The Lord Our Only Sabbath – Part Three (A)

The Seventh-Day Sabbath
The Old Testament Covenant and Sign
between God and National Israel

by Curt Wildy

Introduction to Part Three

After a lengthy gap in post between parts, and after further consideration, I wanted to come back to this issue of the Sabbath. This third part (of four, Lord willing) will cover the applicability of the Mosaic Sabbath rest, particularly as it relates to the following: (a) to whom was it given; (b) why was it given to them; (c) what was required of them in the observance of it; (d) what was prohibited of them during the observance of it; and (e) what were the penalties for their profaning of it.

Before I begin, I want to briefly recap the material presented in Parts One and Two. I also want to reiterate that the purpose of this series is not to promote living as the world (or unto the world), using our Christian liberty as a cloak of maliciousness, or neglecting our Christian responsibilities. Likewise, the purpose of this series is not to promote the forsaking of the assembling together of the saints, or to diminish from the assembling together (as to the time spent together, or the godly activities intended). There is a Lord’s Day, and it is a blessing for God’s people to be able to gather together, sing His praises, exhort one another, and most importantly, to worship Him with true, God-given faith, reverence and love. However, in seeking to be kept from using this day to fulfill our own carnal lusts, may we also seek to be kept from the bondage of a legalistic mindset in following after the traditions of men.

A Brief Review of Parts One and Two

Concerning Genesis 2:1-3, and the alleged institution of a Sabbath rest for all mankind, please consider this recap of the fifteen most prominent points covered in Parts One and Two of this series:

  1. God (a) ended His work which He had made (on the seventh day); (b) God rested (ceased/desisted from) all His work which He had made on the seventh day; (c) God blessed and sanctified the seventh day (for in that day, He had rested from all His work which God created and made); and thus, (d) the immediate focus of the hallowing and blessing of the seventh day pertains to the cessation of God’s work (regarding creation) and not the cessation of our own physical labours;
  2. God is the One who both ended His work of creation, and ceased (rested) from it; no where does Genesis chapter two mention either Adam and Eve, or all of mankind, ending their work or ceasing (resting) from it;
  3. God’s creative work in the Heavens and Earth points to God’s creative work in the regeneration of a soul; His cessation therefore points to the cessation of His Redemptive work (in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Sabbath rest);
  4. God’s declaration that the seventh-day was sanctified and blessed could very well have been a prolepsis given that (a) other such examples of prolepses exist in Genesis (and elsewhere in the Bible); and (b) Genesis 2:3 does not specifically state that God sanctified and blessed the seventh day on the seventh day (whereas Genesis 2:2 specifically states that He both ended His work, and rested, on the seventh day — such distinctions ought not go unnoticed, nor should they be diminished);
  5. God did not use the Hebrew words for Sabbath or Sabbath rest (Shabbath/Shabbathown) in Genesis 2; He only used the word for rest/cease/desist (Shabath) which throughout the Old Testament is translated in ways that often has nothing to do with a Sabbath or Sabbath rest. Shabath is not used in relation to Shabbath/Shabbathown until Exodus 12 (both the books of Genesis and Job are silent on the matter);
  6. The only commandment God gave to Adam before the Fall was the commandment wherein “the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” There is no command to observe a sabbath, nor is there the threat of death (or any other penalty) for failing to observe it;
  7. Before the Fall, in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, and in the uncorrupted state of mankind, Adam and Eve would not have needed a physical, mental, or spiritual rest (thus the reason for a Sabbath observance for that purpose would be lost to them);
  8. Both before the Mosaic era, and after, nowhere does the Bible make any statement to the effect that all men were (or are) required to observe a Sabbath rest;
  9. Nowhere does the Bible make any statement regarding how mankind was to observe the alleged Genesis 2 (pre-Mosaic) Sabbath, how to abstain from profaning it, or what the penalties were for its desecration;
  10. The Jews rejected, and still reject, the notion that the Holy Sabbath was for all mankind; they believe that the Sabbath rest was given by God, to the Israelites as a sign, and that only they (e.g. the Jews) were to observe it. In the books they deem holy (Mishnah, Midrash, Talmud and commentaries thereon), it has been said that gentiles who observe the Mosaic Sabbath are worthy of death. The only possible exception to this were those foreigners who lived within the gates of Israel (e.g. people like Uriah the Hittite, Ruth the Moabitess, etc.);
  11. Although practicing Jews reject (and rejected) the false notion of a universal Genesis 2 Sabbath, many Judaizers (of old, and today, like the so-called Messianic Jews, Saturday Sabbatarians, and even many Sunday Sabbatarians) strive to bring people into the bondage of Sinai by trying to persuade them to follow this non-existent commandment. Please understand that I am by no means stating that all who hold to a Sunday Sabbath are Judaizers; many godly men hold, and have held, to this position. However, if one makes salvation dependant upon Sabbath-observance (as the Judaizers made salvation dependant upon Circumcision), then they most certainly, and drastically, err from the truth. Similarly, if one questions the salvation of another simply based upon whether they keep a Sabbath Day, or how they keep a Sabbath Day, they stray into dangerous territory.
  12. Concerning Moses and the Israelites, Deuteronomy 5:3 specifically states that “The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day;” thus the covenant (which in the passage mentioned goes on to include the Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath observance) was not given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Eber, Noah, Enoch, Seth, Abel, or Adam — it was given to Moses, the Israelites with him, and their progeny.
  13. Both the book of Job and the book of Genesis are silent concerning a required sabbath observance, even though: tithes; offerings; sacrifices; altars; priests; circumcision; tokens (signs); marriage; murder; adultery; harlotry; idolatry; lying; and other key moral and ceremonial topics are covered in them. This undermines the theory that the book of Genesis covers too many people, places, time-spans, and events to be expected to address (or even mention) the command to observe and keep a Sabbath rest (note that Job is considered by many to have lived within the time span covered by Genesis);
  14. Hypothetically speaking, even if pre-Mosaic believers considered the seventh-day to be special in light of Genesis 2:2-3 and honored it via prayers, sacrifices, worship, and even a voluntary rest, this does not support the notion that a mandated sabbath observance (with or without the threat of penalty) existed for all mankind; and
  15. The language arguments, and other ineffective and ancillary arguments covered in the previous parts (e.g. end of days; no evening in Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11 in comparison with Genesis 2:2-3; Noah’s name; the current seven-day week cycle; Nehemiah 9:13; etc.) fail to come close to proving the existence of a mandated Genesis 2 Sabbath observance for all mankind.

