"Guarding the Sabbath" Series
How to Guard the Shabbat
What Are Appropriate Sabbath Activities?
By David M Rogers
Table of Contents
The question of "what are appropriate activities for Shabbat?" never seems to go away. Debate rages over the instructions of Shabbat. People want to know what followers of Messiah should be doing and what they should not be doing on this set-apart day. Yet, these same people frequently don't want to change their habits. They typically want their ears tickled and their backs scratched. They want some authoritative permission to do their own thing on the seventh day.
So the question gets asked over and over again: What can I do on Sabbath? The answer to this question is not found in a long list of do's and don'ts. It is not resolved by issuing decrees and regulations about how far you can walk and how much energy can be exerted before "work" takes place and you are found in violation.
The Scriptures command us to guard the Sabbath:
Guard the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 5:12)
The word here translated guard is the Hebrew rm;v; (shamar), and means keep, watch, keep watch, preserve, guard, be guarding, protect. It can speak to military personnel assigned to protect an encampment or building by watching over it. So Yahuwah's people are told to preserve and protect the Sabbath day. So, how do we do this?
The key to knowing what we may do on the Sabbath is to understand the reason and purpose for the day and thus we can discern how to guard the day. When we understand why Elohim gave the Sabbath then it becomes easier to sort out what is permissible and what is inappropriate on the day. And a great help in determining appropriate Sabbath activities is to see what Messiah did on the Shabbat. We can test all our ideas about Sabbath by watching the Master.
The first insight we get from the Master Yehoshua Messiah about the Sabbath is that the Sabbath was made for man. This theme which runs throughout Scripture with regard to the Sabbath is that Yahuwah has set the seventh day aside for man to seek fellowship with his Creator. "The Sabbath was made for man" Yehoshua said (Mark 2:27). In the plan of Yahuwah, he made heaven and earth in six days and then set apart the seventh for rest. Man was made on the sixth day and then had fellowship with the Creator on the next - the seventh day. The Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of Creation week to establish a pattern for all mankind. And this is because the Creator made man in his own image and he seeks to have friendship with and provide fellowship to man.
Each of the themes of the Sabbath echo the message that Elohim seeks our fellowship. Creation and Redemption are two of the major theses of Shabbat. We see this in the two versions of the 4th Word (4th commandment):
Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart. For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or your resident foreigner who is in your gates. For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore Yahuwah blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart (Shemot 20:8-11).
In creation, Elohim made man and then he "made the Sabbath for man." It was to be a time set-apart when man could stop his work in order to spend time in friendship with his Creator.
The Sabbath also speaks of redemption:
Be careful to observe the Sabbath day just as Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you. You are to work and do all your tasks in six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahuwah your Elohim. On that day you must not do any work, you, your son, your daughter, your male slave, your female slave, your ox, your donkey, any other animal, or the foreigner who lives with you, so that your male and female slaves, like yourself, may have rest. Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that Yahuwah your Elohim brought you out of there by strength and power; therefore, Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Devarim 5:12-15).
Yahuwah continues to seek out fellowship with man even when man is in rebellion. Thus, he provided redemption for man. He reached out to man in his captivity and slavery and rescued him with a great deliverance so that Yah could provide him with rest from his toil and labor and to spend time in friendship with him.
Another theme of the Sabbath is that of the future reign of Elohim when he tabernacles with men. The pattern of man working six days and then resting the seventh is a picture of the days of man on earth (about 6000 years) followed by a time when Elohim sets all things right and tabernacles with man for the seventh day ("a thousand years is as a day...").
The rabbis understood and got right this idea that the Sabbath is a rehearsal of the reign of Messiah on the earth. The expression "yom shekulo Shabbat" which means "a day that is all Shabbat" expresses the realization that when one observes the Sabbath, he is to understand that this experience is just a foretaste of the good things to come in Messiah's future reign of righteousness on the earth.
The Sabbath, then, is a rehearsal of something yet to come. Arguments from Christian thinkers that the Sabbath was "fulfilled" and its usefulness has been diminished completely miss the mark. Such "thinkers" have not understood the Sabbath at all. The Sabbath was given to man at Creation (not merely at Mt. Sinai) and its meaning and usefulness is manifold, extending well beyond Messiah's walk on earth 2000 years ago. When we observe Sabbath, we are not only honoring the Creator by remembering his creative and redemptive acts on our behalf, but we are also proclaiming the future reign of Messiah on the earth.
The Sabbath is intended to be an appointment to meet with our Creator and to proclaim his greatness. The Sabbath is also a time to foreshadow the nature of the Messianic reign - a time of righteousness on the earth and fellowship with the Creator and Redeemer of mankind. Messiah himself will teach to the nations of the world the Torah which he once gave through Mosheh on Mt. Sinai. The Torah is the set of Instructions for living righteously before Elohim. Thus, this is the way all who dwell on the earth with Messiah will conduct themselves.
