Chapter 3:

The Sabbath (Shabbat)

This post is also available in: Español Deutsch Indonesia српски Français Nederlands

The Fourth Commandment is the command to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath was one of the Ten Commands that Yahweh inscribed in stone.

Shemote (Exodus) 20:8-11
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it set apart.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your Elohim. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.”

The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, and the fact that Yahweh inscribed the commandment to rest (i.e., to ‘sabbath’) in stone should give us some idea of the degree of importance and unchangeability that Yahweh assigns to it.

The reason Yahweh assigned the Sabbath as the seventh day of the week is that Yahweh created the heavens and the earth in six days, and then rested on the seventh day.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:2-3
2 And on the seventh day Elohim ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
3 Then Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because in it He rested from all His work which Elohim had created and made.

However, Yahweh not only rested on the seventh day, but He also was refreshed.

Shemote (Exodus) 31:12-17
12 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am Yahweh who sets you apart.
14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is set apart to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, set apart to Yahweh. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'”

The language here is curious. Since Yahweh’s power and might is completely without limit, how can Yahweh become tired? And if He cannot become tired, then how can Yahweh become refreshed?

In modern computer terms, when a computer screen becomes all messed up, perhaps because a computer has been left on too long, and becomes too hot, or because too many computing operations have been performed on it without the computer being able to take a break, the computer screen becomes disorderly. To correct this condition, one presses the ‘refresh’ button. In exactly the same way, the Sabbath is a kind of a ‘refresh’ button for mankind, whereby the proper order is restored between Elohim and man, by purposely taking a day to worship, and to rest in Him.

Notice the language here: that the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest in Him. The purpose of the Sabbath is not to rest and relax the flesh by sewing, by hiking, by catching up on one’s sleep for the week, or by participating in recreational activities such as boating, fishing or watching television. Rather, the purpose of Yahweh’s Sabbath is to restore the proper order between Yahweh Elohim and man. As we will see, this calls for us to gather together, and serve Him as one united, combined Body of Messiah.

Ivrim (Hebrews) 10:24-25
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Yahweh has specific rules for the Sabbath. He tells us that not only are we to do no work, but that we are not to cause anyone else to work on that day: neither our sons, nor our daughters, nor our menservants, nor our maidservants, nor our cattle, nor any stranger who is within our gates.

Shemote (Exodus) 20:8-11
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it set apart.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your Elohim. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.”

The basic concept is that we are to rest and relax in Him, and to cause anyone and everyone under our power to rest and relax in Him also. In practical terms, this means that we must not hire anyone to do any regular work, or work for pay on the Sabbath.

Yahweh both blessed the seventh day, and He set it apart. By way of blessing, He gave His people one day out of their busy weeks that they should have to do no laborious work. This is so true that the children of Israel were not even supposed to cook on the Sabbath.

In the Wilderness of Sinai, the children of Israel were told to gather and prepare twice as much food on the sixth day of the week (sometimes called ‘Preparation Day’), so that no gathering or cooking had to be done on the Sabbath.

Shemote (Exodus) 16:22-30
22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moshe.
23 Then he said to them, “This is what Yahweh has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'”
24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moshe commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it.
25 Then Moshe said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahweh; today you will not find it in the field.
26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”
27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none.
28 And Yahweh said to Moshe, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?
29 See! For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

The idea is to prepare for the Sabbath all six days of the week, and then to prepare twice as much food on the sixth day, so that one does not have to gather or prepare food on the seventh. With the work of food preparation already done, the Sabbath is just that much more restful.

Yahweh tells us He is serious about His people resting from their labors on the seventh day. He even tells us that whosoever does any work on the Sabbath is to be put to death. This is a sign of the covenant between Yahweh and us forever, in all of our generations.

Shemote (Exodus) 31:12-17
12 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am Yahweh who sets you apart.
14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is set apart to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, set apart to Yahweh. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'”

However, people being what they are, they sometimes put Yahweh to the test. So it was that when Israel was in the Wilderness, immediately after Yahweh had warned the people that anyone rebelling against His commandments should be put to death, a man chose to profane the Sabbath by gathering sticks. When Moshe asked Yahweh what to do, Yahweh decreed that the rebellious man was surely to be put to death.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 15:32-36
32 Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moshe and Aharon, and to all the congregation.
34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him.
35 Then Yahweh said to Moshe, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”
36 So, as Yahweh commanded Moshe, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.

The reason this man was profaning the Sabbath was that he had chosen to perform routine, laborious work that could have been done either before or after Shabbat. He should have been congregating and worshipping Yahweh at that time.

When Yahweh appoints a special time to meet with us, we as His bride must make every effort to meet with Him then. If there is any work that can be done before the Sabbath, so that we have more time to spend with Him on that day, then that work should be done apart from the Sabbath day.

