of feast days and was calculated by using the sun and the moon. The Gezer calendar had an agricultural cycle of duties that were to be done

Two months of harvest (olives?)
Two months of planting (cereals?)
Two months are late planting (vegetables?)
One month of hoeing
One month of barley-harvest
One month of harvest and festival (grain?)
Two months of grape harvesting
One month of summer fruit (or one last month?)

For 6 years, Israel was to sow seeds in vessels with a harrow or plow that would cover them and when the harvest came, they would gather very vital crops such as wheat, grapes, olives, fruits, and vegetables at various times. Olives were harvested in mid September to mid-November by beating trees with long sticks. Flax was gathered in the spring by cutting it off near the ground and laying stalks to dry. Barley was harvested from April to May, wheat from May to June, and summer fruits from August to September. All family members were expected to work for 7 weeks. Intense and constant care was taken to preserve vineyards. Vineyards were protected and fruits were harvested to turn into wine or raisins. Finally, at the seventh year, all work was to cease. The poor would often depend on the higher classes for support, but were abused. Oxen were a vital part of Israel's agricultural life. Oxen represented great strength and ferocity. Donkeys were also a valuable and most important animal next to the oxen to the Israelites. Donkeys would plow and carry agricultural crops without damaging them in the fields. Slaves belonging to a major institution and modeled after the domestication of animals may have been criminals suffering for their crimes, prisoners of war, or common people voluntarily becoming slaves to pay off debts. Work varied from mining, digging, construction, and field work to more administrative work depending on their privileges if any. Any children born to a slave technically belonged to the master.

Exodus 31:12-17

"12 The Lord said to Moses: 13 “Tell the Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign (owth) between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am Yahweh who sets you apart. 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. 16 The Israelites must observe the Sabbath, celebrating it throughout their generations as a perpetual [Olam] covenant [beriyth]. 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.”

Owth in Hebrew can mean a sign, omen, signal, distinguishing mark, banner, miracle, proof, token, or remembrance. Yada is the Hebrew word for know, but expresses the concept of knowledge in a relationship. The Hebrew word "Olam" though it can mean eternal, can also mean a long time depending on context. In Hebrew, it means "beyond the distant horizon. "Beriyth" is the Hebrew word expressing an agreement between two parties making a vow by cutting an animal in half.

The Sabbaths given to Israel were to be a reminder, a marking sign between God and Israel throughout their generations as God set Israel apart to be a reflection of his light and a testament to his salvation. The Sabbath was set apart for Israel to keep as holy, to desecrate it meant to reject its holiness and thus, receive judgment. The Sabbath was meant to last as long as God's covenant with Israel lasted.

Exodus 35:1-3

"35 Moses assembled the entire Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: 2 For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord. Anyone who does work on it must be executed. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your homes on the Sabbath day.”

Leviticus 16:31

29 “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you.30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever [olam]."

Anah is the Hebrew word used for self-denial and it means "to be afflicted, to weaken the self." A statue or "Chuqqah" is an ordinance of a religious festival. Nephesh is the consciousness of the individual person.

Septuagint reads

"31 This shall be to you a most holy sabbath, a rest, and ye shall humble your souls; it is a perpetual ordinance."

10 symbolizes harmony and completeness. There are 10 divine utterances in Gen. 1. YHWH gave 10 commandments to Moses on mount Sinai. YHWH sent 10 plagues on Egypt.

Gezer calendar

Gezer calendar

The holy feasts:

In Ancient cultures, feasts were important in showing devotion to gods, thus strengthening relationships and ranks as well as teaching lessons. Other gods needed food to eat, but God was an exception because he had no bodily form or image made of stone which could perish. The result was that the food offerings were burnt up or poured out on the altar. Later, families would come together on the Sabbath to enjoy fellowship unique to their heritage. This would demonstrate that God wanted an assembly of his people on the day of rest to be in his presence and partake of his marvelous deeds for Israel.

