THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANTAL SABBATH
A. THE SABBATH FROM ABRAHAM TO JOSEPH
(a) Abraham and the sabbath
"God disappeared from the sabbath day", writes Kuyper1 in respect of the division of mankind into nations after the destruction of the tower of Babel. "It was no longer the Sabbath of the Lord. But this did not happen immediately. The deviation and bastardization took place slowly. It happened quickest amongst the nations which drifted the furthest away from Eden — the least quickly in Ur of the Chaldees. And even Abram, the son of Terah, undoubtedly brought the memory and custom of celebrating the seventh day with him from Haran to Mamre".
Before this is questioned, on the ground that the sabbath is never specifically mentioned from Genesis chapter one to Exodus chapter sixteen, let it be remembered that neither is it even specifically mentioned from Deuteronomy chapter five to II Kings chapter four, a period covering at least four hundred years, and yet not even the most dispensationalistic conservative critic of the Edenic antiquity of the sabbath has attempted to reason that the sabbath was not kept during that time. The matter under discussion at present then, namely the sabbath in the time of Abraham and his immediate descendants, must be decided on general principles, and not on the basis of a lack of specific texts on their keeping the sabbath or not.
Let it again be noted at the outset that Abraham and his father Terah were emigrants2 from Ur of the Chaldees, Gen. 11:28, 31. Since the division of mankind into nations in the time of Peleg, at the very least two hundred years and five generations had passed up to the time of the birth of Abraham. But during that time it would appear that Abraham's ancestors never moved further away from Babylon than the neighbouring Ur of the Chaldees, approximately only one hundred and fifty miles away to the south-east. Hence one would expect the sabbath ordinance to live on in its purity in the elect Semitic line from Peleg to Abraham, particularly seeing that secular history records that it was certainly observed in a remarkably Biblical manner amongst the other Semites in Babylon.
Having left their Chaldean home in south-east Mesopotamia for Haran in north-west Mesopotamia3, Abraham, Sarah and Lot again4 left Haran at God's bidding, bound for Canaan5, where the Lord established the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision6 and where Abraham kept God's Commandments.
It is to be emphasized that the Lord instructed Abraham to "keep the way of the Lord"7, and that He declared that the patriarch had kept "My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws"8. This certainly included the sacrifice of offerings at places like Sichem, Bethel, Mamre in Hebron, and Moriah9; the payment of tithes to Melchizedec10 the regular exercise of prayer11 the renewal of the covenant from time to time12 the administration of the rite of circumcision as sign and seal of the covenant13 and swearing by God as a guarantee of truthfulness14. And it may be claimed with considerable confidence that "My commandments" also included sabbath-keeping15, as this too is probably implied in Abraham's offerings16 and in his swearing17.
For it is stated no less than six times9 that Abraham brought sacrifices or offerings to the Lord. This is most significant, in that the only two occasions of offerings hitherto18 explicitly recorded in Scripture, namely those of Cain and Abel on the one hand and Noah on the other, both took place on what could hardly have been any other day than the sabbath, whence one would expect the same to apply in respect of all subsequent offerings, unless the contrary were stated, which it is not19.
Then again, as it is by no means inconceivable that Adam transgressed the covenant on the sabbath day, Hos. 6:7, (in which event his punishment of greatly increased toil is most appropriate), and as it is almost certain that the first and second occasions of covenant confirmation explicitly recorded in Genesis was on a sabbath day (Gen. 6:18; 7:4; 8:20f), it is quite likely that on the many occasions12 when God renewed His covenant with Abraham, He did so on the sabbath day too. Furthermore, when the sign of this covenant, circumcision, was administered to infants on the eighth day after their births13, namely on the first day of the second or new week of their life, their cleansing from sin was foreshadowed — their future cleansing by the death and burial of the Mediator of the covenant on the last seventh-day sabbath, and His (and consequently their) resurrection unto life anew on the eighth day, on the first day of the new week, Sunday. Thus Davies20, De Heer21, Calvin22, and Scripture23.
Also, the various instances14 of swearing as a guarantee of truthfulness in Abraham's time are not without significance in this study of the sabbath. For the root word of "nishba'" ("to swear") is the same as the root word of "shêba'" ("seven[th]"), and is considered by some authorities (e.g. Lactantius) to be related to "shãbath" ("to sabbath") as well. It is instructive to note that Abraham's covenant with Abimelech was witnessed by a gift of seven ewe lambs by the former to the latter, that the place where the covenant was made was named Beer-sheba, i.e., "the well of the oath" ("shêba'" oath seven), and that Abraham "called on the Name of the Lord" there".
Lastly, it will be remembered that it was God's original purpose (in the covenant before the fall) that man should enter the divinely established sabbath rest by the progressive fruits of obedience, and that the temporal weekly sabbath would fix man's attention on his ultimate destination and measure his progress thereunto through time. Hence one would expect that the covenant-keeping Abraham would reveal a consciousness of this eternal destination both in his life and in his death.
In his life and death, one should then note that Abraham regarded himself as a mere sojourner on earth, bound for the heavenly city. One reads of Abraham and his descendants (Heb. 11:9-16): —
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, . . . with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God . . . These all died in faith, . . . and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth . . . But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: Wherefore God . . . hath prepared for them a city".
So then, "there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4 9) after their life as pilgrims on earth [Thus too Calvin25].
(b) Isaac and
But Isaac probably kept the sabbath in his own right too, in that, like his father Abraham, he also performed (sabbath?) offerings and "called upon the Name of the Lord"27 was circumcised (Gen. 21:4), renewed the covenant from time to time28, and swore holy oaths (Gen. 26:3, 28-31).
(c) Jacob and
But in addition to this general information, "the week" as such (which, it has been observed, implies the existence of the sabbath day as its demarcator) is well known in the time of Jacob, as appears from the Biblical account of his "marriage week" (Gen. 29:20-28).
There are a good few indications in this narrative to indicate that the cyclic number seven in general, and the hebdomadal weekly cycle in particular, were not only known to the Messianic line (Terah-)Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, but were also known to the closely related line (Terah-)Nahor-Bethuel-Laban, whom Abraham and Terah had left behind them in Ur of the Chaldees when they departed for Haran, but who later appear to have joined Terah and his family in Haran before or after Abraham and Lot had moved on even further to Canaan, the land which symbolized the sabbath rest.
