Biblical Sabbath

Biblical Sabbath


Illustration from the first engraved Christian Bible in Russian (1696), depicting God reposing on Sabbath.

Sabbath in the Bible is usually a weekly day of rest and time of worship. The Sabbath is first mentioned in the Biblical Creation account. The seventh day is there set aside as a day of rest—the Sabbath. In over thirty languages other than English, the common name for Saturday is a cognate of "Sabbath". In the majority of the principal languages the last, or seventh, day of the week is designated as "Sabbath."[1] There is not even one language that designates another day as the "day of rest."[2][unreliable source?]

It is observed differently in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in several other faiths. It is regarded as having been instituted as a "perpetual covenant [for] the people of Israel" and proselytes (Exodus 31:13-17, Exodus 23:12, Deuteronomy 5:13-14).

Textual tradition



Book of Genesis: In 1:1-2:4, God creates the heavens and earth in six days (each day is defined as evening and morning) and rests on the seventh day, which he thus confers with special status.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in Creation. —Genesis 2:3

A Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

Book of Exodus: In 16:23-29, immediately after the Exodus from Egypt, Sabbath is revealed as the day upon which manna and manna gathering is to cease weekly; the first of many Sabbath commands is given, in both positive and negative forms.

Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none .... Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day. —Exodus 16:26, 16:29

In 20:8-11

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work .... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. —Exodus 20:8-11

In 31:12-17, Sabbath is affirmed as a perpetual sign and covenant, and Sabbath-breakers are to be cut off from the assembly or killed. In 35:2-3, lighting fire on Sabbath is forbidden.

Book of Leviticus: In 16:31, Yom Kippur is stated to be "Sabbath of Sabbaths". In 19, many of the Ten Commandments are repeated, including Sabbath (19:3, 19:29-30). In 23, weekly Sabbath, new moon, and seven annual High Sabbaths (which do not necessarily occur on weekly Sabbath) are defined. One High Sabbath, Day of Atonement, is specifically defined as occurring from the evening of the prior day until the following evening. In 24:8, the showbread is to be laid out in the tabernacle every Sabbath. In 25:2-6, Shmita is given as a year of rest for land every seven years. In 26:2, 26:34-35, 26:43, Sabbath is again enjoined, and Moses warns of the curse that if Israel disobeys, it will go into exile while the land enjoys Sabbaths denied to it during the time of rebellion.

Book of Numbers: In 15:32-36, a man gathering firewood on Sabbath is put to death; the potential punishment for desecrating Sabbath (stoning) is the most severe in Jewish law. In 28-29, the offerings for Sabbath, new moons, and High Sabbaths are enjoined.

Book of Deuteronomy: In 5:12-14

Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (ram's-horn trumpet) for Sabbath in the 1930s.


2 Kings: In 4:23, when Elisha's patroness goes away suddenly to seek him, her husband questions why, since it was neither new moon nor Sabbath. In 11:5-9, Joash becomes king, protected from usurper Athaliah by the additional troops present for changing of duty on Sabbath. In 16, the colonnade built for Sabbath use and its royal entranceway are removed from the temple by King Ahaz.

Book of Isaiah: In 56:1-8 and 58:13-14, Isaiah commends honoring the holiness of Sabbath, rather than using it to go one's own way or to do idly as one pleases. In 66:22-23

Book of Jeremiah: In 17:19-27, Jeremiah declaims against carrying burdens out of houses or out of the city gates on Sabbath, as was commonly done by merchants in his day. Jeremiah also prophesies that Israel will be a desolation for seventy years (25:11), interpreted later as land Sabbaths as also prophesied by Moses.

Book of Ezekiel: In 20:12-26, Ezekiel records God's giving of laws, precepts, and Sabbaths, and Israel's rejecting them; Sabbaths are explicitly called a sign between God and Israel. In 22:8, 22:23-31, 23:38, he states that Israel has profaned and hidden its eyes from Sabbath. In 44:24, Ezekiel foresees a Messianic Temple, in which the priests keep Sabbath as truly holy. In 45:17, 46:1-12, he sees the east gate shut on the "six working days" and open on Sabbath and new moon, and a prince making burnt offerings on those festivals as well.

Book of Hosea: In 2:11

Book of Amos: In 8:5, Amos objects to those who inquire when Sabbath or new moon will be over so that marketing can begin again, classifying this practice as comparable to that of dishonest weights.

"Der Samstug (Sabbath)", Frederich Campe, 1800: German Jews, wearing baretta hats, gather outside a synagogue on Sabbath.


Book of Psalms: 92 is a song specifically for Sabbath.

