The Sabbath in Numbers


Bible Study Guide/ The Forgotten Day: The Seventh Day Sabbath/ 86-006, (Numbers 15:32) / Key Text: “Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.” (Numbers 15:32, 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 Numbers. In previous lessons, we have looked at the subject of the Sabbath in Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. The next lesson will be on Deuteronomy.

Lesson Outline:

  1. The Sabbath in Numbers 15:32–36.
  2. The Sabbath in Numbers 28:9-10.

Opening Remarks: The book of Numbers refers to the weekly Sabbath in two contexts. Numbers 15:32–36 gives an account of the profaner of the Sabbath. He was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Thus, he was stoned to death for disobeying God’s law. Secondly, Numbers 28:9-10 gives an account of “the Sabbath offering” which was to be added to the already existing -“daily sacrifice.” Let’s look at these two passages:

Note: To get the entire study, kindly open the PDF document attached, or read this Study Guide from the Website (link provided). God bless you!

The Sabbath in Numbers 15:32–36.

A Sabbath breaker Executed: Numbers 15:32–36 (NKJV) — 32 Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. 34 They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.


  1. The Sin: Transgression of the 4th commandment- willfully.  
  2. The Arrest: The offender was seized, and taken before the judicial authorities.
  3. The Consultation: The direction of the Lord is sought as to the mode by which the sentence of death is to be executed upon him.
  4. The Sentence: Death penalty (Exodus 31:14-15); he must be put to death by stoning (Numbers 15:35).
  5. The Execution: “All the congregation brought him outside the camp” (v. 36). Executions were carried out there so that the Holy Place, or the tabernacle, should not be polluted or contaminated in any way.
  6. The Executioners: All Israel. The communal execution took place ‘outside the camp’ of Israel – a place of the defiled and unclean (Lev. 13:46).

“Soon after the return into the wilderness, an instance of Sabbath violation occurred, under circumstances that rendered it a case of peculiar guilt. The Lord’s announcement that He would disinherit Israel had roused a spirit of rebellion. One of the people, angry at being excluded from Canaan, and determined to show his defiance of God’s law, ventured upon the open transgression of the fourth commandment by going out to gather sticks upon the Sabbath. During the sojourn in the wilderness the kindling of fires upon the seventh day had been strictly prohibited. The prohibition was not to extend to the land of Canaan, where the severity of the climate would often render fires a necessity; but in the wilderness, fire was not needed for warmth. The act of this man was a willful and deliberate violation of the fourth commandment—a sin, not of thoughtlessness or ignorance, but of presumption.”

“He was taken in the act and brought before Moses. It had already been declared that Sabbath-breaking should be punished with death, but it had not yet been revealed how the penalty was to be inflicted. The case was brought by Moses before the Lord, and the direction was given, “The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.” Numbers 15:35. The sins of blasphemy and willful Sabbath-breaking received the same punishment, being equally an expression of contempt for the authority of God.” [Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 408–409].


[1] The fact that the entire community takes part in the enforcement of the penalty points to the truth that Sabbath-breaking will not be tolerated in Israel.

[2] The moral element in the law of the Sabbath is of perpetual obligation. “In Exodus 20 the Sabbath commandment begins: “Remember the Sabbath day” (20:8). The fate of the wood-gatherer would help the people in remembering that law. In addition, Numbers 15:37–41 prescribes an ongoing strategy to jog their memory regarding all of his commandments: tassels on their garments to help them obey and be consecrated to the Lord rather than exploring (Qal of twr) and committing (spiritual) promiscuity (Qal of znh) by going wherever their hearts or eyes should lead them (15:39).” [Roy Gane, Leviticus, Numbers, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 621–622].