Jacob travelled back from Canaan to Haran in Paddan-Aram to marry one of the daughters of his uncle Laban. Jacob offered to serve Laban "seven years" for his younger daughter Rachel. This being agreed to, it is related that "Jacob served seven years for Rachel" (Gen. 29:20).
Then Jacob said to Laban after seven years, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled"32, reminding one of the words of Gen. 2:2, doubtless known to Jacob too: "And on the seventh day God finished His work". So Laban held a marriage feast, but deceived Jacob by substituting his elder daughter Leah in the evening for the younger Rachel whom he had promised. Jacob did not notice Laban's deceit until the next morning, when he instantly protested. But Laban explained that it was the local custom not to give the younger in marriage before the first born (Gen. 29:26).
"Fulfil her (Leah's) week [urged Laban, referring to the as then recognized practice of consummating a marriage] and we will give you this (Rachel) also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years" (Gen. 29:27). "And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week; and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also . . . And he went in also unto Rachel, . . . and served with him yet seven other years" (Gen. 29:28-30).
This interesting passage is conclusive proof that the patriarchs knew the week, and hence the weekly sabbath. But there is far more to the passage than just this. Whereas it was necessary for Laban to explain the local custom of giving the first-born daughter in marriage before the second to the embarrassed and angered Jacob, no such explanation was needed or made in respect of the marriage week which Jacob had just started to keep. Laban simply said: "Fulfil her week", and Jacob understood perfectly, for it is stated in the very next verse: "And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week". This surely points to a locally widespread custom of observing a "marriage week" — evidently some sort of honeymoon, perhaps — understood throughout the Near East33.
But it is clear that Jacob's offer to serve Laban for precisely seven years, is directly related to his completing the seven-day marriage week. It is almost as though Jacob said to Laban shortly after his arrival: "I will serve you for a number of years in return for your younger daughter Rachel, who will become mine by completing her marriage week thereafter. Seeing that her marriage week will then last seven days, I am willing first to serve you seven years for her". The passage may even point to a fixed custom of seven years' service for a wife, based on the custom of the seven-day marriage week, but this cannot be conclusively established from the record. If so, however, it foreshadows the sabbatical system of Israel, cf. Lev. 25.
It is also instructive to note that Laban does not say: "Complete her seven days" (cf. Gen. 31:22-3), but: "Complete her week", thus pointing to a definite and recognized standard period of time. This certainly proves patriarchal knowledge of the sabbath, and it is not impossible that the marriage week ran from the one sabbath to the following one, the sabbaths themselves demarcating the marriage week as such. At any rate, that the passage establishes the existence of the patriarchal sabbath is the considered opinion of Watson34, Jordan35, Andrews and Conradi36, Wilson37, Thompson38, Hodge39, Lilley40, Cilliers41, Kelman42 and Strong43.
Laban's wrongful dealing towards Jacob did not end with his deceit in respect of his marriage week, but as Jacob's wealth grew at the expense of Laban's, at the end of twenty years (Gen. 31:41) "Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and behold, it was not toward him as before. And the Lord said unto Jacob, 'Return to the land of thy fathers...' So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead" (Gen. 31:2-3, 21). However, before Jacob departed and unknown to him, his wife Rachel stole her father's household gods when he had gone to shear his sheep (Gen. 31:19, 32b).
"And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled. And he . . . pursued after him seven days' journey; . . . And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, 'Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad'" (Gen. 31:23-24).
God saw the affliction and labour of Jacob's hands, and rebuked Laban, so that when Laban caught up with Jacob the following day, they covenanted together, and Jacob swore by the God of his father and offered a sacrifice, and the two departed from one another in peace (Gen. 31:42-44, 53-55).
It is not possible to establish with any degree of finality whether this reference implies the sabbath idea or not, but the fact that the pursuit lasted "seven days" may imply that these seven days coincided with the week. If so, the case for the sabbath is established from this text. However, it is quite possible that we have here merely seven consecutive days, seeing there is no reference to the week as such, as for example was indeed the case in respect of Jacob's marriage week. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that it was Friday night on which Laban slept after the seven-day pursuit, in which sleep he was rebuked in a dream by God, with the result that he covenanted with Jacob in peace on the morrow, on Saturday, hence on the sabbath, on which day Jacob swore a holy oath ("nishba'"; cf. "shêba'", "seven") and offered a sacrifice unto Almighty God — as was probably done on the sabbath day before Abraham's time and perhaps ever thereafter. At any rate, it seems significant that after the toil of a week's flight and pursuit respectively, Jacob and Laban rested and covenanted together in peace on the next day.
(d) Joseph and
"Now at the end of two full years . . . Pharoah dreamed: . . . he stood by the river. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; . . . And behold, seven other kine came up . . . ill favoured and leanfleshed . . . And . . . did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharoah awoke. And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream" (Gen. 41:1-7).
All the efforts of his wisest men failed to interpret the dream, until the former prisoner, who had been released, remembered and told Pharaoh how Joseph had correctly interpreted his dream while he himself had been in prison (Gen. 41:9-14). And on being sent for by Pharaoh, Joseph instantly explained the dream: —
"The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine . . . are seven years; and the seven empty ears . . . shall be seven years of famine . . . there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: and there shall arise after them seven years of famine"45.
Firstly, before it is too hastily asserted that the Jews borrowed the concept of the figure seven and hence of the sabbath from the Egyptians, let the fact be remembered that the wisest men in Egypt were unable to interpret the dream, which fact strongly indicates its revelation by the non-Egyptian God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and its novelty and incomprehensibility to the Egyptian mind of that century. Yet even if it could be established that the concept of the symbolical seven was still known to Egypt in Joseph's time — and the Genesis narrative here suggests quite the contrary — the similarity with the Israelitic sabbath would imply a common origin of both rather than the Israelitic adoption of an Egyptian concept.
Secondly, it is very likely that this specific application of the figure "seven" to years as symbolized by cows and ears of corn, is historically derived from the concept of the seven-day week, as pointed out above46.
