The Biblical Sabbath – Shabbat

Candles, Bread, Wine

“On six days work will get done; but the seventh day is Shabbat, for complete rest, set apart for the LORD. The people of Israel are to keep the Shabbat, to observe Shabbat through all their generations as a perpetual covenant” (Exodus 31:15-16).

A lot of confusion exists about the Sabbath. Some people believe that it was ‘done away with’ when Yeshua died on the cross. Other people claim that the ‘day’ was changed from the seventh-day Jewish Sabbath to the first-day Christian one. Still others contend that all of The Ten Commandments are in force, except the fourth because it was not reiterated in the New Testament. Some even assert that there are no longer any commandments we have to obey because we’ve been ‘set free from the law.’

In the Beginning

The first mention of Sabbath is Genesis 2:1-2:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

In the beginning, God created a specific day memorializing ‘ceasing from His creative work.’ He made it ‘holy’ by setting it apart from the rest of the creation week. This is the foundation for resting on the seventh-day Sabbath.

In Hebrew the word for ‘Sabbath’ is Shabbat, and its root is the word sheva meaning ‘seven’: שבת and שבע. This affirms the Sabbath being the seventh day of the week versus any other day.

Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a picture associated with it. When the individual letter pictures are joined together, a word picture develops that gives unique insight into the meaning of the word.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Sabbath or Shabbat – שבת

Shin ש – A Tooth means ‘consume.’

Bet ב – A House means ‘home, family.’

Tav ת – Crossed Sticks mean ‘covenant sign.’

The Hebrew word picture for shabbat: Consume the home, family with the covenant sign.

The Hebrew word picture for shabbat: Consume the home, family with the covenant sign.

Sabbath Instructions

The second time Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:4-5:

“I will rain down bread from heaven for you.  The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days. …Keep 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 he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.  So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:4-5,29).

The Hebrews had spent hundreds of years enslaved in Egypt never having a day of rest. Sabbath for the Hebrews was a test of faith. God wanted to see if His newly freed nation would simply follow His instructions. It was no different from Adam and Eve in the Garden. God explained the Sabbath rest to those who had just come out of Egypt with specific instructions about gathering manna.

If His people would just simply obey His command and prepare for the Sabbath by gathering enough manna on the sixth day, they could stay in their tents and rest on the Sabbath. If they did not, there would be consequences –– maggots on the manna and a stench to the community!

“Some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it [the man] until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell” (Exodus 16:20).

The Ten Commandments

Adonai includes the Sabbath in The Ten Commandments, part of His instructions that would set Israel apart from all other nations. The Sabbath was not only a weekly reminder that God was the Provider for Israel’s sustenance and life, but that He is the Creator.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a  Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

The Sabbath commandment begins with the word ‘remember.’ Remember that only a couple of chapters earlier, the Israelites were tested regarding the Sabbath and “some of them paid no attention?” To begin the fourth commandment with the word ‘remember’ suggests that it will be the one commandment most likely forgotten.

To ignore the seventh-day Sabbath is to lose the example of the Creator’s cycle of working for six days and resting on the seventh. The result of not ‘remembering’ the created Sabbath has allowed for the acceptance of evolution within the Body of Messiah. Some pastors teach evolutionary creationism with each day being 1000 years or even one million years. This way of thinking negates the ‘sign of Jonah’ that Yeshua gave for his time in the grave –– three days and three nights. The Hebrew word, yom, was used for each day of creation identified numerically from one to six, each yom concluding with ‘evening to morning’ defining a 24-hour day. Sabbath, given a name not a number, concluded the seven-day week of creation.

Feast of the LORD

Sabbath is given to God’s people as the first of His ‘appointed times’:

“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a  Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly.  You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:3).

Along with previous instructions given by God for the Sabbath, families were to assemble in their tents in a holy manner to remember their Creator and rest from their labors. They were to ‘remember’ the Sabbath whether they lived in the wilderness, the Promised Land or the dispersed among the nations.

