HISTORY OF THE SABBATH
AND FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
THE INSTITUTION OF THE SABBATH
ALTHOUGH the work of the Creator was finished, the first week of time was not yet completed. Each of the six days had been distinguished by the Creator’s work upon it; but the seventh was rendered memorable in a very different manner. “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.” In yet stronger language it is written: “On the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” Gen. 2:2; Ex. 31:17.
Thus the seventh day of the week became the rest day of the Lord. How remarkable is this fact! “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” Isa. 40:28. He needed not rest; yet it is written, “On the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” Why does not the record simply state the cessation of the Creator’s work? Why did he at the close of that work employ a day in rest? The answer will be learned from the next verse— Gen. 2:3. He was laying the foundation of a divine institution, the memorial of his own great work.
“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.” The fourth commandment states the same fact: He “rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11.
The Hebrew root, “seven,” signifies fullness, perfection; and almost universally among the ancients, seven was the holy number, denoting perfection. Undoubtedly the key to this lies in the very fact that God created this world out of naught into a state of perfection during the first seven days, and that in the beginning, by his rest, blessing, and sanctification, he set apart the seventh day as the great memorial of the completion of his creative work. The Bible commences with a seven, as a token that, before sin had entered paradise, the first creation was “very good;” and closes with a number of sevens, to indicate that, in spite of sin, there will be a new creation unto eternal perfection. One writer fitly expressed it thus: “John in his Apocalypse useth much that number; as, seven churches, seven stars, seven spirits, seven candlesticks, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets: and we no sooner meet with a seventh day, but it is blessed; no sooner with a seventh man [Gen. 5:24; Jude 14], but he is translated.”— “Morality of the Fourth Commandment,” p. 7; London, 1652.
The blessing and sanctification of the seventh day were because God had rested upon it. His resting upon it, then, was to lay the foundation for blessing and sanctifying the day. His being refreshed with this rest implies that he delighted in the act which laid the foundation for the memorial of his great work.
The second act of the Creator in instituting this memorial was to place his blessing upon the day of his rest. Thenceforward it was the blessed rest day of the Lord. A third act completes the sacred institution: the day already blessed of God is now, last of all, sanctified, or hallowed, by him. To sanctify is “to make sacred or holy; to set apart to a holy or religious use; to consecrate by appropriate rites; to hallow.” To hallow is “to make holy; to set apart for holy or religious use; to consecrate.”
Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary on the words sanctify and hallow. Edition 1882.
“’God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.’ Gen. 2:3. Moses ...sanctified Aaron and his garments. Lev. 8:30.”
“Sanctify: To set apart as holy or for holy purposes; consecrate; hallow; as, the Sabbath was sanctified by God.”— Standard Dictionary.
The time when these three acts were performed is worthy of special notice. The first act was that of rest. This took place on the seventh day; for the day was devoted to rest. The second and third acts took place when the seventh day was past. “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work.” Hence it was on the first day of the second week of time that God blessed the seventh day, and set it apart to a holy use. The blessing and sanctification of the seventh day, therefore, relate, not to the first seventh day of time, but to the seventh day of the week for time to come, in memory of God’s rest on that day from the work of creation.
With the beginning of time, God began to count days, giving to each an ordinal number for its name. Seven different days received as many different names. In memory of that which he did on the last of these days, he set that day apart by name to a holy use. This act gave existence to weeks, or periods of seven days; for with the seventh day he ceased to count, and by the divine appointment of that day to a holy use in memory of his rest thereon, he caused man to begin the count of a new week as soon as the first seventh day had ceased. And as God has been pleased to give man in all but seven different days, and has given to each one of these days a name which indicates its exact place in the week, his act of setting apart one of these by name, which act established the week and gave man the Sabbath, can never— except by sophistry— be made to relate to an indefinite or uncertain day.