Thirdly, the fact that God's interpretation of the dream was revealed through Joseph organically, and not mechanically, thus making full employment of all Joseph's natural faculties and intuition, the fact that Joseph so readily abstracted the sevenness of the cows and ears of corn and applied it concretely to the realm of time, surely presupposes his acquaintance with the use of the concept seven in that realm, in other words, his acquaintance with the seventh-day sabbath.
During the famine that followed, Jacob and the seventy47 members of his household all came to dwell in Egypt, where the house of Jacob grew greatly in prestige, so that when Jacob died, "the Egyptians wept for him seventy days"48.
After the days of weeping for the dead Jacob had passed, Joseph went to bury his father in the land of Canaan, even as he had sworn under oath to do at the instance of his dying father (Gen. 47:29-31). "And Joseph went up to bury his father; and . . . he made a mourning for his father seven days"49. This does not establish that Jacob was laid to rest on the sabbath day — although that may have been the case — but it does establish50 that his children did at the very least observe the sabbath idea so inextricably bound up with the concept of seven days — as Jacob was laid to his last rest in the glorious expectation of his resurrection into the sabbath rest which remains for the people of God.
(e) The probable
mode of observance of the patriarchal sabbath
(a) The sabbath
and the burdens of the Israelites
At length, however, "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, 'Behold the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we'. . . Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens . . . And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage" (Ex. 1:9, 11, 13-14). Further sabbath observance thus became impossible. But the Lord of the Sabbath had not forgotten His people. To lead them out of the toil of Egypt and into the sabbath rest of Canaan52, he raised up an Israelite called Moses (Ex. l:9-14).
"And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens" (Ex. 2:11). According to the extra-canonical book of Jasher53, mentioned in Josh. 10:12-3 and II Sam. 1:18, Moses thereupon obtained permission from Pharaoh Melol for the enslaved Jews to rest one day a week from their labours, which permission was soon annulled by his successor Pharaoh Adikam. Be that as it may, when Moses "spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren", Moses slew the Egyptian, and fled shortly thereafter to the land of Midian, where he sat down by a well. When the seven daughters of Jethro the priest of Midian came to the well for water, Moses helped them and delivered them out of the hand of some shepherds who had attempted to drive them away. Henceforth Moses dwelt with Jethro, and married Zipporah, one of his seven daughters, at the age of forty54.
"And it came to pass in process of time that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob"55.
This gloomy picture of sweat and toil reminds one very much of the "sabbath curse" in Eden at the fall of man, and the "sabbath curse" of Cain on his desecration of the sabbath and murder of his brother. The Israelites had become subject to taskmasters and afflicted with heavy burdens. They were oppressed and were forced to serve with rigour and their lives were made bitter with hard service. They groaned under their bondage and cried for help.
But the Lord of the Sabbath heard their groaning. He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob56. And He purposed to send Moses as a type57 of the Redeemer who was to come later. Moses would lead them out of the toil of Egypt into the sabbath rest of Canaan; Moses, a type of the Saviour of the world who would bid His people: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:26-28).
When Moses was eighty years old, forty years after he had arrived in Midian (Acts 7:23, 30), God revealed Himself to Moses and said: —
"I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey, unto the place of the Canaanites . . . Come therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt . . . I will be with thee; and this shall be the token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Ex. 3:7-12).
Here again, the Lord of the Sabbath notes the toil of His people, and determines to deliver them by the hand of Moses. Moses is to bring them into Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, the symbol of the ultimate sabbath rest, and he is to receive a sign at Mount Horeb, i.e., at Sinai, in that he shall serve God upon that mountain. It was at Sinai that the covenant was renewed, and its sign, the sabbath, given anew to God's people in its most comprehensive formulation. Once again, one has here a striking typical prophecy of the incarnated Lord of the Sabbath, Who leads His weary people out of the Egypt of sin and this dark world into that other land of milk and honey58.
After much remonstration by Moses in trying to evade his responsibility to redeem his people, God finally sent Aaron to Sinai to fetch his brother Moses. When they returned to Egypt, they gathered together all the elders of Israel, Aaron speaking all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped (Ex. 4:27-31).
"And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness"'. And Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go'. And they said, 'The God of the Hebrews hath met with us; let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest He fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword'. And the king of Egypt said to them, 'Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? Get you unto your burdens'. And Pharaoh said, 'Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens'. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did 'flake heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God". Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words'" (Ex. 5:1-9).
"Fulfil your works, your daily tasks", the Egyptian taskmasters urged the people of Israel, who were now required to gather their own straw — which had hitherto been supplied to them — and nevertheless still produce the same number of bricks. "And the officers of the people of Israel . . . were beaten, and (were) demanded, 'Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as heretofore?'" (Ex. 5:13-14).
Now this section of God's Word is of profound interest to this study of the sabbath. For firstly, Moses requested permission for his people to go on a "three days' journey" into the wilderness to hold a feast involving a sacrifice, on penalty for non-compliance. From the previous investigation of the antediluvian patriarchs59 and the patriarchs of Israel60, it would definitely appear that only the feast of sabbath observance answers to this description. Secondly, Pharoah's words: "Wherefore do ye . . . let the people from their works? Get you unto your burdens", ideally reflect stubborn opposition to the concept of sabbath observance. Thirdly, the words of the taskmasters to the Israelites: "Fulfil your works, your daily tasks", and: "Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as heretofore?", certainly imply that the work of the enslaved Israelites slackened off on that day, very probably a sabbath, as a result of the ingrained rhythmic cycle of one day of rest to six of labour; and hence, although they were regularly forced to labour on the day of rest, they had ultimately become physically incapable of fulfilling their quota of work on that day, so that they appeared to be "idle". Finally, the conclusive proof that the feast which Moses and Aaron requested that the Israelites be allowed to commemorate was a sabbath day, is surely supplied by the accusation levelled against the two leaders by Pharaoh, "you make them rest from their burdens", where the word "rest" translates the Hebrew root sh-b-th ("to sabbath")61. It is exactly as though Pharaoh had said of the Israelites to Moses and Aaron: "You make them sabbath from their burdens". [thus Yost62, White63, Andrews and Conradi64, Gray65 and Thomson66].
