The Sabbath in Deuteronomy


Bible Study Guide/ The Forgotten Day: The Seventh Day Sabbath/ 86-007/ Key Text: “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.” (Deuteronomy 5:12, 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 Deuteronomy. In previous lessons, we have looked at the subject of the Sabbath in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

Opening Remarks: This text (Deut. 5:12–15) marks the final Pentateuchal reference to the Sabbath. Here Moses reiterates the Sabbath command in wording quite similar to that in Exodus 20:8–11. Though many Christians are most familiar with the Sabbath commandment as expressed in the book of Exodus, the Lord gave it again (and all the other commandments) in the book of Deuteronomy. What’s fascinating is that, although the commands appear in very similar language, the language isn’t precisely the same. Moreover, the commandment in Deuteronomy is given another motivation, one not seen in Exodus. Instead of a reference to the Creation Sabbath, the rationale for observing the Sabbath is God’s rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, (Deut. 5:15).

[1] Read Exodus 20:8–11. Compare it with Deuteronomy 5:12–15.

  • Exodus 20:8–11 (NKJV)8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.
  • Deuteronomy 5:12–15 (NKJV)12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

[2] What similarities existed between these two texts?

  • Though much is the same between them, there is a new element and emphasis. While both commandments talk about the servants resting on the Sabbath day, Deuteronomy goes out of its way to emphasize that point. The text reads that they should keep the Sabbath so that “your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.” (Deut. 5:14.
  • “In ancient Israel it would have been tempting for the head of the household and his immediate family to observe the Sabbath while the rest of the household carried on as usual. To prevent this, the command specifically lists others in the economic unit to be included in the privilege: children (male and female), servants (male and female), draft animals (ox and donkey), and all outsiders temporarily residing in the town. The added motive clause insists that in their right to Sabbath rest these were all on a par with the householder; the Sabbath was a gift for all. In grounding the “holiday” on Israel’s memory of their own experience in Egypt (v. 15), Moses calls for a sympathetic disposition toward those under one’s authority. In their treatment of children, servants, animals, and outsiders, the heads of households were to embody the superior righteousness of the revealed laws of Yahweh (Deut. 4:8).” [Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, ed. Terry Muck, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 164].

[3] What differences do you see between the Two Recordings of this commandment?

  • “This command varies in wording from the Fourth Commandment revealed at Sinai (Exod. 20:8–11). The very first word is different: at Sinai it was ‘remember’ but here it is ‘keep’. Both forms are infinitive absolutes, and they are used in an emphatic imperatival sense. The two verbs can be synonyms, but the verb ‘keep’ (Hebrew, shamar) has a more active sense of obedience. This verb is also commonly employed to enjoin Israel to obey and celebrate her festal calendar (e.g., Lev. 26:2). The basis of the Hebrew calendar is the Sabbath (see Lev. 23)—it is at the very heart and core of Israel’s religious celebrations.”
  • “Verse 12 of the present text adds the words, ‘as Yahweh, your God, has commanded you’. This addition refers to the first giving of the Decalogue at Sinai and, therefore, it would not be included in that initial revelation.”
  • “The main difference between the two accounts is the last verse of the commandment. Whereas in Exodus the rationale for the Sabbath is the creation, here it is God’s great redemptive acts of rescuing his people from the oppression of Egypt. In reality, these are not mutually exclusive, but they complement one another. Deuteronomy does not invalidate Exodus; it merely highlights another reason for the Sabbath command. The Sabbath signifies liberation from oppression and, in one sense, the creation of a people by God for himself.” [John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Deuteronomy, EP Study Commentary, (Darlington, England; Webster, New York: Evangelical Press, 2006), 138–139].

[4] Why are the differences in the Two Recordings of this commandment important?

  • When the Sabbath was first instituted, it was to be a memorial of Creation in a non-fallen world. It had nothing to do with manservants or maidservants and certainly nothing about being in slavery in Egypt, itself a symbol of bondage to sin, and deliverance from that bondage.
  • This new element, then, had been added onto the commandment after the Fall; that is, the original precept was altered to incorporate something that it originally didn’t contain.
  • Thus, as first conceived, the Sabbath was a symbol of Creation; after sin, it came to be a symbol of both Creation and Redemption, which is itself a type of re-creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Rev. 21:1). Creation and Redemption are closely linked in the Bible; only God the Creator could be God the Redeemer, and we have them both in Jesus (see John 1:1–14). Both versions of the commandment show that the seventh-day Sabbath is the symbol of the work of Jesus, our Creator and our Redeemer.

[5] What is the relationship between the Sabbath and Christ’s atonement at the cross?