Book of Lamentations: In 1:7, Israel's enemies gloat over its "cessation" (mishbath), after the destruction of the first temple. In 2:6, this destruction and Israel's rejection is linked to Israel forgetting its appointed times and Sabbaths.

Book of Nehemiah: In 9:14, the Levites, who have called a public fast, thank God for Sabbath, the mitzvoth (commandments), and the Torah. In 10:31-33, the people respond by swearing not to buy on Sabbath or holy day. In 13:15-22, Nehemiah observes many kinds of business transacted on Sabbath, rejects it as profanation, locks the city gates for the whole of Sabbath and has them guarded, and threatens force against merchants who spend the night outside.

1 Chronicles: In 9:32, the task of preparing Sabbath showbread is shown to have been assigned to kinsmen of Korah from the clan of Kohath. In 23:31, King David assigns Levites to stand and sing thanks and praise whenever the burnt offerings are given for Sabbath, new moon, and the other designated days.

2 Chronicles: In 2:4 (2:3, Hebrew) and 8:12-13, Solomon dedicates the first temple for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual offerings. In 23:4-8, Joash becomes king, protected from usurper Athaliah by the additional troops present for changing of duty on Sabbath. In 31:3, Hezekiah rededicates the same offerings as Solomon. In the last chapter of the Tanakh in Hebrew order (at 36:21), the prophecies of Moses and Jeremiah are combined as having been fulfilled in seventy years of captivity in Babylon, during which the land kept its Sabbaths.

Oldest Sabbatarian Meeting House in America, built in 1729 in Newport, Rhode Island, now owned by Newport Historical Society.

New Testament


Exorcism in Capernaum (Mk. 1:21-39, Lk. 4:31-43): Jesus makes a practice of teaching in the Capernaum synagogue on Sabbath. One Sabbath he exorcises an unclean spirit, and also heals Peter's wife's mother.

Lord of the Sabbath (Mt. 12:1-8, Mk. 2:23-28, Lk. 6:1-5): When his disciples pick heads of wheat and eat them, Jesus tells objectors that, because Sabbath was made for man, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbatarians believe that Sabbath-keeping is central to following Christ, and that he highly regarded Sabbath, while non-Sabbatarians believe that Christ has power to abrogate Sabbath, and that he reinterpreted it nonritually.[citation needed]

Healing of the Withered Hand (Mt. 12:9-21, Mk. 3:1-6, Lk. 6:6-11): Knowing he is being watched, Jesus heals a man who had a withered hand, arguing that doing good and saving life is permitted and right on Sabbath. "The Sabbath was made for man." Mark 2:27. Jesus said this. It was "made" in the Garden of Eden[according to whom?] before it was "written" down on Mount Sinai. The Sabbath was "made" for "man," not just Jews.[3]

Rejection of Jesus (Mk. 6:1-6, Lk. 4:16-30): As is his custom, Jesus attends the Nazareth synagogue on Sabbath and stands to read. He preaches against skeptical demands for miracles and states that he is rejected there in his hometown.

Events unique to John: In 5:9-18

Events unique to Luke: In 13:10-17, Jesus heals a woman who had been bent over double for 18 years, arguing that setting her free is equivalent to permitted Sabbath activity of loosing one's animals to water them. In 14:1-6, Jesus heals a man with dropsy (swollen with fluid), arguing that this is equivalent to permitted Sabbath activity of rescuing an animal from a well.

Olivet Discourse, unique to Matthew: In 24:20-21, describing apocalypses to come,[according to whom?] Jesus requests prayer that the coming time, when Judah must escape to the hills, not occur in winter or on Sabbath. Sabbatarians believe that Jesus based on this text expected Sabbath to be kept after his death; non-Sabbatarians believe this is an allegorical reference to generic worship days.[citation needed]

Crucifixion of Jesus (Mt. 27, Mk. 15, Lk. 23, Jn. 19): Some Christians believe that Jesus died on a Friday (called Good Friday) and rose on a Sunday. It's often referred to as Easter Sunday. The Bible says that after Jesus was crucified the following happened....

This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. ~ Luke 23:52-24:1-2

Based on one interpretation of Luke 23:52-56 Jesus died on Friday (the preparation day also Good Friday) and rested the next day on the Sabbath according to the commandment.[citation needed] Here some see no change in God's law, in fact his Jewish disciples are keeping the Sabbath. Based on Luke 23 the Sabbath was not nailed to the cross, as the Jewish disciples kept it after Jesus died on the cross.[citation needed]


Book of Acts 1-18: In 1:12, the distance from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem is called "Sabbath journey", the distance permitted to be walked on Sabbath. In 13:13-45, 16:13, 17:2, and 18:4, as is his custom, Paul preaches on Sabbath to communal gatherings of Jewish and Gentile Christians, usually in synagogue, in Pisidian Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. Luke traveled with Paul and wrote, "On the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side." Acts 16:13. It was the seventh-day Sabbath, the memorial of the creation (see Ex. 20:11). Both Luke and Paul affirmed the seventh-day (Saturday) to be the Sabbath[3].

