PART 2 The seventh day Sabbath

PART 2 The Seventh Day Sabbath

CHAPTER 3

The Age of Israel

The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt to the birth of Christ

God called a man named Moses to lead the Jews out from their captivity in Egypt. After having passed through the Red Sea they arrived at a place called Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments along with instructions concerning the building of a tabernacle, which was a portable tent like structure that was to be used in the worship of their God (Yahweh) throughout the Jews wilderness wanderings as they proceeded toward the land that God promised them to inhabit, i.e. the Promised Land of Canaan.

Joshua followed Moses as the next leader of the Jews. Under his leadership, they would cross over the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan thus becoming a nation of people. The spiritual ceremonies by which they would worship Yahweh along with the precise ethics they were to follow were: the testimonies [the laws directing the commemoration of certain events (e.g. Seventh year Sabbath rest; the 50th year, the year of Jubilee; the ordinance of the Passover; the feast of Unleavened Bread; etc.)] and the civil statutes (e.g. laws for military service, diet, soil conservation, etc.), which were previously delineated by Moses to them during their wilderness wanderings, and which are now being instituted at this time.

After Joshua died, the Jews were ruled by various leaders called judges for a period of about 400 years. God would raise up these judges to rule over Israel, when after a period of apostatizing from Him and being in subjection to a foreign nation, they would cry out to Him for help in delivering them from their enemies. Following the period of the Judges, the Jews decided they wanted a king to rule over them. So, God allowed them to have their desire.

Their first three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon ruled over the entire nation or 12 tribes of Israel. After the reign of Solomon, the nation split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was comprised of 10 tribes, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was comprised of 2 tribes. Because of apostasy, the Northern Kingdom was invaded by the Assyrians and led away into captivity. Years later, the Southern Kingdom was also invaded and led away into captivity by the Babylonians. When the Babylonian captivity ended, the Jews began to return to their homeland. It was during this time that observing the 7th day Sabbath was mentioned frequently as it was a day set aside for the worshipping of Jehovah.

A non-dispensationalist would look at many of the scripture sections where this observance was mentioned, and they will incorporate some of these verses in order to support the perpetuation or continuation of this practice for Christians today.

The dispensationalist will look at the practice of keeping the Sabbath as it was used during the dispensation at hand, i.e. the Age of Israel. Just because it was observed during a particular age doesn’t mean that it should be adhered to in a different age. Scriptures from each age will determine whether this practice should be observed to or not.

Please read the scriptural sections that follow along with the related content. Hopefully, these will help us to determine if this practice was not only being implemented at this time, but as to whether it should it be a practice that should be continued during the age in which we currently live, which is called the Church Age.

Where was the word sabbath first mentioned in the Bible?

2. Tomorrow is the rest of a holy sabbath unto the Lord
Suggested Reading: Exodus 16:1-36
Exodus 16:11-12 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.

The children of Israel after departing out of the land of Egypt are in the wilderness of Sin complaining about the lack of food provisions. The Lord told Moses that He would provide for them quail in the evening and manna in the morning. Manna, which was known as the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat was to be gathered in the morning and eaten. It was not to be left over for the next day. On each morning of a new day, God would provide fresh manna. Manna would be provided for the children of Israel over the course of their wanderings in the wilderness.

Exodus 16:22-23 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. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow 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.

The first mention of the word sabbath is found in these verses. As these verses clearly declare, the Lord instructed Moses to convey to the people that they should gather a double amount of manna on the morning of the 6th day so that there would be enough left over to be eaten on the 7th day, which was to be called the holy Sabbath (a day of rest or cessation from work) unto the Lord. The grammatical structure of the Hebrew words of the holy sabbath should literally be translated of a holy sabbath. The absence of the definite article the is a strong indication that the whole idea was new at any rate to those whom Moses was addressing.10 The following is another question to consider about the Sabbath.

Was the Sabbath observed by the Jews during their 40-year wanderings in the wilderness?

3. The sabbath: in it thou shalt not do any work
Suggested Reading: Exodus 19:9; Exodus 20:8-11

In the 3rd month of their journeying toward the Promised Land of Canaan, having left their captivity in Egypt, the children of Israel are now in the desert of Sinai. Moses was called by God to go a certain distance up this Mount. While there, He told him that He would come down in a thick cloud and speak to him before the people. The first thing Moses did when he came down from the Mount was to station the people so that they would be at an appropriate distance away from this occurrence for their safety.

