Richard ‘Aharon’

Chaimberlin, Litt.D.

SHABBATEven in traditional Christianity, there are Torah commandments which are honored in the church. Most Christians, for instance, accept the Ten Commandments. Therefore, they don’t murder or steal. They also believe that commandments which were given before the so-called Law of Moses[1] (such as tithing) are valid, as well as any commandments which are repeated in the New Testament.

An exception seems to be Shabbat – the Sabbath. Most Christians shun the Sabbath commandment, or else they transfer the holiness of the Sabbath to Sunday.

     We read in Genesis 1:31b to 2:3: “And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all his work which God created and made.” These verses are read as part of the Shabbat (Sabbath) liturgy each week in Judaism. However, this recites an event that happened long before Moses. The seventh day was sanctified, set apart from all the other days of the week. Adam was created on the sixth day of Creation. On the following day, the Sabbath was instituted, when the first man – Adam – was only one-day old!

     The Sabbath continues as a memorial of Creation – the fact that “God said…” and it was so. God spoke the world into existence through His creative Word. In Yochanan 1:1-3, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” In other words, Yeshua is the Word of God through whom the universe came into being. It puzzles me that Christians who believe in Creation instead of evolution will ignore the Sabbath, which stands as a memorial to the fact that we were created by God, not evolved from pond scum.

The Sabbath was not a Jewish invention; there weren’t any Jews yet! As Yeshua said, “The Sabbath was made for man,[2] and not man for the Sabbath.” [3] The Sabbath was made for man, which includes all mankind (and woman-kind, too!). The Sabbath isn’t just for the Jewish people! Adam was only a day old when he had to take a day off to celebrate the Sabbath! I would assume that generations thereafter continued to observe the Sabbath. Even though many are honoring the “wrong day” as a Sabbath (such as Sunday-keepers and Muslims), it is interesting that the seven-day week has been preserved around the world. The seven-day week stands as a memorial to Creation. It is truly supernatural that it remains to this day.

Even though we don’t hear much about the Sabbath in Genesis, I suspect that Abraham and his household continued to observe many of the commandments in Torah. We read in Genesis 26 of the promise given to Isaac: “Sojourn in this land (Canaan), and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you, and to your seed, I will give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4 And I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these lands; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept My charge (mishmeret), My commandments (mitzvot), My statutes (chukot), and My instructions (tarot).” This includes many types of ordinances. It sounds to me like Abraham was very much aware of God’s laws! I strongly suspect that Abraham and his household were aware of many of God’s commandments, long before Moses wrote them down. This would include Shabbat.

During the years of Hebrew slavery in Egypt, it is likely that observance of Shabbat all but disappeared, due to the extreme conditions that the Israelites lived under. YHWH gradually reintroduced the various commandments and statutes. One of the first of these observances to be reintroduced was Shabbat, in Exodus 16. In this chapter, the Israelites were commanded to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day (“Friday”), because there would be no manna on Shabbat. They were supposed to rest on the Sabbath. This was also before Sinai.

The Eseret HaD’varim (“Ten Commandments,” lit. “Ten Sayings {or Words})” were given on Mount Sinai. According to Exodus 31:18, the commandments on the two stone tablets were “written by the finger of God.” These would, presumably, be the more important commandments, since God wrote them down with His own finger. The Fourth Commandment beginning in Exodus 20:8 is the commandment to “Zachor  (remember) the Shabbat, to keep it holy.” The Jewish nation is told to “remember” the Sabbath, because the Sabbath had been very much “lost” or forgotten during 400 years of slavery. As Moses retold the Ten Commandments almost 40 years later in Deuteronomy 5, he wrote that we are told to “Shamor (observe or “guard”) the Shabbat, to keep it holy.” [4] At this time, the institution of Shabbat was now engraved on the consciousness of the Jewish people. Now we are commanded to “guard” the Shabbat, to save it for future generations. Traditionally, two Sabbath candles are lit each Friday just before sunset to welcome the Sabbath. One of the candles is for “Zachor (remember) the Shabbat,” and the other candle is for “Shamor (guard or observe) the Shabbat.”

More importantly, we should note the entire context of the Fourth Commandment regarding the Sabbath. There are those who will insist that Shabbat is just for the Jews. However, the context of this commandment tells us that the Israelites are not the only ones who should observe this commandment. We learn that it is also a command for “your manservant, your maidservant, your cattle, and the stranger that is within your gates.” In other words, it is a commandment to be observed also by the Gentiles. In addition, we are not even to make our beast work on Shabbat! [5] Also, the reason for observing Shabbat is given in the following verse in Exodus 20:11: “For in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day. Therefore YHWH blessed the Shabbat, and hallowed it.”