This oppression of the Israelites, making it impossible for them to keep their sabbath while servants in the land of Egypt, throws light on the deeper meaning of the Deuteronomy Decalogue, in which God commanded them: "The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, . . . nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, . . . that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence, therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day" (Deut. 5:14-15). [Thus too White67 and Andrews and Conradi68.]
The people complained bitterly about their greatly increased work for which they blamed Moses for asking Pharaoh to let them go and sacrifice. The people were finished. They just could not carry on the perpetual grind, seven days a week. In utter despair, Moses besought the face of the Lord.
(b) The sabbath
and the Exodus from Egypt
"I am the Lord: and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob . . . I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage . . . And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant . . . I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm . . . and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, Which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians . . . And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage" (Ex. 6:2-8).
Firstly, it should be noted here that it was the Lord, the Redeeming "Yahvêh", Who spoke to Moses, and that He promised to redeem His people from Egypt "with a stretched out arm" — the identical words later used in the Fourth Commandment69. Secondly, it should be noted that the Lord remembered His covenant, looked back on His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even as the redeemed covenant people were later to look back on, to remember the sabbath day, because "the Lord thy God brought thee out thence (= from Egypt, v. 1 5a) through a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day", Deut. 5:15b. Thirdly, one should notice the clear promise of redemption, of re-creation in and through the covenant-keeping Lord Redeemer: "I will redeem you"; it is I "Which bringeth you out from under the burdens". Fourthly, one should notice the sabbath rest which the Lord of the Sabbath will give to His people: "I will bring you in unto the land which I did swear to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob", v. 8, (cf. the "sabbath promise" of Isa. 58: 13-14l); "to give them the land of Canaan", v. 4; "the land of promise (cf. . . . a heavenly one", Heb. 11:9, 16; the remaining "sabbath rest for the people of God", Heb. 4:9, cf. 1-11). Finally, it is to be remarked that this covenantal promise was God's answer to Adam's covenantal transgression, Hos. 6:7 — Paradise lost was to be followed by Paradise regained: the heavenly Canaan, the land of milk and honey.
But Pharaoh refused to let God's people rest from their burdens and go into the wilderness and hold a feast unto their Lord, probably a sabbath feast of rest. Pharaoh forced the Israelites to work even harder, without interruption, seven days a week.
And so, with ironical justice, God smote the river of Egypt, and it turned into blood, for seven days long70. It was as if God was going to impress upon Pharaoh: "You smite My people, you spill their life blood, you oppress them seven days a week. Very well. I will now smite your life blood, the river of Egypt. I will oppress that river for a week, and I will turn it into blood until the seven days are fulfilled. You have cursed My people, you will not allow them to keep the sabbath. Therefore I will pronounce a sabbath curse on you and your river. And if at the end of the week when those seven days are fulfilled you have not fulfilled My people's desire to go and keep the sabbath at the end of their seven-day week, then I will smite your river with frogs, even as I had smitten it seven days previously when I turned it into blood".
But Pharaoh ignored the sabbath curse on his land, and turned a deaf ear to the sabbath plea of the people of God.
Time and again71 Moses thenceforth requested Pharaoh to "let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord", which, as has been seen, almost certainly implied sabbath observance. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go. Hence God purposed to send a further nine plagues upon Egypt after He had smitten the Nile for seven days, in order to force Pharoah to implore the Israelites to go and serve the Lord. However, at the end of the eighth plague, "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go" (Ex. 10:20).
Even after the subsequent ninth plague of three days' darkness72, Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go. So the Lord said to Moses: —
"Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: . . . About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die . . . But against any of the people of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.
. . . This month shall be . . . the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb . . . without blemish, a male of the first year... ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. Then they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it . . . it is the Lord's passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn . . . I will execute judgement . . . And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses, where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you . . .
And this day shall be unto you a memorial; . . . ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them . . . In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even . . . and it shall be for a sign unto thee . . . for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.
And the Lord said unto Moses . . . 'This is the ordinance of the passover: there shall no stranger eat thereof: but every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. . . . Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast; it is Mine. . . . And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then shalt thou break his neck: and all the firstborn of man amongst thy children shalt thou redeem. And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, "What is this?", that thou shalt say unto him, "By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: and it came to pass when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. And it shall be for a token upon thy hand, and for frontlets between thy eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt"'"73
This quotation has been lengthy, but the significance of the Passover to the sabbath is so considerable that it merits detailed treatment.
Firstly, let it be noted that on the first day of the unleavened bread (Matt. 26:17), Jesus and his disciples ate the last Passover before His death, and that He instituted the Lord's Supper or sacrament of Holy Communion in its stead (Matt. 26:19-29); that the Passover had its fulfilment in the sacrificial death of the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ (I Cor. 5:7); and that the Lord's Supper as the sacrament of His death and the new ordinance which replaced the Passover, is to be commemorated on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7).
Secondly, it is to be observed that this last midnight (Ex. 12:29) plague upon Pharaoh and the firstborn of the Egyptians, and the Passover blessing upon Israel, gave the latter complete redemption from the former. So too, the last seventh-day sabbath, dying in its birth on Friday eve together with the dying Lord of the Sabbath and Passover Lamb on the doorposts and lintel of Calvary's blood-stained cross, yielded at midnight Saturday74 to the new day of rest, the first day of the week on which the First-born from the dead rose to life anew as Lord of the Sabbath, as Lord of the first day of the week, as Lord of "the first of the sabbaths" (Gr.), as Lord of the first of the new weekly sabbath, the Lord's day, which was henceforth to be calculated from midnight Saturday, as a weekly sabbath memorial to the complete redemption wrought by the death of the Passover Lamb and Lord of the Sabbath, Whom God brought forth from the land of death, even as He had brought Israel forth from the land of Egypt. The seventh or last day sabbath then died with the Last Adam, Whose righteousness is substituted for the first Adam and his successors, necessitating that the last day sabbath similarly be substituted by the first day sabbath and its successors.
