The Sabbath (Shabbat)

The fourth Commandment is the command to keep the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was one of the Ten Commands that YaHuWaH inscribed in stone.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to set it apart. “Six days you labour, and shall do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of יהוה your Elohim. You do not do any 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. “For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore יהוה blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.”  ‭‭Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭20:8-11

The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, and the fact that YaHuWaH inscribed the commandment to rest in stone should give us some idea of the degree of importance and unchangeability that YaHuWaH assigns to it.

The reason YaHuWaH assigned the Sabbath as the seventh day of the week is that YaHuWaH created the heavens and the earth in six days, and then rested on the seventh day.

“And in the seventh day Elohim completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because on it He rested from all His work which Elohim in creating had made.”  ‭‭Berĕshith (Genesis)‬ ‭2:2-3

However, YaHuWaH not only rested on the seventh day, but He also was refreshed.

“And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, And you, speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, saying, ‘My Sabbaths you are to guard, by all means, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I, יהוה, am setting you apart. ‘And you shall guard the Sabbath, for it is set-apart to you. Everyone who profanes it shall certainly be put to death, for anyone who does work on it, that being shall be cut off from among his people. ‘Six days work is done, and on the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, set-apart to יהוה. Everyone doing work on the Sabbath day shall certainly be put to death. ‘And the children of Yisra’ĕl shall guard the Sabbath, to perform the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant. ‘Between Me and the children of Yisra’ĕl it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”  ‭‭Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭31:12-17

The language here is curious. Since YaHuWaH’s power and might is completely without limit, how can YaHuWaH become tired?  And if He cannot become tired, then how can YaHuWaH become refreshed?

Notice the language here:  that the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest in Him. The purpose of the Sabbath is not to rest and relax the flesh by sewing, by hiking, by catching up on one’s sleep for the week, or by participating in recreational activities such as boating, fishing or watching television.  Rather, the purpose of YaHuWaH’s Sabbath is to restore the proper order between YaHuWaH Elohim and man.  As we will see, this calls for us to gather together and serve him as one united, combined Body of Messiah.

And let us be concerned for one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and so much more as you see the day coming near.  Iḇ`rim (Hebrews) 10:24‭-‬25

YaHuWaH has specific rules for the Sabbath. He tells us that not only are we to do no work, but that we are not to cause anyone else to work on that day: neither our sons, nor our daughters, not our menservants, nor our maidservants, nor our cattle, nor any stranger who is within our gates.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to set it apart. “Six days you labour, and shall do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of יהוה your Elohim. You do not do any 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. “For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore יהוה blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.”  ‭‭Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭20:8-11

The basic concept is that we are to rest and relax in Him, and to cause anyone and everyone under our power to rest and relax in Him also.  In practical terms, this means that we must not hire anyone to do any regular work, or work for pay on the Sabbath.

YaHuWaH both blessed the seventh day and He sit is apart.  By way of blessing He gave His people one day out of their busy weeks that they should have to do no laborious work.  This is so true that the children of Yisra’El were not even supposed to cook on the Sabbath.

In the Wilderness of Sinai, the children of Yisra’El were told to gather and prepare twice as much food on the sixth day of the week (sometimes called ‘Preparation Day’), so that no gathering or cooking had to be done on the Sabbath.

“And it came to be, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Mosheh. And he said to them, “This is what יהוה has said, ‘Tomorrow is a rest, a Sabbath set-apart to יהוה. That which you bake, bake; and that which you cook, cook. And lay up for yourselves all that is left over, to keep it until morning.’ ” And they laid it up till morning, as Mosheh commanded. And it did not stink, and no worm was in it. And Mosheh said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to יהוה, today you do not find it in the field. Gather it six days, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there is none. And it came to be that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And יהוה said to Mosheh, “How long shall you refuse to guard My commands and My Torot? See, because יהוה has given you the Sabbath, therefore He is giving you bread for two days on the sixth day. Let each one stay in his place, do not let anyone go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.”  ‭‭Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭16:22-30

The idea is to prepare for the Sabbath all six days of the week, and then to prepare twice as much food on the sixth day, so that one does not have to gather or prepare food on the seventh. With the work of food preparation already done, the Sabbath is just that much more restful.

