THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE #6
by Samuele Bacchiocchi PhD
The Sabbath: Creational or Ceremonial?
PART 2 OBJECTIONS TO THE CREATION SABBATH
The preceding survey of the controversy over the creation
versus Mosaic origin of the Sabbath has set the stage for
examining the main objections against the creation origin of the
Sabbath, advanced especially by former Sabbatarians. Their
objections reflect the radical Lutheran distinction between the
Old and New Covenants. On the basis of this distinction, as we
have already seen, the Sabbath is not viewed as a creation
ordinance for humanity but as a Mosaic institution for the Jews
which Christ fulfilled and abolished. Consequently, so-called
"New Covenant" Christians are free from the observance of any
The four major objections used to negate the creation origin
of the Sabbath are the following:
1) No command to keep the Sabbath is given in Genesis.
2) No example of Sabbathkeeping is recorded in Genesis.
3) No mention is made of the word "Sabbath" in Genesis.
4) No formula of "and there was evening and morning" is used for
the seventh day.
(1) No Command to Keep the Sabbath Is Given in Genesis
Absence of a Command.
The first argument used to negate the creation origin of the
Sabbath is the absence of an explicit command to observe the
seventh day in Genesis 2:2-3. The Worldwide Church of God
formulates this argument by means of six rhetorical statements:
"There are several things that Genesis does not tell us:
1) It does not say that humans rested.
2) It does not say that humans were told to follow God's example.
3) It does not say that humans were told to rest.
4) It does not say that God taught Adam and Eve on the Sabbath.
5) It does not say that God created the Sabbath.
6) It does not say that humans kept the Sabbath. 79
Dale Ratzlaff uses the same argument, saying, "There is no
command for mankind to rest in the Genesis account." 80 "Nothing
is expressly mentioned regarding man in the seventh-day-creation
rest." 81 For him, this fact indicates that the Sabbath is not a
creation ordinance binding upon humanity, but a temporary
institution introduced by Moses for Israel alone.
Reasons for "No Command."
There are several possible reasons for the absence of an
explicit command to keep the Sabbath in Genesis 2:2-3. First of
all, we must remember that Genesis is not a book of commands but
of origins. None of the Ten Commandments are ever mentioned in
Genesis, yet we know that their principles were known because we
are told, for example, "Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my
charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen 26:5). It
is evident Abraham knew God's commandments and laws, though no
reference is made to them in the book of Genesis. The reason is
that Genesis is a book of beginnings; it tells us how we get from
the creation of this planet to the creation of God's people in
the book of Exodus.
Another possible reason for the absence of a command to keep
the Sabbath in Genesis is the cosmological function of the
seventh day in the creation story. The divine act of resting on
the seventh day is designed to tell us how God felt about His
creation. It was "very good," and to dramatize this fact, twice
we are told that "He rested" (Gen 2:2-3) - that is, "He stopped."
No finishing touches were to improve His perfect creation.
In the Near Eastern creation myths, the divine rest
(technically called otiositas), which usually implies the
establishment of a secure world order, generally is achieved
either by eliminating noisy, disturbing gods or by creating human
beings. For example, in the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish,
the god Marduk says, "Verily, savage-man I will create. He shall
be charged with the service of the gods, that they might be at
ease ! 83 In the creation Sabbath, however, the divine rest is
secured not by subordinating or destroying competitors, nor by
exploiting the labor of mankind, but by the completion of a
perfect creation. God rested on the seventh day, not to conclude
His work of creation, but rather because His work was "finished
... done" (Gen 2:2-3). As stated by Niels-Erik Andreasen, "It is
not the rest (cessation from work) which concludes creation, but
it is the concluded creation which occasions both rest and the
The Function of God's Rest.
Any responsible artisan works on a product until it is
brought it up to the ideal; then the work stops. In an infinitely
higher sense, God, having completed the creation of this world
with all its creatures, desisted from creating on the seventh
day. This is essentially the meaning of the Hebrew verb sabat
which is twice translated "rested." Its more accurate rendering
is "to stop, to desist, to cease from doing."