The Sabbath is a delight because we have the privilege of laying aside our everyday toils and labors so that we can give our full attention to our Maker. And as we fellowship together on Shabbat, we are rehearsing what it will be like when Messiah comes to dwell among us.
The nature of the Sabbath day is expressed in the 4th word (4th Commandment):
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahuwah blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Shemot 20:8-11)
The commandment tells us to keep the Sabbath day holy because Yahuwah Elohim made the Sabbath day holy. What does this mean? How can we keep the Sabbath holy?
The word for holy in Hebrew is vd,qo (qodesh). The BDB suggests the meaning of this root word is separation, withdrawal. HALOT defines it as holy, commanding respect, awesome, singled out, consecrated for. The TWOT renders our word be hallowed, holy, sanctified; to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate. Emerging from these abstract terms is the concrete root idea of separating or setting apart of something.
The Sabbath day by its very definition is the day of the week with a different purpose. This is what holy means. The other six days were given as time to work and make a living and do all our busy work - the work of conducting business. But the seventh day was given by the Creator as a time of ceasing from all that labor and work and business. The seventh day is holy, separate, set-apart to acknowledge and fellowship with and hear from our Maker.
Thus, when we recognize that Yahuwah has given a special purpose for this day, separate from the other six days, it becomes more obvious what kind of activities are appropriate for this day. Activities which are centered in meeting with the Almighty, fellowshipping with others who together with we can worship the Creator, and reading, studying and discussing Scripture are all appropriate for the Sabbath. Anything that distracts from this purpose is to be shunned on the Sabbath day.
The commandment for Shabbat is expressed in the 4th word (4th Commandment):
Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart. For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or your resident foreigner who is in your gates (Shemot 20:8-10).
The instruction is easy enough. We are not to do any work. Of course, then comes the debate over what is "work." There are many differing opinions on this question. Some define "work" as follows: "work is whatever I don't want to do on Sabbath." Very convenient, isn't it?
Certainly our Creator had something more specific in mind when he said, "on it you shall not do any work." So let's not guess at what "work" is or leave it up to man's wisdom to define work. Let's find the definition for "work" by its usage in the Tanak (the Old Testament). In Shemot 20:9 and 10, the Hebrew word for "work" is hk'al'm. (pronounced "melacha"). So it reads, "For six days you may labor and do all your melacha, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any melacha."
Melacha is defined by The BDB Hebrew Lexicon as "occupation, work." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines this word as "work, business." And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) renders it "1. trade mission, business journey, 2. business, work, 3. handiwork, craftsmanship."
The first occurrences (3 times) of our word comes in the account of the seventh day following the six days of creation:
By the seventh day Elohim finished the work (melacha) that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work (melacha) that he had been doing. Elohim blessed the seventh day and made it set-apart because on it he ceased all the work (melacha) that he had been doing in creation (Bereshith 2:2,3).
How should we understand the meaning of melacha in Scripture? What was the nature of the melacha which Elohim was doing here?
In other places the melacha which Elohim was doing in creation is described in different terms:
The depths of the earth are in his hand, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land (Tehillim 95:4,5).
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place (Tehillim 8:3).
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands (Tehillim 102:25 NIV).
In each of these Scriptures, the melacha of creation is described as the "work of his fingers" or "work of his hands."
Hold that thought while you consider this:
If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house will be brought before the judges, to see whether he has laid his hand on his neighbor's goods (melacha) (Shemot 22:8)
then there will be an oath to Yahuwah between the two of them, that he has not laid his hand on his neighbor's goods (melacha), and its owner will accept this, and he will not have to make it good (Shemot 22:11).
Sometimes the Hebrew melacha is translated "goods" (in the NIV of these verses above, it is translated "property") and refers to the end result of the work of one's hands.
We should understand, then, that the word melacha refers to human activity (work) that results in the production of a finished end product. Just as the "work" of Elohim's hands produced heaven and earth (an end product), the work which we are forbidden to do on the Sabbath is that melacha which results in products which are made or produced by the skill and labor of our hands. It is easy to see how melacha could also be translated "occupation," "business," "handiwork," or "craftsmanship." All of these terms have to do with the work that people do to produce goods and services.
But keep in mind that this is just a human attempt to understand the meaning of melacha. If we use my definition above for work, then we will still run into problems in the grey areas. At this point, we must use common sense and reasonability. For example, Yahusha said it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. And he ordered a man to pick up and carry his mat on the Sabbath. Thus, reason and the example of Messiah should show us that there are many things which are perfectly fine to do on the Sabbath, but which we will be criticized for doing. The important thing to remember is that your daily occupational tasks should cease on the seventh-day.