Leviticus 23:3

""You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly. It is the LORD's Sabbath day, and it must be observed wherever you live."

The Sabbath was at the head of the feasts. The community gathered under leaders and the Levites to join devotion not written in the Torah. It is unknown what they did.

Leviticus 23:9-14 explains the feast of the firstfruits that is to be done after the seventh Sabbath "9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.11 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. 13 Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. 14 You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings."

4 symbolize creation.

The firstfruits represent the best of your substance. The sheaf comes from the Hebrew word "omer" referring to a dry measure of 2 litres. It symbolizes God's holy ones, his elect, taken from the darkness of the world. It is a collection of grain and woven together. It represents The Lamb represents Christ and The burnt offering represented the will to make atonement for sins and worship God with complete devotion and commitment. The grain offering symbolizes an act of worship and recognition of God's goodness and provision for his people. Flour symbolizes the union between Christ and his saints. The oil symbolizes divine blessings and the anointing Holy Spirit. The drink offering consisted of wine which would be poured out at the foot of the altar. It can symbolize joy and the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.

What we can discern from the text is that God's chosen ones shall be gathered from the world, sanctified by Christ Jesus, the high priest. Jesus himself would offer himself to God as a perfect and blameless sacrifice to atonement for the sins of a fallen mankind. We as God's own children would appreciate the divine blessings and the provision of our heavenly father through Christ and by the work of his Holy Spirit. The offering of Jesus is pleasing and accepted by God, the generous provider of man. We cannot partake in the fullness of his divine blessings and life given to us unless Christ has made the ultimate atonement for our sins and has cleansed us of all impurities by his holy blood.

Leviticus 23:15-22 says this about regulations after the Sabbath "15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord." 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. 22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’”

It is interesting to note that the number 50 is used in celebrations. It symbolizes deliverance. It is also related to the coming of God's Holy Spirit. 50 can mean what is full
Num. 31:25-34
25 "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the fathers’ households of the congregation take a count of the spoils that were captured, both of people and of livestock; 27 and divide the spoils between the warriors who went to battle and all the congregation. 28 Also, collect a tribute tax for the Lord from the men of war who went to battle, one in five hundred of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the sheep; 29 take it from their half and give it to Eleazar the priest, as an offering to the Lord. 30 And from the sons of Israel’s half, you shall take one drawn from every fifty of the persons, of the cattle, of the donkeys, and of the sheep, from all the animals; and give them to the Levites who perform the duty of the tabernacle of the Lord.” 31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did just as the Lord had commanded Moses."

The number 2 can represent habitations, houses, family, or divisions in the sense of duality. This is a representation of Ephraim and Judah. Both are leaven because neither is perfect. The bread depicts the eternal life which comes from Jesus. The sacrificial animals ultimately symbolize Jesus, the final sacrifice which would forever cleanse man's own sin.

The symbolism would show us that the Israelites would rest on the Sabbath on the day of perfection after they have been cleansed from their sins, brought out of Egypt, and made holy to God. They were to be in constant reminder that they were delivered from the oppressive hands of Egypt and in return, they would fully worship God for graciously giving them life. Atonement was then to be made for their sins.

In the same chapter, verses 23-25 "23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’"

The trumpet is blown in times of war, a call to assemble, or to march. Joseph was released from prison on the same day of the feast of the trumpets, thus symbolizing the deliverance of God's people. The trumpet can also be a powerful symbol of victory at the destruction of the walls of Jericho. In summary, we can say that the trumpets were blown on this day to glorify the redemptive works of the Lord for his people and the future eternal redemption which comes through Jesus.

The first month of the Israelite calendar was Nisan in the spring. After the Bible, the first day of Tishri became Rosh Hashanah. This is not a contradiction. In ancient times, people could have more than one new year's day to mark half years that commenced with events such as equinoxes or initiate different kinds of full years that overlapped each other. Once Jewish tradition regarded the first day of the 7th month as "new year's day", ut was a short step to view it along with the day of atonement as the day of judgment. This is in harmony with ancient Near Eastern traditions that placed judgment in the framework of New Year celebrations.