To express the idea of rest from physical exhaustion, the
Hebrew employs a different verb, namely nuah, which is also
generally translated in English "to rest." The latter, in fact,
occurs in Exodus 20:11 where God's pattern of work-rest in
creation is given as the basis for the commandment to work six
days and to rest on the seventh. In Genesis 2, however, the verb
sabat is used because the function of God's rest is different. It
fulfills a cosmological rather than an anthropological function.
It explains to us not why people should rest but rather how God
felt about His creation: He regarded it as complete and perfect;
and to acknowledge it, He stopped.
This function of God's rest has been recognized by numerous
scholars. Karl Barth, for example, remarks: "We read in Genesis
2:2 that on the seventh day God, the Creator, completed His work
by 'resting.' This simply means that He did not go on with the
work of creation as such. He set both Himself and His creation a
limit. He was content to be the Creator of this particular
creation - to glory, as the Creator, in this particular work. He
had no occasion to proceed to further creations. He needed no
further creations. And He had found what he created very good
(Gen. 1:31)." 85 "When creation ended with man, having found its
climax and meaning in the actualization of man, God rested on the
seventh day from all the work that He had done. It was to this
that He looked in the recognition that everything was very good
and therefore did not need to be extended or supplemented. 86
Dietrich Bonhoeffer similarly explains that "in the Bible
'rest' really means more than 'having a rest.' It means rest
after the work is accomplished, it means completion, it means the
perfection and peace in which the world rests." 87 We might say
that by confronting His creation with His cessation-rest, God
proclaimed the Good News that there was no need to put additional
finishing touches on what He had created, since He regarded all
of it "very good" (Gen.1:31). God's cessation from doing
expresses His desire for being with His creation, for giving to
His creatures not only "things" but "Himself."
An Example Rather Than a Command.
The fact that the Sabbath is established in the creation
story by a divine example rather than by a divine commandment
could also reflect what God intended the Sabbath to be in a
sinless world - namely, not an alienating imposition but a free
response to a gracious Creator. By freely choosing to make
themselves available for their Creator on the Sabbath, human
beings were to experience physical, mental, and spiritual renewal
and enrichment. Since these needs have not been eliminated but
heightened by the Fall, the moral, universal, and perpetual
functions of the Sabbath precept were repeated later in the form
of a commandment.
What is it that makes any divine precept moral and
universal? Do we not regard a law moral when it reflects God's
nature? Could God have given any stronger revelation of the moral
nature of the Sabbath than by making it a rule of His divine
conduct? Is a principle established by divine example less
binding than one enunciated by a divine command? Do not actions
speak louder than words?
The argument that the Sabbath originated at Sinai makes
Moses guilty of distorting truth or, at least, the victim of
gross misunderstanding. He would have traced the Sabbath back to
creation in the Sabbath commandment, when in reality it was his
own new creation. Such a charge, if true, would cast serious
doubts on the integrity and/or reliability of anything else Moses
or anyone else wrote in the Bible.
(2) No Example of Sabbathkeeping Is Recorded in Genesis
The oldest and perhaps the strongest argument against the
creation origin of the Sabbath is the absence of an explicit
reference to Sabbathkeeping after Genesis 2 for the whole
patriarchal period up to Exodus 16. For example, in his doctoral
dissertation on "Sabbatic Theology," Roger Congdon writes: "There
is absolutely no mention of the Sabbath before the Lord said to
Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you ... On the
sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice
as much as they gather daily' (Ex 16:4-5). These words indicate
that the event was bound to the Decalogue of Sinai.... The first
mention of the Sabbath in the Bible and the first chronological
use of the word in all history is in Exodus 16:23." 88 In a
similar vein the Worldwide Church of God affirms that Genesis
"does not say that humans kept the Sabbath." 89
The absence of explicit references to Sabbathkeeping between
Genesis 2 and Exodus 16 does not necessarily mean that the
principle of Sabbathkeeping was unknown. The apparent silence
could mean that between Adam and Moses, the Sabbath, though
known, was not observed. The non-observance of the feast of the
Booths between Joshua and Nehemiah, a period of almost a thousand
years, would provide a parallel situation (Neh 8:17).