With that in mind, we can produce a kind of general "list" or rule of thumb (but this is not a "law") regarding work that is forbidden on Shabbat. Activities which produce an end product are not permitted, such as any occupational work done to produce an income (one's normal business affairs) including craftsmanship, work in a field which ultimately will produce a crop, chores done in a home (which requires the work of one's hands to accomplish) such as gathering (grocery shopping), and cooking which produces an end product (a cooked or prepared meal), or anything that requires someone else to work on your behalf (you are commanded to let your servant rest, too!). [More on cooking being explicitly prohibited by Scripture in section below.]
Activities which are permitted on Sabbath include (clearly) Scripture study which makes us wise in our walk before Elohim, personal hygiene tasks, games which exploit friendship and fellowship, rest, eating (as long as it doesn't require melacha on the Sabbath to prepare said meal), and the like. Also included in activities which are permitted are those acts of mercy and compassion to help men and animals in a situation which endangers their health and life - "it is always right to do good on the Sabbath."
The positive side of the instruction for Shabbat is expressed in Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:
Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, a set-apart assembly (vs 3).
The expression "set-apart assembly" is in Hebrew "miqra kodesh." "Kodesh" means "set-apart." The word "miqra" (Hebrew ar'q.mi ) occurs in Vayiqra 23:2:
Speak to the sons of Yisrael and tell them, 'These are Yahuwah's appointed times which you must proclaim as set-apart assemblies (miqras)--my appointed times.'
In the above translation, it is rendered by the English "assemblies." But let's first dig down to the root meaning of "miqra."
The Hebrew/Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines our word as follows: explanation, reading; basic meaning: calling; 1. a) summons: b) assembly 2. reading, recitation. "Miqra" comes from the root qara' which means to "call, call upon, proclaim, read." Thus, miqra' means "reading" or "proclamation." So, these days which are named in Vayiqra 23 are to be times when the message of Scripture is "proclaimed" by the "reading" of the Scriptures.
These miqras are said to be qodesh: "holy" or "set-apart." The reading/proclamation which is to occur on these days is not just any reading or proclamation. It is to be a set-apart time when the set-apart Scriptures are to be read and proclaimed.
The commandment of prohibition regarding the Sabbath is clear. Shabbat is to be a day of rest; that is, to cease from our regular labor, toil, commerce and occupation. But just as important, the positive commandment for the Sabbath is to do something - to have a set-apart proclamation, a reading and proclaiming of the word of Yahuwah - a reading of the Scriptures. The Sabbath is not for laying around being unproductive. It is the appointed day to cease from regular occupation to meet with Yahuwah and proclaim his revelation by reading and teaching his Word.
The popular Christian tradition of meeting on Sunday to preach and study the Scriptures is taken from this Hebrew concept in the Torah. Unfortunately, Christianity has torn this day of proclamation away from its proper context of occurring at particular set times (i.e. the seventh day of every week). The Christian tradition has appointed its own times of observance which is a form of rebellion and lawlessness, because it is contrary to and ignores the clear instruction given by God.
It has been suggested by some Scripture expositors that the miqra which occurs at these appointed times does not require an assembly of the congregation. In fact, they suggest, it would be "work" to locomote to the place of meeting. In defense of this position, Shemot (Exodus) 16:29 is cited:
See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day."
Thus, some conclude, there is no compelling reason to go anywhere on the Sabbath! And in addition to this Scripture, it is suggested that with the exception of those festivals on which there is clearly a call for assembly in Yerushalayim, the remainder of the miqras would best be done in the privacy of one's own home!
My response to those who object to an interpretation which requires an assembly on the appointed miqras is threefold: While I would not criticize worship at home, I would recommend a better way which has the support of Scripture.
First, the interpretation of Shemot 16:29 as noted above, is taking that instruction out of context. Let's look at the whole passage and then its meaning will emerge from the situation:
And Mosheh said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahuwah; today you will not find it in the area. Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." And on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they found nothing. So Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "How long do you refuse to obey my commandments and my Instructions? See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day (Shemot 16:25-30).
The instruction to stay in one's place (home) on the Sabbath day is set in a narrative which describes some who went out of their homes to gather food on the Sabbath. The prohibition does not instruct us to abstain from going outside! The prohibition is to abstain from going outside to gather food. Gathering food on the Sabbath is what was clearly prohibited.
My second response is to note that the very usage of moed and its derivatives in the Hebrew Scriptures suggests upon us a broader understanding of the terms to include an assembly of the congregation at these times. The root word, d[;y' ("to appoint") from which the word d[eAm ("moed") comes, has additional derivatives. The word, hd'[e (edâ) derives from that same root. It is the Hebrew word normally translated "assembly, congregation, multitude, people, swarm (ASV and RSV similar except ASV tends to render edâ uniformly by "congregation."). Edâ occurs frequently, in Qumran materials as a self-designation of the community.
