Where did the true Sabbath begin and what was its original purpose?
In the beginning, Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. He created everything that exists in six days and that He ceased creating on the seventh day. This establishes the seven day week; six days of work, one day of rest.
Genesis 2:2 says “God rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” The word translated “rested” in verse 2 is the Hebrew word Shabbat which is also called the Sabbath. It comes from this same word used in Genesis 2:2.
The Hebrew word Shabbat literally means “to stop” or “to cease” or to rest.”
In Genesis 2:1-3, the first time a seventh day is ever observed, God applied the seventh day of ceasing work only to Himself and only with regard to the activity of creating.
But His rest wasn’t what we think of as rest. It doesn’t mean He was tired.
There was certainly no depletion of His energy in the act of creating the heavens and the earth. He spoke everything into being by divine fiat. He needed no physical rest.
His rest was in the form of ceasing from the activity of creating.
It simply means He stopped creating on the seventh day. So in this sense, the Sabbath stopped a six-day pattern of labor and activity at the time of creation.
That is all it meant in that original use of the word Shabbat in Genesis 2:1-3.
Of course, it was only a short time later, in Genesis 3:21 after Adam and Eve sinned that the Lord God went back to work.
God made for them garments of skin to clothe them with a covering of grace.
It was a covering that God Himself designated through the shedding of the blood of an animal to make the garments of skin. It was a replacement for the hand-sewn fig leaves that Adam and Eve fashioned in a futile attempt to cover their own nakedness.
From the dawn of creation until Exodus 16 during the time of Moses, there is no indication that any human being ever kept or observed a Sabbath.
There’s no indication that Adam or Eve ever observed a Sabbath day of rest, either before the fall or after the fall.
There is no record in Scripture of any of the patriarchs ever keeping a Sabbath. It doesn’t appear that Abraham ever kept a Sabbath, or Isaac, or Jacob, or any of his sons. Altars are built and rituals are observed, but no Sabbaths are ever mentioned.
Even Job, a blameless and upright non-Jew from the land of Uz, in all the chronicles of his righteous activities, keeping a Sabbath is never mentioned, as far as the sacred record is concerned.
Whenever the Bible is silent on an ordinance during one era and then very explicit and detailed in another era on that same subject, it’s noteworthy and instructive. There is teaching in this silence for the observant reader of Scripture.
There’s no reason to infer from Genesis 2:3 that any human being ever observed a Sabbath until the time of Moses. In fact, the evidence points to the contrary.
It was hundreds of years later, after the exodus from Egypt, that God had to tell the Israelites through Moses to gather no manna on Saturday in Exodus 16.
This tells us it was a brand new concept to them. They had always gathered food on Saturday just like Friday and Sunday. But in Exodus 16, a new precept is introduced.
The pattern of seventh day rest was introduced by God at creation in Genesis 2, but it wasn’t applied to any person until the time of Moses in Exodus 16.
So it would be incorrect to call the Sabbath day of rest an “ordinance of creation” based on Genesis 2:1-3… since it only applied to God in the first instance; and it only applied to the activity of creating. In the beginning, there was as yet, no ordinance.
As noted, the ordinance didn’t come until the time of Moses.
And even after the ordinance was prescribed in the fourth commandment on Mount Sinai, it was only binding as a ceremonial law upon the people of Israel. Just Israel.
No other nation was ever faulted for breaking the Sabbath or any ceremonial aspects of God’s law as they were for violating the moral precepts of God’s law.
So the Sabbath ordinance began during the time of Moses and its purpose was for man’s rest and blessing. It was a holy time of worshiping God without labor.
For Christians, the Sabbath (Saturday) is the day when we honor the Lord as the God of creation. We celebrate the fact that He created everything that exists in six literal days and that He rested on the seventh day. So we enjoy His creation on this day.
We also acknowledge God as our law Giver, who gave us precepts for living. The Sabbath principle of rest is only truly fulfilled through saving faith in Christ; not by observing one day among seven in any ceremonial sense.
In the OT the ceremonial day of rest was a shadow, but now the Substance has come to us in Christ. We cling to the Substance and the shadows vanish in the light of His presence.
With love in the Truth,