Taken for Granted.
A more plausible explanation is that the custom of
Sabbathkeeping is not mentioned simply because it is taken for
granted. A number of reasons support this explanation.
First, we have a similar example of silence regarding the
Sabbath between the books of Deuteronomy and 2 Kings. Such
silence can hardly be interpreted as non-observance of the
Sabbath since, when the first incidental reference occurs in 2
Kings 4:23, it describes the custom of visiting a prophet on the
Second, Genesis does not contain laws like Exodus but is
rather, a brief sketch of origins. Since no mention is made of
any other commandment, silence regarding the Sabbath is not
Third, throughout the book of Genesis and the early chapters
of Exodus one finds circumstantial evidences for the use of the
seven-day week which would imply the existence of the Sabbath as
well. The period of seven days is mentioned four times in the
account of the Flood (Gen 7:4,10; 8:10,12).
Apparently, the "week" also is used in a technical way to
describe the duration of the nuptial festivities of Jacob (Gen
29:27) as well as the duration of mourning at his death (Gen
50:10). A similar period was observed by the friends of Job to
express their condolences to the patriarch (Job 2:13). Probably
all the mentioned ceremonials were terminated by the arrival of
Lastly, the Sabbath is presented in Exodus 16 and 20 as an
already existing institution. The instructions for gathering a
double portion of manna on the sixth day presuppose a knowledge
of the significance of the Sabbath: "On the sixth day, when they
prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they
gather daily" (Ex 16:5). The omission of any explanation for
gathering a double portion on the sixth day would be inexplicable
if the Israelites had no previous knowledge of the Sabbath.
Similarly, in Exodus 20, the Sabbath is presupposed as something
already familiar. The commandment does not say "Know the Sabbath
day" but "Remember the Sabbath day" (Ex 20:8), thus implying that
it was already known. Furthermore, the commandment, by presenting
the Sabbath as rooted in creation (Ex 20:11), hardly allows a
late Exodus introduction of the festival.
To speculate on how the patriarchs kept the Sabbath would be
a fruitless endeavor since it would rest more on imagination than
on available information. Considering, however, that the essence
of Sabbathkeeping is not a place to go to fulfill rituals, but a
set time to be with God, ourselves, and others, it is entirely
possible that the patriarchs spent the Sabbath holy hours within
their households, engaged in some of the acts of worship
described in Genesis such as prayer (Gen 12:8; 26:25), sacrifice
(Gen 12:8; 13:18; 26:25; 33:20), and teaching (Gen 18:19).
(3) No Mention Is Made of the Word "Sabbath" in Genesis
The absence of the term "Sabbath" in Genesis 2:2-3 is seen
by some as an indication that the Sabbath as an institution did
not originate at creation but later at the time of Moses. For
example, Robert Morey emphatically states: "But isn't the Sabbath
creation ordinance found in Genesis 2:1-3? No, the word 'Sabbath'
does not appear in the text." 90 Harold Dressler makes a similar
statement: "Genesis 2 does not mention the word 'Sabbath.' It
speaks about the 'seventh day.' Unless the reader equates
'seventh day' and 'Sabbath,' there is no reference to the Sabbath
here." 91 In a similar vein; Dale Ratzlaff writes: "There is no
mention of the word 'Sabbath' in the Genesis account; nothing is
said about man resting; in fact, man is not even mentioned in
connection with this seventh-day-creation rest." 92
It is true that the name "Sabbath" does not occur in the
passage, but the cognate verbal form shabat (to cease, to stop,
to rest) is used and the latter, as noted by Ugo Cassuto,
"contains an allusion to the name 'the Sabbath day.'" 93
Moreover, as Cassuto sagaciously remarks, the use of the
name seventh day rather than Sabbath may well reflect the
writer's concern to underline the perpetual order of the day,
independent and free from any association with astrological
"sabbaths" of the heathen nations.
