Ezekiel 20:12
Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
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(12) I gave them my sabbaths.—“Not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers” (John 7:22). The Sabbath, like circumcision, was an institution far older than the period here spoken of, but was now commanded anew, and made the especial pledge of the covenant between God and His people. The verse is a quotation from Exodus 31:13; and every one must have remarked the great stress everywhere laid in the Old Testament upon the observance of the Sabbath, and the prominence given to it among the privileges of the Divine covenant. It is plain that the day is regarded not in its mere outward character, as a day of rest, but as “a sign” of the covenant, and a means of realising it in the study of God’s word, and the communion of the soul with Him. It is in these latter aspects also that the weekly day of rest still retains its inestimable value—that men “might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.”

Ezekiel 20:12. Moreover, I gave them my sabbaths — Including the weekly sabbaths, the sabbatical years, and all the solemn days of divine worship, in which no servile work was to be done: to be a sign between me and them — A sign of their being peculiarly my people, and to distinguish them from all other people, as the worshippers of me, Jehovah, who in six days made heaven and earth, and all things therein, and rested the seventh day; and also of my delivering them out of their state of bondage in Egypt. That they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them — That by their resting on those days from their usual employments, and their coming together to wait upon me in the ordinances of my worship, they might become more acquainted with me, and with my will concerning them, and might receive a larger measure of my sanctifying grace. Observe, reader, 1st, Sabbaths are privileges, and are to be considered and improved as such. 2d, They are signs: it is a sign men have a sense of religion, and that there is some correspondence between them and God, while they make conscience of keeping holy the sabbath day. 3d, Sabbaths, if duly sanctified, are the means of our sanctification: if we do the duty of the day, we shall find to our comfort; it is the Lord that sanctifies us; makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter.

20:10-26. The history of Israel in the wilderness is referred to in the new Testament as well as in the Old, for warning. God did great things for them. He gave them the law, and revived the ancient keeping of the sabbath day. Sabbaths are privileges; they are signs of our being his people. If we do the duty of the day, we shall find, to our comfort, it is the Lord that makes us holy, that is, truly happy, here; and prepares us to be happy, that is, perfectly holy, hereafter. The Israelites rebelled, and were left to the judgments they brought upon themselves. God sometimes makes sin to be its own punishment, yet he is not the Author of sin: there needs no more to make men miserable, than to give them up to their own evil desires and passions.See Exodus 31:13. The Sabbath was a sign of a special people, commemorative of the work of creation, and hallowed to the honor of Yahweh, the covenant-God. As man honored God by keeping the Sabbath holy, so by the Sabbath, God "sanctified" Israel and marked them as a holy people. Therefore to profane the Sabbath was to abjure their Divine Governor.12. sabbaths, … a sign between me and them—a kind of sacramental pledge of the covenant of adoption between God and His people. The Sabbath is specified as a sample of the whole law, to show that the law is not merely precepts, but privileges, of which the Sabbath is one of the highest. Not that the Sabbath was first instituted at Sinai, as if it were an exclusively Jewish ordinance (Ge 2:2, 3), but it was then more formally enacted, when, owing to the apostasy of the world from the original revelation, one people was called out (De 5:15) to be the covenant-people of God.

sanctify them—The observance of the Sabbath contemplated by God was not a mere outward rest, but a spiritual dedication of the day to the glory of God and the good of man. Otherwise it would not be, as it is made, the pledge of universal sanctification (Ex 31:13-17; Isa 58:13, 14). Virtually it is said, all sanctity will flourish or decay, according as this ordinance is observed in its full spirituality or not.

I gave; both commanded, and also sanctified, those portions of time to be holy rests.

My sabbaths; either the weekly sabbath, which, recurring every seventh day, soon multiplied into many, and was to be the commemoration of God’s rest from his labour, Israel’s delivery out of Egypt, Deu 5:15, and an awakening of their hopes of the eternal rest with God; or it may, as most like it doth, include all the solemn days of God’s worship, every of which was a sabbath, and no work to be done in it.

To be a sign of their being peculiarly my people, select from all other, to walk with me, to rest in me, and receive more grace from me.

That they might know: this was a teaching sign, they might by other ways know, and by this also.

I am the Lord; in this see my authority, and my holiness, who by such means do promote and attain such holy purposes and ends.

That sanctify them; that have withdrawn them from the profane and common herd of the heathen, and made them by this relatively holy; or else, that have changed the heart, and filled it with holy, pure, and gracious inclinations, and so made them really holy.

Moreover, also, I gave them my sabbaths,.... The Targum is,

"the days of the sabbaths;''

or sabbath days, the seventh day sabbaths, which recurring throughout the year are many; but, besides these, there were the year of remission, for the seventh year sabbath; and the jubilee year, the great sabbath of all, once in fifty years; yea, Kimchi thinks the feasts, such as the passover, &c. are included: now these are distinguished from the statutes and judgments, or the precepts of the law, which were of a moral nature; these being ritual and ceremonial, and were peculiar to the Jews, and continued but for a while; however, they were gifts, and valuable ones, of considerable use and significance:

to be a sign between me and them; of his being their God, and they being his people; of his favour and good will to them, and of the, obligations they were under to him; of his having separated and distinguished them from all other nations of the world; these sabbaths being only given to them as a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, and as a pledge of their entering into the land of rest; and of the future rest to be enjoyed by Christ, and in heaven, to all eternity; for these were shadows of things to come, Colossians 2:16;

that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them; separate them from other nations, and, by such means and opportunities, begin and carry on the work of sanctification in them; for the sabbaths, and the services of them, were useful to such purposes; as Lord's days, and the work of them, are now.

Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
12. my sabbaths] The plural refers to the stated recurrence of the day; other festivals are not included.

to be a sign] The prophet does not speak of the Sabbath as an older institution than the exodus, though his language does not decide the point, as he refers merely to the connexion into which the day was brought with Israel’s redemption (as Deuteronomy 5:15) and made a “sign” to them of their relation to Jehovah. The people were commanded to “sanctify” the Sabbath, i.e. to dedicate it and keep it to the Lord. This dedication of a part of their time or life to Jehovah had a similar significance to the dedication of the first-fruits of the ground and the firstlings of their cattle; it was an acknowledgment that they were the Lord’s. It was the response on their side to the operation of Jehovah on his side in “sanctifying” them, or making them his own possession (end of v.) Thus the Sabbath was a “sign” or visible token that he was their God and they his people (Ezekiel 20:20); Exodus 31:13-14; Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 56:4. This meaning of the Sabbath as a symbol of the religion of Jehovah explains the importance attached to keeping it particularly in the exile; its observance sustained the feeling of the people among the heathen that they were the people of Jehovah, Isaiah 56:2 seq., Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:19, cf. Jeremiah 17:21; Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 26:2.

Verse 12. - I gave them my sabbaths, etc. As in Exodus 31:12-17, the sabbath is treated as the central sign (we might almost say sacrament) of the Jewish Church, not only as a mark differencing them from other nations, but as between Jehovah and them, a witness of their ideal relation to each other, a means of making that ideal relation a reality. Ezekiel 20:12Behaviour of Israel in the Desert

Ezekiel 20:10. And I led them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the desert; Ezekiel 20:11. And gave them my statutes, and my rights I made known to them, which man is to do that he may live through them. Ezekiel 20:12. I also gave them my Sabbaths, that they might be for a sign between me and them, that they might now that I Jehovah sanctify them. Ezekiel 20:13. But the house of Israel was rebellious against me in the desert: they did not walk in my statutes, and my rights they rejected, which man is to do, that he may live through them, and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned: Then I thought to pour out my wrath upon them in the desert to destroy them. Ezekiel 20:14. But I did it for my name's sake, that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations, before whose eyes I had led them out. Ezekiel 20:15. I also lifted my hand to them in the desert, not to bring them into the land which I had given (them), which floweth with milk and honey; it is an ornament of all lands, Ezekiel 20:16. Because they rejected my rights, did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths, for their heart went after their idols. Ezekiel 20:17. But my eye looked with pity upon them, so that I did not destroy them, and make an end of them in the desert. - God gave laws at Sinai to the people whom He had brought out of Egypt, through which they were to be sanctified as His own people, that they might live before God. On Ezekiel 20:11 compare Deuteronomy 30:16 and Deuteronomy 30:19. Ezekiel 20:12 is taken almost word for word from Exodus 31:13, where God concludes the directions for His worship by urging upon the people in the most solemn manner the observance of His Sabbaths, and thereby pronounces the keeping of the Sabbath the kernel of all divine worship. And as in that passage we are to understand by the Sabbaths the actual weekly Sabbaths, and not the institutions of worship as a whole, so here we must retain the literal signification of the word. It is only of the Sabbath recurring every week, and not of all the fasts, that it could be said it was a sign between Jehovah and Israel. It was a sign, not as a token, that they who observed it were Israelites, as Hitzig supposes, but to know (that they might know) that Jehovah was sanctifying them, namely, by the Sabbath rest - as a refreshing and elevation of the mind, in which Israel was to have a foretaste of that blessed resting from all works to which the people of God was ultimately to attain (see the comm. on Exodus 20:11). It is from this deeper signification of the Sabbath that the prominence given to the Sabbaths here is to be explained, and not from the outward circumstance that in exile, when the sacrificial worship was necessarily suspended, the keeping of the Sabbath as the only bond which united the Israelites, so far as the worship of God was concerned (Hitzig). Historical examples of the rebellion of Israel against the commandments of God in the desert are given in ex. EZechariah 32:1-6 and Numbers 25:1-3; and of the desecration of the Sabbath, in ex. EZechariah 16:27 and Numbers 15:32. For the threat referred to in Ezekiel 20:13, compare Exodus 32:10; Numbers 14:11-12. - Ezekiel 20:15 and Ezekiel 20:16 are not a repetition of Ezekiel 20:13 (Hitzig); nor do they introduce a limitation of Ezekiel 20:14 (Kliefoth). They simply relate what else God did to put bounds to the rebellion after He had revoked the decree to cut Israel off, at the intercession of Moses (Numbers 14:11-19). He lifted His hand to the oath (Numbers 14:21.), that the generation which had come out of Egypt should not come into the land of Canaan, but should die in the wilderness. Therewith He looked with pity upon the people, so that He did not make an end of them by following up the threat with a promise that the children should enter the land. עשׂה כלה, as in Ezekiel 11:13.

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