After which, he proceeded to go back up the Mount again, when at this time God gave him the Ten Commandments, which were written on two tablets of stone, along with other instructions called testimonies, statutes, and judgments. He then proceeded back down the mountain and writes God’s instructions on a papyrus scroll or on a large piece of leather, which was rendered or otherwise known as the Book of the covenant or the Book of God’s agreement with the people. Once recorded, he appears before the people and lets them know what was contained in this book.

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 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, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

One of the Ten Commandments they were given stated that they were to observe the 7th day Sabbath. Six days they were to work and on the 7th day they were to cease from it. Israel was to observe a day of rest each week so she could commemorate God's creation of the world in six days and His rest on the seventh day.11 The Sabbath was to be observed on a weekly basis by the Jews during their 40-year wanderings in the wilderness.

God resting on the 7th day of creation meant that He ceased to create or took a rest, whereas, the Sabbath day refers to man resting after having become tired. By the way, this day was not to be a day of slothful inactivity, but of spiritual service through religious observances.12 So, by observing the Sabbath before her pagan neighbors, Israel was expressing her faith in the personal God who created both the world and her as a nation.13

One reason why some churches believe that Christians are mandated to keep the Sabbath is because of the words for ever. The Jews were told to keep the Sabbath as a perpetual covenant.

Do the words for ever mean perpetual?

4. Keep the sabbath for a perpetual covenant
Suggested Reading: Exodus 31:13-17; Genesis 13:12-15; Exodus 3:8; Leviticus 26:14, 33 1 Chronicles 28:5-9

Moses was told by God to come up to the Mount so that he might receive tables of stone, a law, and commandments, which will be used to teach the people. In Exodus chapters 25-31, the people were made aware of the necessity of building for God a sanctuary, where He would dwell. This sanctuary would be located inside a tent like structure, called the tabernacle. Along with this, they were instructed to keep God’s Sabbaths.

Exodus 31:13-17 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. 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. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 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.

The Sabbath was to be a sign or distinguishing mark of difference for the Jews in contrast with other nations indicating that they were under a special covenant with God, who made their nation a theocracy. The Sabbath marked Israel out as God's people. Observing the Sabbath showed that the Israelites were set apart (i.e., holy) to God. 14 And what I am going to say next is why some churches believe that this observance should be in effect today. The children of Israel were told that they were to keep the Sabbath for a perpetual covenant. Some say this word perpetual means eternally or forever. Others say that it was only meant to be observed until the dispensation or age of the Jews ended. With these thoughts in mind, I will ask this question.

Was the observing of the 7th day Sabbath commensurate with the duration of the Jewish economy or was it to be observed throughout the rest of human history, which would mean that it should also be kept by the churches (by the assembly of Christian believers) of today?

In order to try and answer this, let’s take a look at the word for ever. The following question is what we will try to answer.

In the Hebrew language does the word for ever mean forever?

The word for ever (lolaam) occurs throughout the Old Testament when God would initiate a commandment or request which said that if you do this or do that then such and such will continue. What this is telling us is that the word for ever means forever with conditions. A different example of this idea concerned the land that God promised to Abram and his descendants. Let’s take a look at this and see if it can help to shed some light as to whether the keeping of the Sabbath is to be observed throughout human history.

Genesis 13:12, 14-15 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

When Abram separated from his nephew Lot, Lot chose to dwell in the cities of the plain. Conversely, Abram decided to dwell in the land of Canaan. God promised to give to him and his seed all of the land that he could see northward, southward, eastward, and westward. This was a promise for the present and future concerning land real estate for the Jews. As time passed, this land promise to Abram was reiterated by God to his son Isaac, and to Isaac’s son Jacob.

Jacob had 12 sons one of whom was named Joseph. By means of God’s miraculous plan he eventually became food commissioner in Egypt for Pharaoh during which time there was a great famine in the land. His family having their food sources deleted went to Joseph for assistance. He recognized his brothers, made himself known to them, and was responsible for his family to relocate in Egypt where they would be provided for. His families’ descendants remained in Egypt for 430 years eventually becoming slaves to a different Pharaoh. In God’s timing, a man named Moses was chosen by Him to lead His people out from this captivity and direct them to the land allotment in Canaan which was promised to Abram, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants.