It is a known fact that the term shabbatu, which is
strikingly similar to the Hebrew word for Sabbath (shabbat),
occurs in the documents of ancient Mesopotamia. The term
apparently designated the fifteenth day of the month, that is,
the day of the full moon. By designating the day by number rather
than by name, Genesis seems to emphasize that God's Sabbath day
is not like that of heathen nations, connected with the phases of
the moon. Rather, it shall be the seventh day in perpetual order,
independent from any association with the cycles of heavenly
By pointing to a perpetual order, the seventh day
strengthens the cosmological message of the creation story -
precisely that God is both Creator and constant controller of
this cosmos. In Exodus, however, where the seventh day is given
in the context of the Genesis, not of this cosmos, but of the
nation of Israel, the day is explicitly designated "sabbath,"
apparently to express its new historical and soteriological
(4) No Formula of "and there was evening and morning" Is Used for
the Seventh day
The omission in the creation account of the formula "and
there was evening and morning" in connection with the seventh day
indicates to some that the Sabbath is not a literal 24-hour day
like the preceding six days, but a symbolic time representing
eternal rest. For example, Dale Ratzlaff writes: "The Genesis
account does not mention an end to God's seventh-day rest. Rather
it is presented as an ongoing state by the omission of the
formula 'and there was evening and morning, a seventh day.'" 95
He interprets the absence of this formula as indicating that
"the conditions and characteristics of that first seventh day
were designed by God to continue and would have continued had it
not been for the sin of Adam and Eve." 96
Both Rabbis and Christian writers have interpreted the
absence of any reference to "the evening and morning" in
connection with the seventh day of creation as representing the
future, eternal rest of the redeemed. Augustine offers a most
fitting example of this interpretation in the last page of his
"Confessions," where he offers this exquisite prayer: "O Lord
God, grant Thy peace unto us ... the peace of rest, the peace of
the Sabbath which has no evening. For all this most beautiful
order of things, 'very good' ... is to pass away, for in them
there was morning and evening. But the seventh day is without any
evening, nor hath it any setting, because Thou hast sanctified it
to an everlasting continuance; ... that we also after our works
... may repose in Thee also in the Sabbath of eternal life." 97
This spiritual, eschatological interpretation of the
creation Sabbath has some merits because, as shown in chapter 4,
the vision of the peace, rest, and prosperity of the first
Sabbath inspired the prophetic vision of the peace, delight, and
prosperity of the world-to-come. This interpretation is also
found in Hebrews 4 where believers are urged to strive to enter
into the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (Heb
The symbolic interpretation of creation's seventh day which
has no evening does not negate its literal 24-hour duration for
at least four reasons:
First, the seventh day is enumerated like the preceding six days.
Note that in the Bible whenever "day-yom" is accompanied by a
number it always means a day of 24 hours.
Second, the Decalogue itself clearly states that God, having
worked six days, rested on the seventh day of creation week (Ex
20:11). If the first six days were ordinary earthly days, we must
understand the seventh in the same way.
Third, every passage which mentions creation's seventh day as the
basis of the earthly Sabbath regards it as an ordinary day (Ex
20:11; 31:17; cf. Mark 2:27; Heb 4:4).