Colossians: In 2:9-17: Refers only to the sabbaths which were "a shadow of things to come" and not to the seventh-day Sabbath. There were seven yearly holy days, or holidays, in ancient Israel which were also called sabbaths. These were in addition to, or "beside the sabbaths of the Lord" (Leviticus 23:38), or seventh-day Sabbath. These all foreshadowed, or pointed to, the cross and ended at the cross. God's seventh-day Sabbath was made before sin entered, and therefore could foreshadow nothing about deliverance from sin. That's why Colossians chapter 2 differentiates and specifically mentions the sabbaths that were "a shadow." These seven yearly sabbaths which were abolished[according to whom?] are listed in Leviticus chapter 23[4]. Jesus said "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18)

Book of Hebrews: In 4:1-11 "For he spake in a certain place of the seventh [day] on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." (Hebrews 4:4) "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (Hebrews 4:9) The word rest in verse 9 is sabbatismos (σαββατισμός) which translates as "a keeping sabbath"[5]. So the verse literally translates "There remains therefore a keeping of Sabbath for the people of God." (Hebrews 4:9)


Table set for Shabbat eve.


Brueggemann emphasises the Exodus as an historical origin of Sabbath-keeping.[6]

Seventh day

Observing the Sabbath-closing havdalah ritual in 14th-century Spain.

Seventh-day Sabbatarians rest on the seventh Hebrew day. Jewish Shabbat is observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night; it is also observed by a minority of Christians. Thirty-nine activities prohibited on Shabbat are listed in Tractate Shabbat (Talmud). Customarily, Shabbat is ushered in by lighting candles shortly before sunset, at halakhically calculated times that change from week to week and from place to place. Shabbat ends approximately one hour after sunset by rabbinical ordinance to extend the Tanakh's sunset-to-sunset Sabbath into the first day of the week. The Jewish interpretation usually states that the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31) refers to the future Messianic Kingdom.

Several Christian denominations (such as Seventh Day Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Church of God (7th day) - Salem Conference) observe Sabbath in similar manner as in Judaism, but observance ends at Saturday sunset instead of Saturday nightfall. Like the Jews with Shabbat, they believe that keeping seventh-day Sabbath is a moral responsibility, equal to that of any of the Ten Commandments, that honors God as Creator and Deliverer. The Christian seventh-day interpretation usually states that Sabbath belongs inherently to all nations (Ex. 20:10, Is. 56:6-7, 66:22-23) and remains part of the New Covenant after the crucifixion of Jesus (Lk. 23:56, Mt. 24:20, Ac. 16:13), Heb 8:10.[3][7] Many seventh-day Sabbatarians also use "Lord's Day" to mean the seventh day, based on Scriptures in which God calls the day "my Sabbath" (Ex. 31:13) and "to the Lord" (16:23)[8]).

The Seventh-day Adventist official 28 fundamental beliefs (at 20) state:

The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God's unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God's kingdom. The Sabbath is God's perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God's creative and redemptive acts. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Luke 4:16; Isa. 56:5, 6; 58:13, 14; Matt. 12:1-12; Ex. 31:13-17; Eze. 20:12, 20; Deut. 5:12-15; Heb. 4:1-11; Lev. 23:32; Mark 1:32.)[9]

The Doctrinal Points of the Church of God (7th day) - Salem Conference states:

We should observe the seventh day of the week (Saturday), from even to even, as the Sabbath of the Lord our God. Evening is at sunset when day ends and another day begins. No other day has ever been sanctified as the day of rest. The Sabbath Day begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Isaiah 58:13-14; 56:1-8; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4,11; Luke 4:16; Mark 2:27-28; Matthew 12:10-12; Hebrews 4:1-11; Genesis 1:5, 13-14; Nehemiah 13:19.

The Doctrinal Points of the Church of God (7th Day)[10]

Sunday law

Noticing the rise of blue laws, the Seventh-day Adventist church in particular has traditionally taught that in the end time a coalition of religious and secular authorities will enfoce an international Sunday law; church pioneers saw observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as a "mark" or "seal" or test of God's people that seals them, even as those who do not observe Sunday rest will be persecuted and killed. Ellen G. White interpreted Dan. 7:25, Rev. 13:15, Rev. 7, Ezek. 20:12-20, and Ex. 31:13 in this way, where the subject of persecution in prophecy is thought[by whom?] to be about Sabbath commandments.