To whom was the Seventh-Day Sabbath given?

In answering the question, please consider the following passages (emphasis added):

Ezekiel 20:10 Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them. 12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I [am] the LORD that sanctify them. 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness…

Nehemiah 9:13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them. 16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,

Deuteronomy 5:1 And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, [even] us, who [are] all of us here alive this day. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, 5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, 6 I [am] the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage…12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. 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 hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Exodus 31:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you. 14 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. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant. 17 It [is] a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

One cannot stress enough that the Bible is clear on the matter; Deuteronomy 5:3 specifically states (concerning the Israelites of the Exodus) that “The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” When God, through Moses, describes herein the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments, He makes it clear that these Ten Commandments were not given to anyone else before them. The Ten Commandments, as the Ten Commandments, were not given to the Patriarchs, to Noah and his family, to Adam and Eve and their (pre-Exodus) offspring, or even to the Israelites who were in bondage in Egypt. The Seventh-Day Sabbath, and the entirety of the Mosaic Law, was given to Moses and to those surviving Israelites with him at that stage of the Exodus journey (and of course, to their progeny and to the strangers amongst them).

As the previous Parts detailed, and as the text above details, there is no evidence that the Sabbath was given to anyone else other than the Israelites and the strangers dwelling amongst them. We must never diminish the fact that God chooses His biblical wording sovereignly and perfectly. This is important to consider given that before Exodus 16:22-23, the words Shabbath and Shabbathown (Sabbath and Sabbath rest) were simply never used in the Bible; they were never used in Genesis and they were never used in Job. It is absolutely clear that, in its very first usage, the Sabbath / Sabbath rest was given solely to, and was intended solely for, the Israelites. Nothing suggests, as some claim, that (a) the Sabbath was given to all men, (b) all men forgot, and (c) the Sabbath then became a sign or token for Israel only (i.e. once God “reminded them” of it).

When was the Seventh-Day Sabbath given to them?

We read in Exodus 16:1 (emphasis added) “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which [is] between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.”