The days of the week are measured off by the rotation of our earth on its axis; and hence our seventh day, as such, can come only to dwellers on this globe. To Adam and Eve, therefore, as inhabitants of this earth, and not to the inhabitants of some other world, were the days of the week given to use. Hence, when God set apart one of these days to a holy use in memory of his own rest on that day of the week, the very essence of the act consisted in his telling Adam that this day should be used only for sacred purposes. Adam was then in the garden of God, placed there by the Creator to dress it and to keep it. He was also commissioned of God to subdue the earth. Gen. 2:15; 1:28. When, therefore, the rest day of the Lord should return from week to week, all this secular employment, however proper in itself, must be laid aside, and the day be observed in memory of the Creator’s rest.
Martin Luther, in his “Sermons on Genesis,” thus clearly testifies to the existence of the Sabbath before man sinned:—
“Seeing the Scriptures mention the Sabbath before Adam, was not he then commanded to work six days, and rest on the seventh?— Doubtless so, for we hear that he should labor in Eden, and have dominion over the fishes, birds, and beasts.” Erlanger edition, vol. 33, p. 67.
That man would have kept the Sabbath, had he not fallen into sin, Luther shows, as follows:—
“And this labor and dominion would have remained— yet without toil and misery. Woman would also have borne children, yet without anguish, wailing, or travail: but on the seventh day all would have been quiet and at rest.” Erlanger edition, vol. 33, p. 68.
The Hebrew verb kahdash, here rendered sanctified, and in the fourth commandment rendered hallowed, is defined by Gesenius, “To pronounce holy, to sanctify; to institute any holy thing, to appoint.” Hebrew Lexicon, p. 914. Edition 1854. It is repeatedly used in the Old Testament for a public appointment, or proclamation. Thus, when the cities of refuge were set apart in Israel, it is written: “They appointed [Heb., “sanctified,” margin] Kedesh in Galilee in Mount Naphtali, and Shechem in Mount Ephraim,” etc. This sanctification, or appointment, of the cities of refuge was by a public announcement to Israel that these cities were set apart for that purpose. This verb is also used for the appointment of a public fast, and for the gathering of a solemn assembly, as in the following instances: “Sanctify [i.e., appoint] ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God.” “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify [i.e., appoint] a fast, call a solemn assembly.” “And Jehu said, Proclaim [Heb., “sanctify,” margin] a solemn assembly for Baal.” Joshua 20:7; Joel 1:14; 2:15; 2Kings 10:20,21; Zeph. 1:7, margin. This appointment for Baal was so public that all the worshipers of Baal in all Israel were gathered together. These fasts and solemn assemblies were sanctified, or set apart, by a public appointment, or proclamation, of the fact. When, therefore, God set apart the seventh day to a holy use, it was necessary that he should state that fact to those who had the days of the week to use. Without such announcement, the day could not be set apart from the others.
But the most striking illustration of the meaning of this word may be found in the record of the sanctification of Mount Sinai. Ex. 19:12,23. When God was about to speak the ten commandments in the hearing of all Israel, he sent Moses down from the top of Mount Sinai to restrain the people from touching the mount. “And Moses said unto the Lord, The people can not come up to Mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.” Turning back to the verse where God gave this charge to Moses, we read: “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it.” Hence to sanctify the mount was to command the people not to touch even the border of it; for God was about to descend in majesty upon it. In other words, to sanctify, or set apart to a holy use, Mount Sinai, was to tell the people that God would have them treat the mountain as sacred to himself. And thus also to sanctify the rest day of the Lord was to tell Adam that he should treat the day as holy to the Lord.
The declaration, “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it,” is not indeed a commandment for the observance of that day; but it is the record that such a precept was given to Adam.
Dr. Lange’s Commentary speaks on this point thus (vol. 1, p. 197): “If we had no other passage than this of Gen. 2:3, there would be no difficulty in deducing from it a precept for the universal observance of a Sabbath, or seventh day, to be devoted to God as holy time by all of that race for whom the earth and all things therein were specially prepared. The first men must have known it. The words, ‘He hallowed it,’ can have no meaning otherwise. They would be a blank unless in reference to some who were required to keep it holy.”