Edâ is a feminine noun from ya-ad "to appoint," hence is an assembly by appointment and is rendered in the king jimmy version most frequently as "congregation." First appearing in Exo 12:3, the noun occurs 145 times in the OT and is rendered synagogue 127 times in the LXX. However the noun itself does not imply the purpose of the gathering; hence we have a swarm of bees (Jud 14:8) and a multitude of buus (Psa 68:30 [H 31]). It may be a gathering of the righteous (Psa 1:5), but there is also the assembly of the wicked (Psa 22:16 [H 17]), violent men (Psa 86:14), and the godless (Job 15:34). The followers of Korah (Num 16:5) and Abiram (Psa 106:17-18) are frequently termed a company. Assembly is sometimes used in the king jimmy version for edâ for variety when it occurs in proximity to some of the other terms rendered congregation (Num 16:2; Num 20:8; Prov 5:14). Edâ designates the assembly of people gathered before Yahuwah in judgment (Psa 7:7 [H 8]). Similar is the designation of an assembly of the officers of Elohim (Psa 82:1) which is nearly identical with a Ugaritic expression for an assembly of the subordinate gods of the pantheon (Text 128:II, 7, 11).
Despite the fact that we have "congregation and assembly" (qahal and edâ, Prov 5:14), qahal and edâ seem to be synonymous for all practical purposes. Edâ is also used for groups of animals, but qahal is not. Edâ occurs most frequently in Ex, Lev, and Num, and occurs only three times in the prophets (Jer 6:18; Jer 30:20; Hos 7:12). Qahal, on the other hand, is infrequent in those portions of the Torah, but is frequent in Devarim. The book of Chronicles uses qahal frequently, but edâ only once (2Chr 5:6 = 1Kings 8:5). A man may be excluded from the edâ (Exo 12:19), but the same is true of the qahal (Num 19:20).
Most characteristic of the Tanach is the use of edâ for the congregation of Israel. "The congregation" (ha-edâ) occurs seventy-seven times in Ex, Lev, Num, and Josh. We also have "the congregation of Yahuwah" (Num 27:17; Num 31:16; Josh 22:16-17); "the congregation of Israel" (Exo 12:3; Josh 22:20); and "all the congregation." There is the "assembly of the congregation of Israel" (Exo 12:6) and the "assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel" (Num 14:5).
And my third response to those who insist that miqra does not include assembly is the example of our Messiah Yahusha. His are the footsteps we are commanded to walk in. His is the example we need to follow. We imitate him. And the Scriptures are clear that Yahusha participated in the assemblies which occurred on the Shabbat:
Then they went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath came, Yahusha went into the synagogue and began to teach. (Mark 1:21)
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands? (Mark 6:2)
Now Yahusha came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom (habit). He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Yesha'yahu was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, (Luke 4:16,17)
So he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galil, and on the Sabbath he began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. Now in the synagogue... (Luke 4:31-33)
On another Sabbath, Yahusha entered the synagogue and was teaching. (Luke 6:6)
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, (Luke 13:10)
Yahusha did not "remain in his house" on the Sabbath. On the contrary, he was out and about, with his talmidim (disciples) and with other people:
At that time Yahusha went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat and eat them. (Mattityahu 12:1)
Now one Sabbath when Yahusha went to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. (Luke 14:1)
Now because Yahusha was doing these things (healing people) on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began persecuting him. (Yahuchanon 5:16)
It is evident from these testimonies that it was not the habit of our Master to remain at home on the Sabbath. On the contrary, Yahusha our Messiah went to the assembly as his HABIT. He did this customarily. And he mingled with people on the Sabbath, ate with his friends at their homes or in the fields on the Sabbath. And he regularly healed people on the Sabbath. This testimony should put to rest the well-intentioned but ill-informed opinions of some that we should not leave our houses to assemble with others on Sabbath.
Another suggestion from well intentioned folks is that the only times commanded to assemble before Yahuwah are the seventh day of Chag HaMatsa and the eighth day of Chag HaSukkot. This argument is based upon the usage of the Hebrew word atzeret. The commandments regarding the "eighth day of Sukkot" are stated as follows:
For seven days you must present a gift to Yahuwah. On the eighth day there is to be a set-apart assembly (Heb. miqra kodesh) for you, and you must present a gift to Yahuwah. It is a solemn assembly day (Heb. atzeret); you must not do any regular work (Vayiqra 23:36).
On the eighth day you are to have a sacred assembly (Heb. atzeret); you must do no ordinary work on it (Bemidbar 29:35).
And concerning the seventh day of Chag HaMatsa (Feast of Unleavened), it says,
You must eat bread made without yeast for six days. The seventh day you are to hold an assembly (Heb. atzeret) for Yahuwah your Elohim; you must not do any work on that day (Devarim 16:8).
