Sunday, August 26, 2007

Did Adam and Eve keep the Sabbath? Part 1

PLEASE NOTE This post should be read in conjunction with the following:

It is often argued, by those who wish to make Sabbath-keeping a requirement for New Testament Christians, that Sabbath-keeping was instituted at creation when God rested on the seventh day, blessed it, and hallowed it (Genesis 2:1-3). If God’s resting, blessing, and hallowing the seventh day was intended as an institution of the Sabbath command, then one would expect that Adam and Eve would have kept the Sabbath in Eden and beyond.

However, I will argue that, even though God rested on the seventh day, blessed it, and hallowed it, there is no reason to believe that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath because there is no command that they should keep the Sabbath and there is no mention of them ever doing so.

Before looking at the specific issue of Adam and Eve’s keeping of the Sabbath, let’s look at the one text in the creation narratives used to support the belief that the Sabbath was instituted at creation - Genesis 2:1-3. It reads:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Ge 2:1-3, NRSV)

The question is whether these verses constitute the institution of Sabbath-keeping as a repetitive, weekly practice. If all we had were the creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2, we would have to conclude that they do not. Genesis 1 describes a series of six individual creation days that declare one-time acts of God. When we get to Day 7, we are told that God had finished the work of creation and rested on that day. The most that can be deduced from these two verses is that God rested on this specific seventh day, blessed this specific seventh day, and hallowed this specific seventh day. There is no indication in the text of any repetitive keeping of seventh days. There is no command and, unlike the other days, there is no ’evening and morning’ boundary - it is as if the day is open and unending - God rests from God’s work of creating and goes on resting because it is, indeed, finished. As Knowles (2001) comments, ‘By blessing the day, God invites the whole of creation to share his satisfaction and enjoy his peace.’ Elwell (1989) also makes the point that

The absence of the phrase and there was evening, and there was morning—the___________day after the seventh day indicates that God is not resting because he is exhausted but is desisting from his work of creation. It is not so much a date as it is an atmosphere.

The author of this narrative is not concerned about a repetitive practice of weekly Sabbath-keeping. Instead, on this day following the completion of creation, God invites all that exists to celebrate a finished work.

In addition to the absence of any command or practice related to Sabbath-keeping in these verses, there is no command anywhere else in the creation narratives or after the Fall that required Adam and Eve should keep the Sabbath. God does require a number of things from Adam and Eve, but Sabbath-keeping is not one of them.

The first of God’s requirements is that Adam and Eve should ’“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”’ (1:28b)

The second expectation is that they till and keep the garden of Eden (2:15). Both of these expectations are positive requirements that God had of Adam and Eve. These were the responsibilities they had to fulfil. In addition, there was a negative command - something they were to not do. It is found in 2:16:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Ge 2:16-17, NRSV)

In the entire creation narratives, only three things are mentioned that are required of Adam and Eve. Sabbath-keeping is never mentioned. Even after the Fall described in Chapter 3, Sabbath-keeping is never stated as a requirement for Adam and Eve.

Surely, if Sabbath-keeping was to be universally significant for all time for all people, Adam and Eve would have been asked to keep it. They never are. There is no command - no hint of a command - to keep a Sabbath anywhere in the creation and fall narratives. Further evidence that God did not command Sabbath-keeping in Eden is in the book of Nehemiah:

You [God] came down at Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just, and decrees and commands that were good. You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath. And you commanded them, through Moses your servant, to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions. (Neh 9:12, NLT)

It is clear, from all this evidence, that no command was given to Adam and Eve, by God, to keep a regular Sabbath day.

In addition to the absence of a command requiring Adam and Eve to keep the Sabbath, there is no mention of them actually doing so. The only character in the narratives who "does" anything related to the seventh day is God. Throughout the seven days of creation, God is the only actor. Adam and Eve "awaken" to a world where all the work is done and they live in the already-begun rest of God.

So although God rested on the seventh day and hallowed it, Adam and Eve are not described as keeping the Sabbath. First, there is no command that they should keep the Sabbath. And secondly, there is no mention of them keeping the Sabbath.

Why is this an important issue? The reason is that universalising a Sabbath command on the basis that it was instituted at creation and required of Adam and Eve is to diminish and obscure the true Sabbath rest now available in Christ.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of the special rest that still awaited God’s people (4:8). It is explicitly linked to the rest of God on the seventh day of creation (4:4). It is a rest that we need when, like Adam and Eve, we stand naked before God in our weakness. This rest occurs when we ‘come boldly to the throne of our gracious God ... [to] receive his mercy, and ... find grace to help us when we need it most (4:16, NLT).