Dr. Nicholas Bound, in his “True Doctrine of the Sabbath” (London, 1606), page 7, thus states the antiquity of the Sabbath precept:—
“This first commandment of the Sabbath was no more, then, first given when it was pronounced from heaven by the Lord, than any other one of the moral precepts, nay, that it hath so much antiquity as the seventh day hath being; for, so soon as the day was, so soon was it sanctified, that we might know that, as it came in with the first man, so it must not go out but with the last man; and as it was in the beginning of the world, so it must continue to the end of the same; and as the first seventh day was sanctified, so must the last be. And this is that which one saith, that the Sabbath was commanded by God, and the seventh day was sanctified of him even from the beginning of the world; where (the latter words expounding the former) he showeth that, when God did sanctify it, then also he commanded it to be kept holy: and therefore look how ancient the sanctification of the day is, the same antiquity also as the commandment of keeping it holy; for they two are all one.”
For how could the Creator “set apart to a holy use” the day of his rest, when those who were to use the day knew nothing of his will in the case? Let those answer who are able.
This view of the record in Genesis we shall find to be sustained by all the testimony in the Bible relative to the rest day of the Lord. The facts which we have examined are the basis of the fourth commandment. Thus spake the great Lawgiver from the summit of the flaming mount: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. … The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. … For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Ex. 20:8-11.
The term Sabbath is transferred from the Hebrew language, and signifies rest.
Buck’s theological Dictionary, article, “Sabbath;” Calmet’s Dictionary, article, “Sabbath.”
The command, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” is therefore exactly equivalent to saying, “Remember the rest day, to keep it holy.” The explanation which follows sustains this statement: “The seventh day is the Sabbath [or rest day] of the Lord thy God.” The origin of this rest day is given in these words: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” That which is enjoined in the fourth commandment is to keep holy the rest day of the Lord. And this is defined to be the day on which he rested from the work of creation. Moreover, the fourth commandment calls the seventh day the Sabbath day at the time when God blessed and hallowed that day; therefore the Sabbath is an institution dating from the foundation of the world. The fourth commandment points back to the creation for the origin of its obligation; and when we go back to that point, we find the substance of the fourth commandment given to Adam: “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it;” i.e., set it apart to a holy use. And in the commandment itself, the same fact is stated: “The Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it;” i.e., appointed it to a holy use. The one statement affirms that “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it;” the other, that “the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
These two statements refer to the same acts. Because the word Sabbath does not occur in the first statement, it has been contended that the Sabbath did not originate at creation, it being the seventh day merely which was hallowed. From the second statement it has been contended that God did not bless the seventh day at all, but simply the Sabbath institution. But both statements embody all the truth. God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; and this day, thus blessed and hallowed, was his holy Sabbath, or rest day. Thus the fourth commandment establishes the origin of the Sabbath at creation.
The second mention of the Sabbath in the Bible furnishes a decisive confirmation of the testimonies already adduced. On the sixth day of the week, while in the wilderness, Moses said to Israel, “To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” Ex. 16:22,23. What had been done to the seventh day since God blessed and sanctified it as his rest day in paradise?— Nothing. On the sixth day, Moses simply states the fact that the morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord. The seventh day had been such ever since God blessed and hallowed the day of his rest in the beginning.
The testimony of our divine Lord relative to the origin and design of the Sabbath is of peculiar importance. He is competent to testify; for he was with the Father in the beginning of the creation. John 1:1-3; Gen. 1:1,26; Col. 1:13-16. “The Sabbath was made for man,” said he, “not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27. The following grammatical rule is worthy of notice: “A noun without an adjective is invariably taken in its broadest extension; as, Man is accountable.” Barrett’s “Principles of English Grammar,” p. 29. The following texts will illustrate this rule, and also this statement of our Lord’s: “Man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Job 14:12; 1 Cor. 10: 13; Heb. 9:27. In these texts, “man” is used without restriction, hence all mankind are necessarily intended. The Sabbath was therefore made for the whole human family, and consequently originated with mankind.
