Exodus 34:21
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in ripening time and in harvest you shall rest.
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(21) The law of the Sabbath meets us at every turn in Exodus. It was so fundamental to the entire polity, that it naturally held a place in every section of the legislation. We have already found it (1) propounded at the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:22-30); (2) reasserted in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11); (3) introduced into the “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 23:12); and (4) appended to the directions given for the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:13-17).

In earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.—“Earing-time” is ploughing time, “to ear” being an old English verb, etymologically connected with the Greek ἄρω and the Latin aro. (Comp. Genesis 45:6; Deuteronomy 21:4; 1Samuel 8:12; Isaiah 30:24.) There was a special temptation to trench on the Sabbatical rest at the times most critical in respect to agricultural operations.

Exodus 34:21. Here is a repetition of several appointments made before, especially relating to their solemn feasts: when they had made the calf, they proclaimed a feast in honour of it; now, that they might never do so again, they are here charged with the observance of the feasts which God had instituted. Thou shalt rest, even in earing-time and in harvest — The most busy times of the year. All worldly business must give way to that holy rest: harvest-work will prosper the better for the religious observation of the sabbath day in harvest-time. Hereby we must show that we prefer our communion with God, before either the business or the joy of harvest.34:18-27 Once a week they must rest, even in ploughing time, and in harvest. All worldly business must give way to that holy rest; even harvest work will prosper the better, for the religious observance of the sabbath day in harvest time. We must show that we prefer our communion with God, and our duty to him, before the business or the joy of harvest. Thrice a year they must appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. Canaan was a desirable land, and the neighbouring nations were greedy; yet God says, They shall not desire it. Let us check all sinful desires against God and his glory, in our hearts, and then trust him to check all sinful desires in the hearts of others against us. The way of duty is the way of safety. Those who venture for him never lose by him. Three feasts are here mentioned: 1. The Passover, in remembrance of the deliverance out of Egypt. 2. The feast of weeks, or the feast of Pentecost; added to it is the law of the first-fruits. 3. The feast of in-gathering, or the feast of Tabernacles. Moses is to write these words, that the people might know them better. We can never be enough thankful to God for the written word. God would make a covenant with Israel, in Moses as a mediator. Thus the covenant of grace is made with believers through Christ.See Exodus 20:9; Exodus 23:12. There is here added to the commandment a particular caution respecting those times of year when the land calls for most labor. The old verb "to ear" (i. e. to plow) is genuine English.9, 10. he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us—On this proclamation, he, in the overflowing benevolence of s heart, founded an earnest petition for the Divine Presence being continued with the people; and God was pleased to give His favorable answer to Moses' intercession by a renewal of His promise under the form of a covenant, repeating the leading points that formed the conditions of the former national compact. Which times are expressed, because the great profit and seeming necessity of working at that time was likely to be a powerful temptation to make men break the sabbath. Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest,.... This is the law of the seventh day sabbath, which is after repeated, to fix it in the minds and memories of the people, see Exodus 20:10 and here it is added, which has not been mentioned before:

in earing and in harvest thou shall rest; that is, in the time of ploughing, and in the time of reaping and gathering in the harvest, which are both very busy seasons; the rest of the sabbath was not to be violated; such sort of works, though they might require haste and expedition, yet the sabbath was not to be broken on account of them: this is the common sense of the law, as it is understood; but Maimonides (o) gives another sense from their doctors, who say, it is forbidden to plough in the sixth year what cannot be reaped but in the seventh; and so likewise that it is forbidden to reap on the seventh year, that of which profit may be had on the eighth year, and this is founded on what the Scripture says, Exodus 34:21 "in earing", &c. and they say, that here ploughing and harvest are not to be understood of the seventh day, because this is included in the general rule, "thou shalt not do any work"--they say, of that which is ploughed, whose reaping or harvest is forbidden, is the ploughing at the evening of the seventh year, and at the going out of the seventh; and know this, that the evening of the seventh is the sixth year, and the going out of the seventh is the eighth year, and so Jarchi on the text observes, that some of their Rabbins say, this is to be understood of the ploughing of the seventh year, the seventh year entering, and the harvest of the seventh year, at the going out of it; so that as there is a seventh day of rest, there is a year in which ploughing and harvest are forbidden; but there are others, he says, who say the text speaks only of the sabbath.

(o) In Misn. Sheviith, c. 14. sect. 1.

Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
21. in plowing time, &c.] i.e. even at times when the need of working continuously might seem most urgent. For clause a, see on Exodus 23:12.Verse 21. - Six days, etc. This is repeated from the "Book of the Covenant" (Exodus 23:12), but with a remarkable addition - in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. "Earing time" is "ploughing time" - to "ear" being to "plough" in Old English, a word cognate with the Greek ἄρω and the Latin are; and the command to rest both then and at harvest time is a command not to break the Sabbath rest at the seasons when it might seem most necessary so to do The temptation to "save the harvest" is readily intelligible to Englishmen. To appreciate the other temptation, we require to know the peculiar circumstances of the East. It is necessary there to complete the ploughing before the spring rains are over. These last but a short time; and when they are once past no rain can be looked for till the autumn. To recall the duties of the covenant once more to the minds of the people, the Lord repeats from among the rights of Israel, upon the basis of which the covenant had been established (ch. 21-23), two of the leading points which determined the attitude of the nation towards Him, and which constituted, as it were, the main pillars that were to support the covenant about to be renewed. These were, first, the warning against every kind of league with the Canaanites, who were to be driven out before the Israelites (Exodus 34:11-16); and, secondly, the instructions concerning the true worship of Jehovah (Exodus 34:17-26). The warning against friendship with the idolatrous Canaanites (Exodus 34:11-16) is more fully developed and more strongly enforced than in Exodus 23:23. The Israelites, when received into the covenant with Jehovah, were not only to beware of forming any covenant with the inhabitants of Canaan (cf. Exodus 23:32-33), but were to destroy all the signs of their idolatrous worship, such as altars, monuments (see Exodus 23:24), and asherim, the idols of Astarte, the Canaanitish goddess of nature, which consisted for the most part of wooden pillars (see my Comm. on 1 Kings 14:23), and to worship no other god, because Jehovah was called jealous, i.e., had revealed Himself as jealous (see at Exodus 20:5), and was a jealous God. This was commanded, that the Israelites might not suffer themselves to be led astray by such an alliance; to go a whoring after their gods, and sacrifice to them, to take part in their sacrificial festivals, or to marry their sons to the daughters of the Canaanites, by whom they would be persuaded to join in the worship of idols. The use of the expression "go a whoring" in a spiritual sense, in relation to idolatry, is to be accounted for on the ground, that the religious fellowship of Israel with Jehovah was a covenant resembling the marriage tie; and we meet with it for the first time, here, immediately after the formation of this covenant between Israel and Jehovah. The phrase is all the more expressive on account of the literal prostitution that was frequently associated with the worship of Baal and Astarte (cf. Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5-6; Numbers 14:33, etc.). We may see from Numbers 25:1. how Israel was led astray by this temptation in the wilderness.
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