On the fifteenth day of the second month (which many believed to be the first day of the week), the Israelites came unto the wilderness of Sin. On the sixth day of the week, they took in a double portion, and on the following day, the seventh day of the week, God declared it to be a Sabbath for them. It is absolutely clear that the Sabbath was given to them for the first time during this period mentioned in Exodus 16. We read in  Exodus 16:22 “And it came to pass, [that] on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one [man]: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them, This [is that] which the LORD hath said, To morrow [is] the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake [that] which ye will bake [to day], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

Mosaic law vs. the Sinaitic Law

Nonetheless, in an attempt to get around the Exodus 16:22-23 “first use” issue, A.W. Pink and others make some interesting arguments. One argument is that God’s use of Sabbath in Exodus 16 proves that the Sabbath existed from Genesis (because Exodus 16 occurs before the events at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites during the time-period therein).

You will notice that I have consistently used the term Mosaic Law rather than Sinaitic Law. I have used this term because my assertion is that God gave the Sabbath Day to the Israelites through Moses. Moses here, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is the intercessor and mediator between the ethnic/carnal/earthy Israel and God, which typifies the Lord Jesus who is The Intercessor and Mediator between Spiritual Israel (the Israel of God) and God. Moses interceded for God’s temporal elect nation, and the Lord Jesus intercedes for God’s eternal elect nation. Moses revealed to “racial Israel” the temporal Sabbath rest that God provided for them; the Lord Jesus reveals to Spiritual Israel  the eternal Sabbath rest that He has provided for them, a rest that can only be found in Him. No rest can be found in Moses himself, because (a) He is but a man and thus in need of the same rest the Lord Jesus gives to all of His people; and (b) Moses is also a type of the Law, and the Law can never provide rest to a sinner.

What Mr. Pink and others fail to realise is that God gave the Sabbath / Sabbath rest (for the first time) to Moses to give to the Israelites and then shortly thereafter incorporated the Sabbath command into the fuller revelation of the law (Old Covenant / Ten Commandments) at Sinai. Nothing about this requires some Genesis 2 commandment for a Sabbath observance as Mr. Pink suggests. Nevertheless, Mr. Pink states the following:

We ask the reader to turn now to Ex. 16, from which we may learn several things of importance concerning the Sabbath. This chapter records the sending of the manna, as Israel’s daily food while they were in the wilderness. Ex. 16 treats of a point in Israel’s history prior to their arrival at Sinai. This cannot be gainsaid. And yet, in this very chapter, the Sabbath is expressly mentioned!

It is true that this point “cannot be gainsaid;” it is also true that my assertion that his point is irrelevant cannot be gainsaid either. To implicitly argue that the Seventh-Day Sabbath had to have been established either (a) at Sinai or (b) in Eden, completely misses the boat;  it is a sort of false dichotomy in that he allows for only two possibilities when the ungiven third is much more likely. 

It has already been noted that God included the Seventh-Day Sabbath requirement in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20); however, this doesn’t mean that God was prohibited from informing the Israelites of His intentions (for them to observe a Sabbath Day) a month, or so, before the commandments were given. Remember, the events in Exodus 16 occur on the fifteenth day of the second month; the events in Exodus chapters 19 through 31 occurred in the third month. Exodus 19:1-2 declares “In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they [into] the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come [to] the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.”

So we have to ask whether it is more likely, that God:

(a) established a Sabbath command in Genesis 2 for Adam and all mankind to observe, but nonetheless decided not to: (1) document this commandment in the Bible before Exodus 16; (2) use the Hebrew words for Sabbath and Sabbath rest in the Bible before Exodus 16 (but held them to the observance of it nonetheless); (3) describe any penalty for the failure to keep such a commandment before Exodus 16; and decided not to (4) keep the remembrance of a Sabbath observance in their hearts as he did other laws and commandments such as those against murder, adultery, etc, and those in favor of sacrifice, obedience, etc. (for we read: Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves. 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another);

or that God,

(b) simply gave the Sabbath commandment to Moses and the Israelites for the first time (in human history) in the second month after the Exodus and then incorporated that commandment into the Ten Commandments a few weeks later (during the events of Exodus chapters 19 through 31)?  

Mr. Pink further argues (concerning God’s use of the Manna in Exodus 16 to test, or prove, the Israelites – emphasis added):

In the second place, observe carefully God’s avowed purpose in thus withholding manna from Israel on the seventh day. His express design was, “to prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no.” And mark it, this was said to Moses before they had reached Sinai! There was, then, a “Law” of God in existence before the Ten Commandments were inscribed on the tables of stone! And, unequivocally, the observance of the Sabbath was part of that Law! In no other way can these words of God to Moses be explained. How this exposes the widely received error of our day, that the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai for the first time, is evident-see Gen. 18:19 and 26:5.