Notice that the writer of Hebrews doesn’t refer his readers back to the ten commandments. Instead, he takes them back to the very beginning. It is because Jesus is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3) and greater than the old covenant (Hebrews 8-9) so only the perfection of God’s rest at creation will do.

According to the author of Hebrews, even though Israel kept the Sabbath every week they still did not enter the rest that God really wanted them to have. Even though they kept the Sabbath every week, their unbelief kept them from God’s rest.

But we can enter into that rest. That rest is Jesus. Jesus is the reality that all the symbols and rituals of the old covenant pointed to. When Jesus came he made God’s rest available to every person. A rest, not of ritual, but of freedom from the labour of working for salvation; a rest of freedom from sin and guilt.

Imagine that you have just met someone and fallen in love. You spend every moment with them because you love to be in their presence. But your employer requires you to travel to another country to work for a year. You are separated from your lover. But while you are away, you agree that, every week, on Thursday, you will have a video conference call to catch up with each other. You look forward to it every week. You plan everything around it. When the time comes for your video conference you drop everything to spend that time communicating with your lover. Nothing is allowed to encroach on that time.

When the year is finished, you return home. What do you do? Do you continue to have the video conference call on Thursdays? No! You are back home. You communicate and relate every moment of every day. The video conference calls are no longer needed. You abandon them in favour of the reality of direct, ongoing relationship with the one you love.

When Adam and Eve woke on their first day, all the work of creation had been done. All they needed to do was live in the already completed work of God and celebrate their lives in God. But because of their disobedience, they were separated from God. Years later, God gave Israel a symbol -- the weekly Sabbath -- to remind them of that rest they had with God; a deep and intimate relationship that was direct and immediate. It was also to foreshadow the rest to come when Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ would come and make available again that true rest in God and God would once again have a direct and intimate relationship with God’s people.

When the sin that had entered the world through Adam and Eve had been removed in Christ, then humanity could rest once again in the true seventh day -- Jesus himself. God gifts those God loves with the Holy Spirit which enables intimate and ongoing relationship every day, every hour, every minute. The re-creation has been completed. And now the new humanity - you, me, and every other person on the planet, can be reborn into a new “seventh day” that, like the original seventh day of creation, is unending rest in the work of God. Every day is a rest in Jesus. As Jesus himself said:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Mt 11:28-30, NLT)

We are the new Adam and Eve. Rest forever in Jesus - your true Sabbath.


References

Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide. Includes index. (1st Augsburg books ed.) (23). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.

11 comments:

  1. The Bible states that the Sabbath waS made for "man" or humankind. If that be the case, what do you think Adam and Eve, being humankind, did on the first Sabbath. The Bible even states that we will even keep it in Heaven. Christ, as our example, kept it. Come on Christian: THINK.

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  2. Your exactly right there was no command to KEEP the sabbath holy,

    On the same note there was no cartified law at all outside of eden (and there the only law was, don't eat fruit from the Tree of Knowlege of Good and Evil)

    However there must have been some knowledge of God's character, and His laws or else it wouldn't have been a sin for Cain to kill Able, God would certainly be a tyrant if he just killed all but 8 people at the flood, when he had never given them some sort of fair warning abou what kinds of things not to be doing.

    Obviously by Josephs time he was well aware that God had a law against sleeping with Potiphars wife or else he wouldn't have said Gen 39:9 "How can I do this wickednes and sin against God?"

    God said "remember" the sabbath day to keep it holy.

    It doesn't make gramatical sense for God to ask them to remember something if He hadn't allready made it known to them previously.

    Just because there isn't a cartified / cannonized record of a specific command to "keep the sabbath" prior to the giving of the 10 Commandmants, does not negate the possibility that God had given a command, and that He intended for the 7th day Sabbath to be a day for a relationship between Himself and ALL of His created beings, that He desired to last for all time, even into eternity.

    David

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  3. Your exactly right there was no command to KEEP the sabbath holy,

    On the same note there was no cartified law at all outside of eden (and there the only law was, don't eat fruit from the Tree of Knowlege of Good and Evil)

    However there must have been some knowledge of God's character, and His laws or else it wouldn't have been a sin for Cain to kill Able, God would certainly be a tyrant if he just killed all but 8 people at the flood, when he had never given them some sort of fair warning abou what kinds of things not to be doing.

    Obviously by Josephs time he was well aware that God had a law against sleeping with Potiphars wife or else he wouldn't have said Gen 39:9 "How can I do this wickednes and sin against God?"