Yet even though the man gathering sticks was breaking the Shabbat, Yeshua said that His disciples were not breaking the Shabbat when they plucked heads of grain (and ate them) on the Sabbath.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 12:1-8
1 At that time Yeshua went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of Elohim and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the Torah that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is Master even of the Sabbath.”

There are several reasons that Yeshua’s disciples were not profaning the Sabbath. Perhaps one of the most obvious is that His disciples were not working for pay. They also were not reaping with a sickle and a basket, either to sell, or to store up for later. Rather, they were spending time with their Husband, and were simply eating what was readily at hand as they walked through the field, much as one might pluck a few pomegranates one came across on the way to the synagogue. Since it was not really ‘work’ to pluck these grains and eat them, it did not need to be put off until later.

Another thing that is not ‘customary work,’ and which does not need to be put off until after the Sabbath is healing, and doing good.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 12:9-12
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.
10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” — that they might accuse Him.
11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Sometimes people have questions about hospital staff: since Yeshua said it is OK to heal on the Sabbath, is it OK for believers to work as doctors, nurses, police and fire services, or as other emergency services personnel? Perhaps it will be easier to understand if we use the following analogy:

Scripture likens Israel to a virgin bride, and if Israel is a virgin bride, then one might consider the Sabbath (or any other festival day) as a ‘date’ between the bride and her future Husband. If the bride only gets to see her Beloved Fiance one day a week, then if she truly cherishes her Fiance, and wants to be with Him, then she will look for ways to make the most of her time with Him. Because of this, she will try to take care of her earthly chores during the rest of the week, so that she can spend as much time as possible with Him on her one special date day.

If someone should come to the bride’s door in need of urgent medical care (or even food) on the day she has to spend with her Fiance, her Fiance will probably be quite pleased and happy with her if she stops whatever she is doing, and helps the one in need. However, in contrast, her Fiance will probably not be pleased if she has been lazy during the week, or has overscheduled herself, such that she has left herself all sorts of little chores to do, or is too exhausted to spend quality time with Him.

It is true that not all work can be put off until another time. For one example, dairy animals must be milked seven days a week, and animals such as sheep need a great deal of help during birthing, no matter what day of the week it is. Further, life being what it is, medical emergencies arise seven days a week, and ambulance and medical crews need to be on hand to help save the lives of those who are in need. However, in all of these scenarios, there is work that must be performed at the time the crisis arises, yet there is also other work that can be put off until later. Whatever work can be done either before or after the Sabbath, should be.

What exactly can and cannot be done on the Sabbath is also the question of some debate. Exodus 35 tells us that anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death, and then it also gives us a rather curious commandment, not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath day.

Shemote (Exodus) 35:1-3
1 Then Moshe gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These are the words which Yahweh has commanded you to do:
2 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a set-apart day for you, a Sabbath of rest to Yahweh. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

Why would Yahweh prohibit us from kindling a fire in our dwellings on Shabbat? In many climates one needs to burn a fire in winter just to keep warm, and the Sabbath would hardly be relaxing or refreshing without heat. However, if we look at this passage in the Hebrew, we may be able to get a better feel for Yahweh’s intended meaning.

Exodus 35:3
3 “You shall kindle no fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

(3) לֹא תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם | בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת

The word ‘kindle’ here is ta-ba-aru (תְבַעֲרוּ), which is likely the Hebrew source for the English word “to burn.” This is also the word used to describe the burning bush in Exodus 3:2. Thus, the commandment not to kindle a fire on Shabbat is probably the commandment not to burn a fire on the Sabbath.

But even if the commandment in Exodus 35:3 is not to burn a fire on the Sabbath, still we are left with the question, why would Yahweh command us not to burn a fire for warmth (or for light) on His day of rest and refreshment? Does He desire us to dwell in the dark, and be cold?

Let us consider that the phrase ‘your dwellings’ is ‘moshavotheichem,’ (מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם), which means ‘your communities.’ Since wood had to be gathered by hand, each individual family did not always build their own fires. Rather, in ancient times, families and clans built a community fire. This is where the people of one extended family cooked, and conducted all manner of work requiring fire, such as blacksmithing. Therefore, it seems likely that what Yahweh was really prohibiting was the kindling or burning of a work or a cooking fire on Shabbat.

We already saw in the last chapter that there were many lamps in the upper room where the Apostle Shaul was teaching.

Ma’asei (Acts) 20:7-8
7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Shaul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.

Many scholars dispute the translation “on the first day of the week.” The Greek reads, “mia ton Sabbaton” (mia/| tw/n sabba,twn), which many scholars maintain is more correctly translated as “on one of the Sabbaths.”

Acts 20:7
7 On one of the Sabbaths, when we were gathered together to break bread, Shaul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
TR Acts 20:7
(7) εν δε τη μια των σαββατων συνηγμενων των μαθητων του κλασαι αρτον ο παυλος διελεγετο αυτοις μελλων εξιεναι τη επαυριον παρετεινεν τε τον λογον μεχρι μεσονυκτιου

If this gathering did take place on one of the Sabbaths, as some scholars contend, it would show us that Shaul believed one could burn non-work-related fires (in this case, lamps) on the Sabbath, for light.