….note carefully vv. 27 and 28… Even after the most explicit instructions to rest on the seventh day (v. 23), some of the people went out “for to gather.” And mark God’s response-“How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?” This was not the first time Israel had profaned the Sabbath. The words “How long’ prove this! They also confirm what we said above on v. 4: “long” before Sinai was reached. Israel had God’s “commandments” and “laws!” Jehovah Himself says so, and the man who denies, no matter what his standing or reputation, is guilty of the awful sin of making God a liar. “How long refuse ye” looks back to the wicked conduct of Israel while in Egypt. Let the reader consult Lev. 17:7; Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 20:8.

Sadly, as the pattern so often shows, when Mr. Pink states “In no other way can these words…be explained” you can pretty much count on the fact that there is another explanation for them. Albeit in a more historical context, as shown in the previous parts of this series, Genesis is the law of God (just as much so as the other “books of the law,” namely, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). With “the law” or “Moses” being the Pentateuch (which is the first five books of the Bible), and with the book of Genesis being the first of these “first five” books, we can assuredly say that Abraham was aware of the commandments and prohibitons that God gave to him and those before him. Therefore (in light of Mr. Pinks quote above), Abraham, in keeping God’s commandments, statutes, and laws, kept that which was revealed to Him directly and that which was revealed to others before him (not to mention that which was written on his heart as we read in Romans 2:14-15).

Likewise, when God sought to prove the Israelites, to see if they would walk in His law (literally, H8451 – תּוֹרָה – towrah; law, direction, instruction), He tested them by the direction and instruction specifically mentioned in Exodus 16. The test was to see if they would (a) “leave of it till the morning” (vs. 19-20); and (b) observe the instruction given concerning gathering on the seventh day.(vs. 25-28). When “the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws,” I believe He was speaking about the above two points, but also the breaking of the law (written on their consciences) in general, as evidenced by their constant murmurings during the Exodus. In Exodus 15:22-26, and in Exodus 16:2-4, we see God’s proving in connection with their murmuring (note that the murmuring started back in Exodus 14:11-12). Thus, we have a full explanation for “How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?” — one that does not require some mythical Genesis 2 Sabbath commandment.

John Gill commented as follows on the matter:

that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no; by this single instance of their obedience to his will in going out every morning to gather their bread, that should be rained for them, he proposed to try and prove their obedience to his law in all other respects; what regard would be had to it when it should be given, and what might be expected from them, and likewise whether they would depend upon his providence in this case also.

how long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? this is not said merely with respect to their breach of the commandment of the sabbath, as if they had long refused to observe and keep that; whereas that was but one command, and but just given; but upon their breach of that, he takes occasion to upbraid them with their former transgressions of other laws of his, and which they had continued in, or at least were frequently committing; and which was a proof of their perverseness and rebellion against him, though he was so kind and bountiful to them.

What of the alleged “preparatory gathering?”

Some argue that since the Israelites gathered a double portion of Manna on the sixth day (in Exodus 16), they must have gathered the extra portion knowingly and of their own purposeful efforts. Consider R.L. Dabney on the matter (emphasis added):

They say that Moses now, for the first time, anticipating the law of Sinai by a few days, gave the Hebrews the Sabbath on the occasion of the manna’s beginning to fall. They would have us believe that the people had never heard of the Sabbath before. This construction they force on the twenty-third verse: “And he said unto them, This is that, which the Lord hath said: Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord,” etc.

But we answer: Moses does not say or imply that this was the first time the Lord said the seventh day was holy. On the contrary, the drift of the whole narrative shows that the Lord was now, by Moses, referring the people to their former knowledge of the sanctity of the Sabbath as an explanation of their finding no manna on that day. No fair reader can compare the words with Gen. 2:3 — “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” — without seeing this. But especially does the twenty-second verse of Exodus chap. 16 prove our view and refute the other. The people had, on the sixth day, already begun to make preparations for the rest of the seventh by gathering two portions of manna, before Moses or the elders had said one word to them about it! Their doing so was what prompted the elders to make the inquiry of Moses. Thus it appears beyond question that the Hebrews did know of God’s command to hallow the Sabbath, and were in the general (not universal) habit of honoring it, before ever the manna had fallen or Moses had said a word about the duty.