[3] “When a modern reader looks at this passage he is often perplexed at the idea of death being the punishment for someone who merely picks up sticks to make a fire on the Sabbath. The first thing we need to understand was that the Sabbath is not a trivial day in the life of ancient Israel. According to God’s law, the Sabbath is to be kept (Exod. 20:8–11). The Sabbath was an outward sign of Israel’s having been set apart and of their being different from the pagan nations around them. This man violated the covenantal law by breaking the Fourth Commandment with regard to keeping the Sabbath. And he not only broke the general law of the Decalogue, but he violated the specific law of Exodus 35:2–3, which specifically prohibited the lighting of fires on the Sabbath. In addition, he was acting in a premeditated, brazen fashion, and such behaviour was not to be tolerated in Israel. As Brown comments, ‘He was despising God’s word, damaging the harmony of the redeemed community, setting a bad example to the younger generation and inflicting harm on himself.’ [John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Numbers, EP Study Commentary, (Darlington, England; Carlisle, PA: Evangelical Press, 2009), 223–225].

The Sabbath in Numbers 28:9-10.

“And on the Sabbath day two lambs in their first year, without blemish, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering—this is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, besides the regular burnt offering with its drink offering.” (Numbers 28:9–10, NKJV)

The Sabbath offering which was to be added to the daily sacrifice is here enjoined for the first time. The rule respecting the drink offering which was to accompany the burnt offering is laid down in Numbers 15:5.

Note the following —

[1] This day is here “set apart” by a special offering – “two lambs in their first year, without blemish, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering.” (v. 9). This offering was to be supplementary to the daily morning and evening sacrifices discussed in Num. 28:3–8.

[2] “On the Sabbath the continual sacrifice was to be doubled, and two lambs offered instead of one; for it was reasonable that, as the seventh day was peculiarly dedicated to God, it should be exalted above other days by some extraordinary and distinctive mark.” [Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible/ Numbers 28:9-10].

[3] “In addition to the morning and evening burnt offerings at the Israelite sanctuary, two lambs are to be sacrificed as burnt offerings every Sabbath (28:9–10). It is not surprising that the Sabbath should be honored in this way and by renewal of the “bread of the Presence” (Lev. 24:8). In addition to its function as a celebration of creation (Ex. 20:11), the Sabbath took on additional meaning for the Israelites as a reminder of divine deliverance from Egypt (Deut. 5:15). Like creation, God accomplished the redemption from Egypt by his creative power, which was displayed in the plagues on Egypt, salvation from Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea, and miraculous provision for his people in the desert (Ex. 7–17).” [Roy Gane, Leviticus, Numbers, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 754].

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: Why the burnt offering for every Sabbath was doubled? To make a distinction between the Sabbath and the rest of six days of the week. The Sabbath was (and still is) a holy day “set apart” to Yahweh.

Every day should be holy to all believers, with regard to ceasing to do evil, learning to do well. It is a day of service, among other things, to God, oneself, and others –“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17, NKJV)

Just as the burnt offering was doubled for every Sabbath (Numb. 28:9-10), likewise on the seventh day Sabbath our devotion to the Lord should be doubled. The Sabbath is unique, peculiar and very special to the LORD. Some once said: “The Sabbath is our date with God!” The whole Sabbath day should be spent in God’s service. Psalms 92, titled, “A Song for the Sabbath day,” mentions morning and evening performances: praise and thanksgiving. It is a time for corporate worship, and service to the Lord. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night,(Psalm 92:1–2, NKJV)

“The Sabbath and its values offer to the believer an experience of the presence of God, a fresh revelation of His grace, a needed time for reflection and inner renewal, an opportunity to come close to loved ones and needy persons, and an exercise in responsible stewardship of God’s creation. The celebration of the Sabbath represents indeed the Good News of Service to God, to oneself, to others, and to our habitat.” [Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness: A Theological Study of the Good News of the Sabbath for Today, Biblical Perspectives, (Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press; Biblical Perspectives, 1998), 2:227].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this lesson should inspires us to do? Stay away from Presumptions Sins (Psalm 19:12).

“Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.” (Numbers 15:32, NKJV) The act of this man was a willful and deliberate violation of the fourth commandment—a sin, not of thoughtlessness or ignorance, but of presumption.”