What this shows us is that it is not Yahweh’s intention that we remain in the cold or the dark on His day of worship and refreshment. That is why, if the penalty for profaning the Sabbath is strict, the rules for keeping the Shabbat must be interpreted with common sense.

It is sometimes suggested that we do not need to assemble on the Sabbath, in that when the children of Israel were in the Wilderness, Yahweh told them to remain in their place on the seventh day.

Shemote (Exodus) 16:29
29 “See! For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”

However, the context of this commandment to ‘remain every man in his place’ is not in reference to assembly for worship, but only with regards to gathering and preparing food. Rather than gather and prepare food on the Shabbat, the children of Israel were supposed to prepare a day in advance, so they did not have to cook.

The commandment to assemble for worship on the Shabbat is given in Leviticus 23:3. We will look at the Hebrew here.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:3
3 ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a set-apart gathering. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of Yahweh in all your dwellings.
(3) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ | שַׁבָּת הִוא לַיהוָה בְּכֹל וֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם:

The seventh day is described as a Sabbath of solemn rest, and a set-apart gathering. The Hebrew here is ‘miqra qodesh’ (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ), which is usually translated as a ‘holy convocation’ in English. A ‘miqra’ is a public meeting, and also a prophetic rehearsal.

OT: 4744 miqra’ (mik-raw’); from OT:7121; something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal.

The letter ‘mem’ (מ) implies a massing, and ‘karaw’ (קְרָא) means ‘called’. Therefore a miqra (מִקְרָא) is a ‘called-out massing’, or a ‘call to a public meeting’. Please notice that this is also a prophetic rehearsal, as we saw in Colossians 2:16-17 (above).

It was Yeshua’s custom to fulfill this commandment to go to a public worship and prayer meeting by going to the local synagogue.

Luqa (Luke) 4:16
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.

As we explain in Nazarene Israel, it seems the apostles also intended the returning gentile Ephraimites to fulfill the requirement to gather for prayer by going to the local synagogues on each Sabbath.

Ma’asei (Acts) 15:19-21
19 “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are turning to Elohim,
20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moshe has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

As explained in Nazarene Israel, Acts Chapter Fifteen tells us that if the returning gentile Ephraimites would begin by abstaining from the four abominations of idolatry, adultery, strangled (i.e., unclean) meats and blood, then they could be allowed to enter into the synagogues on Sabbath, as they would not be defiling the set-apartness of the space. There in the public prayer and worship meetings, they would learn the rest of the Torah over time, as parts of the Torah are read aloud in the synagogues each week.

It is sometimes taught that since Torah scrolls were not readily available in the first century, but since most households can afford a copy of the Scriptures today, that it is not necessary for the people to gather and assemble for public worship on the Shabbat. However, this ignores both Leviticus 23:3, which plainly tells us to assemble on the Shabbat, as well as Hebrews 10:25, which specifically commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves, although it is the custom of some.

Ivrim (Hebrews) 10:24
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Yahweh tells us that the Sabbath is one of His appointed times. In other words, it is one of the times that He has appointed for us to gather together and assemble ourselves, so as to worship Him as one new man

Leviticus 23:2-5
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts of Yahweh, which you shall proclaim to be set-apart gatherings, these are My feasts:
3 ‘Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a set-apart gathering. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of Yahweh in all your dwellings.
4 ‘These are the feasts of Yahweh, set-apart gatherings which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.
5 On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is Yahweh’s Passover….

(2) דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם מוֹעֲדֵי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ | אֵלֶּה הֵם מוֹעֲדָי:
(3) שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ כָּל מְלָאכָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ |

שַׁבָּת הִוא לַיהוָה בְּכֹל מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם:
(4) אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי יְהוָה מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ | אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם בְּמוֹעֲדָם:
(5) בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם | פֶּסַח לַיהוָה

It sometimes happens that Ephraimites look for any excuse to forsake the assembling of themselves, even though the Sabbath is the fourth of the commandments that Yahweh etched into stone. Let us remember that Yahweh is Elohim, and that when He commands His people to assemble, it is best to do as He says.

We may or may not like the others that Yahweh has called to be part of His spiritual family here on earth, and if we do not like them, then the tendency can be to want to shun, or avoid them. However, it is important to remember that the apostles bound four beginning fellowship rules for us in Scripture (no idolatry, no adultery, no strangled meat, and no blood), and that so long as our fellow servants are obeying these rules, then we are not at liberty to isolate ourselves, or to set ourselves apart from them.

Service to Yahweh is not about being comfortable; nor is it always pleasant. It is, however, almost always edifying, if we hold the right heart attitude towards it.

If these works have been a help to you and your walk with our Messiah, Yeshua, please consider donating. Give