Sabbath – What Did It Mean To Israel?

Before we look at Jesus and the Sabbath we need to point out a few details about the Jewish Sabbath.

There are many verses in Exodus through Deuteronomy which explain and itemize what is acceptable of the Sabbath. Such as the following verse.  Notice also that the phrase becomes a “Sabbath of Rest” many times.

Exodus 35:2-3 (KJV)
2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

Many of the verses that follow are using the term Sabbath to refer to a particular day of the week.

Then we start running into the phrases like “on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts” (2 Chronicles 2:4, Isaiah 1:13, 2 Kings 4:23, Hosea 2:11) which essentially are lumping all of Israel’s special day celebrations together.

But we need to remember that the weekly Sabbath was not a day of worship.  The Sabbath was a day of rest.  Most people would not have been close enough to walk the distance to the temple or even a synagogue for any worship.  The Sabbath was typically spent at home eating the foods prepared the day before.  No cooking, lighting of fires nor walking a distance was allowed.

Exodus 16:29 (ESV) See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  

A few more interesting details:

The Sabbath is not used in the Psalms of David.  However, Psalm 92 is written for the Sabbath.  Many Bibles note that Psalm 92 is “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.”  But the Psalms themselves don’t say anything about the Sabbath. 

The Book of Proverbs never mentions the Sabbath.

Then we get to the books where the Israelites are breaking the Sabbath and being rebuked for it, such as Nehemiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  Rebuke after rebuke for breaking the Sabbath and not following the Lord’s commands.  The Israelites are punished and restored repeatedly for breaking the Sabbath and for not following the Sabbath commands.  Prophecy after prophecy of what will happen if the Israelites continue to break the commands.


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