    God said "remember" the sabbath day to keep it holy.

    It doesn't make gramatical sense for God to ask them to remember something if He hadn't allready made it known to them previously.

    Just because there isn't a cartified / cannonized record of a specific command to "keep the sabbath" prior to the giving of the 10 Commandmants, does not negate the possibility that God had given a command, and that He intended for the 7th day Sabbath to be a day for a relationship between Himself and ALL of His created beings, that He desired to last for all time, even into eternity.

    David

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  4. David,

    very thoughtful comments. thanks!!!

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  5. I think that most people arguing against the sabbath don't realize that they're arguing against the whole law because if the bible says that if you break one you break all and they are saying that you don't need to keep the sabbath then it must be that they are arguing that you don't need to keep one and James says that, that is essentially arguing about breaking the whole law

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  6. part 1


    Why did God Punish Cain, the Pre-flood World, and Sodom and Gomorrah?




    I have heard it said more times than I can count, "God only gave Adam and Eve one command to obey in the garden. To not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."


    The statement sounds good, as do many other statements preachers use and listeners assume are correct. But is this correct?


    Actually the first command that I see is:

    Gen 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.


    They were given a good command, be fruitful and multiply.


    Gen. 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.


    Though not worded as most commands, it was indeed what God wanted them to do. Dress and keep the garden.


    Next is the don't eat command.


    Gen. 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.


    The next command that I found is:


    Gen. 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.




    Now, you may be wondering, why am I going through all this?


    Because most people just don't see how much assumption is in mainstream doctrines. How so?


    There is a claim that since the bible didn't command the Sabbath in Genesis, then it wasn't a command for Adam. They also like to add the, "Adam only had one law to obey".


    I've just gone through the only four commands that I could find in the bible up to Cain's sin. Notice something, none of them were against murder.


    There is no command against murder in Genesis, yet in Gen 4:7 it says: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.


    For those who think that Genesis was a book of laws, that for the Sabbath to be a command, then a law had to have been given, I challenge you, where is the command against murder?


    I ask you, which of the four commands that I've shown did Cain break? After all, they're the only commands given and there could be no sin without law, at least according to Paul.


    Rom. 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression.


    What sin was Cain about to commit? Was he not fruitful? Did he not till the ground? Did he eat of the tree? Did he not leave his father and mother? Which of the four commands was he about to break?


    Was it fair for God to banish Cain for murder if God didn't tell Cain that murder was wrong? Obviously God had to have told Cain that murder was a sin, yet it is not recorded.


    Let's go on, what other commands can we find in the next few chapters?


    Gen. 4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

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    Replies
    1. Had to chuckle... how did anyone know not to do something... that it was wrong to do? They knew because Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That knowledge was and is passed on to this very day; from generation to generation. How else could we be without excuse? (cf. Romans 1:20)

      Grace and peace to you and yours,
      kdr

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  7. part 2

    The next one I found was a command only to Noah, but I'll use it, after all it's a command.


    Gen. 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.


    Now I have to ask, we have six written commands now. Which of these commands if broken, is worthy of God destroying the whole world in a flood?


    I realize that this whole process is silly, but to insist the Sabbath isn’t a command because it wasn’t recorded is just as silly.


    So, which of the six commands did the pre-flood world break?


    Were they not fruitful? Did they not till the ground? Did they eat of the tree? Did they not leave their father and mother? Did they slay Cain? Did they not build the ark?


    If the commands had to be written in Genesis in order to be in effect, which of the six commands did the world break? Silly I know, but I’m not the one that insists that in order for the Sabbath to be a command that it had to be recorded as such.


    Now, there are a few more commands given by God up until Sodom and Gomorrah, I'll let you check them out yourself.


    I'll just say that none of them were commands against adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc. There is no written law in Genesis against sexual sin, yet why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?

    Wouldn't it be wrong of God to destroy a large amount of people if he didn't tell them what they were doing wrong?


    I'm sure you're saying, well, Noah told the world what they were doing wrong. Or, Lot told the cities what they were doing wrong. I agree. But the argument that I'm addressing is the idea that a law had to be written in Genesis for it to have merit.


    To assume that Noah and Lot told the people the laws that they were breaking is assumption. How did they know what laws to obey?


    Why is it so hard to assume that God gave Adam and Eve all his laws, including the Sabbath command in the garden, even though it is not written?


    After all, didn't Jesus say the Sabbath was made for man? He didn't say it was made for the Jew. He said it was made for all of man. The Hebrew word anthropos means all of human kind.