Under Moses guidance the children of Israel wandered in a wilderness for 40-years until they finally arrived at the Jordan River ever ready to cross over it into the land their ancestors were promised. However, Moses was not allowed to cross over with them due to disobedience to the Lord’s commands. Instead, he was succeeded by a man named Joshua under whose direction they passed over the Jordan. When they crossed over, the next task that was set before them was to claim their land allotment by conquering the enemies who lived there. Under Joshua’s leadership they were very successful in this endeavor.

However, following his death the leadership structure changed. For a period of almost 400-years God appointed certain men and woman called judges whom he would raise up when Israel found herself in harm’s way with an enemy foe. At the close of this 400-year period of time, the Jews decided that they wanted a different leadership form being that of other nations i.e. of having a king rule over them to which God granted their request.

Leviticus 26:14, 33, 43 But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.

During both of these different types of rule, God continually reminded those in leadership and the people, that if they would obey his commands, they would continue to abide in the land which he had given them. However, if they chose not to obey his commands, then they would be taken away captive and their land will become desolate. I hope that you are becoming aware of what was really going on here. The words for ever refers to God’s desire for his people, which was conditional based on whether they would continue to obey Him and those leaders whom he appointed or not.

So, with what we have learned does the word for ever mean perpetual (eternal)?

The answer is no. This word means for ever with conditions.

For most of us, when we think of the Jewish Sabbath, we think of one particular day of the week. The following question causes us to wonder whether we need to change our perspective about it.

Were there other days other than the 7th day of the week, which were considered to be observed as a Sabbath day?

5. The day of atonement is a sabbath day of rest
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 16:3-31
Leviticus 16:6-10 And Aaron… And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:30-31 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.

Once a year on the 10th day of the 7th month, five days before the feast of Tabernacles, the high priest would make atonement for the tabernacle, the altar, his own family, the priests, and all of the people. Two goats were taken. One was to be the sacrifice, which represented the sin offering or the payment for the sins of the people of Israel, and the other goat would have confessed over it all of the sins of the people. This second goat was lead into the wilderness, never to be heard from again. This is a picture of all of the sins of the people having been atoned for and taken away (forgiven and forgotten). This day, the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) did not occur on the 7th day of the week. However, it was considered as a Sabbath, and therefore all of the restrictions that applied to the regular weekly 7th day Sabbath were applied to this day as well. And by the way, as far as I know, this was the only Sabbath on which the people not only rested from work, but also fasted.

And by the way, there were other days that were considered as a Sabbath that were not observed on the seventh day of the week. We will take a look at what these pertained to in a future section.

When I think of the Jews worshipping God on the Sabbath after they entered the Promised Land of Canaan did you ever wonder where their worship of Yahweh took place? The following is the question that pertains to this.

Were the Jews obligated to observe the Sabbath at Jerusalem once a temple was built there?

6. The sabbath is to be observed wherever you live
Leviticus 23:3

During the wilderness wanderings the place of worship for the Jews was called the tabernacle, which was a tent like portable structure that they could setup and take down along their journey. It contained three sections. The first was an outdoor place called the court where an altar for animal sacrifices along with a laver was located. Another section was called the inner court which contained the candlestick, alter of incense, and a table of showbread. And finally, an inner sacred place called the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant in where only the high priest was allowed to enter.

Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

The Sabbath, which was a day set aside for religious purposes, included reflecting upon one’s redemption from Egyptian bondage. When the children of Israel eventually entered the Promised Land of Canaan it was made clear to them that the Sabbath was not to be observed solely where the tabernacle was pitched or even where a temple would be built (at Jerusalem), but in every town and village of Canaan - in all your dwellings.15 In other words, the Jews were not mandated to have to observe the Sabbath in the vicinity of the tabernacle nor were they obligated to have to travel to Jerusalem in order to observe the Sabbath.

Did you know that there were other days that were considered as a Sabbath that did not fall on the seventh day of the Jewish week?

7. Sabbath days do not always fall on the 7th day
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 23:4-34
Leviticus 23:4-8 These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

Leviticus 23:24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.

Leviticus 23:34-36 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.

Leviticus 23:39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.

Although the word Sabbath refers especially to the seventh day of the week, we should note that in the Old Testament there were religious festival days that were also called "sabbaths". Examples of such include the Festival of Trumpets and the Feast of Booths16 (Tabernacles). Whether the Sabbath was considered as the 7th day or one of these festival (feast) days every occupation was to rest. Ploughing and reaping, pressing wine and carrying goods, bearing burdens, carrying on trade, and holding markets17 were prohibited. However, some of these feasts did allow for preparing food, gathering wood, and kindling fire for the purpose of boiling or baking.