This is also the longest of the Ten Commandments, taking up 4 verses. Most of the commandments only take up one verse.

In Exodus 31, we once again have a retelling of the Sabbath commandment: “Verily my Sabbaths you shall observe, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am YHWH who sanctifies you. 14 You shall observe the Shabbat therefore, for it is holy unto you. Everyone that defiles it shall surely be put to death, for whosoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to YHWH. Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days YHWH made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday, and ends 24 hours later at sunset on Saturday.

In the above passage, we find that this is indeed a very important commandment! The possible penalty for non-observance was the death penalty. Even stealing doesn’t carry the death penalty! However, there is also mercy in Torah. I only know of one person who actually got the death penalty for working on Shabbat – the fellow who was gathering sticks for a fire on Shabbat in Exodus 16. However, the possible death penalty shows how seriously God feels about this commandment. In verse 17, we discover it is a sign of the eternal covenant between God and Israel. Those who ignore this commandment are reinforcing the lie that God has abandoned the Jewish people, a heresy called Replacement Theology, in which the “church” has replaced Israel. Those who embrace this heresy should reread Romans 9–11, particularly Romans 11:1-2. And lastly, Exodus 31 reinforces observance of Shabbat as a memorial of Creation.

Isaiah 56:6-7 tells us that Shabbat is also for the Gentiles: “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to YHWH, to serve him, and to love the name of YHWH, to be his servants, every one that keeps from profaning the Sabbath and takes hold of My covenant, 7 even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Later on, Isaiah writes, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of YHWH, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, 14 then you shall delight yourself in YHWH, and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of YHWH has spoken it.” [6]

     Some Christians read these above verses and think it is wrong for children to play or enjoy themselves on Sunday, which has effectively replaced Shabbat, despite the overwhelming evidence in Scripture that the sanctity of the Sabbath was never transferred to “Sunday,” which originally was a day set aside to honor the Sun God. Daniel Botkin writes about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Pa told Laura “how his family kept the ‘Sabbath’ (i.e., Sunday) when Grandpa was a boy. After a cold Sunday-morning breakfast, they walked to church. They were not allowed to laugh or talk or even smile on the way to church. At church they dared not fidget or swing their feet or look out of a window. On the way home, they could talk quietly, but laughing and smiling were still forbidden. After a cold dinner, the children sat in a row on a bench and studied their catechism till the sun went down. The entire day was a dreary, somber, pleasureless day.” [7]

     This is not what Isaiah meant when he told the people about “not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure” on Shabbat. The very next verse tells us to call the Sabbath a “delight.” As Botkin said, “If the Sabbath is to be purged of all pleasure, how can it be a delight?” Obviously, what is being referred to are pleasures that are contradictory to Torah or to specific things contrary to God’s instructions on how to observe Shabbat. This would include activities such as buying and selling on Shabbat.[8] For us, a Sabbath-day’s journey is a tank of gas. If we have to buy gas on Shabbat, then the distance is too far. It doesn’t mean that children (or adults) can’t play games or ride a bicycle on Shabbat. That is pure legalism, which unfortunately some Sabbath-keepers have adopted from legalistic Sunday-keepers. Of course, another very important part of Shabbat is to “delight yourself in YHWH, and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth.”

     One of the very last things written by Isaiah (66:22-23) also concerns Shabbat: ‘For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith YHWH, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ saith YHWH.”

     This tells us that Shabbat is an eternal ordinance, to be observed even after the Millennium, and also that it is for “all flesh,” not just for the Jews.


In no place does the Newer Testament transfer the sanctity of Shabbat to “Sunday.” I suggest that you look up in your concordance all the references to the seventh-day Sabbath and to all the other six days of the week. You would find more references even in the Newer Testament to the Sabbath than to all the other six days of the week put together. I would very much recommend purchasing a pamphlet called Roman Catholic and Protestant Confessions About Sunday.[9] This concise little booklet is loaded with statements from various famed Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians stating that there is nothing in the Bible that confirms the Sabbath being changed to Sunday. Also, Samuele Bachiocchi, in his book From Sabbath to Sunday,[10] has a chapter called “Anti-Judaism in the (Church) Fathers and the Origin of Sunday.” He confirms that the origin of Sunday is paganism, anti-Judaism, as well as plain anti-Semitism.