Mr. Dabney, and others, presume that they gathered the double portion purposely. But if this were the case, why would all the rulers of the congregation (who surely would have known of the need to do so along with the rest of the populace) feel the need to inform Moses about it? In other words, if all of the people knew about this supposed Genesis 2 sabbath-keeping and if all of the people knew of the need to gather the double portion (doing so with intent because they were in “the general (not universal) habit of honoring” this Genesis 2 Sabbath), then why would the elders be ignorant of this? Why would the elders need to report this to Moses, or to use Mr. Dabney’s wording, why would the elders be “prompted…to make the inquiry of Moses.” Surely if the general populace knew about this supposed Genesis 2 Sabbath then the elders would have as well. Yet Mr. Dabney would have us believe that through some general habit, the people knew to do that which the elders not only knew not — but were surprised to see (causing them to make an inquiry to Moses); this simply does not sound logical to me.

Instead, the context of the passage suggests a much more reasonable explanation – God performed a miracle by giving the Israelites the double portion, initially unbeknownst to them. Out of sheer surprise that the people were able to gather a double portion (presumably within the same timeframe and with the same amount of effort necessary to gather the single portion in previous days), the elders/rulers felt compelled to inform Moses of this wondrous matter.

Consider John Gill’s commentary:

And it came to pass, that on the sixth day
Of the week, or from the first raining of the manna, which was the same:

they gathered twice as much bread;
as they had used to do on other days, a greater quantity falling, and which was more easily taken up:

two omers for one man;
or, “instead of one” of one omer; so it turned out when they came to measure what they had gathered; otherwise they had no intention in gathering it, but lying in a great quantity, they gathered as much as they could, or could well carry, and upon measuring it so it proved; for it does not appear that Moses had as yet acquainted them what was to be, or would be gathered on this day; nor had he any orders so to do from the Lord, only he was told by him that so it would be, and accordingly it came to pass, see Exodus 16:5

and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses;
what had happened, that the people that day had gathered as much more as they had used to do on other days: these seem to be the overseers of this affair, before whom what was gathered was brought, and in whose presence it was measured, and who took care that everyone should have his omer and no more: this makes it plain that the people acted without design, and knew not that they were to gather on this day double to other days; since the rulers knew nothing of it, nor of the reason of it, and it can hardly be imagined that the people should know and the rulers be ignorant.

Exodus 16:23
And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said,
&c.] Which he had said to Moses privately, for as yet he had said it to none else:

tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord;
according to Jarchi, the rulers asked Moses what this day was, different from other days, that double the quantity should be gathered? from whence, he says, we learn, that Moses had not as yet declared the sabbath to them; and this is indeed the first time we read of one; and though, as there was divine worship before, there must be times for it; but as there was as yet no certain place for worship, so no certain time for it, but as it was appointed by the heads of families, or as more families might agree unto and unite in; at least no day before this appears to be a day of rest from servile labour, as well as for holy use and service:

Likewise, the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary states:

EXODUS 16:22-26 Moreover, God bestowed His gift in such a manner, that the Sabbath was sanctified by it, and the way was thereby opened for its sanctification by the law. On the sixth day of the week the quantity yielded was twice as much, viz., two omers for one (one person). When the princes of the congregation informed Moses of this, he said to them, “Let tomorrow be rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.” They were to bake and boil as much as was needed for the day, and keep what was over for the morrow, for on the Sabbath they would find none in the field. They did this, and what was kept for the Sabbath neither stank nor bred worms. It is perfectly clear from this event, that the Israelites were not acquainted with any sabbatical observance at that time, but that, whilst the way was practically opened, it was through the decalogue that it was raised into a legal institution (see Exodus 10:8ff.).

For historical purposes, though I disagree with his wording, note that John Calvin’s commentary similarly states:

22. And it came to pass on the sixth day. The violation of the Sabbath is not yet recounted, but only the stupidity or dense ignorance of their rulers is set forth, for although they had heard from the mouth of Moses that God would on that day give what would be sufficient for two days’ provision, still they marvel, and tell it to Moses as if it were something strange and incredible. It is plain enough that they obeyed the command, and did not spare their labor in gathering the double quantity; but their unbelief and folly betrays itself in their astonishment when they see that God has really performed what he promised. We may conjecture that they accurately observed what awakened in them so much astonishment; so that it follows that they refused to credit God’s word until its truth was effectively proved. It came to pass, then, in God’s admirable wisdom, that their wicked and perverse doubting availed both for the confirmation of the miracle and the observation of the Sabbath. Hence occasion was given to Moses again to enjoin upon them what otherwise, perhaps, they would have neglected, viz., that they should honor the seventh day by a holy rest.

