Sabbath: The Seventh Day

The most widely known holyday occurs once per week all year round and that is the Sabbath or the seventh day which is a day of rest.  Keeping this day is most clearly stated in the 10 commandments.

Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. – Exodus 31:14

Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as Yahuwah thy God hath commanded thee. – Deut 5:12

And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that Yahuwah thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore Yahuwah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. – Deut 5:15

Why do we tend to ignore this commandment?

It’s pretty clear. Every Christian believes in the 10 commandments or some altered version of it. So, how did we come to overlook this commandment? Oh, here’s why…

Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday (Sabbath), but shall work on that Day: but the Lord’s Day, they shall especially honour; and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ. Edict of the Catholic Church Council of Laodicea (circa 364 AD)[1]

So, the Catholic Church, in line with a previously ordered edict of Constantine, didn’t do away with the Sabbath, they changed it to a day they designated and called it the Lord’s Day, which is the first day of the week, Sunday.

Some may think it’s no big deal, but let’s look at the significance of the Sabbath before we just go along with the false authority of man to change God’s law.

The Hebrew word “Shabat” (שבת), pronounced Sabbath in English, means seven and is a special observance that occurs on the seventh day of the week, in the seventh year, or in the seventh month.

It also means to cease because it represents something coming to an end. It’s the day God finished all of creation and rested. The word also relates to a promise or covenant because ancient Israelites used to seal their word to someone by repeating it seven times or offering seven offerings as a witness. (Gen 21)

The true purpose and significance of keeping the Sabbath can be found throughout the Old Testament. For example, its purpose is demonstrated in the law of Jubilee, where Israelites were to forgive debt, return all things that had been held as collateral or for debt repayment including servants, at the end of every 49th  calendar year, or the seventh sabbath of years (7×7). (Leviticus 25)

Also, the land was to rest in the seventh year which was to be a Sabbath year of rest for the land. The people were neither to sew or to prune the land and were only allowed to take what they needed to eat for each meal and no more. Most importantly they were not to harvest the land for profit or for reserves but every and anyone, including the animals, was allowed to eat the fruit it produced freely.  (Leviticus 25)

So, the Sabbath represents the last era of bondage, a return of all things and persons to their rightful place and purpose, the end of something old and the beginning of something new and, as Leviticus 25:10 says, it represents liberty throughout all the land and those who live in it.

As with the land sabbath, the weekly Sabbath represents a time for rest and for freely receiving nourishment, a time where no one toils in the fields, no one prohibits another from gathering from the land to eat, and no one sells the fruit of the land. Truly, this land sabbath represents going back to the beginning, the way things were at first. When the land rested, so did the people because the people were farmers, not harvesting gave them all rest, even as the land rested.

These sabbaths have practical purposes still practiced in modern culture. For example, many modern-day farmers allow their land to rest after a certain number of harvests in order to allow the soil’s nutrients and health to be restored. Likewise, in modern times a person can, generally, go bankrupt every seven years and bad credit histories must be removed from a person’s credit report after seven years. This allows people the opportunity to get from under debt that they otherwise would never be free from. The Jubilee was kind of like that. It was God’s commandment that prohibited people from being in bondage for indefinite periods of time. In other words, European slavery was anti-God and anti-biblical, although slave keepers often used the bible to support perpetual slavery.

The practical purpose of the Sabbath is to give God’s people rest from their interactions with the world in order to reflect on him and recharge for the worldly week ahead.

Spiritually, the people had to have faith in God during the seventh year when they could not earn money from the fruit of the land and could not gather to store. They had to trust that Yah would provide despite them not harvesting in that seventh year. So the Sabbath is also about trusting God and realizing that when we disconnect from the world we will still live, perhaps more abundantly, definitely more righteously.

I personally believe it also has a prophetic significance. Yahushua mentioned the Sabbath when he talked about the last days. He said, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” He says this because we should not have to toil on the Sabbath, and if this day happened on the Sabbath, we would have to toil. This raises the question, What would it be like if the end did come on a Sabbath?

If the family observes the Sabbath as scripture teach us, all the family’s food would be prepared, and they would all be together. Their minds would also be on the things of God and they would be more prepared to act.

On any other day, the family would be divided – some at school, some at work, some running errands, and others at home. Their minds would be just as divided as the family because they would be focusing on their daily activities and not in the right state of mind to act for the occasion.

So perhaps another reason for the Sabbath is to prepare us all for the last days, or final the day of ceasing, the Sabbath day!

(Edited) Many, including European Jews, observe this God-ordained day of rest from Friday evening to Saturday evening each week – probably because Leviticus 23:32 says this is how the day of Atonement is to be observed. Also, it is understood that God set the days to be counted from evening to evening based on the creation story in Genesis.

After running into some New Testament scripture that directly contradicted this tradition, I decided to do further research. In it, the timing of the Sabbath is repeatedly referred to after the Messiah is crucified and the women find his tomb empty.

  • Matthew 28:1 says, “At end of Sabbath, as it had began to dawn toward the first day of the week…” the women approached the tomb.
  • Mark 15:42 says, “Even was come and it was the preparation day, the day before the Sabbath.”
  • Mark 16:1 says, “When the Sabbath was past…” the women went to the tomb.
  • Luke 23:54 says “it was the day of preparation…” 23:56 says the women returned to prepare spices and ointments and they rested on the Sabbath day. 24:1 says, “Upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning…” the women went to the tomb.

All these points to the Sabbath ending at the dawn of the first day of the week. More importantly, none of these verses supports a Sabbath that begins on the evening before Saturday.

So, I went back in time to understand these contradictions… All the way back to the beginning of time. See, one reason that an evening to evening observation is supported is that it is understood that when Yah created the earth and everything in it, he ordained a 24-hour “day” to be from even to even. For a short time, I accepted that explanation. What I learned this time around, was that the day and evening were and are distinct from one another.

Genesis 1:5 reads, “And he called, Elahim, to the light, day, and to the dark, night. And it existed evening (the close of one day) and it existed morning (the start of a new day), one.”

So the night is nearly insignificant to the day. It is simply the period (of rest) between days. Jesus explains why this is in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.”

He offers an extremely simple common sense explanation regarding this subject… In biblical times, no one worked at night; thus a nighttime Sabbath would be of no effect. There was no electricity or night time hustle and bustle in bible times.  Thus, the Sabbath applied to the literal day only, as the night time was a natural ceasing from labors. So technically,  the Sabbath or the ceasing would have been from sunset on Friday to sunrise on Sunday, simply because of the natural circumstances of the times. However, the Sabbath commanded to be observed is the literal seventh “day” which is the period of roughly 12 hours of daylight on Saturday. (End of Edit)

Friday, during the day, is called the Day of Preparation when we prepare for the “end” of the week and to rest. That means creating conditions that support a full day of rest, i.e. cleaning, cooking, and preparing snacks, and running errands.

During Sabbath, we should detach ourselves from our normal activities and pleasures, as to keep from the worries of the world. The best way to do that is to occupy ourselves with the things of God and rest in Him and in His Word!

 

Download “What You Need To Know About Sabbath” for complete details and bible references. 

This brings us to the first day of the biblical year!

Reshown Chadesh: The Head of Months

[1] Rev. Charles Joseph Hefele, Henry N. Oxenham (trans.), A History of the Church Councils from 326 to 429 Volume 2 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1896): 316.

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