Sabbath Instructions

Adonai gives more instructions regarding the Sabbath in the Torah and throughout the Prophets. These instructions outlined what He considered work so that Israel would ‘remember’ Him by resting and not return to a lifestyle of bondage.

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest” (Exodus 34:21).

“Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day” (Exodus 35:3, Leviticus 26:2, and Deuteronomy 5:12).

“While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day.   …Then YHVH said to Moses, the man must die” (Numbers 15:32).

“When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day” (Nehemiah 10:31).

“When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over.  I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day” (Nehemiah 13:19).

From these instructions and experiences, Israel learned the following about the Sabbath: Do not kindle a fire, do not gather wood, do not buy or sell, do not carry a load. Sabbath rest was commanded even during planting and harvest seasons, and walking on the Sabbath could only be a short distance (Acts 1:12). Breaking the regulations never resulted in harsh punishment except one time. Adonai never killed anyone for random disobedience, but after watching His people live in bondage, He wanted them to know how serious He was about ceasing from regular work. He also knew that one rebellious person would cause everyone else to be disobedient.

The Sabbath and Yeshua

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that had been made” (John 1:1-3).

Yeshua was with God ‘in the beginning’ when He spoke the seventh-day Sabbath into existence. As the spoken word of Adonai, Yeshua was an integral part of the created Sabbath.

Yeshua gave one regulation for the Sabbath when he was accused of disobeying man-made traditions. He made it “lawful to do good.” He demonstrated what was lawfully good by healing the sick and feeding his disciples.

“How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12).

“Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath” (John 7:23).

“One Sabbath Yeshua was going going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels.  Some of the Pharisees asked, ‘Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’  Yeshua answered them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions.’  Then Yeshua said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’” (Luke 6:1-5).

On the Sabbath, Yeshua went into the synagogue and taught his brothers and sisters (Mark 1:21). He read the Hebrew Scriptures according to the Sabbath custom, he healed people, and cast out evil spirits. Not only were many Jewish people amazed, they put their faith in him (Mark 6:2, John 8:30).

Throughout the centuries, the sages and rabbis compiled their own regulations to the God-given instructions which added great burdens on the people. Creating burdens was not God’s purpose for Sabbath ‘rest’ so Yeshua untwisted these interpretations. He taught that the Sabbath was made for mankind and not for burdensome rules. He wanted his brothers and sisters to rest on the Shabbat, not become enslaved to it.

“Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

As God’s Son, Yeshua had authority over Sabbath. Though man can enjoy the Sabbath day and determine how he will rest on the Sabbath day, he has no authority to change the Sabbath day, remove the Sabbath day or add to the Sabbath day. No man, except Yeshua, has that authority over the Sabbath and he never used it.

The Jews’ Sabbath

Many people still believe, in spite of the Biblical evidence, that the seventh-day Sabbath is only for the Jewish people. When Yeshua stated the Sabbath was created for man, he spoke in a broader sense than just Jewish men and women. After all, Sabbath was created ‘in the beginning’ before there ever was a Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Tribe of Judah. Only Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, and Sabbath was created for them to fellowship eternally with their Creator.

Though Yeshua never spoke Greek, it is important to note that the Greek word anthropos translated ‘man’ in Mark 2:27 literally means ‘man-faced.’ According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, the primary definition of anthropos is “a human being, whether male or female, without reference to sex or nationality, to include all human beings.” This means that Yeshua knew and understood that Shabbat was created for all human beings, not just for his Jewish brothers and sisters.

Yeshua never taught that the Sabbath was abolished or that it would ever be abolished. In fact, he taught just the opposite when he said, “Nothing will disappear from the Torah until heaven and earth pass away” (Matthew 5:24). Just because he angered the leaders of his day doesn’t mean he was in any way breaking the Sabbath as God commanded; he was challenging their man-made rules so steeped in tradition that they had become blinded to the commands of God (Mark 7:8).