Remember also, Exodus 16:29 states that God gave them “on the sixth day the bread of two days;” this reinforces the fact that the emphasis was on God giving them the double portion and not on them knowing that they were to gather a double portion based upon some general habit of sabbath keeping.

Hath Given… Hath said…

Consider also Mr. Pink’s hath given argument and the highly inflammatory words that he uses:

Finally, observe how v. 29 supplies one more proof that Sabbath-observance was no new thing at this time: “See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” Mark the careful distinction observed in the verbs here: “The Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days.” What excuseless ignorance, then, is betrayed by those who affirm that the Sabbath was first instituted at Sinai. It is either ignorance or wilful perversion of the Scriptures, and charity requires us to conclude that it must surely be the former.

Mr. Pink fails to take into account that (a) “hath given you” refers to God’s intent as stated privately to Moses before vs. 23, but publicly to the Israelites in Exodus 16:23 (both of which precede Exodus 16:29 in time, thus explaining the use of the past tense); and (b) the “you” in “hath given you” refers to the Israelites then present, and not to the Israelites during the four-hundred years in Egypt, or to the Patriarchs, or to Noah and his family, or to Adam and his immediate family. Also, Mr. Pink fails to realise that by Sinai many may be using the term (a term I refrained from using) to include not just Exodus chapters 19 through 31, but chapters 16 to 18 as well. They may simply being using Sinai and Sinaitic in the same way that I have been using Moses and Mosaic (in which case, Mr. Pink’s statement would be utterly pointless).

Consider also God’s use of the phrase “hath given;” we see that Exodus 16:15 declares “And Moses said unto them, This [is] the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.” The passage declares that God “hath given” Manna to the Israelites which was never given to them before Exodus 16. Likewise, Exodus 16:29 declares “See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days…”  As with the Manna, God hath given the Sabbath (Sabbath rest) to them — something which was also never given to them, or anyone else, before Exodus 16. 

Three Primal Features…

In furtherance of his assertion that the Israelites already knew of a Sabbath rest, A.W. Pink argues the following in light of Exodus 16:23:

…Note, Moses did not say, “This is that which the Lord will say,” but “This is that which the Lord hath said.” What was it, then, that the Lord had said? This: “Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” These words repeat the three primal features of the Sabbath: first, it is designed for “rest;” second, it is “holy”–set apart from the six working days; third, it is to be kept “unto the Lord-” that is, it is a day for Divine worship.

However, consider John Gill on the matter, especially as he quotes Jarchi, Solomon Ben Isaac (a famous “rabbi” who was born in 1104, and who, amongst the Talmudists, was a renown commentator on the Pentateuch):

Exodus 16:23

And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said,
…Which he had said to Moses privately, for as yet he had said it to none else:

tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord;
according to Jarchi, the rulers asked Moses what this day was, different from other days, that double the quantity should be gathered? from whence, he says, we learn, that Moses had not as yet declared the sabbath to them; and this is indeed the first time we read of one; and though, as there was divine worship before, there must be times for it; but as there was as yet no certain place for worship, so no certain time for it, but as it was appointed by the heads of families, or as more families might agree unto and unite in; at least no day before this appears to be a day of rest from servile labour, as well as for holy use and service:

It is interesting to note that not even the Jews asserted what Pink, Dabney and others assert; they in nowise asserted some universal Sabbath command created in Genesis 2 and extended to all mankind. Here we see one of the most famous of Talmudic commentators clearly affirming that the Sabbath was first given to the Israelites by Moses and that no Sabbath observance occurred before then (no observance by the pre-Exodus Israelites, and especially no observance by the nations).

 God vs. LORD

Consider what Mr. Pink considered to be ‘conclusive proof’ that the Sabbath was for all mankind and the logical twists necessary to support this argument.

…Now the Divine titles are not used loosely, nor are they employed alternately for the purpose of variation. Each one possesses a definite and distinct signification. “God” is the creatorial title (see Gen. 1: 1). “Lord” is God in covenant relationship, that is why it is “Lord God” all through Gen. 2. In Gen. I it is God in connection with His creatures. In Gen. 2 it is the Lord God in connection with Adam, with whom He had entered into a covenant…. The fact, then, that Ex. 20 opens with “And God spake all these words,” etc., proves conclusively that the Ten Commandments were not and are not designed solely for Israel (the covenant people), but for all mankind. The use of the title “God” in Ex. 20:1 is the more forceful because in vv. 2, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12 “the Lord” is named, and named there because Jehovah was Israel’s covenant God.