In verses 26-44, it says "26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your Sabbath."

33 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36 For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.

37 ‘These are the feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day— 38 besides the Sabbaths of the Lord, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the Lord. 39 ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. 40 And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month.42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’” 44 So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord."

The idea of afflicting you own soul is being humble and submitting yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord. The number 10 symbolizes law and responsibility. The number 9 represents a new life. The number 1 is known as God's number. Just as man was given the freedom to eat of every tree of the garden, this also reflects God's desire for his people to be partakers of his blessings as shown in verse 40. The number 8 symbolizes the heart within man and holiness. The number 15 interestingly demonstrates rest. A booth was a temporary shelter.

In summary, this can mean that on the day of the atonement, the Israelites were to become obedient to the law by humbling themselves from the depths of their soul before the Lord. After the sacrificial offerings have been made, they will have rejoice with new life during the Sabbath. They were then to consecrate themselves to God and enter into God's rest on the Sabbath. They were then to make offerings as a demonstration of worship to God and recognition of his gracious providence for his people. As a result, they would dwell in rest and security.

Leviticus 24:4

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

The bread consecrated to the priests was for their sustenance.

Leviticus 24:5-9 "5 “And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes (bread) with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. 6 You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the Lord. 8 Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.”

The number 12 represents the perfection of government, it can also represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The number 2 can represent division or double portion. The number 6 can also represent the idea of fastening. Gold is associated with high worth. Frankincense symbolizes worship and devotion to God. The bread can represent life and sustenance.

This is known as "The Bread of the Presence." It is a powerful reminder and message that God will always be faithful to his people, who have been sanctified and purified to be God's people to completely worship him. He would constantly remind them that he will always provide and sustain the life of his people from hunger and disease because of his everlasting covenant with them.

Leviticus 25:1-8 "And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6 And the Sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7 for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food. 8 ‘And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years."

The number 49 projects the idea of family. We are in constant reminder that on the Sabbath, we are God's own children.

In Israel, the people were to prune off the weak branches so that sap could flow into the ones bearing fruit before Spring. Branches near the trunk would bear the most fruit. Fruits gathered are mostly grapes, olives, vegetables, and seeds.

There is a parallel between the spring festival of the Babylonian Akitu and the account in Leviticus regarding the Sabbath and other holy feasts. Scholar Sigmund Mowinckel summarizes the significance as he writes:

"The Jewish tradition ... holds that on new year's day, or in the course of the new year festival, Yahweh 'judges' how the new year is to be as to the harvest and the fate of land and people generally.... In its original form, then, the harvest festival is at the same time a festival of creation and of enthronement. It implies that the 'world' of the congregation is created again, is renewed, and re-constituted a home for mankind, holding fruitfulness and blessing, and secured by the returning deity's apprehended strength and power.... The myth of creation is the original 'legend' of the festival, and this myth includes also that of the enthronement of the God Yahweh: he is made king because of the victory over the enemy." (1)

Letting the land rest preserved the soil's fertility. Large areas of Mesopotamia were abandoned because of high sodium levels in the soil caused by irrigation. Ugaritic texts also have a 7-year agricultural calendar that allowed portions of the field to "rest" each year.

We have looked at the law and regulations that were to be obeyed regarding the Sabbath. Now, it is of key importance to study the Sabbath in the books of prophecy. The prophecies given to Israel in time of distress and hopelessness because of it's destruction shed light by revealing the coming of the Messiah in which the Sabbath is involved in the fulfillment of God's law.

Leviticus 26:34-35

"34 Then shall the land enjoy [ratsah] her sabbaths, as long [yom] as it lieth desolate [shamem], and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.

35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it."