“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God;” yet he made the Sabbath for man. “God made the Sabbath his by solemn appropriation, that he might convey it back to us under the guaranty of a divine charter, that none might rob us of it with impunity.”
But is it not possible that God’s act of blessing and sanctifying the seventh day did not occur at the close of the creation week? May it not be mentioned then, because God designed that the day of his rest should be afterward observed?
It is very certain that such an interpretation of the record can not be admitted, unless the facts in the case demand it; for it is, to say the least, a forced explanation of the language. The record in Genesis, unless this be an exception, is a plain narrative of events. What God did on each day is recorded in its order down to the seventh. It is certainly doing violence to the narrative to affirm that the record respecting the seventh day is of a different character from that respecting the other six. He rested the seventh day; he sanctified the seventh day, because he had rested upon it. The reason why he should sanctify the seventh day existed when his rest was closed.
To say, therefore, that God did not sanctify the day at that time, but did it in the days of Moses, is not only to distort the narrative, but to affirm that he neglected for twenty-five hundred years to do that for which the reason existed at creation.
Dr. Twisse illustrates the absurdity of that view which makes the first observance of the Sabbath in memory of creation to begin some twenty-five hundred years after that event: “We read that when the Ilienses, inhabitants of Ilium, called anciently by the name of Troy, sent an embassage to Tiberius, to condole the death of his father Augustus, he, considering the unreasonableness thereof, it being a long time after his death, requited them accordingly, saying that he was sorry for their heaviness also, having lost so renowned a knight as Hector was, to wit, above a thousand years before, in the wars of Troy.”— “Morality of the Fourth Commandment,” pl 198.
But we ask that the facts be brought forward which prove that the Sabbath was sanctified in the wilderness of (Sinai), and not at creation. And what are the facts that show this? It is confessed that such facts are not upon record. Their existence is assumed in order to sustain the theory that the Sabbath originated at the fall of the manna, and not in paradise.
Did God sanctify the Sabbath in the wilderness?— There is no intimation of such a fact. On the contrary, it is mentioned at that time as something already set apart of God. On the sixth day, Moses said, “To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” Ex. 16:23. Surely this is not the act of instituting the Sabbath, but the familiar mention of an existing fact. We pass on to Mount Sinai. Did God sanctify the Sabbath when he spoke the ten commandments? No one claims that he did. It is admitted by all that Moses spoke of it familiarly the previous month. Ex. 16. Does the Lord at Sinai speak of the sanctification of the Sabbath?— He does; but in the very language of Genesis he goes back for the sanctification of the Sabbath, not to the wilderness of (Sinai), but to the creation of the world. Ex. 20:8-11. We ask those who hold the theory under examination, this question: If the Sabbath was not sanctified at creation, but was sanctified in the wilderness of (Sinai), why does the narrative in each instance (Compare Gen. 2:1-3 and Ex. 20:8-11) record the sanctification of the Sabbath at creation, and omit all mention of that fact in the wilderness of (Sinai)? Nay, why does the record of events in the wilderness of Sinai show that the holy Sabbath was at that time already in existence? In a word, How can a theory which is subversive of all the facts in the record, be maintained as the truth of God?
We have seen the Sabbath ordained of God at the close of the creation week. The object of its Author is worthy of special attention. Why did the Creator set up this memorial in paradise? Why did he set apart from the other days of the week that day which he had employed in rest?— “Because that in it,” says the record, “he had rested form all his work which God created and made.” A rest necessarily implies and presupposes a work performed; and hence the Sabbath was ordained of God as a memorial of the work of creation. Therefore that precept of the moral law which relates to this memorial, unlike every other precept of that law, begins with the word “Remember.” The importance of this memorial will be appreciated when we learn from the Scriptures that it is the work of creation which is claimed by its Author as the great evidence of his eternal power and Godhead, and as that great fact which distinguishes him from all false gods. Thus it is written:—
“He that built all things is God.” “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.” “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting King.” “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Thus “the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Heb. 3:4; Jer.10:10-12; Rom. 1:20; Ps. 33:9; Heb. 11:3.