According to the BDB Hebrew Lexicon, our word, hr'c', tr,c, means "assembly (as confined, held in)." Likewise, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines our word as "solemn assembly." And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) renders this word as "holiday, celebration, festive assembly." For lack of an insight into the true understanding of this word, translators have thought that this word means primarily "assembly."
But what is most helpful toward our understanding is the root word from which atzeret is derived. This is where we get the true concept underlying our word. The root word rc[ (pronounced "atsar"), according to HALOT means "to hold back, restrain." BDB renders this word as "restrain, retain." And the TWOT defines it as "restrain, close up, retain, shut, withhold, refrain, stay, detain."
With this information it becomes clear that the primary meaning of atzeret is not "assembly" but rather 'a restraining" or "a retainer"! Upon reflection, the purpose of a commanded atzeret is to retain all the "benei Yisrael" (sons of Israel) for the duration of the festival seasons. Thus, what is commanded by this word atzeret is not an assembly, per se, but to remain at Yerushalayim until the very end.
It is human nature to try to beat the crowd. In the USA at large gatherings such as a fireworks display, there are always a number of people who skip out early and miss the very end in order to avoid the crowds and traffic. People look for ways of avoiding the inconvenience of slowdowns due to overcrowding. It appears that Yahuwah has commanded the final day of the spring and fall festivals to have a set-apart miqra and a restraining (atzeret) of skipping out early. Yahuwah wants us to enjoy to the very end each of the celebrations of his goodness and his salvation works on our behalf.
Therefore, the word atzeret is not the word which commands us to assemble. Atzeret marks the end boundary of the spring and autumn feasts. The word miqra is the word which stipulates assembly, because without a gathering of people, nothing is really being proclaimed. The miqra is the proclamation of Scripture and assumes the gathering of Yahuwah's people for that purpose. Therefore, we should understand that the commandment for the Sabbath to have a set-apart miqra is a mandate to assemble before Yahuwah as a congregation to read and proclaim the Word of Yahuwah.
The primary negative and positive commandments for the Sabbath are clear. We are instructed NOT to do any regular work or perform our occupation on the seventh day. Also, we ARE to have a set-apart time of gathering for reading and proclaiming of the Scriptures.
One of the questions that always gets asked is: are we permitted by Scripture to cook on the Sabbath? Does cooking constitute regular work? Don't we have to eat even on the Sabbath? and doesn't that imply that cooking is allowed on the Sabbath? The Scriptures do speak a definitive word on this point. But it requires a willingness to give up our practices and conveniences to obey.
First of all, we must start by understanding (again) the basic prohibition on Shabbat: "you shall not do any work." For women who stay at home and take care of the home, cooking is one of the core labors done regularly. Along with cooking are cleaning (housework), laundry, running errands, and the like. So even on the surface of things, cooking appears to fall into the category of "labor, work."
But the Scriptures are even more specific than that. When Yahuwah had delivered our ancestors from the bondage of Mitzrayim (Egypt), and was feeding them manna from heaven, he gave them instructions regarding the Sabbath:
Then Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather a certain amount each day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my instruction or not. And on the sixth day they will prepare what they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather each day" (Shemot 16:4,5).
Here we are explicitly told that the preparation of the food for the sixth and seventh day was to be done on the sixth day! There can be no confusion about this instruction. The sixth day is the day of the preparation of food for the Sabbath.
If there was any doubt or uncertainty about this teaching, Yahuwah cleared up any confusion by repeating the instruction:
And on the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers per person; and all the leaders of the community came and told Mosheh. And he said to them, "This is what Yahuwah has said: 'Tomorrow is a time of cessation, a set-apart Sabbath to Yahuwah. Whatever you want to bake, bake today; and whatever you want to boil, boil today; and whatever is left put aside for yourselves to be kept until morning.'" So they put it aside until the morning, just as Mosheh had commanded, and it did not stink, nor was there any worm in it. (Shemot 16:22-24).
The phrase in question here is in Hebrew:
WlVeęB; ‘WlV.b;T.-rv<)a] taeŰw> WpŞae WpúaTo-rv,a] taeä
Rendering this literally we get: "that which you will bake, bake. And that which you will boil, boil." The baking and boiling referred to here was to occur on the sixth day. This is indicated by the instruction that follows: "(then) whatever is left over (after the eating on the sixth day) put aside for yourselves to be kept ('preserved') until the morrow (the Seventh day)." This instruction given is explicit regarding food preparation and the Sabbath. No work is to be done on the Sabbath with regard to gathering or preparing food. The gathering and preparing of food is to be done on the sixth day to provide food for the sixth and the seventh day.
Whatever needs to be boiled or baked (cooked on top of the stove or fire, or cooking in an oven or in the fire) should be done on the sixth day, not on the seventh. Returning to our core definition of work, work is that which is done with the hands which results in a product or service. The reason given for not baking or boiling on the seventh day is that the Sabbath is to be a time of cessation, a complete rest and a set-apart day to Yahuwah. It cannot be a complete rest if one is cooking or boiling food on it.