YaHuWaH tells us He is serious about His people resting from their labors on the seventh day.  He even tells us that whosoever does any work on the Sabbath is to be put to death.  This is a sign of the covenant between YaHuWaH and us forever, in all of our generations.

“And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, And you, speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, saying, ‘My Sabbaths you are to guard, by all means, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I, יהוה, am setting you apart. ‘And you shall guard the Sabbath, for it is set-apart to you. Everyone who profanes it shall certainly be put to death, for anyone who does work on it, that being shall be cut off from among his people. ‘Six days work is done, and on the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, set-apart to יהוה. Everyone doing work on the Sabbath day shall certainly be put to death. ‘And the children of Yisra’ĕl shall guard the Sabbath, to perform the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant. ‘Between Me and the children of Yisra’ĕl it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”  Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭31:12-17

However, people being what they are, they sometimes put YaHuWaH to the test.  So it was that when Yisra’El was in the Wilderness, immediately after YaHuWaH has warned the people that anyone rebelling against His commandments should be put to death, a man chose to profane the Sabbath by gathering sticks.  When Moshe asked YaHuWaH what to do, YaHuWaH decreed that the rebellious man was surely to be put to death.

“And while the children of Yisra’ĕl were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Mosheh and to Aharon, and to all the congregation. And they put him in under guard, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. And יהוה said to Mosheh, “The man shall certainly be put to death, all the congregation stoning him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, as יהוה commanded Mosheh, and he died.”  Bemiḏbar (Numbers)‬ ‭15:32-36

The reason this man was profaning the Sabbath was that he had chosen to perform routine, laborious work that could have been done either before or after Shabbat.  He should have been congregating and worshipping YaHuWaH at that time.

When YaHuWaH appoints a special time to meet with us, we as His bride must make every effort to meet with Him then.  If there is any work that can be done before the Sabbath, so that we have more time to spend with Him on that day, then that work should be done apart from the Sabbath day.

Yet even though the man gathering sticks was breaking the Shabbat, Yahusha said that His disciples were not breaking the Shabbat when they plucked heads of grain (and ate them) on the Shabbat.

“At that time יהושע went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. And His taught ones were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain, to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your taught ones are doing what is not right to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what Dawiḏ did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the House of Elohim and ate the showbread which was not right for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? “Or did you not read in the Torah that on the Sabbath the priests in the Set-apart Place profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? “But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the Set-apart Place. “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not offering,’ you would not have condemned the blameless. “For the Son of Aḏam is Master of the Sabbath.”  Mattithyahu (Matthew)‬ ‭12:1-8

There are several reasons that Yahusha’s disciples were not profaning the Sabbath.  Perhaps on of the most obvious is that His disciples were not working for pay.  They also were not reaping with a sickle and a basket, either to sell, or to store up for later.  Rather, they were spending time with their Husband, and were simply eating what was readily at hand as they walked through the field, much as one might pluck a few pomegranates one came across on the way to the synagogue.  Since it was not really ‘work’to pluck these grains and eat them, it did not need to e put off until later.

Another thing that is not ‘customary work’, and which does not need to be put off until after the Sabbath is healing and doing good.

“And having left there, He went into their congregation. And see, there was a man having a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath?” – so as to accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, shall not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more worth is a man than a sheep! So it is right to do good on the Sabbath.”  Mattithyahu (Matthew)‬ ‭12:9-12

Sometimes people have questions about hospital staff:  since Yahusha said it is OK to heal on the Sabbath, is it OK for believers to work as doctors, nurses, police and fire services, or as other emergency services personnel?  Perhaps it will be easier to understand if we use the following analogy:

Scripture likens Yisra’El to a virgin bride, and if Yisra’El is a virgin bride, then one might consider the Sabbath (or any other festival day) as a ‘date’ between the bride and her future Husband.  If the bride only gets to see her Beloved Fiance one day a week, then if she truly cherishes her Fiance, and wants to be with Him, then she will look for ways to make the most of her time with Him.  Because of this, she will try to take care of her earthly chores during the rest of the week, so that she can spend as much time as possible with Him on her one special date day.