Sabbath New Testament Assemblies

Various New Testament texts offer insight into Sabbath observance in Christianity. "And he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks."(Acts 18:4) Sabbatarians note that the writer of the book of Acts still saw the seventh day Sabbath as the official Sabbath day for it is clearly stated through the book of Acts. Additional texts include "On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God." (Acts 13:44) "But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down." (Acts 13:14) "For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him."(Acts 13:27) The apostle John also saw the Seventh day Sabbath as the Sabbath when He wrote the book of John "Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes." "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." (John 9:14, 19:31).

First-day assembly generally states that because Jesus rose on Sunday(Mk. 16:9), the Sabbath should be changed. Yet no scripture stating spells out or requires such a change. (Jesus stated "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."(Matthew 5:17-18).)

In Troas the early believers in the Messiah met to break bread and to listen to preaching (Ac. 20:7). Most English translations state that the day this meeting was held on the first day of the week; however, the Good News Bible translation states that they met on Saturday evening. Therefore, since there is a discrepancy in the English translation we must turn to the Greek text for Acts 20:7.

Looking at the Greek for Acts chapter twenty and verse seven we find the following: "ἐν δὲ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων συνηγμένων ἡμῶν κλάσαι ἄρτον ὁ Παῦλος διελέγετο αὐτοῖς μέλλων ἐξιέναι τῇ ἐπαύριον παρέτεινέν τε τὸν λόγον μέχρι μεσονυκτίου" [11]. In Textus Receptus: Ἐν δὲ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων συνηγμένων τῶν μαθητῶν τοῦ κλάσαι ἄρτον ὁ Παῦλος διελέγετο αὐτοῖς μέλλων ἐξιέναι τῇ ἐπαύριον παρέτεινέν τε τὸν λόγον μέχρι μεσονυκτίου [12]. Even if you do not read Greek you can recognize the word: σαββάτων. Any English reader can read almost all letters of the word: αββάτ =aBBaT. One can easily add the understandings of the other Greek letters from Google translate: σ=S, ω=long O, v=N. With this information the Greek word in the text becomes even more obvious: Sabbaton, which bears a striking resemblance to the English word Sabbath and to the Spanish word Sábado; both which mean the seventh day of the week and the holy day of rest.

However, to fully understand the Biblical meaning of the Greek word σαββάτων (Sabbaton) it is needful to review every single time this word is used in the Greek New Testament [13]. In doing so we find this word to be used 68 times in 62 verses. When translating the Greek text into English the translators chose to translate this word sometimes as Sabbath and sometimes as first day of the week. Why is it translated this way? The answer lies in understanding this Greek word σαββάτων (Sabbaton) was transliterated (borrowed) from Hebrew. [14]

A look back at the Hebrew root word shows absolutely no confusion between the word for Sabbath: שַׁבָּת and the word for week: shabuwa: שָׁבוּעַ[15] שָׁבו Sabbath in Hebrew is a root word carrying the meaning rest. The word for week in Hebrew שָׁבוּעַ shabuwa comes from a completely different root word: שבע [16] derived from the cardinal number seven[17].

James Cardinal Gibbons, a Roman Catholic, states “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify."[18] The Roman Catholic church claims authority to change times and laws through papal infallibility. "For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the [Roman Catholic] church outside the Bible."[19]

See also


  1. ^ The Sabbath In Languages
  2. ^ The Sabbath In Languages
  3. ^ a b c Wohlberg, Steve. "Sabbath Basics".  "Ten Reasons why the Sabbath is not Jewish". Truth Left Behind. 
  4. ^ The Lost Day Of History
  5. ^ Blue letter Bible: Sabbatismos
  6. ^ Brueggemann, Walter= (2002). The land: place as gift, promise, and challenge in biblical faith. Overtures to biblical theology (2 ed.). Fortress Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780800634629. Retrieved 2011-09-28. "...the tradition of Deuteronomy appeals for Sabbath on more historical grounds. Sabbath is rooted in the history of Exodus, which led to the land of fulfillment." 
  7. ^ "8. But wasn't the Sabbath changed to Sunday at Christ's death or resurrection?". The Lost Day Of History. Amazing Facts. 2010. 
  8. ^ Wohlberg, Steve. "Anti-Sabbath Arguments: Are They Really Right?". Truth Left Behind. 
  9. ^ Fundamental Beliefs. 20. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^
  17. ^ Loanword#Classes
  18. ^ James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 edition), p. 72-73 (16th Edition, p 111; 88th Edition, p. 89).
  19. ^ Catholic Virginian, October 3, 1947, p. 9, article “To Tell You the Truth.”

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