Septuagint reads:

"34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths all the days of its desolation. 35 And ye shall be in the land of your enemies; then the land shall keep its sabbaths, and the land shall enjoy its sabbaths all the days of its desolation: it shall keep sabbaths which it kept not among your sabbaths, when ye dwelt in it"

This curse was fulfilled in 2 Chronicles 36:21.

2 Chronicles 36:21

"21 To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

"12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.

13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:

14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty [chazaq] hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day"

The Sabbath was to be celebrated not only because of God's creation, but as well as his salvation given to Israel from Egypt.


Man put to death on the Sabbath

Numbers 15:32-36

32 " And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses."

It is very clear that God had given the commandments on Mount Sinai, making a covenant with his people to follow his decrees.

Numbers 28:9-10

9 "And on the Sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: This is the burnt offering of every Sabbath, beside the continual burnt offering, and his drink offering."

These were to be offered each Sabbath.

The main theme of the book of Isaiah is Salvation. The northern kingdom of Israel was carried into captivity in 722 B.C. The kingdom of Judah were left worshiping other gods and doing evil.Assyria had dominated the fertile Crescent and posed a major threat to both kingdoms. Babylon had gained power and had replaced the power of Assyria. The heavenly Kingdom and Salvation was drawing near. The 66th Chapter of Isaiah is as follows:

Isaiah 1:13

"13 Bring no more futile [shav] sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting."

The Septuagint says that God was satiated and "bored" with the religious observances.

The Hebrew "shav" gives the idea of worthlessness and emptiness.

God rejected the religious observances of Judah because of the lack of purity.

Isaiah 56:2

"2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil."

This chapter assumes that the Temple is still standing and to profane means to place something for common use.

Isaiah 58:13

"13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

God promises to bring joy to those who delight in his Sabbath and to possess the land he promised to his people. The Sabbath was unparalleled in the Ancient Near East.

Isaiah 66:1-24 "Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.

3 “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
4 So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”

5 Hear the word of the Lord,
You who tremble at His word:
“Your brethren who hated you,
Who cast you out for My name’s sake, said,
‘Let the Lord be glorified,
That we may see your joy.’
But they shall be ashamed.”

6 The sound of noise from the city!
A voice from the temple!
The voice of the Lord,
Who fully repays His enemies!

7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth;
Before her pain came,
She delivered a male child.
8 Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.
9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord.
“Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God.

10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem,
And be glad with her, all you who love her;
Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
11 That you may feed and be satisfied
With the consolation of her bosom,
That you may drink deeply and be delighted
With the abundance of her glory.”

12 For thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.
Then you shall feed;
On her sides shall you be carried,
And be dandled on her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice,
And your bones shall flourish like grass;
The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants,
And His indignation to His enemies.
15 For behold, the Lord will come with fire
And with His chariots, like a whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire and by His sword
The Lord will judge all flesh;
And the slain of the Lord shall be many.

17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.

18 “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Puland Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord. 21 And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the Lord.

22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh (people) shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

We can infer that in the afterlife of the new creation, his righteous ones shall be preserved forever more and we will dwell in a heavenly rest when we enter paradise.

Jeremiah 17:19-27

"19 Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 and say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21 Thus says the Lord: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 23 But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction.

24 “And it shall be, if you heed Me carefully,” says the Lord, “to bring no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work in it, 25 then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever.26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the mountains and from the South, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the Lord.

27 “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”’

This passage is most likely speaking of the eastern gate of Jerusalem. Kings would ride in horses when going to war. Chariots were expensive fast-moving vehicles which a government strong. Each chariot had 2 men, 1 for driving and the other to shoot arrows. A Shield bearer also was in the chariot. Towdah is the Hebrew word for praise meaning "Extending the hands in adoration and appreciation." It's being thankful for everything and in agreement with God.

Lamentations 2:6

"And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten [Shakath] in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest."

