Exodus 31:13
Speak you also to the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that does sanctify you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) It is a sign between me and you.—Circumcision had been given as a covenant sign to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:9-13); but its adoption by many of the heathen nations had rendered it no longer a distinguishing mark by which God’s people could be certainly known from others. Thus a new “sign” was needed. The observance of one day in seven as a day of holy rest became henceforth the distinguishing sign, and proved effectual. It was not likely to be adopted, and in point of fact was not adopted, by any of the heathen. We find it in the latest time of the Jewish nation still regarded as the special mark and badge of a Jew (Juv. Sat. vi. 159, 14:96; Mart. Epig. 4:4, 50:7, &c.).

Exodus 31:13. Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep — This had been mentioned thrice before, Exodus 16:23; Exodus 20:8; Exodus 23:12; but seems here to be repeated lest they should think the sacred work enjoined in this chapter would warrant their breaking in upon the holy rest of that day. Wherefore the clause had better be translated, Nevertheless my sabbaths shall ye keep; for אךְach is often an exceptive particle, and is so rendered here by Arias, Montanus, Le Clerc, Junius, and Tremellius. It is a sign between me and you — Some late commentators have quoted Poole here, as follows: “The sabbath is a five-fold sign; 1st, Commemorative of God’s creation and dominion over them and all things, to whom they hereby profess their subjection. 2d, Indicative, showing that they were made to be holy, and that their sanctification could be had from none but God, as it here follows and from the observation of God’s days and appointments. 3d, Distinctive, whereby they owned themselves to be the Lord’s peculiar people, by a religious keeping of those sabbaths, which the rest of the world grossly neglected, and profanely scoffed at. 4th, Prefigurative of that rest which Christ should purchase for them, namely, a rest from the burden of the ceremonial, and the curses and rigours of the moral law, as also from sin and the wrath of God for ever, Hebrews 4:5 th, Confirmative, both assuring them of God’s good will to them, and that, as he blessed the sabbath for their sakes, so he would bless them in the holy use of it, with temporal, spiritual, and everlasting blessings; and assuring God of their standing, and that they would stand to the covenant made between God and them. So that this was a mutual stipulation or ratification of the covenant of grace on both sides.” Certainly the institution of the sabbath was a great instance of God’s favour, and a sign that he had separated them from all other people; and their religious observance of it was a great instance of their duty to him. God, by sanctifying this day among them, let them know that he sanctified them, and set them apart for his service, otherwise he would not have revealed to them his holy sabbaths, to be the support of religion among them. The Jews, by observing one day in seven, after six days’ labour, testified that they worshipped the God that made the world in six days, and rested the seventh; and so distinguished themselves from other nations, who, having first lost the sabbath, the memorial of the creation, by degrees lost the knowledge of the Creator, and gave the creature the honour due to him alone.31:12-17 Orders were now given that a tabernacle should be set up for the service of God. But they must not think that the nature of the work, and the haste that was required, would justify them in working at it on sabbath days. The Hebrew word /shabath/ signifies rest, or ceasing from labour. The thing signified by the sabbath is that rest in glory which remains for the people of God; therefore the moral obligation of the sabbath must continue, till time is swallowed up in eternity.The penal law of the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2-3. In the fourth commandment the injunction to observe the seventh day is addressed to the conscience of the people (see Exodus 20:8 note): in this place, the object is to declare an infraction of the commandment to be a capital offence. The two passages stand in a relation to each other similar to that between Leviticus 18, Leviticus 19, and Leviticus 20. It seems likely that the penal edict was especially introduced as a caution in reference to the construction of the tabernacle, lest the people, in their zeal to carry on the work, should be tempted to break the divine law for the observance of the day.12-17. Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep—The reason for the fresh inculcation of the fourth commandment at this particular period was, that the great ardor and eagerness, with which all classes betook themselves to the construction of the tabernacle, exposed them to the temptation of encroaching on the sanctity of the appointed day of rest. They might suppose that the erection of the tabernacle was a sacred work, and that it would be a high merit, an acceptable tribute, to prosecute the undertaking without the interruption of a day's repose; and therefore the caution here given, at the commencement of the undertaking, was a seasonable admonition. My sabbaths ye shall keep: this precept is here repeated, either,

1. To show the chief use of the tabernacle, and all this cost and trouble about it, to wit, that they might there acceptably serve God, as in some measure upon every day, so especially upon the sabbath day. Or rather,

2. To restrain the time for the doing of the forementioned works: q.d. Though the work of the tabernacle and utensils be holy, and for a holy use, yet I will not have it done upon my holy day. The sabbath was not made for them, but they for it, and therefore they shall give place to it.