The concept of "complete rest" is rendered by the Hebrew !AtęB'v (pronounced "shabbaton") which is usually translated "cessation, rest, sabbath observance, complete rest." The weekly Sabbath, each of the 7th month moadim and the 7th year are each described as “shabbaton” – a time of complete rest. Our word occurs 11 times in 10 verses: Used of: Sabbath (Shemot 16:23; 31:15; 35:2; Vayiqra 23:3), Yom Teru’ah (Vayiqra 23:24), Day of Atonement (Vayiqra 16:31; 23:32), Feast of Tabernacles (Vayiqra 23:39 twice), Every seventh year (Vayiqra 25:4,5).
However, the 1st and 7th day of HaMatzot (unleavened bread) are NOT called “shabbaton.” On these days, food is permitted to be prepared, thus they are not “complete rests” Also on these days (it seems), extensive traveling was permitted (i.e. the exodus from Mitzrayim).
For seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. Surely on the first day you must put away the yeast from your houses because anyone who eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day may be cut off from Yisrael. And on the first day there will be a set-apart miqra, and on the seventh day there will be a set-apart miqra for you. You must do no work of any kind on them, only what every person must eat--that alone may be prepared for you (literally, “…except that which is to be eaten for every person, that alone is to be done for you”) (Shemot 12:15,16).
Contrasting the moadim (appointments) which are called Shabbaton and those which are not, the only difference seems to be described in terms of permission to prepare food. On those days which are called "Shabbaton," no food preparation was allowed, and on those moadim which are not also "Shabbaton," food preparation is allowed, but no other "work."
Therefore, from its usages and exceptions, it is evident that food preparation, cooking and baking is considered "work." And as such, cooking is forbidden on the Sabbath day.
In addition to the Instructions regarding preparation of food for the seventh day is the Instruction regarding gathering on Shabbat.
Then Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather (jq;l' pronounced "laqat" - to glean, pick, gather up) a certain amount each day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my instruction or not. And on the sixth day they will prepare what they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather each day...." This is what Yahuwah has commanded: "Each person is to gather from it what he can eat, an omer per person according to the number of your people; each one will pick it up for whoever lives in his tent" (Shemot 16:4,5,16).
Gathering of the food was commanded for the six days of the week. On the sixth day they were to gather twice as much - enough for the sixth and seventh day - so that they did not need to gather on the seventh day.
And he said to them, "This is what Yahuwah has said: 'Tomorrow is a time of cessation (shabbaton), a set-apart Sabbath to Yahuwah. Whatever you bake, bake; and whatever you boil, boil; and all that remains put aside (literally “rest it”) for yourselves to be kept (preserved) until morning.'" So they put it aside until the morning, just as Mosheh had commanded, and it did not stink, nor was there any worm in it. And Mosheh said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahuwah; today you will not find it in the area. Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." And on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather it, but they found nothing. So Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "How long do you refuse to obey my commandments and my Instructions? See, because Yahuwah has given you the Sabbath, that is why he is giving you food for two days on the sixth day. So each of you stay where he is; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day (Shemot 16:23-30).
Not only is the cooking of food forbidden on the seventh day, but also gathering of food is prohibited. No work at all is permitted on the Sabbath. It is commanded to be a day of complete rest. Both the gathering of food and the preparation of food are activities (work) which can and must be finished on the sixth day. Yahuwah always gives enough on that day to take us through the seventh day.
The principle is the same as that general commandment regarding the Sabbath. It states,
For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahuwah your Elohim; on it you shall not do any work (Shemot 20:9).
Thus, the gathering of food falls under the category of melacha which is forbidden on the Sabbath. Picking food out of the field or from a grocery store is work which should be done before the Sabbath begins.
In another account recorded in Scripture, a man is found gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
When the sons of Yisrael were in the wilderness they found a man gathering ( vv;q' pronounced "qashash" - gather stubble) wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Mosheh and Aharon and to all the community. They put him in custody, because there was no clear instruction about what should be done to him. Then Yahuwah said to Mosheh, "The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation must stone him with stones outside the camp." So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as Yahuwah commanded Mosheh (Bemidbar 15:32-36).
The reason this man was gathering sticks is debatable. But it doesn't matter why he was gathering sticks. The commandment not to "work" on Sabbath clearly includes the activity of "gathering." Whether this man was gathering wood for a fire to warm himself or gathering wood to cook over - it doesn't matter. All "gathering," whether food or wood, is forbidden on Shabbat.
Another significant commandment concerning proper Sabbath observance is that found in Shemot 35:3:
You must not kindle a fire in all your homes on the Sabbath day.
Traditionally, this has been interpreted to say that one cannot have a fire burning in the home on Sabbath. Others interpret this to mean that one cannot add fuel (i.e. wood) to a fire on the Sabbath. So as long as the fire was started before Sabbath, in their view, it is okay to continue burning this fire on Sabbath.
