Does YHVH want us to freeze in the dark on the Sabbath?

Exodus 35:2, The seventh day … shall be … a set-apart day. In our journey through the Torah, the subject of the seventh day Sabbath keeps popping up. When YHVH said in Exodus 20:8 to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it set-apart (Heb. kadosh),” he keeps reminding them of it so that they won’t forget it! What does this tell us about the importance YHVH places on the weekly Sabbath? With each reminder, he gives additional instructions about how to keep the Sabbath (see Gen 2:2–3; Exod 16:23–30; 20:8–11).


Exodus 35:3, Kindle no fire…on the Sabbath day. There are several prevailing viewpoints as to the exact meaning of this passage. Let’s explore them.

The Orthodox Jews take literally the Torah’s prohibition to kindle no fire on the Sabbath. As such, many do not even turn on a light switch or start their cars (i.e., fire in the spark plugs) on the Sabbath for fear of violating this command. To counter balance this viewpoint, the Torah does indicate that the priest lit the menorah in the tabernacle each morning, the Sabbath not excluded (Exod 27:21–21; 30:7). So, for ministry purposes, lighting a fire seems not to be prohibited.

There is also the viewpoint that since the next verse (Exod 34:4) begins YHVH’s instructions to build the tabernacle, the immediate context of the Sabbath-fire passage has to do with not starting fires that pertain only to one’s trade or job—in Israel’s case, their job was the building of the mishkan. Fires would have been needed for tanning hides, working with metal, and possibly bending wood and dying cloth along with other activities.

This we know for certain. On the Sabbath, YHVH’s people are not to bake, cook or prepare food from scratch (Exod 16:23), but reheating food seems not to be prohibited—something that is even permitted in Orthodox Jewish circles today. What is the bottom line issue here? We are to cease creating on the Sabbath, and cooking food from scratch (as opposed to reheating) changes the chemistry of the food which constitutes creating something (i.e., transforming something from its original state into another state). So fires for cooking would have been prohibited, to be sure. Food must be prepared ahead of time on the sixth day.

Is this Torah command forbidding the lighting of fires for heat and light? Some would say yes, since part of preparing for the Sabbath involves insuring that your heating fire and lights will stay burning through the Sabbath without having to relight them. Was this always possible in ancient times? That’s a question we’ll explore below.

For one thing, it is doubtful that YHVH would have expected his hapless people to sit in the cold darkness on the Sabbath should their fire have gone out—especially in the winter months when the days are shorter and colder, and when snow and cold rain are realities. This would result in the loss of the delight of the day, which, in itself, is a violation the Sabbath (Isa 58:13).

The harsh realities of life in a primitive agrarian culture are evident. The ancient Israelites, obviously, didn’t possess electric or gas push-button heat or lights. If YHVH forbad them from lighting a fire for heat and light purposes, then they would have had to start a fire on Friday before sundown and keep it burning all night and through the Sabbath. This means that if the fire happened to go out during the night because someone slept too soundly and didn’t wake up to add wood to the fire or olive oil to their small terra cotta lamps (which burned only for a short time), then they would either sit in the cold and dark on the Sabbath, or they’d have to fetch some coals from a neighbor who hadn’t let their fire go out. The Israelite who lived in town had another option as well. Often in towns, there were public ovens built into the earth with clay cooking tubes for baking bread. For those who lived nearby, they could bring back some embers from these public ovens to restart their home fires (Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, pp. 47–48, by Fred H. Wight).

In modern times, for those who heat their homes with a wood stove, the most energy efficient home-sized wood stove will burn only for six to eight hours if one has access to hardwoods (like oak, maple or fruitwood) as fuel. Despite one’s best efforts to keep the stove burning all night and the house warm, at times the fire goes out. In the land of Israel, large hardwood trees aren’t prevalent. In ancient times, if they had been, no doubt several million Israelites constantly foraging for hardwood to keep their fires burning would have quickly depleted the region of trees—especially in that arid land where trees grow slowly. In reality, the Israelites were more likely to have used sticks (1 Kgs 17:10), thorn bushes, bundles of dried grass (Matt 6:30; Luke 12:28), charcoal (John 18:18; 21:9 Williams) or dried dung for fire fuel (Ezek 4:15; Ibid., p. 30). Furthermore, warming fires were often built in courtyards (John 18:18). Such fires don’t burn long. At the same time, making fire wouldn’t have been an easy process either, since this was accomplished by rubbing sticks together or by striking flint and steel (Ibid. p. 31).