Thirdly, it must be noted that the lamb without blemish, a male a year old (thus at the prime of its life), was to be taken by the whole assembly of the congregation and killed "in the evening" ["ben hã' arbãyim" "between the two evenings"]75. This clearly foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, the Lamb without blemish or spot, Who was killed in the prime of His life (aged thirty-three years) "in the evening", between the late afternoon of Good Friday and Friday night on behalf of the whole assembly of the congregation for whom He shed His precious Paschal blood in death.
Fourthly, it is to be remarked that the day of the Passover, the fourteenth (= seven x 2) day of the first month of Nisan or Abib, was to be observed as a memorial day for ever, and to be followed by seven days of eating unleavened bread until the twenty-first Nisan (= seven x 3), on which first of these seven days, i.e. on the fifteenth Nisan (= seven x 2 + one, or the first day of the new cycle of seven days as measured from the beginning of the first month), a "holy convocation" was to be held on which "no manner of work shall be done", all of which was to be a "token" of redemption from Egypt. Similarly, the Lord was slain on Friday evening and rose on Sunday morning, on the first of a new weekly series of seven days, on which day, Sunday (as the fulfilment of the fifteenth Nisan), consequently a day of "holy convocation" (John 20:19f) on which "no manner of work shall be done", and on which following Sunday evening ("eight days later", John 20:26) the Lord again appeared to the "holy convocation". Hence, by having deliberately absented Himself from the disciples on the seventh day after Passover day, but by deliberately appearing on the following day, the first day of the new week, one week after His Sunday resurrection, when they were gathered in "holy convocation", He indicated that the Passover ordinance as such had been fulfilled and abolished in Himself and His Own sufferings as the true Passover Lamb, and that the weekly series was henceforth to be demarcated by a Sunday day of fellowship between God and man, and not by the Saturday sabbath as previously76.
Fifthly, it is very likely that the first Passover day (the fourteenth Nisan) held in Egypt fell on the Saturday sabbath: because it was a foreshadowing of the Lord of the Sabbath Himself, Who died just after the last Passover towards the Saturday sabbath; because it was instituted exactly fourteen days (= seven x 2, = two weeks) after the formal re-inauguration of the Hebrew semi-lunar annual calendar (Ex. 12:1-6), which very probably formally started that year on the appearance of the new moon on the first day of the first month of that first year of Israel's nationhood73. As the primeval sabbath day weekly sabbath (which may or may not hitherto have been observed on Saturday) had clearly fallen into disuse on account of the rigours of the Egyptian bondage, and was now about to be restored, it seems obvious that the new yearly calendar, beginning then with the new moon, would serve as an ideal point of departure for the restored week and its sabbath, so that at the end of the second week of the new calendar, the fourteenth day of the moon(th), i.e. of the first month, the Saturday sabbath day would occur (for the second time that year), thus coinciding in that (first) "Exodus" year with the day of the Passover, the fourteenth Nisan. If this was the case — and it seems extremely likely — the fifteenth Nisan ["in the first day" (of the third week — N.L.) "there shall be an holy convocation to you, no manner of work shall be done (. . .for in this selfsame day" (our Sunday!) "have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever") (Ex. 12:16, 17 cf. Lev. 23:6-8)] represents a glorious prophecy of the New Testament Sunday, the "first day" (of the week), on which "there shall be an holy convocation to you" on which "no manner of work shall be done", and thus "shall ye observe this day . . . by an ordinance for ever", "for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt", the Egypt of sin and death!
Another reason for the belief that this first fourteenth Nisan Passover day in Egypt was a seventh-day sabbath, is because of its character as a day of sacrifice (cf. Ex. 12:6-13 and 13:14-16), for it will also be remembered that it was to bring a sacrifice to the Lord that Moses had repeatedly entreated Pharaoh to let the people go, and that the latter had replied to Moses and Aaron: "Wherefore do ye make them rest (Heb. "shãbath", Hiph'il) from their works?", Ex. 5:5. Furthermore, it will be remembered that it has been established above that almost all sacrifices were brought on the sabbath day, at least in the patriarchal period, and hence one would expect the same to be the case in the succeeding period of the Exodus, unless it can be established to the contrary, of which there is not even the remotest indication, let alone probative evidence. As Gray77 correctly notes: "The sacrificial feast . . . was an essential element of the Passover, which was at once a link between the Aaronic and the earlier sacrifices, and also the complete and representative sacrifice of the Aaronic system. In that system all the other sacrifices explained or analyzed the Passover. Our Lord to Whom all the sacrifices referred, was pre-eminently the Paschal Lamb. The fellowship of the sacrificial feast has thus been preserved, not only through the Jewish Passover, but onward through the Lord's Supper of the Church". Thus all three institutions — primeval sacrifice, Mosaic Passover and the Christian Supper or Communion — were held on sacred days which demarcated the series of weeks and preserved their unbroken continuity, and all refer forward to The Sacrifice, The Passover Lamb and The Supper, the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 5:7) and His glorious day, the Lord's day (Rev. 1:10).
Sixthly, no uncircumcised foreigner might partake of the passover, and all the firstborn of man and beast were to be either consecrated to the Lord or redeemed in respect thereof. This again speaks of the coming Lord of the Sabbath, Who was circumcised on the eighth day (= seven plus one, the first day of the new series), Who rose as the firstborn from the dead on the first day of the new week, "the first of the sabbaths", (Mark 16:1, 2, Greek) [i.e., on the "eighth day", the day after the seventh-day sabbath], and Who again appeared in the power of His resurrection "eight days later", i.e. after seven days, again on the first day of yet another new weekly cycle of seven days.
Finally, attention should be paid to the covenantal significance of that first "Passover day" the fourteenth Nisan and the first "first day of the unleavened bread" the fifteenth Nisan. It was noted previously that the sabbath day was very probably the sign of the Edenic covenant with Adam; that the Noachic covenant was most definitely confirmed by Noah's sacrifice on the sabbath day; that the sabbath day was given as a sign of the Israelitic covenant; and that the (New) Covenant was fulfilled by Christ's death on the seventh-day sabbath and formally inaugurated by His resurrection on the first day of the week on which a "holy convocation" was held and on which "no manner of work shall be done", the "first of the sabbaths", and, again like the "Exodus" fifteenth Nisan, "a sign . . . and . . . a memorial" (Ex. 13 :9), "an ordinance for ever" (Ex. 12:17).