Such is the estimate which the Scriptures place upon the work of creation as evincing the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator. The Sabbath stands as the memorial of this great work. Its observance is an act of grateful acknowledgment on the part of his intelligent creatures that he is their Creator, and that they owe all to him; and that for his pleasure they are and were created. How appropriate this observance for Adam! And when man had fallen, how important for his well-being that he should “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” He would thus have been preserved from atheism and from idolatry; for, so long as he observed the Sabbath, he could never forget that there was a God from whom all things derived their being; nor could he worship as God any other being than the Creator.
The importance of keeping the Sabbath ordained by God as a preventive against idolatry and infidelity has thus been clearly stated by others:—
“The original Sabbath being a perpetual memorial of God, the Creator, calling man to imitate God in the observance of the same, man could not keep the original Sabbath and forget God.”— Sermon on “The Sabbath,” by Prof. E. W. Thomas, M.A., of West Cairo, Ohio, in Herald of Gospel Liberty (Dayton, Ohio), June 19, 1890.
“By causing man to violate the second commandment, Satan aimed to degrade their conceptions of the divine Being. By setting aside the fourth, he would cause them to forget God altogether. … The Sabbath, as a memorial of God’s creative power, points to him as the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Hence it is a constant witness to his existence and a reminder of his greatness, his wisdom, and his love. Had the Sabbath always been sacredly observed, there could never have been an atheist or an idolater.”— “Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 336.
The seventh day, as hallowed by God in Eden, was not Jewish, but divine; it was not the memorial of the flight of Israel from Egypt, but of the Creator’s rest. Nor is it true that the most distinguished Jewish writers deny the primeval origin of the Sabbath, or claim it as a Jewish memorial. We cite the historian Josephus and his learned contemporary, Philo Judaeus. Josephus, whose “Antiquities of the Jews” runs parallel with the Bible from the beginning, when treating of the wilderness of (Sinai), makes no allusion whatever to the Sabbath— a clear proof that he had no idea that it originated in that wilderness. But when giving the account of creation, he bears the following testimony:—
“Moses says that in just six days the world and all that is therein was made; and that the seventh day was a rest and a release from the labor of such operations; whence it is that we celebrate a rest from our labors on that day, and call it the Sabbath, which word denotes rest in the Hebrew tongue.” “Antiquities of the Jews,” b. 1, sec. 1.
And Philo bears an emphatic testimony relative to the character of the Sabbath as a memorial. He says:—
“But after the whole world had been completed according to the perfect nature of the number six, the Father hallowed the day following, the seventh, praising it, and calling it holy. For that day is the festival, not of one city or one country, but of all the earth; a day which alone it is right to call the day of festival for all people, and the birthday of the world.” “Works of Philo,” vol.1, “The Creation of the World,” sec. 30.
Nor was the rest day of the Lord a shadow of man’s rest after his recovery from the fall. God will ever be worshiped in an understanding manner by his intelligent creatures. When, therefore, he set apart his rest day to a holy use, if it was not as a memorial of his work, but as a shadow of man’s redemption from the fall, the real design of the institution must have been stated; and as a consequence, man in his unfallen state could never observe the Sabbath as a delight, but ever with deep distress, as reminding him that he was soon to apostatize from God. Nor was the holy of the Lord and honorable, one of the “carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation; (Isa. 58:13,14; Heb. 9:10) for there could be no reformation with unfallen beings.
The following from the pen of another writer clearly sets forth the truth respecting this institution:—
“In Eden, God set up the memorial of his work of creation, in placing his blessing upon the seventh day. The Sabbath was committed to Adam, the father and representative of the whole human family. Its observance was to be an act of grateful acknowledgment, on the part of all who should dwell upon the earth, that God was their creator and their rightful sovereign; that they were the work of his hands, and the subjects of his authority. Thus the institution was wholly commemorative, and given to all mankind. There was nothing in it shadowy, or of restricted application to any people.
