THE LORD OF THE SABBATH
THE SABBATH DISTINCTIVELY SACRED TO ISRAEL
The observance of the Sabbath as a holy day was prominent among the Lord's
requirements of His people, Israel, from a very early period in their history as a nation.
Indeed, the keeping of the Sabbath as a day of surcease from ordinary toil was a national
characteristic, by which the Israelites were distinguished from pagan peoples, and rightly
so, for the holiness of the Sabbath was made a mark of the covenant between the chosen
people and their God. The sanctity of the Sabbath had been prefigured in the account of
the creation, antedating the placing of man upon the earth, as shown by the fact that God
rested after the six periods or days of creative work, and blessed the seventh day and
In the course of Israel's exodus, the seventh day was set apart as one of
rest, upon which it was not allowed to bake, seethe, or otherwise cook food. A double
supply of manna had to be gathered on the sixth day, while on other days the laying-by of
a surplus of this daily bread sent from heaven was expressly forbidden. The Lord
observed the sacredness of the holy day by giving no manna thereon.
The commandment to celebrate the Sabbath in strictness was made definite and
explicit in the decalog, written by the hand of God amidst the awful glory of Sinai; and
the injunction was kept before the people through frequent proclamation.
unlawful to kindle a fire on that day; and record is made of a man who was put to death
for gathering sticks on the seventh day.
Under the administration of later prophets, the
holiness of the Sabbath, the blessings promised to those who sanctified the day unto
themselves, and the sin of Sabbath desecration were reiterated in words of inspired
Nehemiah admonished and reproved in the matter, and attributed the
affliction of the nation to the forfeiture of Jehovah's favor through Sabbath violation.
By the mouth of Ezekiel the Lord affirmed that the institution of the Sabbath was a sign
of the covenant between Himself and the people of Israel; and with stern severity He
upbraided those who heeded not the day.
To the separate branch of the Israelitish
nation that had been colonized on the western hemisphere, regard for the sanctity of the
Sabbath was no less an imperative requirement.
The observance demanded, however, was the very opposite of affliction and burden;
the Sabbath was consecrated to rest and righteous enjoyment, and was to be a day of
spiritual feasting before the Lord. It was not established as a day of abstinence; all might
eat, but both mistress and maid were to be relieved from the work of preparing food;
neither master nor man was to plow, dig or otherwise toil; and the weekly day of rest was
as much the boon of the cattle as of their owners.
In addition to the weekly Sabbath, the Lord in mercy prescribed also a sabbatic year;