     Occasionally there are verses in the NT which are incorrectly translated from the Greek, such as Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” The KJV translators are at least kind enough to put words in italics that were added by the translators to give sense to the translation. In this case, day is in italics, because there is no Greek word for day for this verse in the original manuscripts. In my Interlinear Bible, the English translation above the Greek words says, “And on one of the Sabbaths…” The Greek word clearly says “Sabbaths,” yet most translations leave out that vital word. Is it deliberate deception, or an honest mistake that all translators seem to make? I believe it is deliberate deception, in which the translators change the “translation” to agree with their theologies.[11] In this particular instance in Acts, the Believers had gathered together near the end of Shabbat on a Saturday to “break bread,” having a fellowship meal together. Rav Shaul continued teaching after sunset until past midnight. This would be called Motsi Shabbat, which is Saturday after sunset.

     Another favorite “proof text” for Sunday-keepers is Revelation 1:10: “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” This is the only place in Scripture where we see the term “Lord’s day.” Christians usually assume that this is “Sunday,” even though there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case. There are many references in the Tanakh (O.T.) to “the day of the LORD,” which would be another way of saying “Lord’s day.” In most of the cases where we see “the day of the LORD,” it is a day of judgment or extreme tribulation.[12] The passage in Revelation 1:10 means that Yochanan was transferred “in the Spirit” to a future “day of the LORD,” where he witnessed many of the events described in the book of Revelation. This is not a reference to “Sunday.” However, Sunday-keepers are desperate for a verse to justify replacing the Sabbath with the first day of the week, so they cling to this verse in desperation.

Although we strongly endorse observance of the Sabbath for all of our readers, we do not necessarily endorse observing Shabbat in the manner in which it is done in Orthodox Judaism, which has a multitude of rules and regulations on how to observe the Sabbath. For instance, Orthodox Jews can’t drive, or walk more than about a kilometer on Shabbat. They can’t rip toilet paper, so all toilet paper is ripped up early on Friday, because ripping paper is considered “work.” You can’t turn a light on or off. The list goes on and on. Legalism!

     If we were to observe Shabbat as is done in Orthodox Judaism, most of us would not be able to attend Shabbat services. In most cases, people live more than a kilometer from Sabbath services, whether it is in someone‘s home or in a congregation. In most cases, it might be necessary to drive or walk too far.

Scripture mentions a prohibition against “kindling a fire” in Exodus 35:3. The Rabbis believe that when you drive, you have kindled a fire in the engine compartment of your automobile. I disagree with the reasoning. It was a huge job to kindle a fire 3000 years ago. It involved rubbing two sticks together or trying to get a spark by smashing rocks together. Turning the key to start your motor on Shabbat is not something I would consider as being prohibited. If we were to carry this to its logical conclusion, we in northern climates would not be able to move in the colder months, because static electricity causes multiple sparks as we try to move around inside the house.

However, let us assume that that the Rabbis are right about driving on Shabbat. In Leviticus 23:2, we learn that the Sabbath and each of the Holy Days in this chapter is a mikra kodesh (holy convocation or “calling together”). Even if you feel that it is a “sin” to drive on Shabbat, I believe that the commandment to assemble with other believers on Shabbat outweighs how one may feel about the sparks coming forth from the spark plugs. We are commanded to assemble with others on Shabbat. However, you have the freedom to be obedient to God or disobedient. In addition, in Hebrews 10:23-25 we receive the following instructions: “Let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Believers are instructed to gather together to encourage each other spiritually. What better day than on the day given to us by God, the Sabbath? You are free to get together to worship on Sunday or any other day of the week. However, the day in which we are commanded to gather together is on the Sabbath.

     Lastly, to protect the sanctity of Shabbat, we strongly suggest that you avoid secular radio, television, or music on the Sabbath. If you have good religious videos or CDs (and we hope you do!), then enjoy these on Shabbat. There are six other days of the week to watch or listen to secular entertainment. Don’t profane the Sabbath with rubbish. (Of course, some secular entertainment should always be avoided. You can get rid of cable or satellite television, and save some money!)

[1] The “Law of Moses” is really the Law of God. Moses was merely the messenger.

[2] The name of the first man – Adam – is also a term that means “man.” Please notice: Yeshua did not say, “The Sabbath was made for the Jews, but that it was made for man.

[3] Mark 2:27.

[4] D’varim (Deuteronomy) 5:12.

[5] Thus, our kitty will not work on Shabbat.

[6] Isaiah 58:13-14.

[7] Quoted from Gates of Eden, Vol.12, No.5,  p.7. POB 2257, E Peoria IL 61611. © 2006.

[8]See Nehemiah 13:13-22.

[9] Write to: The Bible Sabbath Association, 802 NW 21st Ave. Battle Ground WA 98604. Send $1 for one copy, $20 for 100 copies.

[10]Available from: Biblical Perspectives, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs MI 49103. © 1977.

[11]The Interlinear Bible, Jay P. Green, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI 49506, © 1979

[12]Some examples: Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Zephaniah 1:7,14.