The Sabbath in Genesis


Bible Study Guide/ The Forgotten Day: The Seventh Day Sabbath/ 86-003, (Genesis 2:1–3)/ Key Text: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:1–3, NKJV)

Lesson Objectives: To analyze the Sabbath texts in in the order in which they occur in the Pentateuch. Today, we are going to consider the Sabbath in Genesis, then next, we will look at Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Sabbath References in the Pentateuch.

  1. The Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3.
  2. The Sabbath in Exodus 5:5.
  3. The Sabbath in Exodus 16.
  4. The Sabbath in Exodus 20:8–11.
  5. The Sabbath in Exodus 23:12.
  6. The Sabbath in Exodus 31:13–17.
  7. The Sabbath in Leviticus 19:3, 30; 26:2.
  8. The Sabbath in In Leviticus 25:2–6.
  9. The Sabbath in Numbers 15:32–36.
  10. The Sabbath in Numbers 28:9-10.
  11. The Sabbath in Deuteronomy 5:12–15.

Opening Remarks: One of the most deeply imbedded truths of the Bible is that back in Eden, in a perfect world created by a perfect God, “the seventh day” was set apart from the rest of the week and made holy. That’s how far back, and basic, the seventh-day Sabbath is. From the perspective of this world, you can’t get much further back than that. With the Sabbath, then, we’re dealing with one of the most fundamental and foundational of all biblical truths.


[1] By whom was the Sabbath instituted? The Sabbath was instituted by the Creator God. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11, NKJV)

[2] According to the Bible, who created all things? Jesus Christ.

  • Hebrews 1:1–2 (NKJV)1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.
  • John 1:1–3 (NKJV)1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
  • Colossians 1:16–17 (NKJV)16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

[3] Who instituted the Sabbath, then? Jesus Christ. Since all things were created by Christ, therefore, the Sabbath must have been instituted by Christ.

[4] When was the Sabbath instituted? The Sabbath was instituted at creation. (See Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:11). “When the foundations of the earth were laid, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, then was laid the foundation of the Sabbath. Job 38:6, 7; Genesis 2:1–3. Well may this institution demand our reverence; it was ordained by no human authority and rests upon no human traditions; it was established by the Ancient of Days and commanded by His eternal word.” (The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan, p. 455).

[5] Notice how many times the phrase “the seventh day” is repeated in Genesis 2:1–3. What possible significance does that repetition have?

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:1–3, NKJV)

In Genesis 2:1–3 the “seventh day” is mentioned three times. This accentuates the extraordinary nature of the seventh-day Sabbath and clearly sets it apart from the rest of the week.

Wenham rightly notes that the “threefold mention of the seventh day, each time in a sentence of seven Hebrew words, draws attention to the special character of the Sabbath. In this way form and content emphasize the distinctiveness of the seventh day.” (Wenham, Genesis, vol. 1 of Word Biblical Commentary, 7).

Note: The mentioning of ‘the seventh day’ three times should always remind us that God didn’t make the first day special of the week (as others assert) or any other day. The special blessing is for ‘the seventh day’ and no other.

[6] What was the first step in instituting the Sabbath? Resting on the first seventh day of time. (Gen. 2:1-3).

The verb “rested,” shabath, means literally “to cease” from labor or activity (see Gen. 8:22; Job 32:1; etc.). As a human artificer completes his work when he has brought it up to his ideal, and thus ceases to work upon it, so in an infinitely higher sense God completed the creation of the world by ceasing to produce anything new, and then “rested.” God did not rest because He needed it (see Isa. 40:28). Therefore God’s rest was the result of neither exhaustion nor fatigue, but a cessation from previous occupation.” (SDA BC 1:220).

[7] Whose rest day did the seventh day become and why? The Lord’s. “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8) “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)

The Sabbath serves also as the birthday of humankind, the same as the day on which each one of us was born becomes his/ her birthday.

Note: Though man was created on the sixth day, on that same day, the Sabbath drew nigh, hence the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday (the sixth day) and ends at sundown on Saturday (the seventh day). (see Nehemiah 13:19)

“God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:5, NKJV)

The literal statement “evening was (with the following hours of the night), and morning was (with the succeeding hours of the day), day one” is clearly a description of an astronomical day, that is, a day of 24 hours’ duration. It is the equivalent of the later Hebrew compound “evening-morning” of Dan. 8:14, which the KJV has translated “days,” here meaning prophetic days, and of Paul’s Greek word, nuchthemeron, translated “a night and a day” (2 Cor. 11:25). Thus the Hebrews, who were never in doubt about the meaning of this expression, began the day with sunset and ended it with the following sunset (Lev. 23:32; Deut. 16:6). Furthermore, the language of the fourth commandment leaves no shadow of doubt that the evening and morning of the creation record are the component sections of an earthly day. [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 1:210].

To illustrate: When a person is born on a certain day, that day thus becomes his birthday. So, when God rested upon the seventh day, that day became His rest or Sabbath day. Therefore, the seventh day must always be God’s Sabbath day. Can you change your birthday from the day on which you were born to one on which you were not born? No. Neither can you change God’s rest day to a day on which He did not rest.

Hence the seventh day is still God’s Sabbath day. In Ezekiel 20:12, the Lord claim this day to be His day: “I gave them My Sabbaths.” In Ex 31:13, Yahweh says “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep.”

The point is this: Beloved, the seventh day Sabbath is not your day, no! It is the Lord’s day. You don’t get to do with it as you please. You don’t get to debate the sacredness of it, nor change it. Doing so will incur God’s displeasure on you, the judgment, and severer punishment (cf. Heb 10:26-29)

For Further Study: Look at the language used in the following verses — (Ex 16:29; 20:8-11; 31:13; 35:2; Lev 23:3, 24, 32, 39; 25:4; Dt 5:12-15; Neh. 9:14; Isa. 58:13; Mk 2:27-28; Ezek. 20:20)

[8] What was the second step in instituting the Sabbath? And what did that make the Sabbath? Blessing it, that is, honoring that day and making it holy above all other days. (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11).

