The Sabbath
Leviticus 23:1-3
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…

This is here classed amongst the "feasts of the Lord." The greater number of these were first observed after the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan; but the Passover was an exception, which was held at the time of the Exodus, forty years earlier. The sabbath also was an exception. We have to consider -


1. It is not altogether a Mosaic institution.

(1) Its original enactment took place at the close of the creation week. The words are these (see Genesis 2:1-3).

(2) It was, therefore, an Adamic law, and was obligatory upon mankind at large more than twenty centuries before the Israelites had an existence,

(3) It was by the Israelites themselves recognized as a patriarchal law. For, in the wilderness of Sin, probably three months before they were fully constituted into a nation by receiving their own Law at Sinai, the double portion of manna which they gathered on the sixth day had respect to the sabbath to follow on the seventh (see Exodus 16:22-30).

2. It was incorporated in the Sinai code.

(1) It formed the fourth commandment of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:8-11). But even here it is introduced with the word "Remember," as a law already known to exist. The reason for its observance also is that given at the original institution.

(2) As a Levitical law, however, it has an additional reason, viz. the deliverance of the children of Israel from the cruel servitude in Egypt, where they could not enjoy the rest of the ancient institution (Deuteronomy 5:15; see also Hebrews 4:8, margin).

(3) In this relation also death was made the penalty of its transgression (see Exodus 31:13-15; Numbers 15:32-36).

3. The Levitical law of the sabbath is repealed.

(1) The body is of Christ, who fulfilled the type of the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt in emancipating us from the bondage of sin.

(2) The Levitical penalty of death for the transgression of the Law is, of course, removed with the obligation of the Law itself.

4. But the Adamic law remains.

(1) As Gentiles, we were never under the Levitical Law. The institution of the Levitical sabbath, or the incorporation of the patriarchal sabbath in the Mosaic code, left us still where we were, under the Adamic law.

(2) And as the enactment of the Mosaic Law, which mainly concerned the Hebrew people and their land, left us where we were, so do we remain there after the abrogation of the Mosaic Law.

(3) But what effect has that abrogation upon the Hebrew? It leaves him where he was before the publication of his Law, viz. in common with mankind at large, still under obligation to observe and keep the sabbath of the Adamic law.

(4) This reasoning is equally good, whether we identify the sabbatic law as set out in the Decalogue with the Adamic law on the one hand, or with the Levitical on the other.

II. HOW IT SHOULD BE KEPT. It should be kept:

1. As a day of rest from business.

(1) The idea of rest is expressed in its name. It was the most obvious idea in the injunction from the beginning. God hallowed it, or separated it from the six days of the week, because on the seventh day he rested from the work of the creation.

(2) The rest of God does not imply that he was weary from his work, but that he ceased from the action of creating. This is the import of the word (וישבות). The teaching is that God so constituted his creation that his active creatures need a hebdomadal pause or rest.

(3) To ensure this to them he mercifully constituted it into a law. He foresaw that otherwise it would be refused under the influence of cupidity, avarice, tyranny, and stupidity.

2. As a day of holy convocation.

(1) Rest being secured from the toil of business, the activities of the soul have now to be turned into another course. Change really constitutes the rest of an essentially active nature. So the rest of God from creation is his work in providence and redemption. This our Lord taught us when he said, "My Father worketh hitherto," or until now (ἕως ἄρτι) (John 5:16, 17; comp. Psalm 31:19).

(2) That change which is the greatest from the activities of business is communion with God in his worship and service. This seems to have constituted the blessing of the seventh day, for on that day God visited his children in Eden. Ever since it has been the season sacred to religious services.

(3) Men must not be diverted from this noblest of pursuits by seeking their own pleasure on the sabbath day (Isaiah 58:13).

3. As a day of prophetic anticipation.

(1) Barnabas (in his Epistolae, cap. 15.) puts this subject thus: Attend, my children, to what he say 'finished in six days ' - that is to say, in six thousand years the Lord God will consummate all things, for with him the day is a thousand years, as he himself testifies, saying, 'Behold, this day shall be as a thousand years.' Therefore, children, in six days - that is, in six thousand years - all things shall be consummated. And he rested the seventh day, that is, when his Son shall come and make an end of the time of the wicked one, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun, and moon, and stars; then shall he rest gloriously in the seventh day."

(2) These views seem to be in harmony with the sacred calendar of prophecy. And Paul in particular refers to the "sabbath-keeping which remaineth for the people of God" (Hebrews 4). - J.A.M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

WEB: Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

The Offering of Rest: the Sabbath
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