SabbathGenesis 2:1-3 (KJV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

It has been the presentation of an Active Elohim that has dominated the first chapter of Genesis. It had been a flurry of activity that had produced everything we know of in the cosmos. Then we are introduced to the seventh day when God ended His work.

One of the common questions associated with the seventh day involve the concept known as “rest.” Why did God rest and why did God set apart a seventh day because “in it he had rested from all his work?” There are a few principle things that need to be discussed which many overlook when reading the account.

This first thing about the seventh day which should be noted is that out of all of the days of creation it was the only day “sanctified.” In the Hebrew this word “sanctified” is “qādash” and is over 150 times in the Old Testament and appears in our English translation as, “hallow, sanctify, purify, consecrate, dedicate, prepare, and holy” ; just to name several. Thus, the primary meaning of the word points towards an “act of setting apart” and is most often used in relation to things which are considered connected to what is Holy.

When the verb, “qādash” is written in the piel (intensive) verbal system, the meaning becomes “causative.” In other words, it takes upon a “causative meaning.” Thus, when it states that God “sanctified” the seventh day, it is showing causation: “to make holy or to make separate.” Viewing the other various derivatives of the word reveal a common and connected meaning.

The adjective “qadosh” means “holy” and the denominative verb “qadash” means “to be holy.” The noun qodesh has a meaning of “apartness, sacredness.” Then you have the words “qedesh” meaning “sanctuary” and “miqdash” meaning “sacred place.” In every derivative of the word a clear allusion to places and things which have been set apart from common or secular use is evident.

As a side-note, yet important enough to mention, the Hebrew also uses a form of this to signify “temple-prostitutes” both male and female. Again, the usage is focusing on the “apartness” of those serving and not so much on the moral quality and character of the persons. Usually temple-prostitutes did not marry and for this purpose they were considered set-apart for their service for their gods. Even the Ugaritic (an early Canaanite civilization) discovered in the early 1900’s uses, in their language, a form very similar to the Hebrew word.The Ugaritic texts refer to the deities collectively as “sons of Q-D-Š; literally, “sons of the holy one.” (Mark S. Smith: Professor of the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies).

With this context in mind we are shown that of the seven known days of the creative process, the seventh day is the only day which was specifically “set apart.” In fact, the entire narrative that speaks about creation is full of either direct statements or allusions to the process of things being “divided” or “distinguished.” A short list of these reveals the truth of this.

  1.   Light from darkness
  2.  Waters above from waters below by the creation of a firmament
  3.  Dry land (called Earth) and water (called Seas).
  4.  Day and Night
  5.  Grass, Herb, and Fruit Trees (after their kind)
  6.  Animal life (after its kind)
  7. Male and Female

There is seen, as noted above, a sequential pattern of division for the purpose of separation and distinguishing one thing from another. By the time we reach the seventh day of Creation we have just seen a narrative that reveals a “Creation of Order” through the process of separation.  The seventh day is no different and continues with this theme by introducing a day which is set apart from every other day in Creation. Yet, who or what was the seventh day set apart for?

Often times when we read the Bible we make the mistake of applying the collective knowledge of the whole to the first mentions. What I mean by this is that often times when reading Genesis 2:3 and seeing the reference to day seven we immediately call it the “Sabbath” and connect it to a much later reference found in Exodus (which is connected, but read on). The word Sabbath (Heb. Shabbāt) derives from the Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:3 which we read as “rested” (Heb. Shābat).

However, it is important to understand that by doing this there are some important concepts missed when we immediately tie the two together (although connections indeed exist). I say this because there is very large distinction between the “Shābat” of Genesis 2:3 and the Shabbāt found later in Exodus. This distinction is found in what is NOT said when compared to the later mention of the Sabbath found in Exodus.

To be continued…