Scriptures in the Gospels, taught and lived out by Yeshua, confirm that Sabbath was re-iterated in the New Testament. Yeshua, who was with the Father at the creation of the Sabbath, kept the day holy as it was meant to be and called himself the “Lord of the Sabbath.” No one is without excuse when it comes to ‘remembering’ the Sabbath day.

Apostles and the First-Century Church

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a  Sabbath day’s walk (or 3/4 miles) from the city” (Acts 1:12).

The apostles and the first-century church remained faithful to the Sabbath. The short walk the disciples took as they returned to Jerusalem is a new testament proof that disciples didn’t break the Sabbath. Even after the resurrection of Yeshua, they still obeyed the allowable travel distance. Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, went into synagogues and shared the gospel on the Sabbath.

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the LORD” (Acts 13:44).

“Saul [Paul] spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Yeshua is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). 

“On the Sabbath they [Paul and his companions] entered the synagogue and sat down.  After the reading from the Law [Torah] and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak” (Acts 13:15-19).

“As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:32).

“Instead we should write to them [the gentiles], telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.   For the Torah of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:20-21).

Nothing changed regarding the seventh-day Sabbath after Yeshua’s resurrection. Jews and gentiles who wanted to hear the Word of Adonai gathered in the synagogues on the Sabbath. They listened to the words of Torah, they heard the apostles’ teach, and they learned about salvation in Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath.  

The Prophets

“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD who makes you holy” (Exodus 31:13).

“I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my Torah.  Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us.  Then you will know that I AM the LORD your God” (Ezekiel 20:19-20).

The prophet Ezekiel reminded the Israelites of the continued importance of Sabbath as an outward ‘sign’ between Adonai and His people. No matter where they lived, Sabbath was the ‘sign’ to the nations that they were in a covenant relationship with Adonai. By keeping the Sabbath, they would know that it is God who sets them apart from other nations.

Isaiah prophesied blessings for those from the nations who ‘remember’ to keep the Sabbath. Foreigners or gentiles who are joined to Adonai through faith in Yeshua, who serve Him, love His Name and worship Him, may enjoy all the Sabbath blessings included in the covenant and promises He made with Israel. They can enter Sabbath rest focusing on the Creator taking delight in the Sabbath and honoring it by not doing their own thing. The blessing will be worshiping Adonai together with Israel, receiving joy in His house of prayer, and feasting on Jacob’s inheritance.

“Let no foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, the LORD will surely exclude me from His people.’   And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, to love the name of the LORD and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7).

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Isaiah also prophesies about the time after the Messianic Era –– Eternity and the new heavens and earth. The word “mankind” in the prophecy means that everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, religious affiliation or doctrinal views of the Sabbath, will have a responsibility toward the Sabbath. There will be “mankind” who will obey and worship Adonai and there will be “mankind” who do not. Just like in the wilderness, there will be a consequence for disobeying the Sabbath command –– “their worm will not die and they will be loathsome to everyone.”

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the LORD, ‘so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the LORD.  And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind’” (Isaiah 66:22-24).

A Weekly Vision of Eternity

When Adonai created the Sabbath, He never said, “There was evening and morning, the seventh day.” He created the Sabbath for eternal fellowship with his glorious creation. Adam and Eve, along with all of their children, were to live in the Garden forever, but sin ended the eternal day. In order for mankind to “remember” God’s promise of restoration, He commanded mankind to “remember” the Sabbath as a vision of Eternity to come.

As it was ‘in the beginning‘ so it will be in Eternity when there is a new heaven and a new earth. The New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven and Adonai will once again make His dwelling with mankind (Revelation 21, 22). It is with this vision and hope for the restoration of the eternal Shabbat and an everlasting fellowship with our Creator that we should “remember” the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

©1997 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.  For more about Yeshua fullfilling the ‘appointed times,’ purchase Yeshua in His Father’s Feasts.

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