“God saw that a Sabbath was essential for man, even in paradise. He needed to lay aside his own interests and pursuits for one day of the seven, that he might more fully contemplate the works of God, and meditate upon his power and goodness. He needed a Sabbath, to remind him more vividly of God, and to awaken gratitude because all that he enjoyed and possessed came from the beneficent hand of the Creator.
“God designs that the Sabbath shall direct the minds of men to the contemplation of his created works. Nature speaks to their senses, declaring that there is a living God, the Creator, the Supreme Ruler of all. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.’ The beauty that clothes the earth is a token of God’s love. We may behold it in the everlasting hills, in the lofty trees, in the opening buds and the delicate flowers. All speak to us of God. The Sabbath, ever pointing to him who made them all, bids men open the great book of nature, and trace therein the wisdom, the power, and the love of the Creator.” “Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 48.
But man did not continue in his uprightness. Paradise was lost, and Adam was excluded from the tree of life. The curse of God fell upon the earth, and death entered by sin, and passed upon all men. Genesis 3; Rom. 5:12. After this sad apostasy, no further mention of the Sabbath occurs until Moses, on the sixth day, said, “Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.”
It is objected that there is no precept in the book of Genesis for the observance of the Sabbath, and consequently that no obligation existed on the part of the patriarchs to observe it. There is a defect in this argument not noticed by those who use it. The book of Genesis was not a rule given to the patriarchs to walk by. On the contrary, it was written by Moses twenty-five hundred years after creation, and long after the patriarchs were dead. Consequently, the fact that certain precepts are not found in Genesis is no evidence that they were not obligatory upon the patriarchs. Thus the book does not command men to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves; nor does it prohibit idolatry, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, adultery, theft, false witness, or covetousness. Who will affirm from this that the patriarchs were under no restraint in these things? As a mere record of events, written long after their occurrence, it was not necessary that the book should contain a moral code. But had the book been given to the patriarchs as a rule of life, it must have contained such a code.
The argument under consideration is unsound: (1) Because based upon the supposition that the book of Genesis was the rule of life for the patriarchs; (2) because if carried out, it would release the patriarchs from every precept of the moral law except the sixth; (Gen. 9:5,6) (3) because the act of God in setting apart his rest day to a holy use, as we have seen, necessarily involves the fact that he gave a precept concerning it to Adam, in whose time it was thus set apart. And hence, though the book of Genesis contains no precept concerning the Sabbath, it does contain direct evidence that such a precept was given to the head and representative of the human family.
After giving the institution of the Sabbath, the book of Genesis, in its brief record of two thousand three hundred seventy years, does not again mention it. This has been urged by antisabbatarians as ample proof that those holy men, who, during this period, were perfect, and walked with God in the observance of his commandments, statutes, and laws, (Gen. 5:24; 6:9; 26:5) all lived in open profanation and utter disregard of that day which God had blessed and set apart to a holy use. But the book of Genesis also omits any distinct reference to the doctrine of future punishment, the resurrection of the body, the revelation of the Lord in flaming fire, and the judgment of the great day. Does this silence prove that the patriarchs did not believe these great doctrines? Does it make them any the less sacred?
But the Sabbath is not mentioned from Moses to David, a period of five hundred years, during which it was enforced by the penalty of death. Does this prove that it was not observed during this period? See the beginning of chapter 8. The jubilee occupied a very prominent place in the typical system, yet in the whole Bible a single instance of its observance is not recorded. What is still more remarkable, there is not on record a single instance of the observance of the great day of atonement, notwithstanding the work in the holiest on that day was the most important service connected with the earthly sanctuary. And yet the observance of the other and less important festivals of the seventh month, which are so intimately connected with the day of atonement, the one preceding it by ten days, the other following it in five, is repeatedly and particularly recorded. Ezra 3:1-6; Neh. 8:2, 9:12, 14-18; 1 Kings 8:2, 65; 2 Chron. 5:3; 7:8,9; John 7:2-14, 37. It would be sophistry to argue from this silence respecting the day of atonement, when there were so many instances in which its mention was almost demanded, that that day was never observed; and yet it is actually a better argument than the similar one urged against the Sabbath from the book of Genesis.