"And it came to pass [on the fifteenth Nisan], that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.. And Pharaoh rose up in the night and he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, 'Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.' . . . even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:29-31, 41, 42).
And so God led the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and in certain expectation of the resurrection of Joseph they carried his bones with them. Having previously left Rameses behind them, they were encamped at Succoth, where they probably hastened to keep God's feast on the next sabbath day (see p. 141f below). Then, leaving Succoth, they encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness, and presently they encamped in front of Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baalzephon. The stage was now set for the unforgettable drama of the journey through the Red Sea, through which — according to President Edwards78 — the Israelites passed on the sabbath day.
(c) The Sabbath
from the Red Sea to Sinai
DIAG. XIV – SUGGESTED TIMES OF SABBATH ENCAMPMENTS FROM EGYPT TO SINAI
The almost certain likelihood of sacrifice (the Israelitic motive for the Exodus) having been brought at Succoth81, the first place of encampment, on the first sabbath day, is again to be emphasized, as too the unequivocal description of Jethro's sacrifices in the vicinity of Horeb (Ex. 18:12 cf. 3:1; 17:6). Further, the whole impression of Mt. Sinai "wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire" (Ex. 19:18), so savours of sacrifice, that it is by no means unlikely, and very appropriate, that the Law of God might even have been given on the seventh day of the week. If so, that seventh day sabbath would probably have coincided in that fourth month of the year with the twenty-third of the month, and been confirmed seven days later (Ex. 24:16).
The overall picture then, is one of the Israelites trekking onward each week, pitching camp for physical rest and for the celebration of the sabbath and offering sacrifice, and then trekking still further, on their way to Canaan's rest.
Arriving at Mara, the Lord "made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them, and said, 'If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee'" (Ex. 15:23-26).
The fact that all God's statutes were to be kept, and that His Commandments were to be heeded, is very strong evidence for the observance of the sabbath, as á Marck has also noted82, cf. Ex. 16:4, 5, 28-30.
"And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters", Ex. 15:27. In these extremely pleasant surroundings, the weary people may have camped considerably longer than usual. Perhaps for (three) successive sabbaths did the children of Israel rest besides the twelve (= 3 x 4, cf. 3 + 4 = seven) tranquil wells and the seventy (= 10 X seven) soothing palm trees, before moving on into the barren wilderness of Sin.
". . . all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 16:1). But the deeper this huge company of perhaps83 three million souls penetrated into the wilderness, the more urgent did the problem of food become, until the Israelites complained at length: —
"'Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'
Then said the Lord to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no. . . . on the sixth day, they shall prepare that which they bring in; it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. . . . I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak to 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."'
"And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And Moses said unto them, 'This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. . . . Gather of it, every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. . . . Let no man leave of it till the morning.'
Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: . . . And they gathered it every morning, . . . and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
. . . 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, "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord; bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."'
And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: . . . And Moses said, 'Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, there shall be none.'
. . . there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, 'How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.' So the people rested on the seventh day." (Ex. 16:3-5, 12-16, 19-30).
In connection with this remarkable episode, there are many remarks to be made.
Firstly, it should be noted that this sabbath episode involved "the whole congregation of the children of Israel", vv. 1-2, thus indicating the fact that vertical communion with God on the sabbath is to be coupled with simultaneous horizontal communion with God's children.
Secondly, one must observe the connection between God's law and the sabbath. This was implied in the case of Abraham and Isaac, Gen. 26:1-5, and further implied after the Exodus began, a number of days prior to the manna episode, when the Israelites were at Mara, Ex. 15:22-26. But here in respect of the manna in the wilderness of Sin, the connection is explicitly expressed in Ex. 16 verses 4-5 and 27-29: ". . . the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. . . . And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, 'How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days.'" From this language it is very clear that the weekly sabbath formed part of God's revealed law, statutes and Commandments before Sinai.
Thirdly, it should be noted that God required His people to labour for six days of the week. They were neither to overwork nor to underwork, but they were to "gather a certain rate every day", verse 4; "every man according to his eating", verse 18; "an omer for every man", verse 16. There was to be no daily residue (v. 19), and if there was, it would breed worms and become foul (v. 20). And so "they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted", v. 21. This clearly indicates the Sabbath Commandment, which governs moderation in weekly labour, as well as weekly rest.
Fourthly, it is to be remarked that God made regular special provision for the material needs of His people to enable them to keep the sabbath: "I will rain bread from heaven for you . . . on the sixth day, . . . it shall be twice as much as they gather daily", Ex. 16:4-5; "on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread", v. 22; "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord . . . that which remaineth over lay by to be kept until the morning", v. 23; "And they laid it up till morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein", v. 24; "See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days", v. 29.
Fifthly, one expressly reads of the compulsory Commandment of the sabbath: "This is that which the Lord hath said: 'To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the Lord'", v. 23. On the following day Moses said: ". . . to day is a sabbath unto the Lord", v. 25; ". . . the seventh day, which is the sabbath", v. 26; "How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath", vv. 28-9.
Sixthly, it is clear that no work was to be done on the sabbath day:
(a) No unnecessary preparation of food: ". . . on the sixth day, they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily", v.5; "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay by to be kept till the morning", v. 23.
(b) No unnecessary gathering: ". . . there went out some of the people on the seventh day to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said to Moses: 'How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?'", vv. 27-8.
(c) No unnecessary travelling to and fro: "Abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day", v. 29 (cf. v. 27)84.
Seventhly, it should be noted that God supplied no new food on the sabbath. On that day He rested. ". . . to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none", vv. 25-6; ". . . on the seventh day . . . they found none", v. 27. Of course, this weekly cessation of special provision of new food by God is not to be confused with His providence or sustentation of His creatures, which obtains uninterruptedly.
Eighthly, flowing from God's rest (Gen. 2:1-3; Heb. 4:3-4), it should be noted that man was to rest on the sabbath too. It is as though God, after making adequate sabbath provision for His people on the sixth day, deliberately refrained from providing manna on the sabbath itself, in order to provide an object lesson to His people to follow suit and rest too: "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath to the Lord", v. 23; "So the people rested on the seventh day", v. 30.