The Hebrew word Shakath means to neglect and ignore. Forgetting in Hebrew is moral abandonment. His tabernacle was his meeting place. A garden in ancient days was a park of pools and vegetables and palaces as well as temples. Zion is another term for Jerusalem. Hebrew "aph" or anger is demonstrated in the act of the flaring of the nostrils.

God is so angry that he strips away the tabernacle, the holy place of meeting that he strips it away. God destroyed the places of meeting and caused Israel to forget, to cease to put into action the holy feasts and rejected the king, the representative between a deity and his people and the priest, the intercessor of God and man.

Ezekiel 44:1 "2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. "

Ezekiel 44:1 "2 And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. "

The Eastern gate is one of the oldest gates in Jerusalem, it has been sealed and has not opened in a thousand years. It was sealed by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman.

The Eastern gate is one of the oldest gates in Jerusalem, it has been sealed and has not opened in a thousand years. It was sealed by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman.

In the book of Ezekiel, Judah had defiled itself by the worship of other gods exiled in Babylon. Each individual soul was to blame for the destruction of the Temple of Solomon and the scattering of the nation because of they have broken the sacred covenant that God had made with their forefathers. Chapters 66 focus on the ultimate divine judgement of God and the hope that was to come.

Ezekiel 46:1-15 " 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened. 2 The prince shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway from the outside, and stand by the gatepost. The priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings. He shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening. 3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the Lord on the Sabbaths and the New Moons. 4 The burnt offering that the prince offers to the Lord on the Sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish; 5 and the grain offering shall be one ephah for a ram, and the grain offering for the lambs, as much as he wants to give, as well as a hin of oil with every ephah. 6 On the day of the New Moon it shall be a young bull without blemish, six lambs, and a ram; they shall be without blemish. 7 He shall prepare a grain offering of an ephah for a bull, an ephah for a ram, as much as he wants to give for the lambs, and a hin of oil with every ephah. 8 When the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way. 9 “But when the people of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate. 10 The prince shall then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out. 11 At the festivals and the appointed feast days the grain offering shall be an ephah for a bull, an ephah for a ram, as much as he wants to give for the lambs, and a hin of oil with every ephah. 12 “Now when the prince makes a voluntary burnt offering or voluntary peace offering to the Lord, the gate that faces toward the east shall then be opened for him; and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he did on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he goes out the gate shall be shut. 13 “You shall daily make a burnt offering to the Lord of a lamb of the first year without blemish; you shall prepare it every morning. 14 And you shall prepare a grain offering with it every morning, a sixth of an ephah, and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour. This grain offering is a perpetual ordinance, to be made regularly to the Lord. 15 Thus they shall prepare the lamb, the grain offering, and the oil, as a regular burnt offering every morning.”

Some interpret this as a future prophecy on the reign of the Messiah. Others view this as a prophecy that was fulfilled after Jesus completed his divine mission on earth and now, we are spiritual feeding from the Word of God. Nevertheless, it is a prophecy involving the Sabbath revolves around Jesus, the promised Messiah.

As we have seen, throughout many scriptures, During the holy day of the Sabbath, sacrifices and regulations in obedience to the law of God were to be followed for there to be life and blessings given from heaven, the abode place of the heavenly father in which all good things come from. We are now transitioning from the old testament which tells us of the destruction of the Jewish temple because of the sins of Israel and the coming judgement along with the undeserving grace that follows. We shall now study the Sabbath in the perspective of the New Testament. Various Jewish sects arose, attempting to preserve the law of Moses and of God.

On the northside of the gate is a gate of repentance in which the high priest would enter through leading to a staircase up to a higher platform as inside is a gate house of ancient columns and decorated capitals. After he gives atonement, he exit through the other side called the gate of mercy.