It is a sign between me and you. The sabbath is a fivefold sign:

1. Commemorative, of God’s creation of and dominion over them and all other things, to whom they do hereby profess their subjection.

2. Indicative, showing that they were made to be holy, and that their sanctification can be had from none but from God, as it here follows, and from the observation of God’s days and appointments.

3. Distinctive, whereby they owned themselves to be the Lord’s peculiar people, by a religious keeping of those sabbaths, which the rest of the world grossly neglected and profanely scoffed at.

4. Prefigurative, of that rest which Christ should purchase for them, to wit, a rest from the burden of the ceremonial, and from the curses and rigours of the moral law, as also from sin and the wrath of God for ever. See Heb 4.

5. Confirmative, both assuring them of God’s good will to them, and that as he blessed the sabbath for their sakes, so he would bless them in the holy use of it with temporal, spiritual, and everlasting blessings, as he declares in many places of Scripture; and assuring God of their standing to that covenant made between God and them. So that this was a mutual stipulation or ratification of the covenant of grace on both sides.

That doth sanctify you; that selecteth you out of all people, and consecrateth you to myself, and to my service and worship, a great part whereof is the observation of the sabbath. Or, that sanctifieth you by my word and ordinances, which are in more eminent and solemn manner dispensed upon the sabbath day, by the observation whereof you declare that you own me as your only Sanctifier; and so we may observe, the sabbath owns the Lord as our Creator, and as our Redeemer, and as our Sanctifier; and therefore it is no wonder God so severely enjoins the sanctification of the sabbath, and punisheth the neglect of it, it being a tacit renouncing or disowning of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Speak thou also unto the children of Israel,.... Notwithstanding all that has been said and ordered concerning making the tabernacle and all things belonging to it; yet this was not to be understood to the violation of the sabbath, or the neglect of that, in which no work was to be done, no, not any relating to the tabernacle and the vessels of it; and though that was to be made, and everything belonging to it, as soon as possible, yet the sabbath was to be observed, and not broken on that account; and this the people of Israel were told of:

saying; verily, or "nevertheless" (q):

my sabbaths ye shall keep not sabbaths of years, as the seventh year and the fiftieth year, but of weeks, expressed by the plural number, because there are many of them in course throughout the year, no less than fifty two; and so the apostle uses the same number, Colossians 2:16 and so do Heathen writers (r):

for it is a sign between me and you, throughout your generations; a token of the covenant between them, of his being their God and they his people in a peculiar sense; seeing they observed the same day as a day of rest now, on which he had rested at the finishing of the works of creation, which other nations of the world did not observe; of his sanctifying and separating them from all other people; for this was not a sign between him and other nations, but between him and the people of Israel only; and was to be observed throughout their ages, as long as their civil and church state lasted, but not through others:

that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you; had separated and distinguished them from the rest of the nations of the world; but if this law had been given to all nations, it could not have been a distinguishing sign of them from others; nor could it be known hereby that God had separated them to himself above all people; and this was done that it might be known, not only by them, for the word "ye" is not in the text, but by others, the nations of the world, as Jarchi; that they were a distinct people, having distinct laws from all others, and particularly this.

(q) "veruntamen", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Fagius, Vatablus, Drusius, Cartwright, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (r) "Metuentem sabbata" Juvenal. Satyr. 14.

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, {f} Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.

(f) Though I command that these works be done, yet I do not want you to break my Sabbath days.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. Speak thou also] And thou (emph.), speak thou (Exodus 27:20).