For sure we know that in days before matches, lighters, push-button furnaces, lights and stoves, starting and maintaining a fire wasn’t a simple task. At the same time, it seems that YHVH wouldn’t have expected the Sabbath to end up becoming a miserable, weekly lesson in wilderness survival in having many of his servants freeze to death in the darkness on this day of joyful rest because their fires went out. He did, however, expect his people to make every possible effort to prepare for the Sabbath ahead of time to keep it from being just another day of laborious work (Exod 16:23). However, this author finds it hard to believe that the Torah forbids starting a fire for heat and light if necessary—especially during the winter months. Therefore, I maintain that starting fires for work purposes was forbidden, but for heat and light purposes, if unavoidable, was permitted.


19 thoughts on “Does YHVH want us to freeze in the dark on the Sabbath?

  1. Greeting! I was actually reading this earlier today as I began studying the portion for next Shabbat! Regarding the cooking, baking etc vs re-heating. I do not have clarity on this yet so am not arguing the point at all, and actually try to do this ,but have had a thought about it that may or may not be relevant. So………Ex 16:23. Clearly the 7th Day portion is gathered on Day 6. I am unclear (have read every version I can find!) if the amount left over is before or after it was baked or boiled. Everyday they gathered an amount and on the one day they gathered double. Did they cook it all or did they cook what they needed for that day and saved the remaining to be prepared the next day? Specifically it says that it didn’t spoil and that wouldn’t even need to be said if it was cooked, right? Only the raw would encourage spoiling…….? Is it possible that the gathering (purchasing?) is what is prohibited and that preparing what you have already gathered and set aside is ok? I am not talking about cake baking here! I mean as in cooking a simple meal………eggs & veggies, making a salad, and perhaps more involved…………..but not recipes, just cooking. Whacha think?

    • I don’t know that I really have any good answers for you about the manna. The Jews teach that cooking that causes chemical reactions to occur and thus a change in the molecular structure of the food is a creative act, and is thus prohibited. YHVH set us the example by resting on the Sabbath from his creative activities, and we are to follow his example. Reheating already cooked food isn’t considered a creative act.

      Beyond that, the main point of the Sabbath is to rest and to spend time drawing closer to YHVH. The more time we spend preparing food, the less time we have for him. Therefore, it behooves us, and is to our great benefit, to prepare ahead of time as much as is possible so we can enjoy the true purpose of the Sabbath. The details of how we achieve this are for us to work out with the Father.

      • I assume that the “fire” referred to here is the Holy Spirit, frequently referred to as fire. The Sabbath is the end of this age, when we rest in Christ’s work for us.
        Therefore, this passage is saying that there will no need to “walk in the Holy Spirit” (i.e. kindle a fire) when “time is no more” because God will dwell among us!

      • Let’s be careful about overly allegorizing Scripture or else we can make the Scriptures say whatever we want. Primarily, fire means literal fire. Once we establish this basic hermeneutic, then, we can carefully draw some spiritual, allegorical insights out of the basic truth of the Scripture.

        Next point, the Sabbath isn’t primarily the end of the age when we rest in Messiah as Christianity teaches. The writer of Hebrews (chapter 4) likens the Sabbath to the rest the Israelites found when they came into the Promised Land of the physical inheritance. Yes, in a sense, when one puts their faith in Yeshua, they have found their rest from the struggles of life, but only to a certain extent. We won’t have complete rest until the Millennium of which the weekly Sabbath is a spiritual and prophetic picture.

        For example, in ancient times, Moses found rest in the Presence of Elohim when he went into the tabernacle under the glory cloud, but he was still in the wilderness. They hadn’t reached the Promised Land yet. Similarly, the individual believer finds spiritual rest in Yeshua even though we’re still trekking through the wilderness of life en route to the promised land of eternal life in YHVH’s millennial kingdom leading to eternity beyond.

        Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is still guiding us now even as the pillar of fire led the Israelites through the wilderness. Once in the Promised Land, YHVH led his people by the Torah and the prophets, which is the Word and Spirit of Elohim. We’re still led today by the Word and Spirit of Elohim. In the Millennium, the Spirit will still leading people in the paths of righteousness. Go read Isaiah 30:21.

    • [Exo 16:23 He said to them, “This is that which the YHVH has spoken, ‘Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Shabbat to the YHVH . Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning.”

      • What about nursing mothers, Should they not bath their babies on the Sabbath since that will require work?

      • The Bible defines work as being laborious, servile, creative as in creating something from nothing requiring labor. Maintaining personal cleanliness hardly fits these definitions. I surprised that anyone would even suggest that it does.

  2. Not to far from where I live a woman lost 3 of her 4 children in a fire from a hot plate, she said it was the Sabbath so she could kindle no fire leaving the hot plate on…

  3. Oh, dear. This is one of the big dicussions in Torah Observant homes. There will always be extremes on any topic. The Shabbat, being so cental to our desire to please YHVH, lends itself to all of them.
    The way I read it, at the time of the writing, the Hebrews had one “JOB”, to build the Tabernacle of YHVH, His own dwelling, place of connection with them. But even that was to cease on Shabbat. Don’t even plan ahead for the next day. Because the Tabernacle itself was just a Shadow of the relationship He had in mind. They labored six days looking forward to the day they could rest in Him.
    The whole week is a joyful anticipation of the day we get to stop………….and rest. Give your hands a time to reach out and touch family and friends, your feet a time to walk slow and quit paths, your heart a time to listen… to just Him.
    As a senior and a woman, however, I have found it very difficult to “set apart a day of rest”, I don’t work the six. Do I still need a seventh? I do. But how do I express and enjoy?
    I would love to hear from others in my place who have found ways to make the Shabbat a delight. thanks

    • Hi Vicki!! I think you work and just don’t realize it…… make the bed and do laundry and wash dishes and clean house and plan and prepare meals and shop for them……..and pay bills and run errands…… You “work” more than you realize! Perhaps schedule ahead to have everything done by sundown on Shabbat. Plan to have a nice meal ready and enjoy a glass of wine with it……….then perhaps watch a teaching or read the word. Fellowship with others on the DAY of Shabbat and enjoy the things you prepared to eat ahead of time. You might use fancy paper plates that you can throw out to mark the difference from a meal that requires a lot of clean up!

  4. I have to say I do agree with you Natan on this. My husband and I have gone over this several times we have now laid it to rest in Yehovah thru Yeshua. I believe his grace and mercy comes into place in the areas when we fall short or possibly miss the mark on his instructions; in Yeshua’s name in this Renewed Covenant. Shalom and Blessings

    • Hoping you are all well!

      Some scripture to ingest;

      1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
      2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
      3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
      – Matthew 23:1-3 KJV (verses 2&3 here need serious reading).

      At the same time;

      In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
      -Luke 12:1 KJV

      Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
      – Revelation 22:14 KJV

      May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; bless you, in the name of His risen Son Adonai Yehoshua HaMoshiach (the Lord Jesus Christ);

      For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
      -John 3:16 KJV

      Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
      -Acts 3:19 KJV

      He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
      -Mark 16:16 KJV

      28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
      31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
      – Romans 3:28, 31 KJV


      For more on what the scribes and Pharisees say, please study texts like the Mishna (the currectly free ‘Kehati’ mobile version is quite user friendly. The language can be changed to English buy accessing the top right menu button, clicking the ‘slider’ looking button, and selecting ‘change language’, and then English). The Talmud, and Shulchan Aruch also have content from the Pharisees.

      May the LORD God bless you, in His son!


      • I have the Mishna in my library and have consulted it from time to time over the years for historical background purposes. However, I would advise people to spend more time reading the Bible then what men have to say about it. Learn the truth by studying it directly. Blessings.