If someone should come to the bride’s door in need of urgent medical care (or even food) on the day she has to spend with her Fiance, her Fiance will probably be quite pleased and happy with her if she stops whatever she is doing, and helps the one in need.  However, in contrast, her Fiance will probably not be pleased if she has been lazy during the week, or has overscheduled herself, such that she has left herself all sorts of little chores to do, or is too exhausted to spend quality time with Him.

It is true that not all work can be put off until another time.  For example, dairy animals must be milked seven days a week, and animals such as sheep need a great deal of help during birthing, no matter what day of the week it is.  Further, life being what it is, medical emergencies arise seven days a week, and ambulance and medical crews need to be on hand to help save the lives of those who are in need.  However, in all of these scenarios, there is work that must be performed at the time the crisis arises, yet there is also other work that can be put off until later.  Whatever work can be done either before or after the Sabbath, should be.

What exactly can and cannot be done on the Sabbath is also the question of some debate.  Exodus 35 tells us that anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death, and then it also gives us a rather curious commandment, not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath day.

“And Mosheh assembled all the congregation of the children of Yisra’ĕl, and said to them, “These are the Words which יהוה has commanded you to do: “Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Sabbath of rest to יהוה. Anyone doing work on it is put to death. “Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” ‭‭Shemoth (Exodus)‬ ‭35:1-3

Why would YaHuWaH prohibit us from kindling a fire in our dwellings of Shabbat?  In many climates one needs to burn a fire in winter just to keep warm, and the Sabbath would hardly be relaxing or refreshing without heat.  However, if we look at this passage in the Hebrew, we may be able to get a better feel for YaHuWaH’s intended meaning.  The word ‘kindle’ here is ta-ba-aru ( תְבַעֲרוּ ), which is likely the Hebrew source for the English word ‘to burn’.  This is also the work used to describe the burning bush in Exodus 3:2.  Thus, the commandment not to kindle a fire on Shabbat is probably the commandment not to burn a fire on the Sabbath.

But even if the commandment in Exodus 35:3 is not to burn a fire on the Sabbath, still we are left with the question, why would YaHuWaH command us not to burn a fire for warmth (or for light) on His day of rest and refreshment?  Does He desire us to dwell in the dark, and the cold?

Let us consider that the phrase ‘your dwellings’ is ‘moshavotheichem’, ( מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם ), which means ‘your communities’.  Since wood had to be gathered by hand, each individual family did not always build their own fires.  Rather, in ancient times, families and clans built a community fire.  This is where the people of one extended family cooked, and conducted all manner of work requiring fire, such as blacksmithing.  Therefore, it seems likely that what YaHuWaH was really prohibiting was the kindling or burning of a work or a cooking fire on Shabbat.

There were many lamps in the upper room where the Apostle Shaul was teaching.

“And on day one of the week, the taught ones having gathered together to break bread, Sha’ul, intending to depart the next day, was reasoning with them and was extending the word till midnight. And there were many lamps in the upper room where they were assembled.”  Ma`asei (Acts)‬ ‭20:7-8

May scholars dispute the translation ‘on day one of the week’.  The Greek reads ‘mia ton Sabbaton’ which many scholars maintain is more correctly translated as ‘on one of the Sabbaths’.

If this gathering did take place on one of the Sabbaths, as some scholars contend, it would show us that Shaul believed one could burn non-work-related fires (in this case, lamps) on the Sabbath, for light.

What this shows us is that it is not YaHuWaH’s intention that we remain in the cold or the dark on His day of worship and refreshment.  That is why, if the penalty for profaning the Sabbath is strict, the rules for keeping the Shabbat must be interpreted with common sense.

It is sometimes suggested that we do not need to assemble on the Sabbath, in that when the children of Yisra’El were in the Wilderness, YaHuWaH told them to remain in their place on the seventh day.