The reckoning of time by weeks is derived from nothing in nature, but owes its existence to the divine appointment of the seventh day to a holy use, in memory of the Lord’s rest from the six days’ work of creation.
“The week, another primeval measure, is not a natural measure of time, as some astronomers and chronologers have supposed, indicated by the phases or quarters of the moon. It was originated by divine appointment at the creation, six days of labor and one of rest being wisely appointed for man’s physical and spiritual well-being.”— Bliss’s “Sacred Chronology,” p. 6; compare Hales’s “Analysis of Chronology,” vol. 1, p. 19.
“Seven has been the ancient and honored number among the nations of the earth. They have measured their time by weeks from the beginning. The original of this was the Sabbath of God, as Moses has given the reasons of it in his writings.”— “Brief Dissertation on the First Three Chapters of Genesis,” by Dr. Coleman, p. 26.
This period of time is marked only by the recurrence of the sanctified rest day of the Creator. That the patriarchs reckoned time by weeks and by seven of days, is evident from several texts. Gen. 29:27,28; 8:10, 12; 7:4,10; 50:10; Ex. 7:25; Job 2:13. That they should retain the week, and forget the Sabbath by which alone the week is marked, is not a probable supposition. That the reckoning of the week was rightly kept from creation to the time of Moses, is evident from the fact that in the wilderness the people of their own accord gathered a double portion of manna on the sixth day. And Moses said to them, “To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” Ex. 16:22,23.
The brevity of the record in Genesis causes us to overlook many facts of the deepest interest. Adam lived nine hundred thirty years. How deep and absorbing the interest that must have existed in the human family to see the first man! To converse with one who had himself talked with God! To hear from his lips a description of that paradise in which he had lived! To learn from one created on the sixth day the wondrous events of the creation week! To hear from him the words of the Creator when he set apart his rest day to a holy use! And to learn, alas! The sad story of the loss of paradise and the tree of life.
The interest to see the first man is thus stated: “Sem and Seth were in great honor among men, and so was Adam, above every living thing in the creation.” Ecclesiasticus 49:16.
It was, therefore, not difficult for the facts respecting the six days of creation and the sanctification of the rest day to be diffused among mankind in the patriarchal age. Nay, it was impossible that it should be otherwise, especially among the godly. From Adam to Abraham, a succession of men preserved the knowledge of God upon the earth; for Adam lived till Lamech, the father of Noah, was fifty-six years of age; Lamech lived till Shem, the son of Noah, was ninety-three; Shem lived till Abraham was one hundred fifty years of age. Thus are we brought down to Abraham, the father of the faithful. Of him it is recorded that he obeyed God’s voice, and kept his charge, his commandments, his statutes, and his laws. And of him the Most High bears the following testimony: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” Gen. 26:5; 18:19. Through a line of holy men from Adam down, the knowledge of God and his Sabbath was preserved in the earth.
Alexander Campbell thus speaks of the Sabbath as a commemorative institution:—
“Heaven left not this fact, the creation, the basis of a thousand volumes, to be gathered from abstract reasonings, vitiated traditions, ingenious analogies, or plausible conjectures, but from a monumental institution which was as universal as the annals of time, as the birth of nations, and as the language spoken by mortals. An institution, too, which, notwithstanding its demands, not only of the seventh part of all time, but of the seventh day in uninterrupted succession, was celebrated from the creation to the deluge, during the deluge, and after the deluge till the giving of the law.”— “Popular Lectures,” pp. 283,284. “The Sabbath was observed from Abraham’s time, nay, from the creation.”— “Evidences of Christianity,” pp. 502,503.
Through Abraham and his descendants this knowledge was perpetuated; and we shall next find the Sabbath familiarly mentioned among his posterity as an existing institution.