Before I bring the technical evidence to show what this Scripture really indicates, let's first have a practical look at burning a fire on the Sabbath. Winter in Israel is cold. They sometimes have snow. If the Sabbath is to be a delight, then how delightful would Sabbath be if we were freezing in our own homes on the Sabbath because we are commanded not to burn a fire on the Sabbath? It doesn't seem likely (if I were to guess) that the Almighty would have us miserable from the cold on Sabbath.
Alright, enough conjecture! Let's allow the Scriptures to teach us the meaning of "kindle." There are several words in Hebrew that are translated "burn." One such word is @r;f' (pronounced "saraph"). This word is found in a number of places, including:
You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning (Shemot 12:10).
But the meat of the bull, its skin, and its dung you are to burn with fire outside the camp. It is the purification offering (Shemot 29:14).
The meaning of this word is clear enough. It means "to burn."
Another word is hr'x' (pronounced "charah") and is translated, "burn, be kindled" and is frequently a metaphor for anger:
And my anger will burn and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives will be widows and your children will be fatherless (Shemot 22:24).
This word is used many times as a description of the feeling of rage or anger (as above).
A third word is rj;q' (pronounced "qatar") - "to burn incense or sacrifice." This word is found in the following Scriptures:
And you are to take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the lobe that is above the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar (Shemot 29:13).
And Aharon is to burn sweet incense on it morning by morning; when he attends to the lamps he is to burn incense (Shemot 30:7).
... all the rest of the bull--he must bring outside the camp to a clean place, to the fatty ash pile, and he must burn it on wood; it must be burned on the fatty ash pile (Vayiqra 4:12).
Then the priest will take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial portion, burn it on the altar, and afterward make the woman drink the water (Bemidbar 5:26).
Each of these three words, saraph, charah and qatar, speak of the burning caused by fire. Simple enough.
But in Shemot 35:3 “You must not kindle a fire in all your homes on the Sabbath day,” a different word is used - the word for “burn, kindle” is r[b (pronounced "ba’ar"). This Hebrew word and its cognates (its meaning in sister languages), are defined by the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: I r[b: MHb. hif. to kindle, MHb.2 qal, JArm.tg CPArm. to burn, to kindle, Mnd. (MdD 49b) to burn something. and II r[b: to clear away; Ug. bÁr plunder, expel (UTGl. 495); Syr. to enquire, to acquire, pa. to search through, to gather, to glean, to devastate: buŇÁaŇraŇ second harvest, devastation; CPArm. to glean. Additionally, r[;B' (bą±ar) III, to put away, take away, feed on, waste. (ASV similar. RSV translates "purge" in Deut, elsewhere with a variety of words including "consume, destroy, exterminate, devour"). Of interest to us is the concept of "gleaning, gathering" in cognate languages.
The BDB lexicon notes that our word in the Piel stem means "feed, graze," and in the Hiphil stem, "caused to be grazed over."
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) defines our word r[;B' as "burn, consume." But of great interest to us here, the TWOT notes that in the Targum, r[;B. "burn" also can mean "to seek out, collect, glean."
All three Hebrew lexicons attest to the fact that "ba'ar" can mean "to collect, glean, gather." Such is its meaning when it is translated "graze." For grazing is nothing more than eating while gathering. It is even used in the Hebrew Scriptures in this way.
If a man grazes (ba’ar) his livestock in a field or a vineyard, and he lets the livestock loose and they graze (ba’ar) in the field of another man, he must make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard. If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or standing grain or the whole field is consumed, the one who started the fire (the "ba’ar" – note: the fire is “grazing” the grass just as the cattle did) must surely make restitution (Shemot 22:5,6).
Here, the man who is grazing (ba'ar) his livestock in another man's field is punished in the same fashion as the fire that "grazes" (ba'ar) a man's field. A comparison is being made here which helps us to understand the meaning of "ba'ar."
Picture livestock grazing through a field. What are they doing? They are going here and there and picking up and consuming mouthfuls of grass from all around the field. Picture the fire. What is it doing? It is going about and consuming grass (or hay, or whatever) from all around the field. Both are ba'aring! Thus, the core meaning of ba'ar seems to refer in this context to "the going around about" to consume.
This early meaning of "ba'ar" as "grazing" is also the meaning of related Hebrew words, which are derivatives of the verb "ba'ar" (to graze). For example, hr"([eB.h; (pronounced "ha-be-eirâ"), appears once in Shemot 22:6 [H 5] where it is used as a cognate accusative with ba-ar, "the one who kindled the fire" (as noted in the Scripture cited above). In addition to this, the Hebrew ry[iB. (pronounced "be-ir") means "beasts, cattle. (derived from their grazing, wandering? “grazer”)"! Another word, r[;B; (pronounced "ba-ar") means "brutish person," probably also deriving from the grazing aspect of some animals, thus suggesting that such a person is more like an animal than a man, and is likely a reference to a person who stubbornly refuses to accept Yahuwah's grace (Psa 73:22).