  5. If I am to keep the Sabbath I will reverence the Most High on that day, pray and worship YAHUAH with my family together with the reading of scriptures all through that day but my family most feed. I can’t eat cold food so I will cook my food to eat. Shabbat was meant for man and not man for the Sabbath. In as much as YAHUSHA’s disciple plucked ears of corn to eat on Sabbath day and he did not condemned them I will cook my food on the Sabbath day to feed but I wont do any major work. Keeping the Sabbath is to worship the Father in Spirit and truth and having a time to rest and while resting meditation on his word. I cook to feed on the Sabbath day but at the same I conduct a solmn fellowship with my family on the Sabbath day, we do no major work so no one should Judge me of cooking on the Sabbath. Paul said let know one judge you as regards keeping of Sabbath and new moons and festivals. David ate the shew bread that was not lawful for him to eat and was not condemned so why should I be condemned for kindling a fire to cook food that will eat on the Sabbath day. I think all this stringent laws for keeping sabbath is the reason a lot of people don’t keep to it. Cooking on the Sabbath day what my family will eat does not in any way stop me from Fellowshipping, singing hyms, praying and reading the scriptures with my entire family on the Sabbath day so long as we are doing it until the Most High.

    • Yesbi agree thay all the stringent rules are a big reason shabbat is not kept. It becomes a burden that does not seem to be for man. Work according to strongs…Strong’s Definitions: מְלָאכָה mᵉlâʼkâh, mel-aw-kaw’; from the same as H4397; properly, deputyship, i.e. ministry; generally, employment (never servile) or work (abstractly or concretely); also property (as the result of labor):—business, cattle, industrious, occupation, ( -pied), officer, thing (made), use, (manner of) work((-man), -manship).
      Wow that is a rest from work and a blessing as well. I have easily followed no cooking until winter hit. Warm hot food and drink is a must to maintain that restful joy day provided for us. Nothing major is ever cooked. Sometimes a rewarming of the day before some times somelike hot hash browns an scrambled eggs. Simple easy quick. Hopefully I find pleasure in His site by this action.

  6. I have three questions.

    1.Can I use my electric stove on sabbath for heating and warming up food? Is electric considered kettling fire to yah?(I stay in the northern regions of America and it gets very very cold and I’ve seen people say dont run hot water because of the obvious reasons of fire with the water heater but here we HAVE TO let the warm water run or the pipes will freeze and bust)

    2.can I make a fruit smoothie with my blender on sabbath. (A friend told me that’s prepping so its a sin but I feel like I’m just throwing some fruit in a blender with water and the blender is doing all the work.

    3. is it a sin to kettle fire on sabbath the same way its a sin to kill? Will you share the same bunk in jail/hell with a killer. Is it that serious?

    I know they stoned a man to death for just gathering on sabbath in the bible and they were very strick but I know those times are not like how they are now. (Depending where you live)
    Couldn’t they have just let God be the judge at judgement day for that man?
    I feel we do more holding each other accountable and judging before God do/can/will.

    • You will have to seek Elohim for the specific answers to questions one and two. Scripture gives the general principles and guidelines for keeping the Sabbath holy and not profaning it. How each of us specifically applies those principles is between us and our Creator. For me to tell you what to do or not do is to impose upon you my own standards and this can get into a form of legalism, and I won’t do that.

      As far as the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath, this was more than just this simple act. He was acting in willful defiance and disobedience. Big difference. The judgment that came on him was more as a result of the second sin as opposed to the first sin of simply picking up sticks. Willful disobedience is a serious sin. When we know what do to and defiantly go against Yah’s laws, this is a serious offense. If that man had not been put to death, then this sin of rebellion would have spread like a spiritual contagion throughout the camp of Israel and would have brought judgment on many more people. So this act of rebellion had to be stopped dead in its tracks before it got out of hand very quickly.

      It’s critically important that we read the Bible narrative in its total context, and not just cherry pick out certain elements of the story, otherwise the truth gets skewed very quickly and the wrong conclusions occur. Sadly and to its shame, many so-called Bible teachers in the Christian church do just that and make the Bible say a lot of things that it never said, and we have learned to do the same from them. It’s time to unlearn such destructive habits.

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