Mr. Pink jumps to the incredible conclusion that the use of God (as a creatorial title), trumps the use of LORD God solely because the latter title names Him and identifies Him as their covenant God. What evidence do we have that one title trumps another in this passage? I suspect that no one (save those who already have a preconceived notion concerning a universal Sabbath commandment) would ever read into Exodus 20:1-2 what A.W. Pink reads into it.

One could just as easily state that the title LORD God ‘trumps’ the title God here because the Covenant between God and Israel is precisely what is in view (a covenant which includes the Seventh Day Sabbath; hence Exodus 31:16 “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant.)”

Consider also who it is that does the speaking as per Deuteronomy 4:12-14 “And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only [ye heard] a voice. 13 And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, [even] ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.”

Note that Exodus 31:12-18 also makes use of The LORD; thus God clearly uses the term God (Exodus 20:1) and the term LORD (Deuteronomy 4:12) as titles to make the same point (in reference to His covenant with Israel, His law, and His Sabbath).

Remember…

Consider Mr. Pinks argument concerning God’s use of the word remember (emphasis added).

A few words now concerning the fourth commandment itself. The commandment opens with the word “Remember.” This intimates two things: first, this commandment was not here given for the first time – the word “remember” looks back to Gen. 2:2, 3; second, there is more danger of forgetting this commandment than any of the ten. Then follows a description of how the Sabbath is to be kept: in it no work is to be done. This is not to be taken absolutely, but is modified by other scriptures. What works are permissible we shall see later. In v. 11 a reason is given why the Sabbath must be kept holy: it memorializes God’s work of creation. It recognizes Him as earth’s Proprietor and owns Him as man’s Sovereign.

Mr. Pink is referring to Exodus 20:8 when he states:

 “The commandment opens with the word “Remember.” This intimates two things: first, this commandment was not here given for the first time-the word “remember” looks back to Gen. 2:2, 3.”

There are four very clear problems with this argument; however, before I address them, consider the three passages that play a prominent role:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Exodus 16:25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day [is] a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, [which is] the sabbath, in it there shall be none… 29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The first problem with Mr. Pink’s argument is that the Fourth Commandment cannot “look back to Genesis 2:2-3” because, as can be plainly seen, there is no commandment, direction, or instruction given in Genesis 2:2-3. Genesis 2 gives statements of fact concerning (a) what God did, (b) what He desisted from doing, and (c) what He declared blessed and sanctified; however, there is nothing about any command for some men, or all men, to follow; nor is there any express declaration as to precisely when He blessed and sanctified the seventh day (as discussed in detail in the previous sections, this passage may very well have been a prolepsis, referring to the events covered in Exodus chapters 16 through 31).

The second problem with Mr. Pink’s argument is that the events in Exodus 16 clearly predate those in Exodus 20. The significance of this fact is clear: the Remember in Exodus chapter 20 points back to the Sabbath command that was given to the Israelites in Exodus chapter 16. Moses was telling the Israelites to remember the command he had relayed to them weeks back (Exodus 16 taking place around the fifteenth day of the second month and Exodus 20 at some point in the third month).

The third problem with his argument is that he affirms that before Exodus, there is no description of how the Sabbath is to be kept. We discussed this in a previous part of this series, but it is worth considering again. Mr. Pink, in stating (emphasis added): “Then follows a description of how the Sabbath is to be kept: in it no work is to be done. This is not to be taken absolutely, but is modified by other scriptures. What works are permissible we shall see later,” concedes that neither the Israelites nor anyone else could remember to keep a Sabbath if no prior record exists on how, precisely, they were to keep it.

Those who advocate a Genesis 2 sabbath effectively state the following: ‘God established the Sabbath in Genesis 2, commanded (through some unrecorded means) the observance of it, did not expect the command (to not work) “to be taken absolutely,” but waited centuries nonetheless, before declaring to anyone how mankind was to actually observe it (and in fact never actually states that mankind was to observe it, but only Moses, the Israelites with him, and the strangers within their gates).

