The sabbath. Talking about it can be complicated and confusing, yet the biblical authors wrote about it a lot. So what’s it all about? The sabbath is more than an antiquated law. It’s about the design of time and the human quest for rest. The sabbath and seventh-day rest is one of the key themes that starts on page one of the Bible and weaves beautifully all the way through to the end.
“The seventh day is like a multifaceted gem. One of the main facets is the fabric of creation as leading toward a great goal where humans imitate God and join him in ceasing from work and labor. But there’s going to be another facet that’s all about being a slave to our labor. And so the seventh day is a time to celebrate our liberation from slavery so that we can rest with God.”
- The theme of the sabbath or seventh-day rest is a key theme in the Bible that starts on page one and goes all the way through to the end.
- The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew word shabot, which means most simply “to stop” or “to cease from.”
- Keeping/observing/remembering the sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. It sticks out as being a uniquely Jewish practice at the time in history when the commandments were given.
Welcome to the first episode in our series on understanding seventh-day rest in the Bible!
In part 1 (0-6:35), Tim outlines the theme in general. He says the seventh-day rest is actually a huge theme in the Bible, even more prominent in the Scriptures than other TBP videos. Tim calls it an “organizing main theme in the Bible.”
In part 2 (6:35-23:45), Tim recounts a story from when he and Jon visited Jerusalem. They were both able to share a Sabbath meal with practicing Jews in Jerusalem. Tim shares that the Sabbath tradition is one of the longest running traditions in any culture in the world. Even the word shabat’s most basic meaning is “to stop.”
In part 3 (23:45-33:00), Tim says this series isn’t really going to be about the practice of sabbath but about the theme and symbolism of sabbath and seventh-day rest in the Bible. This theme is rich and complex, woven from start to finish in the Scriptures. The practice of the Sabbath itself is only one piece of the underlying message the authors are trying to communicate.
In part 4 (33:00-45:30), Tim and Jon discuss “keeping, observing, or remembering” the sabbath in the Ten Commandments. This command sticks out as a unique Jewish practice. The Jews are told to keep the sabbath for two different reasons according to two different passages:
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 of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested (Heb. shabat) on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Keep the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest (Heb. nuakh) as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
Tim notes that in the first passage, Jews are told to keep the sabbath because it is an act of participation in God’s presence and rule over creation. But in the second passage, keeping the sabbath is an act of implementing God’s presence and rule by the liberation from slavery. Tim says these two ways of viewing the practice of the sabbath are two of the core ways to think about the seventh-day rest theme in the bible.
In part 5 (45:30-end), Tim cites scholar Matitiahu Tsevat about the biblical phrase “it is a sabbath of Yahweh” (שבת ליהוה), literally, “a sabbath that belongs to Yahweh.”
“This phrase is so important, it’s easy to miss its centrality... Just as in the 7th year of release man desists from utilizing the land for his own business and benefit, so on the sabbath day he desists from using that day for his own affairs. And just äs the intervals in regard to the release year and the jubilee years are determined by the number seven, so too is the number seven determinative for that recurring day when man refrains from his own pursuits and sets it aside for God. In regular succession he breaks the natural flow of time, proclaiming, and that the break is made for the sake of the Lord. This meaning which we have ascertained from the laws finds support Isaiah 58: “If you restrain your foot on the sabbath so äs not to pursue your own affairs on My holy day…” Man normally is master of his time. He is free to dispose of it as he sees fit or as necessity bids him. The Israelite is duty-bound, however, once every seven days to assert by word and deed that God is the master of time. … one day out of seven the Israelite is to renounce dominion over his own time and recognize God's dominion over it. Simply: Every seventh day the Israelite renounces his autonomy and affirms God's dominion over him in the conclusion that every seventh day the Israelite is to renounce dominion over time, thereby renounce autonomy, and recognize God's dominion over time and thus over himself. Keeping the sabbath is acceptance of the kingdom and sovereignty of God.” (Matitiahu Tsevat, The Basic Meaning of the Biblical Sabbath, 453-455.)
Tim says the structure of the sabbath is meant to be inconvenient. God is the master of all time, and he holds all the time that we think actually belongs to us.
- Defender Instrumental by Tents
- Royalty Free Middle Eastern Music
- Shabot Songs:
- Psalm 121 (Lai Lai Lai) by Joshua Aaron
- L'maancha by Eitan Katz
- Matitiahu Tsevat, The Basic Meaning of the Biblical Sabbath
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