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b) Gen 2:3: Moses wrote, “Then God blessed the seventh day and set it apart (qadash) because on it he ceased from labor, from all his work which God created in order to make [the cosmos].”

The apex of creation occurred on the seventh day, rather than taking place on the sixth.

Prior to this, the Lord called all the days “good” (tov) or “very (meod) good.” In contrast, God designated the seventh day as “holy” (qadosh).[1] The verb form also means[2] “set apart,” “observed as holy,” “consecrated,” “honored as sacred,” and “dedicated.”[3]

Interestingly, “the seventh day” is one of only two days of creation which features a definite article (“the”).

A review of the fifty-nine occurrences of the word “seventh” in the five books written by Moses indicates this number always appears with a definite article. All but three of these references concern the Sabbath, release from servitude, or some aspect of priestly service.[4]

Therefore, a definite article most likely appears in association with this day because God meant for us to follow his pattern of Sabbath rest on every seventh day. Although the cosmos does not center around people, the Lord instituted the Sabbath for the benefit of humanity.[5]



This participation of humans in God’s rest is a unique concept within the Ancient Near East (ANE).[6]

Israel appears to have first observed the Sabbath during their time in the wilderness (Exod 16:22–30).[7] By consecrating the Sabbath, the Lord divided days into ordinary time and holy time, creating a dichotomy between days of work and of rest (Exod 20:8–11).[8]

Those who observe it shall enjoy God’s blessing.[9]

The number seven was important throughout the ANE.

Mesopotamians restricted what could be done on the 7th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 28th days of each month. However, unlike in Israel, the day with the greatest prohibitions was the nineteenth.

Ugaritic Tablet 3, which dates from Moses’s era, specifies certain rituals and sacrifices for each day, with special emphasis upon the seventh.[10]

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist met an ancient man who survived the flood. He recalled:

Six days and [six] nights blows the flood wind, as the south-storm sweeps the land. When the seventh day arrived, the flood[-carrying] south-storm subsided…The sea grew quiet, the tempest was still, the flood ceased.”

After the ship ran aground, “When the seventh day arrived…Then I let out [all the people and animals] to the four winds and offered a sacrifice…Seven and seven cult-vessels I set up.”[11]

According to the Ugaritic Legend of King Keret, the monarch marched for six days and arrived at his enemy’s city at dawn on the seventh. After six days of battle, the besieged king made a pact with Keret in exchange for plunder. Keret fell asleep and awoke on the seventh day to sacrifice a lamb and a dove to El, the god who helped him.[12]

However, within the ANE, only Israel set the seventh day apart for rest.[13]



Ceasing from daily activities on the Sabbath is a sign of God’s covenant with his people (Exod 31:12–17).[14]

In fact, God’s pattern of work in Gen 1:1–2:3 forms the basis of the fourth commandment (Exod 20:8–11).[15] Since God ceased from his work, so should those he created in his image.[16]

When we keep the Sabbath, we assert that God reigns over the cosmos and we do not. Taking a day off from working to provide for our needs enables us to regain the Lord’s perspective of life (Isa 58:13–14).[17]

Furthermore, by ceasing to subdue the earth on every seventh day, we confess our allegiance to God.[18]

Although the Bible stipulates which sacrifices the Lord commanded Israel to offer on the Sabbath (Num 28:9–10; Ezek 46:4–5), we have very little information concerning what one was to do on that day of the week. Most of what we know centers upon what we should not do. In ancient Israel, worship does not appear to be the Sabbath’s most important aspect.[19]

By the time of Christ, Sabbath observance on the seventh day of the week included the reading and discussion of the Old Testament (Mark 1:21; Luke 4:14–21; Acts 13:13–15; Acts 15:21; Acts 17:1–3).[20]

First Corinthians, a letter written during 54–55 AD,[21] indicates that gentile congregations met together for worship, not on the Sabbath, but on Sunday. This practice originated in recognition that Jesus had risen “on the first day of the week,” making it the Lord’s Day (Matt 28:1; 1 Cor 16:1–2; Acts 20:7).[22]

Image via Wikimedia Commons  


b) Read Gen 2:3. Why did God cease from work on the seventh day? What are the implications of the Lord’s blessing of the Sabbath and making it holy for our lives? Why did gentile congregations meet on the first day of the week, rather than on the seventh?





Go to Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:1–8)

[Related posts include God Completes the Heavens and the Earth (Gen 2:1–2); Inhabitants of the Sea and Sky (Gen 1:20–23); Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); God Evaluates His Creation (Gen 1:31); A New Dawn (Matt 28:1); God’s Perception of Time (2 Pet 3:8); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 4: The Sabbath Rest of God (Genesis 2:1–3)]


[1] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 143.

[2]Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 1, 157.

[3] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “קָדַשׁ” (qadhosh), BDB, 872,

[4] Result of a word search of “שְּׁבִעִי” (shibiiy) in Logos 6.

[5] Walton, Genesis, 152.

[6] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 143.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 36.

[8] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 143.

[9] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 36.

[10]Cyrus Herzyl Gordon, “The Biblical Sabbath: Its Origin and Observance in the Ancient Near East,” Judaism 31, no. 1 (Winter 1982): 12–6, 13–4,

[11]E. A. Speiser, trans., “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 11:127–9, 145, 155–7, 94,

[12]H. L. Ginsberg, trans., “The Legend of King Keret,” in ANET, tablet 3, 144,

[13] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 71.

[14] Walton, Genesis, 153.

[15] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 71.

[16] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 36.

[17] Walton, Genesis, 152–4.

[18] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 67.

[19] Walton, Genesis, 153–4.

[20] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 71.

[21]Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 3.

[22]Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed. (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 899–900.