A list of the various festivals or feasts that Moses conveyed to the people along with what they commemorated are contained below. These feasts were to be observed by the Jews, when they entered the Promise Land, the land of Canaan. Some of them lasted for more than one day, and had one or more of their days to be observed as a Sabbath, even though they didn’t occur on the 7th day of the week.

The Feast of the Passover occurred on the 14 day of Abib and commemorated the final plague, the 12th plague, which God initiated in the land of Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let the Jews depart from Egypt. In each house that the Jews were dwelling in, a lamb was killed and blood was applied to the doorposts. Any house on which no blood was applied would have the firstborn male and of animals be killed. As a result of this plague, Pharaoh finally decided to let the people go.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately followed after the Passover and lasted for seven days. The feast itself was observed on the final day. This feast signified that the children of Israel had to leave the land of Egypt in haste, and because of this they couldn’t wait for their bread to ferment. There was not enough time to allow the yeast to cause the bread to rise. This unleavened bread, which was likened to flatbread or a cracker, was sour, unpleasant, and unwholesome, and served to remind them of their Egyptian misery or slavery. The first and seventh day of this feast was as a Sabbath. On these days, only work, which was associated with or was in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. All other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed.

The Feast of Pentecost (of harvest) occurred once a year on the fiftieth day following 7 complete weeks beginning on the 16th day of the month Nisan. This commemorated the completion of the grain harvest. On this day, only work, which was associated with or is in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. All other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed.

The Feast of Trumpets (the feast of the New Moon or the Seventh New Moon) occurred on the first day of the 7th month, and was considered to be the first day of the New Year, which was also as a Sabbath. However, it did not fall on the 7th day of the week. On this day, only work, which was associated with or is in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. All other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed.

The Feast of Tabernacles (booths), which lasted for 8 days, was to have the first and eighth day as a Sabbath unto the Lord. On these days, only work, which was associated with or in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. All other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed. This feast celebrated the final harvest ingathering, and also signified the anniversary of the beginning of the Jews wandering in the wilderness.

Does the word Sabbath always refer to a time period of one day?

8. The seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land
Suggested Reading: Leviticus 25:1-22; Deuteronomy 31:9-13
Leviticus 25:1-4 And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

Leviticus 25:21-22 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store.

Some believe the land of Canaan was cultivated on a 7-year farming cycle known as the Shemittah cycle. As part of this cycle, the land was to remain fallow, not to be cultivated, on the 7th year. God would provide in the 6th year enough produce to provide sustenance for years 6, 7, and 8. Sowing would reoccur in the 8th year for the harvesting in year 9. During the 7th year spontaneous produce would occur and could be consumed by anyone, especially the poor. This produce was also available for the animals to eat.

Deuteronomy 31:9-11 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel.And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

Deuteronomy 15:1-2, 12 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release. And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.

Besides the land remaining fallow every seventh year there also appeared to be two other things that were to take place at the beginning of the year along with one other thing at the end of the year. In the beginning of this year, the book of Deuteronomy was to be read and explained to all of the people by the priests. Second, any Jew who was in servitude to another Jew would be released from their obligation. And finally, at the end of the year all debts still owed by a fellow Jew would be cancelled.

As we can see, the word Sabbath does not always denote one day, but can refer to a period of time of one year in respect to the farming cycle where the land would be at rest and likewise the farmers would rest in respect to sowing and reaping it.We might have answered this next question earlier in this chapter. However, let’s take a look at it in more depth.

What was the keeping of the Sabbath supposed to commemorate?

9. Hearken unto the statutes
Suggested Reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-3; 5:12-15
Deuteronomy 4:1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 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: 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. 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.

The children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for 39 years and 11 months. Very soon they would be crossing over the Jordan River in order to enter into the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, which God had promised them and their forefathers for a land inheritance. Moses reminded the people to hearken unto the statutes and judgments by putting into practice what they convey. They were also to make sure to observe the 7th day Sabbath of the Lord on which day no work was to be done by anyone in someone’s family, which also included their servants and anything associated with animals.

And why was the seventh day to be observed?

Because it was to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by God, while they were slaves.

The next question has to do with two groups of people, converted Gentiles to the Jewish faith and eunichs.

Were proselytes and eunichs allowed to observe the Sabbath?

