Friday, September 26, 2008

Sabbath by Andrew Shead

Sabbath in the Pentateuch - Genesis 2:1-3

‘Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their array, so that on the seventh day God had completed his work which he had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all his work which he had done, and God blessed the seventh day, and he sanctified it, because on it he ceased from all his work which God had created by making it’ (author’s translation).

There is no mention of the Sabbath here, nor of rest. Instead we read of the ‘seventh day’ of creation, and of God ‘ceasing’ from his work. We should be careful not to read back into this passage more than it actually says.

The passage begins by describing all the work of creation as ‘complete’, and associates this completion with the Seventh Day (the capitals differentiate this Day from any other seventh day). God’s ‘work’ is always carefully defined: the retrospective phrase ‘which he had done’ refers to the previous six days’ work only, as does the verb ‘created’ ( br ), which is picked up from 1:1 and reused to close the account. Was God doing another type of work on the Seventh Day, such as the work of sustaining his creation? We are not told (but cf . John 5:17).

‘Blessing’ is associated in Genesis 1 with fruitfulness and dominion, both of which are expressions of what it means to be created in the image of God ( 1:26 , 28 ). We may conclude from its use in v. 3 that, just as God blessed what he created, he also blessed the fact of his creation: its completeness and its ongoing existence.

When God ‘sanctified’ the Seventh Day because on it he ceased creating, he was not celebrating or commemorating days one to six, but declaring his new state of not creating to be blessed and holy . This is suggested by the close link between ‘God had completed’ and ‘he ceased’. The end of God’s creative work brought about a new type of time, blessed and set aside, presumably in order that what was created could now be. The Seventh Day was to be a day for fruitfulness, for dominion, for relationship.

The created order is not commanded to sanctify the Seventh Day; the reason given involves God alone. The creation simply moves into the Seventh Day by default.

Read the rest of this paper by Andrew Shead at

1 comment:

WoundedEgo said...

I quite agree that the blessing on the seventh day in Genesis did not constitute a law. Of course, the seventh day was made law for the Jews at Sinai. This does not apply to gentiles, just like none of the law does.