Exodus 20:8
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
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(8) Remember the sabbath day.—It is pertinent to remark that this command is introduced differently from any other by the word “remember.” But we cannot, therefore, conclude that the Sabbath was a primitive institution, which the Israelites were bound to have held in perpetual remembrance, since the reference may be merely to the injunction recently given in connection with the gathering of the manna. (Exodus 16:23). The Sabbath had certainly been at that time solemnly instituted, if no earlier. (See Note on. Exodus 16:25.)

To keep it holy.—It had been already noted that the rest of the Sabbath was to be a “holy rest” (Exodus 16:23); but it is not quite clear what was intended by this. For the most part, the Law insists on abstinence from labour as the main element of Sabbath observance (Exodus 16:23-30; Exodus 20:9-11; Exodus 23:12; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 35:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:12-15, &c.); and it can scarcely be said to prescribe anything positive with respect to the religious employment of the day. That the morning and evening sacrifice were to be doubled might indeed suggest to a religiously-minded Israelite that his·own religious exercises and devotions should also be augmented; but the Law made no such requirement. His attendance at the morning and evening sacrifice was not required nor expected. No provision was made for his receiving religious teaching on the day; no special offerings were required from him upon it. The day became one of “languid bodily ease, relaxation, and luxury” to the bulk of the later Jews (Augustin. Enarr. in Psalms 91); but probably there were always some whom natural piety taught that, in the absence of their ordinary employments, it was intended they should devote themselves to prayer and communion with God—to meditation on “high and holy themes,” such as His mercies in past time, His character, attributes, revelations of Himself, government of the world, dealings with men and nations. Thus only could the day be really “kept holy,” with a positive, and not a mere negative, holiness.

Exodus 20:8-11. The fourth commandment concerns the time of worship; God is to be served and honoured daily; but one day in seven is to be particularly dedicated to his honour, and spent in his service. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy; in it thou shalt do no manner of work — It is taken for granted, that the sabbath was instituted before. We read of God’s blessing and sanctifying a seventh day from the beginning, (Genesis 2:3,) so that this was not the enacting of a new law, but the reviving of an old law. 1st, They are told what is the day they must observe, a seventh after six days’ labour; whether this was the seventh by computation from the first seventh, or from the day of their coming out of Egypt, or both, is not certain. 2d, How it must be observed; 1st, As a day of rest; they were to do no manner of work on this day, in their worldly business. 2d, As a holy day, set apart to the honour of the holy God, and to be spent in holy exercises. God, by his blessing it, had made it holy; they, by solemnly blessing him, must keep it holy, and not alienate it to any other purpose than that for which the difference between it and other days was instituted. 3d, Who must observe it? Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter — The wife is not mentioned, because she is supposed to be one with the husband, and present with him; and if he sanctify the sabbath, it is taken for granted she will join with him; but the rest of the family is instanced in it; children and servants must keep it according to their age and capacity. In this, as in other instances of religion, it is expected that masters of families should take care, not only to serve the Lord themselves, but that their houses also should serve him. By the sanctification of the sabbath, the Jews declared they worshipped the God that made the world, and so distinguished themselves from all other nations, who worshipped gods which they themselves made. God has given us an example of rest after six days’ work; he rested on the seventh day — Took a complacency in himself, and rejoiced in the work of his hand, to teach us on that day to take a complacency in him, and to give him the glory of his works.20:3-11 The first four of the ten commandments, commonly called the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before he had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be true to his brother, who is false to his God. The first commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour, or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment, Remember, shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, Mr 2:27; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.Remember the sabbath day - There is no distinct evidence that the Sabbath, as a formal ordinance, was recognized before the time of Moses (compare Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:10-12; Deuteronomy 5:15). The word "remember" may either be used in the sense of "keep in mind" what is here enjoined for the first time, or it may refer back to what is related in Exodus 16:22-26.8. Remember the sabbath day—implying it was already known, and recognized as a season of sacred rest. The first four commandments [Ex 20:3-11] comprise our duties to God—the other six [Ex 20:12-17] our duties to our fellow men; and as interpreted by Christ, they reach to the government of the heart as well as the lip (Mt 5:17). "If a man do them he shall live in them" [Le 18:5; Ne 9:29]. But, ah! what an if for frail and fallen man. Whoever rests his hope upon the law stands debtor to it all; and in this view every one would be without hope were not "the Lord our Righteousness" [Jer 23:6; 33:16] (Joh 1:17). This word remember is here very emphatical; and,

1. It reminds us of a former delivery of the substance of this command, to wit, Genesis 2:3.

2. It insinuates the great necessity of consideration and preparation for the sabbath before it comes,

3. It shows the singular importance of this command, which is therefore placed in the heart and centre of the rest, to show that the religious observation of this is the best way to secure our obedience to all the rest, and that the neglect of this will bring in the violation of all the other, as common experience shows.