Last, the commandment to keep the Sabbath as a memorial day of
the creation-Sabbath (Ex 20:11) implies a literal original
24-hour Sabbath. God could hardly command His creatures to work
six days and rest on the seventh after His own example if the
seventh day were not a literal day. The omission of the formula
"and there was evening and morning, a seventh day" may be due to
the fact that the seventh day is not followed by other creation
days. The formula serves to separate each of the first days of
creation from the following ones. The seventh day, being the last
day of creation, did not need to be separated because there was
no "eighth day" to follow. By marking the termination of the
creation week, the seventh day did not need to be defined in
terms of its termination because there were no further creation
Another suggestion discussed in chapter 4 is the possibility
that the Sabbath was blessed with extraordinary light. For
example, referring to the Messianic age, Zechariah remarks that
"there shall be continuous day ... not day and not night, for at
evening time there shall be light" (Zech 14:7). Here we have a
probable allusion to the seventh day of creation which in Genesis
has no mention of "evening and morning." Such a detail was
interpreted by the rabbis as signifying that the Sabbath was
especially blessed by supernatural, continuous light. To this we
return in chapter 4.
THE CREATION WEEK IS A HUMAN WEEK
A fundamental problem with the preceding objections against
the creation origin of the Sabbath is their failure to realize
that the creation week is a human week, established by God for
regulating our human life.
To be continued
With the above arguments by those who would say there was no
"Sabbath day" command or observance until Moses' day, fall into
the ditch of theological gooby-goo by not reading the entire
Bible. God does not have to say truths over and over or as and
where we may want to find them. The Lord deliberately puts truth
here and there so people will be deceived and fall backwards and
be snared in their own trap of imaginations of falsehoods. This
is not the age where God is trying to save all mankind, most at
this time are blinded and cannot see the light of day. I have
proved this fact and this plan of the Eternal in many other
studies on this Website.
NOW, you need to note and mark a few clear and easy to read
verses in the New Testament, that plainly show that SIN DID EXIST
FROM ADAM TO MOSES, and what God interprets IS sin!!
"Wherefore, as by one man SIN entered into the world, and death
by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that ALL have
SINNED. For until the law (codefied and given by Moses in a
specific form) SIN WAS IN THE WORLD; but sin is not imputed when
their is NO LAW. Nevertheless DEATH reigned from Adam to Moses
1 JOHN 3:4
"Whosoever commits SIN transgresseth also the LAW: for SIN IS the
transgression of the LAW."
"What shall I say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not
known SIN, but by the LAW: for I had not known lust, except the
LAW had siad, 'Thou shalt not covet.'"
"For whosoever shall keep the whole LAW, and yet offend in ONE
POINT, he is guilty of all. For he that said, 'Do not commit
adultery' said also, 'Do not kill.' now if you commit no
adultery, yet if you kill, you have become a transgressor of the
By putting some easy to read verses together in the New Testament
we should be able to see WHAT law is being spoken about - the TEN
COMMANDMENT LAW! And breaking that law is SIN! And furthermore
SIN existed from Adam to Moses. And in one way or another ALL
have sinned. Death reigned from Adam to Moses because all have
sinned, and sin is the breaking of any one of the Ten
commandments of God. Sin is not imputed, is not counted, is not
placed upon your bill, where there is no law. But sin has been
placed upon all who have ever lived, including those from Adam to
Moses, because there was a law which defined sin, and there still
is that law which defines sin. That law contains points, which
include "you shall not commit adultery" and "you shall not kill"
and "you shall not covet." Any first grade child reading Exodus
20 and Deuteronomy 5 and the above given Scriptures can easily
see SIN and hence the Ten commandment LAW was from the beginning,
from the time of Adam and Eve.
IT WAS SIN FROM ADAM TO MOSES TO BREAK ANY ONE OF THE LAWS OF THE
ALL OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS WERE IN FORCE FROM ADAM TO MOSES!!
YOU NEED TO STUDY MY STUDY CALLED "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS BEFORE
MOSES" on this Website.
By reading the Bible with eyes, mind, and heart, fully open to
all of its truth and teachings, by NOT reading the Bible with
tunnel vision, we can clearly see that the SABBATH command, the
4th commandment of the great Ten commandments, was in full effect
from Adam to Moses!