10. The eunuchs and the sons of the stranger that keepeth the sabbath
Suggested Reading: Deuteronomy 23:1-8
Deuteronomy 23:3-7 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

Commentators state that these verses were written to the Jews, who were exiled in Babylon. Soon, they would be delivered from their captivity and be allowed to return to their homeland. There were two groups of people, who are mentioned in these verses, those being the son of the stranger (the foreigner who had become an Israelite) and the Israelite eunuchs (those who served at heathen courts or in the houses of foreign lords). Both groups of people were concerned that when they returned to their homeland, following their release from captivity, they would be deprived or excluded from the privileges of the Jews in regard to their spiritual welfare.

The reasoning for their concern could relate back to something that happened years earlier under Moses leadership. Following the Jews escape from their captivity in Egypt, they eventually arrived at a place called Mount Sinai. While there a census (numbering the people took place. Those who were proselytes and the eunuchs were not allowed to be numbered. And therefore, they were not allowed to observe the Sabbath and participate in burnt offerings and sacrifices.

While their concern was historically founded, in this instance when they returned home from the Babylonian captivity they were allowed to participate in the religious privileges as long as they kept the Sabbath without polluting it.

The next question relates to consequences for not keeping the Sabbath.

Were there dire consequences, if the Jews chose to not keep the Sabbath?

11. Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day:
Jeremiah 17:19-27 Thus said the Lord unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction” And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

The book of Jeremiah is a prophetic book directed to the Southern Kingdom of Judah extending over 40 years before its invasion by the Babylonians. The tense three sided contest for world dominion between Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon forms the background of Jeremiah’s prophetic career. The prophet delivered God’s message of judgment to Judah to abandon idolatry and apostasy in order to escape the consequence of the upcoming 70-year Babylonian captivity.

The Jews neglect of observing of the 7th day Sabbath was the basis for their coming judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. Jeremiah was commissioned by God to stand in each of the gates of Jerusalem and proclaim His word to the kings and people. They were commanded to stop all work (manual labor) along with the buying and selling of produce on this day. If they obeyed, then God would see to it that there would always be Jewish kings ruling Jerusalem. Along with this, He would also bring about financial prosperity for the kingdom. Failure to obey would result in the city of Jerusalem being set on fire at the hands of the Babylonians.

Well, what do you think? Did you learn a lot more about the Sabbath than you knew before? I know I did. Let’s summarize these scriptural sections and then try to come up with the perspectives about this topic from the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist.

Summary

●The Lord instructed Moses to tell the people to gather a double amount of manna on the morning of the 6th day so that there would be enough left over to be eaten on the 7th day, which was to be called the holy Sabbath (a day of rest or cessation from work) unto the Lord. Exodus 16:1-36

●God conveyed instructions to Moses, who in turn conveyed them to the people, both the things they should do and the things they should not do, by means of the 10 commandments. One of these commandments stated that they were to observe the 7th day Sabbath. Six days they were to work and on the 7th day they were to cease from work. Exodus 19:9; 20:8-11

●The Sabbath was to be a sign or distinguishing mark of difference for the Jews indicating they were under a special covenant with God, who made their nation a theocracy. Observing the Sabbath indicated to the other nations that they were set apart (i.e., holy) to God. The children of Israel were to keep the Sabbath forever as a perpetual covenant. Exodus 31:13-17; Genesis 13:12-15; Exodus 3:8; Leviticus 26:14, 33, 43;1 Chronicles 28:5-9

●The day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) did not occur on the 7th day of the week. However, it was considered as a Sabbath, and therefore all of the restrictions that applied to the regular weekly 7th day Sabbath were applied here as well. However, this was the only Sabbath on which the people not only rested from work, but during which time they also fasted. Leviticus 16:3-31

●The Sabbath was a day set aside for religious purposes along with a time for recalling one’s redemption from Egyptian bondage. It was not to be observed only where the tabernacle was pitched or for that matter at Jerusalem, when a future temple was built, but in every town and village of Canaan. Leviticus 23:3

●There were a few feasts or festivals that Moses conveyed to the people of Israel such as: the Passover, the feast of the Unleavened Bread, the feast of weeks (Pentecost), the blowing of Trumpets (feast of the New Moon), the day of Atonement, and the feast of Tabernacles (booths). These feasts were to be observed by the Jews, when they entered the Promise Land of Canaan. Some of them lasted for more than one day, and along with this had one or more of their days, which didn’t occur on the seventh day, be observed as a Sabbath. What these Sabbaths had in common with the weekly 7th day Sabbath was that work which was associated with or is in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. However, where they differed was that all other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed, whereas on the weekly Sabbath this type of work which some might called servile work was prohibited. Leviticus 23:4-39