To keep it holy, i.e. to use it holily, by a careful abstinence from servile works or worldly business, and by a diligent employing of the day in holy thoughts, words, and exercises, in the worship of God in public and private, and the celebration of his works, and the furthering of our own and others’ sanctification and salvation. See Isaiah 58:13. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. By abstaining from all servile work and business, and from all pleasures and recreations lawful on other days, and by spending it in religious exercises, both internal and external. This the Israelites are bid to "remember", by observing it in such a manner, because this command had been given them before at the first time the manna was rained about their tents, Exodus 16:23 and because it was a command of positive institution, and not a part of the law of nature, and therefore more liable to be forgotten and neglected; for, as a Jewish writer (e) observes, all the laws of the decalogue are according to the dictates of nature, the law and light of reason, and knowledge of men, excepting this: wherefore no other has this word "remember" prefixed to it; there being somewhat in the light of every man's reason and conscience to direct and engage him in some measure to the observation of them. In what day of the week this sabbath was to be kept next follows; for all to the end of the eleventh verse belongs to this command, which is the fourth.

(e) Aben Ezra.

Remember the sabbath day, {g} to keep it holy.

(g) Which is by meditating the spiritual rest, by hearing God's word, and resting from worldly labours.

8. Remember] ‘Think of it always, so as never to forget it, as a day to be distinguished from ordinary days, and held sacred: remember, as Exodus 13:3’ (Di.). Deuteronomy 5:12 substitutes the more ordinary ‘Observe.’

sabbath] Heb. shabbâth. The derivation is uncertain. As a Hebrew, word, it would naturally be connected with shâbath, to desist, cease,—see Isaiah 14:4; Isaiah 24:8; with from, Genesis 2:2-3 : where the sabbath is thought of, either with ‘from work’ understood, or as a ‘denominative,’ to ‘keep sabbath,’ Exodus 16:30; Exodus 23:12 a, Exodus 31:17, Exodus 34:21, Leviticus 25:34-35—and suggest the idea of cessation from work. The verb shâbath denotes ‘rest,’ not in the positive sense of relaxation or refreshment (which is nûaḥ, see v. 11, Exodus 23:12 b), but in the negative sense of cessation from work or activity: but it is at least possible that the word ‘sabbath’ is of Babylonian origin (p. 198), though of uncertain etymology (see DB. iv. 319a; note also, on the etym., the reserve expressed by Zimmern, ZDMG. 1904, p. 202). Even, however, though this should be its origin, the word might well have been connected by the Hebrews with the Heb. shâbath, and regarded by them as suggesting the idea of cessation. See further, on the Bab. and Heb. ‘sabbath,’ KAT.3[177] 592–4.

[177] Die Keilinschriften und das A T., 1903, by H. Zimmern (pp. 345–653) and H. Winckler (pp. 1–342).

keep … holy] elsewhere rendered hallow, as v. 11 end, Genesis 2:3 a, Jeremiah 17:12 al. Comp. Isaiah 58:13 (‘my holy day’).

8–11. The fourth commandment. The observance of the Sabbath.Verse 8. - Remember the sabbath day. The institution of the sabbath dates, at any rate, from the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:23). Its primeval institution, which has been thought to be implied in Genesis 2:3, is uncertain. The word "remember" here may be simply a reference to what passed in the "wilderness of Sin" as related in Exodus 16:22-30. On the sabbath itself, both Jewish and Christian, see the comment upon that chapter. The Ten Words commenced with a declaration of Jehovah concerning Himself, which served as a practical basis for the obligation on the part of the people to keep the commandments: "I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee," etc. By bringing them out of Egypt, the house of bondage, Jehovah had proved to the Israelites that He was their God. This glorious act, to which Israel owed its existence as an independent nation, was peculiarly fitted, as a distinct and practical manifestation of unmerited divine love, to kindle in the hearts of the people the warmest love in return, and to incite them to keep the commandments. These words are not to be regarded, as Knobel supposes, as either a confession, or the foundation of the whole of the theocratical law, just as Saleucus, Plato, and other lawgivers placed a belief in the existence of the gods at the head of their laws. They were rather the preamble, as Calvin says, by which God prepared the minds of the people for obeying them, and in this sense they were frequently repeated to give emphasis to other laws, sometimes in full, as in Exodus 29:46; Leviticus 19:36; Leviticus 23:43; Leviticus 25:38, Leviticus 25:55; Leviticus 26:13, etc., sometimes in the abridged form, "I am Jehovah your God," as in Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 18:2, Leviticus 18:4, Leviticus 18:30; Leviticus 19:4, Leviticus 19:10, Leviticus 19:25, Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 19:34; Leviticus 20:7, etc., for which the simple expression, "I am Jehovah," is now and then substituted, as in Leviticus 19:12-13, Leviticus 19:16, Leviticus 19:18, etc.
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