The fourth problem arises from the implications of the use of the word Remember (Strong’s H2142 – Zakar), which does indeed mean to call into mind or recall. However, it also means to keep in remembrance or to be mindful of. Many Sabbatarians, including Pink, argue that God had to remind national Israel to keep the Sabbath in remembrance because it is the easiest of the commandments to forget. They point to the so-called Genesis 2 Sabbath as proof, arguing that all (or most of) mankind forgot that the seventh day was a commanded Sabbath day. In their minds, if mankind forgot about the Sabbath, and God had to “remind” Israel about it in Exodus 16, then clearly others can forget about it and thus God’s need to tell them to remember it. This is why Mr. Pink states: “there is more danger of forgetting this commandment than any of the Ten.” Yet he fails to realise that being told to be mindful of (to keep in remembrance) the Sabbath does not support a universal sabbath observance whatsoever.

Although it is too much of an aside to get into here, when one studies the word Remember/Zakar/H2142 and how it is used elsewhere throughout the Bible (concerning things that were not situated or given in the distant past), it becomes clear that Mr. Pink twists the usage to fit his own purposes — with no biblical support.

Consider also that this notion that the sabbath is the easiest aspect of the law to forget should prompt us to ask the question… why is it the easiest to forget? The question and its implications leads us to the next sub-section…

The work of the law written on the heart

Before we consider how the conscience plays a role in the discussion, please consider the following passages:

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

I Timothy 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

It is clear that natural man has a conscience and that unless that conscience has been seared, that conscience will bear witness of the work of the law written on their hearts. As a result, the unseared conscience of a man reveals to him that covetousness is inherently wrong. Likewise, the conscience reveals that such sins as murder, adultery, lying, stealing, and dishonouring ones parents are all great evils. We see throughout Genesis the prohibitions against, and the consequences for, committing murder, telling lies, committing (or almost committing) adultery, coveting the things of others, etc. The strong implication was that man knew by conscience that such things were immoral and wrong. What we do not see, is anything that suggests that the natural conscience of man, seared or unseared, knows anything by nature of observing a supposed Genesis 2 Sabbath. Besides, what good is it to have a conscience that declares ‘observe a sabbath’ when you have no instruction on how to (1) properly observe it and (2) abstain from profaning it.

Some may point to this Assyrian or Babylonian document (now a generally discredited argument), or this Roman decree, etc, as evidence that men intuitively knew to observe a seventh-day sabbath; however, there is no record that suggests a natural and universal (historically-global) stirring of the conscience regarding this matter. References to various peoples observing a seven-day week, or considering sacred the seventh day does not prove that a Sabbath command existed for all of mankind to observe a day of rest. As discussed previously, I believe that the seven-day week was ordained of God (as several passages suggest), but this, by no means, equates to a Genesis 2 “commandment” to observe a Sabbath. Likewise, the fact that some peoples throughout time, observed a seven day week while others did not has little to do with conscience and much to do with the fact that approximately every seven days the moon enters into a major phase (the moon plays a major role in various pagan religions). The number seven also plays a major role in many pagan religions (and the occult) as well — especially given the seven known solar bodies visible to man before the development of telescopes. Thus, references to the views of the Assyrians and Romans concerning the seventh day are indeed interesting — but they by no means prove anything.

They…, them…, and their…

Finally, consider Nehemiah chapter nine again, and note the bolded points. It is clear that the Sabbath was given to Israel (and only to Israel) during the Exodus by the pronoun usage.

Nehemiah 9:11 “And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters. 12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. 13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.” [Note: Ezekiel 20 declares these very same truths.]

Please notice the exclusivity of the language: God (a) divided the sea for Israel – and no one else; (b) led them with a cloudy pillar by day and a pillar of fire by night – and no one else;  (c) came down upon mount Sinai to speak to them from heaven – and no one else; (d) made known unto them the holy sabbath – and no one else; (e) gave them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments (whereby He commanded them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses) – and no one else; (f) gave them bread from heaven for their hunger – and no one else; (g) broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst – and no one else; (h) and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which He had sworn to give them – and no one else.

Despite the very clear intent of the language, Mr. Pink (and those who support his argument) would have us believe that although everything else was exclusive to Israel, the Sabbath was not exclusive to them but  was simply a reminder of something that had been given to all mankind as a command (past, present, and future). Such a position not only undermines the clear intent of the objective language of Nehemiah 9 but it also undermines the clear pattern of exclusivity revealed in the manner in which the passage was written.

Return to Part One

Return to Part Two

Continue to Part Three (B)

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