Let’s take a look @ Genesis 2:1-3
v.1-3: Day seven – a day representing (temporary) completion. God blessed this day specifically, in contrast to day 1-6. The Sabbath is especially important, and it is blessed because God rested from all his work. The theme in Hebrews 3 and 4 follows after this ‘rest’, a new creation which we strive for – the permanent Sabbath in the new heavenly and earthly kingdom. In John 5 we see the Father giving works to Christ for the sake of new creation.
Like the 7th Day Adventists, the Sabbath obsession of legalistic Pharisaism, it is easy for us to fall into the trap of somehow specifically setting aside one day for God (let alone argue over setting aside a “Saturday” or a “Sunday” for God) and that the other six days are days of secular labour. No — all days belong to God, all of our life belongs to God, all our works come from God (Colossians 3:23). Without diving too deep into the whole ‘good works/Godly works’ vs ‘the curse of work’ post-curse in Genesis 3 (to which I will come to in the next post), let us look firstly at why God specifically blessed day seven and the implications it has for man, who was created on day 6, simply to be whisked away to the Garden for rest on his very first day after his birth?
“This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'”
Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”
the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
“You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.
…the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. 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 ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?
Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.
For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
In the verses above, the holy Sabbath is treated with the absolute obedience it deserves. Why does one day of the week deserve such significance? Because it is a shadow that preaches the truth of perfection, which the six days thus far only preached in part. The goodness that is awaiting fulfillment – for the Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath – this Sabbath which is a sign for all generations of all times of the covenant between Adam (men) and God – the covenant of grace.
Following this, can we exegetes get anything more out of the number 7, which seems to occur so often in Scripture as well, often connected with the Sabbath?
Significance of the number ‘7’
Lest we become secular numerologists, we should know that our Lord, who is Lord of everything, our Logos, who is the -logy of everything, would have unsurprisingly invoked much symbolism carried behind every number used consistently throughout the Bible – from Satan’s mockery of the Trinity with his 666 (6 being the day man was created, thus 666 as a ‘created’ version of the false Satanic Trinity as opposed to the uncreated Holy Trinity aptly 777) to Jewish gematria. E.M. Bullinger in his “Number in Scripture” has this to say on the number seven:
“We come now to the great number of spiritual perfection. A number which, therefore, occupies so large a place in the works, and especially in the Word of God as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the first part of this book we have enlarged somewhat on the importance of this number in Nature and in Grace, so that we need not here repeat many of the interesting facts already given. As a number the actual word and number “SEVEN” is used as no other number is. Seven and its compound occur in multiples of seven in the Old Testament… It is, however, when we come to consider its significance that the true glories of its spiritual perfection as revealed. We have just seen that six is the number which is stamped upon all things human, as being emphatically the number of man.”
In the same chapter he goes on to describe quickly:
“In the Creation we have the six days and the seven. The six of labour and the seventh of rest.”
Then, in considering the chiasm consistent throughout the Hebraic Scripture in Psalm 8:6-8; Isaiah 11:2; Joel 2:28-29; and Romans 9:4 – all of which show the pattern of an umbrella exclamation (in Psalm 8:6-8 ) “Thou hast put all things under his feet” (followed by 6 things); (in Isaiah 11:2) “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” (followed by six explanations of this Spirit of the Lord); (in Joel 2:28-29) “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh;” (followed by six types of flesh); (in Romans 9:4) “Who are the Israelites;” (followed by six descriptions of the Israelites). All 7 verses in which 6 are used for explanation – not very much unlike the 6 days of labour used to explain and look forward to day seven the Sabbath day of rest.
Side note: Bullinger then also looks @ the pattern of the Golden Candlestick, of the six branches out of one central stem, making seven in all…
More importantly, Bullinger especially dissects the Hebrew of the word ‘Seven’:
“In the Hebrew, seven is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word ‘seven’ is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it. Hence the word Shavath, to cease, desist, rest, and Shabbath, Sabbath, or day of rest. This root runs through various languages; e.g., Sanscrit, saptan; Zend., hapta; Greek, hepta; Latin, septem. All these preserve the ‘t’, which in the Semitic and Teutonic languages is dropped out; e.g. Gothic, sibun; Germ., sieben; Eng., seven.
It is seven, therefore, that stamps with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used. Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seventh days, which artificial as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of that eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.
Another meaning of the root Shavagh is to swear, or make an oath. It is clear from its first occurence in Genesis 21:31, “They sware both of them,” that this oath was based upon the “seven ewe lambs” (vv. 28, 29, 30), which point to the idea of satisfaction or fulness in an oath. It is security, satisfaction, and fulness of the obligation, or completeness of the bond, which caused the same word to be used for both the number seven and an oath; and hence it is written, “an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife,” Beer-sheba, the well of the oath, is the standing witness of the spiritual perfection of the number seven.”
In the creative works of God, seven completes the colours of the spectrum and rainbow, and satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In each of these the eighth is only a repetition of the first.
Thus makes sense of the Sabbath year and Jubilee in Leviticus 25/27: 7 years, and 7 x 7 years – 50th year = Jubilee year – with characteristics akin to the Sabbath – Leviticus 25:11-12:
That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.
So after the Sabbath day, the day of perfection and fulfillment, was Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, resurrected and preparing for his ascension 40 days later and then return to his Father’s right hand. This very Sabbath, which is merely a shadow of the eternal rest which God is working towards on our behalf, until the finalities of his creations on the Day of resurrection when all creation is destroyed and also resurrected into new life, new heaven, new earth – not mere goodness but perfection as I emphasised in the previous post. The day itself is not important, the number itself is not important – the Israelites have given their 7th day as a shadow of fulfillment, and Christ has fulfilled all. Christ IS our Sabbath. He IS our eternal rest. David understood that truth when he ate the bread of presence which under the law he was forbidden to eat – that is because he saw through the legalism of Sabbath-idolaters, of Pharisaic worshippers, and knew that the true Bread of Life is Christ himself, that Christ himself is the Lord of Sabbath. Like the tabernacles and temples of yesteryear which were destroyed and rebuilt, an unending eternal Temple awaits; like the observations of the moons, suns and stars which in themselves provide only a fraction of God’s true glory and themselves will also be destroyed, so also the shadow of the Sabbath day will be destroyed only to be replaced by the truth of the eternal Day of rest.