Ninthly, it would appear that the people automatically gathered twice as much bread on the sixth day, without being specifically instructed to do so. God had not previously told Moses to instruct the people to do so, but had merely stated to him: "On the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily", v. 5.
That this fact was not communicated by Moses to the people, still less the reason for this fact, appears from the silence on this point of the record and also appears from the fact that on the sixth day, when the people had gathered twice as much bread, two omers apiece, all the leaders came to Moses to consult with him on this matter, v. 22, which they would hardly have done if he had told them about it and the reason for it at any previous time during that week. This surely indicates that the people automatically acted in a way showing their awareness of the natural cycle of six days labour to one of rest, which, as has been seen, was written on the tables of the heart of the first Adam. But the people's very awareness of this expected weekly "cyclic rhythm" surely indicates that they had previously experienced it, by virtue of which previous experience they automatically, if apprehensively, gathered twice as much manna on the sixth day! But this can only indicate their previous observance of the sabbath, which previous observance, even if only dating from the Exodus at Passover (which dating is unlikely and evidently too late), destroys the Antinomian contention that the sabbath was not held before the giving of the law at Sinai, or alternatively before this episode of the manna in the wilderness of Sin. "How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given (past tense! — N.L.) you the sabbath", vv. 28-9.
Tenthly, flowing from the ninth point, it is clear that the seven-day weekly cycle and its seventh-day sabbath were already clearly known when the people of God entered the wilderness of Sin, at the very least more than four weeks before the giving of the law on Sinai85. For it is recorded that the people, while they were yet in the wilderness of Sin, ". . . shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily", vv. 4-5; ". . . on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread . . .", for "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord", vv.22-3; "Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none", v. 26; "See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread for two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested ["sabbathed"86] on the seventh day", vv. 29-30.
Eleventhly, when God in addressing Moses enjoins the gathering and preparing by the people of a double portion of the manna on the sixth day, He does it without assigning any reason. "And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily", v. 5. On the supposition of no sabbatical rest having previously existed, and no distinction between the day of rest and the other days of the week, this omission of any reason is very unaccountable.
Twelfthly, when the sixth day came, as God had previously stated would happen, the people actually "gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses," v. 22. What was it that the rulers reported? Either they told the fact of this double gathering on the sixth day, as a thing which they themselves had not anticipated, and which they thought might be a violation of the command with regard to the quantity to be collected daily; or otherwise they reported it as an act of obedience on the part of the people to a previous injunction to gather double the quantity on that day, in which case the rulers then informed Moses that they had done as had been commanded. On the former hypothesis, it would follow that the course pursued by the people on the sixth day was pursued by them of their own accord, anticipating the rest of the seventh-day sabbath. On the latter hypothesis, it would follow that Moses had previously made known to the rulers and people the commands which the Lord had given to him: but in either case, the inference is clear. If Moses had not previously made known the command, and the people gathered their double portion on the sixth day of their own accord, then the rest of the seventh day was known and familiar to them, and that by nature. If, on the other hand, the command had previously been made known, and the people had consequently acted in conformity therewith, the terms in which the command had been given by Moses to the people would nevertheless imply that the weekly sabbath was known and familiar to him. But from the manner in which the report is brought by the rulers to Moses, and the manner in which Moses answers them, the former hypothesis is by far the more likely. The attitude of the rulers is rather that of uncertainty and a desire for an explanation from Moses than that of a mere routine report of executing Moses' commands; and this is also evidenced by the reply of Moses affirming the propriety of the people's conduct, and adding fuller and more explicit directions87. Doubtless it was the people's gathering88 of the double quantity of manna on the sixth day which puzzled the rulers and which gathering they reported to Moses, and not the fact that the next day was a rest day.
Finally, from the liaison between Moses and the rulers in connection with the sabbath, it is clear that the political authorities were rightly concerned with sabbath enforcement and desecration.
From this extremely important episode of the manna, then, it is abundantly clear that the sabbath was not only held before Sinai, but also before the manna was first given: "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath", Ex. 16:28-9. For Moses does not say to the rulers, "The Lord has commanded that to morrow and every succeeding seventh day shall be kept holy to the Lord"; but, "To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord" (and this is the reason why a double quantity of manna has fallen on the sixth day). "Six days ye shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none." Hence the wilderness of Sin was not the birth place of the sabbath, for the occurrences there point back to its earlier institution89.
After the first giving of the manna, "all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim" (Ex. 17:1). As pointed out above (p. 140), this commandment of the Lord to move on "after their journeys", that is, by stages, might well indicate their travelling from place to place on weekdays, and encamping over each sabbath day. It is indeed certain that this was the case, at least after the first giving of the manna (at least four weeks before reaching Sinai), in respect of which no man was to go out of his place on the seventh day, Ex. 16:29 — a prohibition on unnecessary travelling. In the light of the immediately preceding statement: "How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath", Ex. 16:28-9, it is also morally certain that the Israelites did not travel unnecessarily on the sabbath even before the first giving of the manna either"90.
It is quite possible, however, that the people remained for a considerable time at Rephidim before moving on, perhaps a whole week or two. For, while there, apart from the search for water, the battle against Amalek and the appointment of the judges and rulers over Israel, at least two sacrifices were brought, probably on two successive sabbath days91. If so, this would indicate that they encamped at Rephidim for at least ten days. The first sacrifice was offered on an altar called "The Lord is my banner", which was specially built to commemorate the victory over Amalek by God and His people Israel. The second sacrifice was held in the vicinity of Horeb, the mountain of God, where Moses had first been called to redeem his people. Of that second sacrifice it is stated: "And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God" (Ex. 18:12).
On the next day Moses appointed rulers and judges over Israel on the advice of his father-in-law Jethro, after which the latter departed to his own country Midian, and Moses and the Israelites continued their journey further (Ex. 18:17-27).
"In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount" (Ex. 19:1-2).