●Some believe that the land of Canaan was to be cultivated on a 7 year farming cycle known as the Shemittah. During the 7th year of this cycle, the land was to remain fallow, and not to be cultivated. As a result, spontaneous produce would grow and could be consumed by the people and animals. In the beginning of this year, the book of Deuteronomy was to be read and explained to all of the people by the priests. Second, any Jew who was in servitude to another Jew would be released from their obligation. And finally, at the end of the year all debts still owed by a fellow Jew would be cancelled.
Leviticus 25:1-22; Deuteronomy 31:9-13

●No work was to be done by anyone on the Sabbath including their servants and animals. The purpose of observing the Sabbath was that it commemorated Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by God, when they were slaves in captivity. Deuteronomy 1:1-3; 4:1; 5:12-15

●Both “the son of the stranger” (the foreigner who has become an Israelite) and the Israelite eunuchs (those who served at heathen courts or in the houses of foreign lords) were allowed to participate in the religious observances of the Jews upon their return from captivity in Babylon as long as they observed the Sabbath without polluting it. Deuteronomy 23:1-8

●Jeremiah was commissioned by God to stand in each of the gates of Jerusalem and proclaim His word to the kings and people of Judah, the announcement of such was that no work (manual labor) was permitted on the Sabbath, which included the buying and selling of produce. If the people obeyed these words, then God would see to it that there would always be a Jewish king ruling Jerusalem. Along with this, the kingdom would be blessed with financial prosperity. Failure, however, to observe the Sabbath would result in the future destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Jeremiah 17:19-27

How will those who are in the leadership positions in the church you are attending use the information obtained from the Age of Israel in regard to the observance of the 7th day Sabbath for the New Testament churches of today? Will they support the observance of it or not? The answer depends on whether they are dispensational or not.

If they believe that any scripture can be used to support any biblical topic, then they are a non-dispensationalist, and in all likelihood, they will promote the idea that Christians should continue to observe this day. If they are a dispensationalist, the decision to observe or not observe this day will be based on the scriptures that were written for the dispensation during the age which Christians live in, which began on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the rapture of the church, called the Church Age. To emphasis a little more of what I just said, let’s take a look at how the dispensationalist and non-dispensationalist would comment on this topic based on the scripture sections that we just looked at.

The dispensationalist would not use any of the ideas presented here as to whether a Christian is obligated to observe the 7th day Sabbath. Besides this, they might also make some comments in this regard such as:

~The observing of the 7th day Sabbath in this dispensation, the Age of Israel, was instituted by God for the nation of Israel only.

~The observing of a weekly 7th day Sabbath by the Jews was first mentioned in relation to when God provided manna for them to eat while they were wandering in the wilderness under Moses leadership. When the children of Israel arrived on Mount Sinai, Moses reiterated to them the necessity of observing this day of rest and the reasons as to why which were to: Commemorate God's creation of the world in six days and His rest on the seventh day Exodus 16:1-36
Commemorate their deliverance out of slavery, when they were in Egypt Deuteronomy 5:12-15;
Signify that they were set apart as God’s people; Exodus 31:13-17
Be a sign of perpetual covenant between them and God as long as they continued to observe it Exodus 31:13-17.

On the other hand, the non-dispensationalist would choose certain verses from the Old Testament that would support the view that Christians are obligated to observe the 7th day Sabbath. They would point out the following.
~That the observing of this day was forecast in the book of Genesis, when God rested on the 7th day from the 6 days of creation. Genesis 2:2
~That the Jews were to observe the 7th day Sabbath not only during their wilderness wanderings, but also when they entered the land of Canaan. Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13-17
~That this observance was to be kept by them for a perpetual (eternal) covenant forever. Exodus 31:13-17

Therefore, one could conclude that because of the importance of this observance, it should also be kept by New Testament believers in the Church Age.

Endnotes
10UBS
11Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament (Cook Communications Ministries, 2000)
12Bible Knowledge.
13Bible Knowledge.
14Bible Knowledge.
15Keil and Delitzsch.
16The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 5 Jan. 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
17International Standard Bible Dictionary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 5 Jan. 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

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Synopsis
What did the seventh day Sabbath signify for the Jews?
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