See, because יהוה has given you the Sabbath, therefore He is giving you bread for two days on the sixth day. Let each one stay in his place, do not let anyone go out of his place on the seventh day.  Shemoth (Exodus) 16:29

However, the context of this commandment to ‘do not let anyone go out of his place’ is not in reference to assembly for worship, but only with regards to gathering and preparing food.  Rather than gather and prepare food on the Shabbat, the children of Yisra’El were supposed to prepare a day in advance, so they did not have to cook.

The commandment to assemble for worship on the Shabbat is given in Leviticus 23:3.

“Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to יהוה in all your dwellings (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ).”  Wayyiqra (Leviticus)‬ ‭23:3

The seventh day is described as a Sabbath of solemn rest, and a set-apart gathering.  The Hebrew here is ‘miqra qodesh’ (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ), which is usually translated as a ‘holy convocation’ in English.  A ‘miqra’ is a public meeting, and also a prophetic rehearsal.

OT: 4744 miqra’ (mik-raw’); from OT:7121; something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal.

The letter ‘mem’ ( מ) implies a massing, and ‘karaw’ (קְרָא) ) means ‘called’. Therefore a miqra ( מִקְרָא ) is a ‘called-out massing’, or a ‘call to a public meeting’.

It was Yahusha’s custom to fulfill this commandment to go to a public worship and prayer meeting by going to the local synagogue.

And He came to Natsareth, where He had been brought up. And according to His practice, He went into the congregation on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  Luqas (Luke) 4:16

It seems the apostles also intended the returning gentile Ephraimites to fulfill the requirement to gather for prayer by going to the local synagogues on each Sabbath.

“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the nations who are turning to Elohim, but that we write to them to abstain from the defilements of idols, and from whoring, and from what is strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Mosheh has, in every city, those proclaiming him – being read in the congregations every Sabbath.  Ma`asei (Acts) 15:19‭-‬21

Acts Chapter 15 tells us that if the returning gentile Ephraimites would begin by abstaining from the four abominations of idolatry, adultery, strangled (unclean) meats and blood, then they would be allowed to enter into the synagogues on Sabbath, as they would bot be defiling the set-apartness of the space.  There in the public prayer and worship meetings, they would learn the rest of the Torah over time, as parts of the Torah are read aloud in the synagogues each week.

It is sometimes taught that since Torah scrolls were not readily available in the first century, but since most households can afford a copy of the Scriptures today, that it is not necessary for the people to gather and assemble for public worship on the Shabbat.  However, this ignores both Leviticus 23:3, which plainly tells us to assemble on the Shabbat, as well as Hebrews 10:25, which specifically commands us not to for sake the assembling of ourselves, although it is the custom of some.

“And let us be concerned for one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and so much more as you see the day coming near.”  Iḇ`rim (Hebrews)‬ ‭10:24-25

YaHuWaH tells us that the Sabbath is one of His appointed times.  In other words, it is one of the times that He has appointed for us to gather together and assemble ourselves, so as to worship Him as one new man.

“Speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, and say to them, ‘The appointed times of יהוה, which you are to proclaim as set-apart gatherings, My appointed times, are these: ‘Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to יהוה in all your dwellings. ‘These are the appointed times of יהוה, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Pĕsaḥ to יהוה.”  ‭‭Wayyiqra (Leviticus)‬ ‭23:2-5

It sometimes happens that Ephraimites look for any excuse to forsake the assembling of themselves, even though the Sabbath is the fourth of the commandments that YaHuWaH etched into stone.  Let us remember that YaHuWaH is Elohim, and that when He commands His people to assemble, it is best to do as He says.

We may or may not like the others that YaHuWaH has called to be part of His spiritual family here on earth, and if we do not like them, then the tendency can be to want to shun, or avoid them.  However, it is important to remember that the apostles bound found beginning fellowship rules for us in Scripture (no idolatry, no adultery, no strangled meat, and no blood), and that so long as our fellow servant are obeying these rules, then we are not at liberty to isolate ourselves, or to set ourselves apart from them.

Service to YaHuWaH is not about being comfortable; nor is it always pleasant.  It is, however, almost always edifying, if we hold the right heart attitude towards it.

 

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rYm Covenant

To the Torah and to the witness! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because they have no daybreak [light]. Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 8:20

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