I. What presumption includes. It signifies–

  1. Boldness in evil. Sinning without fear. Hardihood, recklessness.
  2. Arrogance in evil. Setting ourselves up against God. Pride of heart and spirit and tongue (Psalms 73:6; Psalms 9:2; Acts 2:18).
  3. Irreverence towards God. All profanity. As in the case of Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord?”
  4. Confidence of escape from the threatenings of God. Not dreading nor caring for consequences,

II. The chief causes of presumption.

  1. Spiritual ignorance. Ignorance of self and God. It is the offspring of darkness.
  2. Recklessness and inconsideration.
  3. Confirmed unbelief, giving no credit to the Word.
  4. Hardness of heart. This is both a cause and a result.

III. The terrible results of presumptuousness.

  1. God, defied, will vindicate His authority. He cannot let it pass. His majesty and law concerned.
  2. Threatening despised, He will terribly execute. Not one jot fail. There may be delay, long-suffering, but the execution of vengeance is certain.
  3. Mercy despised will involve in fearful retribution. Hear God (Proverbs 1:24; Psalms 2:4, &c.). The instances of this, how numerous. The old world, Pharaoh, Sodom, &c., nations of Canaan, Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41-44). (J. Burns, D. D.)


[A] God hates the sin of Presumption. Presumption is unacceptable!

  1. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16, NKJV)
  • “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 5:5, NKJV)
  • “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! (Isaiah 45:9a, NKJV)
  • “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NKJV)
  • “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20, NKJV)
  • “Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;” (1 Corinthians 10:9, NKJV)

[B] God will judge/ punish the sin of Presumption.

  1. “But the person who does anything (wrong) willfully and openly, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one reproaches, reviles, and blasphemes the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people (that the atonement made for them may not include him).” (Numbers 15:30, AMP)
  • “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” (Isaiah 13:11, NKJV)
  • “Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the Day of Judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,” (2 Peter 2:9–10, NKJV)

[C] Humility is commended in place of presumption.

  1. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
  • Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10, NKJV)

THE GOSPEL’S VOICE: Beloved, God hate all sins including the willful breaking of the Sabbath. The incident recorded in Numbers 15:32–36 “happened sometime during the period when the Israelites were in the desert (15:32), where the climate was warm and the people had manna to eat (Ex. 16:35). So a fire for warmth or cooking would not have been urgent even if it were not Sabbath. It looks as though this man was going out of his way to violate the Sabbath command of the Decalogue (Ex. 20:8–11), of which the people were reminded every weekend when they received a double portion of manna on Friday and none on the Sabbath (Numb. 16:22–30).” [Roy Gane, Leviticus, Numbers, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 621–622].

The man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath acted so presumptuously! Clearly, he was tempting the Lord! The act of this man was a willful and deliberate violation of the fourth commandment—a sin, not of thoughtlessness or ignorance, but of presumption.” To all those whose Sabbath truth has been revealed unto, but still break it – I say, you are no different than the stick gatherer of Numbers 15. God is just, meaning, He will respond, judge and punish all sins accordingly.

Beloved, Jesus is coming soon! His judgment is based on His holy Law. But when He comes, it will be too late – for there will be no more debates, no more second chances to make it right with the Lord. He says “Behold, I am coming soon, and I shall bring My wages and rewards with Me, to repay and render to each one just what his own actions and his own work merit” (Revelation 22:12, AMP) — which means the judgment takes place before the payday: the Second coming.

Beloved, genuine repentance is urgently needed now: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11, NKJV) It is high time that we all repent and do the necessary reforms to remember, observe, and keep the seventh day Sabbath holy.

Consider the Psalmist’s prayer as we close: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:12–13, NKJV)

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

  • Lord, keep me back from secrets/ presumptuous sins (Ps. 19:12)
  • 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/ Sabbath: The Sabbath in History and Holy Scriptures / Lesson # 6.