The Sabbath in post-exile

Nehemiah 9:14

"14 And madest known [yada] unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:"

According to the rabbis, the Sabbath outweighed all other commandments. Though the Sabbath was simply a commandment, Jews began to stress the importance of it. The Sabbath became such an importance in the relationship with Israel and God. The Sabbath fell into system of legalism. The Samaritans and Essenes also zealously observed the Sabbath. The Samaritans interpreted Exodus 16:29 literally that they shouldn't leave their homes at all. Both groups refused to light any fires on fridays and would choose to stay in darkness.

Psalm 92 is a psalm dedicated and sung during the Sabbath and recited on morning festivals during sacrifices.

Oldest synagogue in Galilee

Oldest synagogue in Galilee

Kiddush prayer


Intertestamental period:

On Fridays afternoons, people were busy as men finished work and women cleaned, refilled lamps, prepared meals, and did laundry. On Friday evenings when 1st evening stars appeared, the hazzan or synagogue official called the villagers to prayer with three blasts of a ram's horn as Jews would assemble in the synagogue. Friday's supper was served with a joyful occasion to eat special foods and the recitation of the Kiddush, a blessing said over wine. The family went to the synagogue again on Saturday morning for more prayer and readings from Scripture before the Sabbath ended with another signal of the ram's horn. When the Sabbath was celebrated each week, there were celebrations occurring only once a year (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, etc.) Each Sabbath, 12 loaves of unleavened bread were laid in rows on the table with a fragrant frankincense and consecrated as an offering to God. People would line up on benches along three stone walls standing or sitting on the stone floor. In front of the 4th wall, the one facing Jerusalem. A seven-branched lamp was lit near a reading resk on a raised platform. The prayer leader stood that morning and could be any adult male of the congregation.

The prayer leader would then let his voice ring out in opening blessings and praises to God as the eternal and mighty who made his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and who would bring a redeemer and grant peace to his people: Israel as people shouted "Amen!" Together, the congregation recited the Shema "Hear O Israel" The Lord our God is one Lord." The hazzan brought forth the Ark which was a wooden chest he had placed in the back of the synagogue at the beginning of the service. Opening the chest, he took the Torah scroll in fine linen. Removing the linen and unrolling the staves, he held the scroll up so that all could see the columns of bold, black letters marching across the tan parchment. This was one of the 1st 5 books of the Bible having the record of the Torah given by God to Moses. IT was the duty and joy of the Jews to read the Torah aloud every Sabbath, festival, and new moon, and on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Torah scroll was laid on the reading desk. The lesson was divided into 3 or more parts depending on the occasion. The prayer leader said a blessing of gratitude for the gift of the Torah then called for a different person to step forward and read aloud each part and proclaim a blessing each part. In ancient Palestine, classical Hebrew was read and recited. After the reader recited those verses and paused as a translator spoke these passages in Aramaic, the common language of Palestine. When the Scripture was finished, the scroll was reverently replaced in the Ark while an exultant blessing was said by the congregation. The speaker walked to the reader's desk and gave a sermon and a commentary on the text. He could be an official but also a member who volunteered to give an interpretation. If he was an able preacher, interweaving quotes from Scripture and illustrating his points by poetic images to the audience leaned forward attentively as their faces focused on him. The Scripture lesson was a chance for craftsmen, farmers, mothers, etc. to take their minds off our daily life. The concluding part of the Sabbath morning service would be the haftarah, a reading by one man from one prophetic book of the Bible. In the custom of a bar mitzvah, the haftarah is read by a boy who was just reached his 13th birthday. The children of the bar mitzvah looked forward to expound on Scripture.

New Testament period:

Matt. 12:1-14 "1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?"

Jews sometimes went to priests to understand what was allowed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees wouldn't normally be in wheat fields on the Sabbath unless they were trying to evaluate Jesus' acts from afar say in a town. Teachers were held responsible for their disciples' behavior. Jesus' question "haven't you read..?" would've insulted the Pharisees.

6 "Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” 9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

11 "Then He said to them, &#