The Israelites had now arrived at Sinai, the mountain of God, rich with memories for Moses, whom God had called away from Jethro's flocks to go and redeem his people Israel out of the land of Egypt some time previously. And now Moses again stood before his Maker at the same place, before the Lord Who had been true to His covenant of redemption, and Who was now about to renew His covenant with His redeemed.
". . . on the third day in the morning [— could it perhaps have been a sabbath . . .?! —] . . . mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire . . . And He gave unto Moses, when He had made an end of communicating with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Ex. 19:16-18; 31:18).
(d) The sabbath
and the Fourth Commandment92
Right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, linking the two tables together, is found the Sabbath Commandment. It is the only Commandment which exhibits a perfect balance between man's duty towards God and his duty towards his fellow man. In this sense it may be said to belong to the first and the second table of the law, even as the incarnate Lord of the Sabbath Himself so clearly demonstrated in His observance thereof93.
The first part of the Commandment states: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy", Ex. 20:8, and: "Keep the sabbath day, to sanctify it", Deut. 5:12.
"Remember" ("zãkôr") is an infinitive absolute with the meaning of an emphatic imperative, and strongly suggests the prior knowledge of the sabbath amongst God's covenant people94; the same applies to "keep" ("shãmôr"), the identical word used in respect of the covenant of works in Gen. 2:1595.
"The sabbath day" ("yôm hashshabbãth") means the whole of the day of rest, the whole of the twenty-four hours, (not just the parts thereof devoted to communal worship) which sabbath day (and no other) is specifically determined by God as a specific day of the week in each specific age.
"To keep it holy", or "to sanctify it" ("leqaddeshô"), means to set the sabbath day apart from the other days of the week, and to dedicate it exclusively to God's special use, including communal worship96.
"As the Lord thy God commanded thee", Deut. 5:12, refers back at least97 to the Exodus Decalogue, and probably even prior thereto (cf. Ex. 20:11 — "wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it", which certainly refers back to the day's Edenic institution).
The second part of the Commandment goes on to enjoin: "Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work", Ex. 20:9 and Deut. 5:13.
"Six days shalt thou labour" is just as much98 a part of the Commandment as is: "keep the sabbath day"; "shalt thou labour", ("tha'daôd"), is imperfect with imperative meaning, but probably less emphatic than is zãkôr. Certainly the Commandment does not demand uninterrupted work for the whole of the twenty-four hours of each of the six days (as it does indeed demand the sanctification of the whole of the twenty-four hours of the sabbath day), nor does it demand that only one kind of work be engaged in for six days, and still less is it a bar to annual vacation or daily relaxation. The key99 to the meaning of this six days' work is found in the second part of the sentence: "and do all thy work" ("mela'kthêkã"), as opposed to doing one's own work on God's day; yet — it is all of man's work ("kãl- mela'kthêkã") which is to be done on those six days, all of man's work as opposed to just his professional work, his "'abôdãh" — for not even man's non-professional work or mela'kãh is to be allowed to make inroads on the sanctification of God's sabbath day.
The third part of the Commandment identifies which day is the sabbath, and the way in which it is to be observed: "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", Ex. 20:10; "nor thine ox, nor thine ass", adds Deut. 5:14a.
"But the seventh day is the sabbath" ("weyôm hashshibi'i") —not100, as the Seventh Day Adventists insist, "the seventh day of the week", but simply, "the seventh day", that is, the seventh day in relation to the six days of labour just described in the previous verse. Hence the hebdomadal cycle of work and rest is clearly taught by the Commandment; but the precise day of the week which is the sabbath in each particular dispensation must be established by the extra-Decalogical data of the dispensation concerned. It is, however, always "the sabbath of the Lord thy God" — the day of man's personal Re-creating Creator ("Yãhvêh 'Elôhêykã"), and not of man.
"In it thou shalt not do any work" ("lô' tha'asêh"); "1ô'"), an absolute prohibition [not merely "'al", a relative discouragement]; and "tha'asêh", that is, thou shalt (not) do or to make anything; "(not) do any work" ("kãl-malã-'kãh"), that is, any kind of work whatsoever, not merely professional services or field work or servile work, "melê'kêth 'abôdãh", which alone is prohibited on the first day of unleavened bread, Lev. 23:7].
"Thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter", that is, the head of the house is held responsible for the sabbath observance and/or desecration of all his indwelling offspring; "nor thy manservant nor thy maidservant", that is, every employer is responsible for making it outwardly possible for all his employees to observe the sabbath and answerable to God for their desecration thereof in the course of their employment; "nor thy cattle" (Ex.), "nor thine ox, nor thine ass" (Deut.), that is, even dumb beasts are to be rested, and not employed for the sake of their user's economic gain; "nor thy stranger that is within thy gates" — "thy stranger" ("wegerkã"), that is, any person living out of his own country — "within thy gates" ("bishe'ãrêykã"), that is, within thy city-gates (not merely within the doors of private houses) — thus emphasizing the political and governmental duties of sabbath observance and enforcement101.
The last part of the Commnandment deals with the reason for sabbath observance — the immediate, horizontal or redemptive reason as given in the Deuteronomy Decalogue97, and the ultimate, vertical or creative reason as given in the prior Exodus Decalogue.
The creative reason (Ex. 20:11): "For in six days the Lord made heaven102 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". This conclusively proves the supralapsarian Edenic institution of the sabbath for all men, whether believers or not. All are obliged to observe it as a result of their involvement in the universal Adamic covenant of works, Mark 2:27.
The redemptive103 reason (Deut. 5:14b, 15): ". . . 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". This conclusively proves the pre-Sinaitic institution of the sabbath, and its particular obligation on the redeemed believer (diametrically the opposite of what Antinomianism falsely teaches). All believers are obliged to observe it as a result of their involvement in the redemptive Abrahamic covenant of grace, Gal. 3:27-9.
How was God to be worshipped on the sabbath? If one is correct [cf. Oehler104] in reading what immediately follows (Ex. 20:21-26) the Ten Commandments as an explanation of how God was to be worshipped, the Fourth Commandment is seen to have been kept ever since the fall, for: "An altar of earth thou shalt make unto Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep and thine oxen; in all places where I record My Name, I will come unto thee and bless thee", Ex. 20:24.