The Other Side of the Sabbath Law—Thou Shalt Work Six Days!

Exodus 16:4–30, The Sabbath. This chapter chronicles YHVH’s efforts to literally force an irreverent, unruly and disobedient nation to keep the seventh day Sabbath. He did so in a most poignant way—through food and hunger. It’s as if he were instructing the stiff-necked and rebellious Israelites that if they refused to follow his Sabbath instructions, they would literally go hungry. “If you don’t obey me, you don’t eat.” This shows the gravity the Creator places on the Sabbath command. Yet despite these clear instructions, most in the Babylonian church today, like the rebellious children of Israel of old, refuse to obey YHVH’s clear instructions regarding the Sabbath. Instead, they prefer to believe the doctrines of men proffered to them by their spiritual leaders that purport to invalidate the Sabbath command. Paul’s sage observation in Romans 8:7 describes the situation perfectly: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim: for it is not subject to the [Torah] law of Elohim, neither indeed can be.” In our day, the same question can still be asked of followers of Yeshua that YHVH asked of the Israelites at that time, “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?” (Exod 16:28).

Not only this, but by forcing the Israelites to gather manna each day, he was teaching them to work six  days for their daily bread. Though the bread came from heaven—YHVH’s was its source—he still required the people to work each day by going out and gathering it. There is no free lunch even where YHVH is concerned. The nation of Israel wasn’t a welfare state empowering lazy freeloaders! If a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat.

The Sabbath command in Exodus 20 not only prescribes resting on the Sabbath, but this presupposes that one has followed the preceding command to work the previous six days. Humans are naturally inclined to laziness. If one doesn’t have to work, they won’t. YHVH works maintaining and sustaining the universe. YHVH who created humans in his image expects us to follow his example of working and then resting.

Moreover, this chapter is almost entirely dedicated to instructions pertaining to preparing for the Sabbath. This shows the priority that YHVH places on Sabbath observance for his people. Also note that these instructions are given many weeks before the official giving of the Torah (or law of Moses) at Mount Sinai. This is but one of the many examples of YHVH revealing key aspects of his Torah-law before he gave it the Israelites in one legal codified corpus at Mount Sinai.


What is man and what is he to do?

peasant silhouette on white background

Genesis 3:23, To till/work [Heb. abad] the ground [Heb. adamah] from which he was taken. Adam means “man, mankind, ground, land, and is a cognate to adom meaning “red,” and relates to the ruddiness of man’s complexion. According to The TWOT, this word has to do with the man as being created in Elohim’s image, the crown of his creation.

In this verse, Elohim commissioned Adam to work or to serve the earth/adamah.

In a homiletic sense, this command of YHVH could be construed to mean that Adam/man who is spiritually rough and ruddy, yet who is created in the image of Elohim, has been commissioned to work on himself to work on and to conquer his [base] sin nature and to bring himself into conformity with the image of YHVH.

Another facet of this idea could be that through the experiences and struggles of hard work, man will learn to overcome his fallen sin nature and rise to the higher calling of becoming like Elohim in nature. In a sense, hard work is part of man’s redemption process.

In a most fundamental sense, YHVH created man to serve or take care of the earth. Therefore, agriculture and horticulture are the professions that are the closest to YHVH’s original purpose for man.