Genesis 2:3 states that the Creator “blessed” the seventh day, just as He had blessed animals and man on the day before (Gen. 1:22, 28). God refers to this blessing of the Sabbath in the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, forever linking the creation Sabbath with the weekly Sabbath.

[9] Was the Sabbath made for all mankind or the Jews only? The word for “Man” in Mark 2:27 is Gr. anthrōpos, literally, “a person,” a generic term including men, women, and children (see on Mk. 6:44). “Mankind” would reflect the meaning of anthrōpos more accurately. The Sabbath was designed and ordained by a loving Creator for the welfare of humanity: all men, not just the Jews.

“This act of blessing the seventh day and declaring it holy was done in the interest of the human race, for whose benefit the Sabbath day was instituted. The weekly seventh-day Sabbath has frequently been considered an institution of the Jewish dispensation, but the Inspired Record declares that it was instituted more than two millenniums before the first Israelite (a descendant of Jacob-Israel) was born. We have, furthermore, the word of Jesus declaring, “The sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27), which indicates clearly that this institution was not ordained for the Jews only but for all mankind as well.” (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1:221).

[10] What was the third step in instituting the Sabbath, and what it meant? Sanctifying the seventh day Sabbath; that is, setting it apart for a holy use, or commanding it to be kept holy. (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:11).

“The act of sanctification consisted in a declaration that the day was holy, or set apart for holy purposes. As afterward Mt. Sinai was sanctified (Ex. 19:23), or, for the time being, invested with sacredness as the residence of God, and Aaron and his sons were sanctified, or consecrated, to the priestly office (Ex. 29:44), and the year of jubilee was sanctified, or devoted, to the purpose of religion (Lev. 25:10), so here the seventh day was sanctified, and as such proclaimed to be a holy day.” (The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, 1:220–221).

[11] Which of these three steps made the seventh day the Sabbath? The fact of God’s resting on the seventh day made it the Sabbath, for it was already the Sabbath when he blessed it; therefore every seventh day has been the Lord’s Sabbath ever since creation.

[12] What is the only reason God has ever given for blessing and sanctifying the Sabbath? He rested on it, and since He rested on it at creation, He must therefore have blessed and sanctified it at creation when the rest was completed; therefore the Sabbath was instituted at creation.

[13] What expressions prove that the Creator, Jesus Christ, instituted the Sabbath? The Sabbath is called “the Sabbath of the Lord” (Ex. 20:10); “My Sabbaths” (Ex. 31:13); “My holy day” (Isaiah 58:13); “the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

[14] By what title would it have been designated if instituted by some individual? Had the Sabbath been instituted by some individual or by a people or nation, then it would have borne the author’s name. But since it was instituted by the Creator, it bears his signature and title.

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8–11, NKJV)

Remember. “This word does not make the fourth commandment more important than the other nine. All are equally so. To break one is to break all (James 2:8–11). But the Sabbath commandment reminds us that the seventh-day Sabbath, as God’s appointed rest for man, goes back to the very beginning of human history and is an inseparable part of the creation week (Gen. 2:1–3; PP 336). The argument that the Sabbath was first given to man at Sinai is wholly without foundation (Mark 2:27; PP 80, 258). In a personal sense the Sabbath comes as a reminder that amid the pressing cares of life we ought not to forget God. To enter fully into the spirit of the Sabbath is to find a valuable aid in obeying the rest of the Decalogue. The special attention and devotion given on this day of rest to God and to things of eternal value provide reserve power for victory over the evils against which we are warned in the other commandments. The Sabbath has well been compared to a bridge thrown across life’s troubled waters, over which we may pass to reach the opposite shore, a link between earth and heaven, a type of the eternal day when those who are true to God shall put on forever the robe of immortal holiness and joy.” [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 1:604].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this lesson should inspires us to do? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

“The Sabbath calls for abstention from common bodily labor and for the devotion of mind and heart to holy things. The Israelites were admonished to use it for holy convocations (Lev. 23:3). The Gospels attest that it was so used by Christ and the apostles (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2; 18:4; etc.), and that it should continue to be observed by Christians after the completion of Christ’s earthly ministry (Matt. 24:20).

The fact that the Sabbath will still be celebrated in the new earth as a day of worship (Isa. 66:23) is a clear indication that God never intended to have its observance transferred to another day. The weekly Sabbath day is the memorial of creation, reminding man each week of God’s creative power and of how much he owes to a merciful Creator and Provider. A rejection of the Sabbath is a rejection of the Creator, and opens wide the door for all manner of false theories. “It is a constant witness to His existence and a reminder of His greatness, His wisdom, and His love. Had the Sabbath always been sacredly observed, there could never have been an atheist or an idolater” (PP 336).” [SDA BC 1:221].

MY DESIRE TODAY. Check the Box which reflect your decision today:

  • I want to learn more about the Sabbath.
  • I want to share with others the truth about the Sabbath.
  • I want to keep all God’s commandment, including the Sabbath.
  • It is my desire to obey the Lord by keeping His Day (the seventh –day Sabbath) holy, Ex. 20:8.

Have a Blessed Day: “Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might understand and realize that I am the Lord who sanctifies them [separates and sets them apart].” (Ezekiel 20:12, AMP)

The Gospel’s Voice/ Bible Study Guide/ Doctrines/ The Seventh-Day Sabbath / Lesson # 3.