  • “In Deuteronomy 5:15, the seventh-day Sabbath celebrates Christ’s finished work of deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Because Christ rested in the tomb according to the Sabbath commandment (Luke 23:54–24:1), one could say that the seventh-day Sabbath celebrated Christ’s finished work of sacrificial atonement at the cross. Thus the seventh-day Sabbath celebrates Christ’s gift of creation, liberation, and salvation. The Sabbath is a sign to God’s people in every age. It is a set-apart day to set apart a people. “I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy (or set apart)” (Ezek. 20:12). Christians find in each of these finished works of Christ reasons for celebrating by Sabbath resting on Christ’s chosen seventh day. Therefore, seventh-day Sabbath keeping is Christian.” [Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: Creation, Christ, Salvation, (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2012), 61].

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: “Their deliverance from Egypt constituted an additional reason why the Israelites should reverence the Sabbath, yet the very words of the fourth commandment itself point back to the origin of the Sabbath at creation (Ex. 20:8–11) as the reason for the command here to “keep the sabbath day to sanctify it.” It should be remembered that the form in which God spoke the Ten Commandments upon Sinai is that given in Ex. 20, not in Deut. 5. As its name implies, the book of Deuteronomy is a recapitulation of the various laws transmitted to Israel at Sinai, with additional explanations given by Moses in an attempt to impress the people with the importance of observing faithfully all that they had been commanded to do. If mention of the deliverance from Egypt in connection with the fourth commandment be taken as limiting its observance, in principle, to those who were thus delivered—literal Israelites—then the principles of the Ten Commandments as a whole belong to the Jews only, for both here (Deut. 5:6) and in Ex. 20:2 God presented His law as based on the fact that He had brought them forth from the land of Egypt.”

“As literal Israel was delivered from the bondage of Egypt, so God’s people today have been set free from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:16–18). The Sabbath thus becomes for the Christian a memorial not only of creation but of the re-creation of the image of God in his own heart and mind (see on Deut. 5:8). The Sabbath is thus a “sign” of sanctification (Eze. 20:12)—of redemption as well as of creation.” [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 1:972].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this lesson should inspires us to do? “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 5:15)

[1] Every act of God on our behalf constitutes a reason why we should “remember.” Remember, Observe, Keep the Sabbath day, to keep it holy! Reflect upon the Sabbath truth; Acknowledge God as the Creator and Redeemer; lastly, appreciate His love and beneficent care.

[2] It is God’s purpose that on the Sabbath day whatever interferes with the direct and personal fellowship between the creature and his Creator should be laid aside.

[3] The Sabbath is a day on which it is our happy privilege to become better acquainted with our Father in heaven, whom to know is life eternal (John 17:3).

[4] Remember that to know God is to love Him (see 1 John 4:8), to honor Him, and to appreciate the evidences of His paternal goodness (Rom. 1:21). Christ says: “If you (really) love Me, you will keep (obey) My commands.” (John 14:15, AMP). Beloved, if you really love the Lord, you will keep the seventh day Sabbath holy.

[5] Just as God delivered Israel of old from the Egyptian bondage, likewise He has set us –all who will believe in Him– free from the bondage of sin (see Rom. 6:16–18). Beloved, any disregard for the seventh day Sabbath’s command, after one has fully known the truth, is sin. We are called to obey God’s Law. Disobedience leads to death, even eternal death! (Rom 6:23). “When sin is our master, we have no power except to do what it bids us. We are slaves to sin, which leads to death.  But when we choose to obey the one who created us, and thus become slaves to obedience, we will discover that it is a slavery that leads to righteousness.  There are only two ultimate choices and no middle ground. This is as Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). [Bruce B. Barton, David Veerman, and Neil S. Wilson, Romans, Life Application Bible Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), 124].


[1] What kind of bondage that Christ has promised to free us from? The bondage of Sin.

  1. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, NKJV)
  2. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” (2 Peter 2:19, NKJV)
  3. “And that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:26, NKJV)
  4. “Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34, NKJV)
  5. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews 2:14, NKJV)
  6. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28–29, NKJV)

[2] Does God remove our sins, if we repent? Yes. But how?

  1. Byatoning for our sins, (Heb 2:17);
  2. By forgiveness our sins, (Mic 7:18; 1 Jn 1:9);
  3. By cancellation of a debts, (Mt 6:12);
  4. By covering over of our sins, (Ps 32:1; 85:2);
  5. By taking away of our sins, (Ps 103:12);
  6. By remembering our sins no more, (Isa 43:25).

[3] What promises of forgiveness do we have in Jesus? “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.” (Micah 7:18, NKJV) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NKJV)

[4] How can you learn to claim these promises and then allow the Lord to make them real in your life? “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25, NKJV)

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

  • I want to repent and ask the Lord to forgive me for breaking His Sabbath.
  • I want to learn more about the seventh –day 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 # 7.