Verily] cf. on Exodus 12:15 (‘surely’).

ye shall keep my Sabbaths] the sabbaths sacred to me. Note exactly the same words in H, Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 19:30; Leviticus 26:2 : ‘my sabbaths,’ also, often in Ezek. (Ezekiel 20:12-13; Ezekiel 20:16; Ezekiel 20:20-21; Ezekiel 20:24, Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 22:26, Ezekiel 23:38, Ezekiel 44:24); only besides in Isaiah 56:4†.

a sign, &c.] The sabbath, as a day observed weekly in honour of Jehovah, and kept sacred to Him, is a constantly recurring memorial of Israel’s dedication to Him, and of the covenant-relation subsisting between them. Comp. Ezekiel 20:12 (cited below).

throughout your generations] See on Exodus 12:14. So v. 16.

that men may know (Heb. simply to know: so Psalm 67:2 Heb.) &c.] that all the world may recognize, by means of the sabbath, that it is Jehovah who ‘sanctifies’ Israel, or provides it with the means of becoming a holy people. ‘I am Jehovah which sanctify [better, ‘which sancti fieth’] you (him, them)’ is one of the dominant thoughts of H (Leviticus 20:8; Leviticus 21:15 (cf. v. 8), Leviticus 21:23, Leviticus 22:9; Leviticus 22:16; Leviticus 22:32). Comp. Ezekiel 20:12 ‘I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that men might know [Heb. to know] that I am Jehovah, which sanctifieth them’ (similarly v. 20); also, for the last clause, Ezekiel 37:12.Verse 13. - Verily. Rosenmuller suggests, "Nevertheless." But there is no need for any change. It is a sign. Hitherto circumcision had been the only visible "sign" that the Israelites were under a special covenant with God - his people, bound to him by special ties (Genesis 17:9-14; Acts 7:8). The adoption of circumcision by the Egyptians and other nations (Herod. 2:104) had produced the effect that this "sign" was no longer distinguishing. It might be still" a sign of profession "; but it had ceased to be "a mark of difference "; and some other mark was therefore needed. Such the observance of the sabbath by entire abstinence from servile work became. No other nation adopted it. It continued to Roman times the mark and badge of a Jew.(Juv. Sat. 6:159; 14:96). That ye may know, etc. By keeping the sabbath day as a day of holy rest the Israelites would know - i.e., would realise severally in their own per sons, that God was their sanctifier. Sanctification would be the fruit of their obedience. There were associated with Bezaleel as assistants, Oholiab, the son of Achisamach, of the tribe of Dan, and other men endowed with understanding, whom God had filled with wisdom for the execution of His work. According to Exodus 38:23, Oholiab was both faber, a master in metal, stone, and wood work, and also an artistic weaver of colours. In Exodus 38:7-11, the words to be executed, which have been minutely described in ch. 24-30, are mentioned singly once more; and, in addition to these, we find in Exodus 31:10 השּׂרד בּגדי mentioned, along with, or rather before, the holy dress of Aaron. This is the case also in Exodus 35:19 and Exodus 39:41, where there is also the additional clause, "to serve (שׁרת ministrare) in the sanctuary." They were composed, according to Exodus 39:1, of blue and red purple, and crimson. The meaning of the word serad, which only occurs in these passages, is quite uncertain. The Rabbins understand by the bigde hasserad the wrappers in which the vessels of the sanctuary were enclosed when the camp was broken up, as these are called begadim of blue and red purple, and crimson, in Numbers 4:6. But this rendering is opposed to the words which follow, and which indicate their use in the holy service, i.e., in the performance of worship, and therefore are quite inapplicable to the wrappers referred to. There is even less ground for referring them, as Gesenius and others do, to the inner curtains of the tabernacle, or the inner hangings of the dwelling-place. For, apart from the uncertainty of the rendering given to serad, viz., netted cloth, filet, it is overthrown by the fact that these curtains of the dwelling-place were not of net-work; and still more decisively by the order in which the bigde hasserad occur in Exodus 39:41, viz., not till the dwelling-place and tent, and everything belonging to them, have been mentioned, even down to the hangings of the court and the pegs of the tent, and all that remains to be noticed is the clothing of the priests. From the definition "to serve in the sanctuary," it is obvious that the bigde serad were clothes used in the worship, στολαὶ λειτουργικαί, as the lxx have rendered it in agreement with the rest of the ancient versions-that they were, in fact, the rich robes which constituted the official dress of the high priest, whilst "the holy garments for Aaron" were the holy clothes which were worn by him in common with the priests.
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