With this early meaning before us, it is easy to understand the meaning of the instruction, “You must not kindle a fire in all your homes on the Sabbath day.” If we understand ba'ar, "kindle" as "wandering, grazing, seeking out, collecting, gleaning," the meaning emerges. Keep in mind the previous teaching that gathering and preparing (food) is prohibited on Sabbath. Thus, also, "collecting" a fire on the Sabbath is also prohibited. The prohibition has to do with the gathering, collecting, gleaning of the fire (wood) to make the fire. The work of gathering and preparing a fire is clearly what is prohibited. Just as the work of preparing food or collecting food or wood is prohibited on the seventh day, the preparing and collecting (grazing) of wood (for the fire) is prohibited on the Sabbath.
With this core understanding of the earliest meaning of ba'ar, it is also easy to see how the word developed into its more common meaning of "to consume." The beast which grazes the field consumes it. The fire which grazes the field consumes it. So, ba'ar came to mean "consume."
The Angel of Yahuwah appeared to him in a flame of fire from within a bush. He looked--and the bush was ablaze (ba’ar) with fire, but it was not being consumed! So Moshe thought, "I will turn aside to see this amazing sight. Why does the bush not burn up (ba’ar)?" (Shemot 3:2,3).
When the people complained, it displeased Yahuwah. When Yahuwah heard it, his anger burned (charah), and so the fire of Yahuwah burned (ba’ar) among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. When the people cried to Moshe, he prayed to Yahuwah, and the fire died out. So he called the name of that place Taberah (pronounced “tav-ay-rah” [t ba’ar ah]) because the fire of Yahuwah burned (ba’ar) among them (Bemidbar 11:1-3).
common usage of the word has to do with removing evil or evil influence from the land (20 times, 10 of which are in Deut). If a person has committed some flagrant sin (idolatry, murder, fornication, prostitution, adultery, intranational slavery) not only must he himself be removed, but through his execution the evil which he has set in train must be removed (Deut 13:1-5 [H 2-6]; 2Sam 4:11; 1Kings 14:10 etc.). The necessity for this latter is seen in the provision made for purging the evil when a body is found and the murderer is not known (Deut 21:1-9). Evil cannot be explained away nor wished away. It must be dealt with and that in terms of life and death. J.N.O.
An example of this is found in
Devarim 13:5 As for that prophet or dreamer, he must be executed because he encouraged rebellion against Yahuwah your Elohim who brought you from the land of Egypt, redeeming you from the place of slavery, and because he has tried to entice you from the way Yahuwah your Elohim has commanded you to go. In this way you must purge out (ba’ar) evil from within.
To make thorough our word study, we find in Scripture that ba’ar is used in following verses: Exod. 3:2f; 22:4f; 35:3; Lev. 6:5; Num. 11:1, 3; 24:22; Deut. 4:11; 5:23; 9:15; 13:6; 17:7, 12; 19:13, 19; 21:9, 21; 22:21f, 24; 24:7; 26:13f; Jdg. 15:5, 14; 20:13; 2 Sam. 4:11; 22:9, 13; 1 Ki. 14:10; 16:3; 21:21; 22:47; 2 Ki. 23:24; 2 Chr. 4:20; 13:11; 19:3; 28:3; Neh. 10:35; Est. 1:12; Job 1:16; Ps. 2:12; 18:9; 39:4; 49:11; 73:22; 79:5; 83:15; 89:47; 92:7; 94:8; 106:18; Prov. 12:1; 30:2; Isa. 1:31; 3:14; 4:4; 5:5; 6:13; 9:17; 10:17; 19:11; 30:27, 33; 34:9; 40:16; 42:25; 43:2; 44:15; 50:11; 62:1; Jer. 4:4; 7:18, 20; 10:8, 14, 21; 20:9; 21:12; 36:22; 44:6; 51:17; Lam. 2:3; Ezek. 1:13; 5:2; 21:4, 36; 39:9f; Hos. 7:4, 6; Nah. 2:14; Mal. 3:19. The reader may look up all these references, if you please.
The seventh day was given to man as a day of rest and fellowship with the Creator. The instructions for Shabbat are given, not as a hindrance to true living, nor as a method to inconvenience us. The Sabbath is a gift from a loving Creator. The Instructions are given to enable us to experience the full effect of being freed from the tedious everyday labors in order to find pleasure in fellowship with our Elohim.
We have a choice of either making this day a time of legalistic proceduring, or of completely setting aside this day to do nothing else but enjoy of the full life of fellowship with Elohim and with those who love him. I choose the latter. What about you?