    I'm just showing here the silliness of thinking all laws had to be written in Genesis for them to have been in existance.


    Remember Abraham and Abimelech in Gen 20:9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.



    Abimelech was upset with Abraham for telling him that Sarah was his sister. Abimelech is here saying that Abraham could have caused him to sin, by taking Sarah as his own.


    Just how would Abimelech know this was a sin? There was no written record of a law stating that adultery was a sin.


    The teaching that the Sabbath couldn't have been a law in the garden because it wasn't written is silly. Unless you want to admit that God had no reason to destroy the pre-flood world, or to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.


    The Sabbath was made for man. It was made in the garden when God ceased. The Hebrew word to rest or cease is shabath, the word for Sabbath is shabbath. The teaching that the word Sabbath is nowhere found in Genesis is a lie. Shabath, shabbath, not close enough for you? God rested shabath, and the name of the day is shabbath. You might not see the word in english but if you read Hebrew you sure would at least see a very very similar word.




    Kevin McMillen
    kljcmc@comcast.net
    1/12/2012

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  8. The bible says that the Sabbath was made for man. Of course, that word "man" was used to include male and female. That biblical statement should put to rest the ridiculous question about Adam and Even keeping the Sabbath. Of course they did! The Great God Himself rested and kept it; however, He made it for humankind, not Himself. God made the Sabbath at least 2,000 years before there ever was a person called "Jew" which puts to rest the false assumption that it is a Jewish institution. He made it for mankind. Adam and Eve were "mankind." Enough already.

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  9. I have always struggled to understand why most people discussing this issue end up "VIOLENT" even in their language, to the extent that you can tell that if they were close they would beat you up in a bid to knock some sense into your head! I think there is a spirit following this discussion, and I pray that one day it shall be broken.

    I would just like to add to the debate something that I have observed in the book of Acts. If I were to ask, "Did the Apostles and their followers fellowship on the sabbath?" the answer by the record of scripture is YES! If I were again to ask, "Did they fellowship on the first day, Sunday?" The answer happens to be another YES! And again if I were to ask, "Did they fellowship everyday?" Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on which side you belong) the answer according to the scriptures is YES!

    Peter had to be visited by God in a vision for him to undo the command Jesus had given them when He sent them to go and preach. Remember Jesus had commanded them not to go into the Gentile cities? God had to intervene for Peter to start accepting the Gentiles into the fold of Christianity, even Paul confronted him concerning a trait that Peter was displaying with regards the Gentiles, and that was a long time after Peter had seen the vision that taught him that God is not a respector of persons, and that what God had called clean no man could call unclean! What does this have to do with sabbath? Nothing! But the point I am making is that God does as He pleases at any given time. Whether or not Adam and Eve celebrated the sabbath does not govern what we are to do. Obedience is current, that is it alive! You can not claim rewards today based on the obedience of yesterday if today you woke up in disobedience! You will be disqualified still though you were obedient yesterday. God's word is alive, it is current. What is it saying to you and me. Have you ever wondered why of the seven churches in the book of revelation non was ever guilty of transgressing the sabbath? I am inclined to believe that it is because the time had changed. No wonder the Apostle said, "Pray without ceasing!"

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  10. I am convicted that the sabbath is God's identifying mark for his last day remnant people. Rev 14:7 tells us that the identify mark of the saints are those which KEEP commandments of God including the sabbath.

    Rev 12:17 also identifies the " remnant " as those which KEEP the commandments of God. Now we have just been referring to the commandments of God as a whole so far, but did you know that Jesus actually tells us which of his commandments in specific identifies his remnant, lets find out... In 1 Peter 2:9 God's people are described as a holy nation, a peculiar people,a royal priesthood in other words set apart for a special reason and that is because they 'worship' God.
    Question? is there any other people, institution or object that God declares holy? Gen 2:3 sabbath is holy, Exod 19:23 Where God resides becomes holy to make a long story short anything reserved for God's use becomes holy.
    Now does it make sense that a Holy God requires a holy people? yes. Do those holy people need to worship in a Holy way? yes.
    If you consider what we said at the beginning and put it all together it should read like this...
    God's Holy remnant are those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. God's holy sabbath is there to be a medium/vehicle to true 'worship'.
    My apologies for I have only scratched the surface but I hope sincerely that you will be led by spirit to find this precious truth that is essential for the salvation of the soul. I would not gain anything on judgment day by being right on this truth if it never brought me or anyone else into salvation.

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