June, 14 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe

 

PART: I GENERAL HISTORY FROM ADAM TO ABRAHAM—Gen. 1:1-11:9.

Topic #A: An Account of Creation. Gen. 1:1-2:7.

 

Lesson I.A.9: The Origin of the Sabbath


Gen. 2.1-3 (KJV)

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 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.
3 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.


Introduction to Chapter 2

Now we are given the details concerning the creation of man and woman and their place in God’s plan. The account does not contradict chapter 1; it complements it. Chapter 2 has the following features:
God Resting (1–3). God’s rest was the rest of completion, not the rest of exhaustion, because God never gets weary (Ps. 121:4). Adam must have rested also, fellowshipped with the Lord, and worshiped Him. The seventh day, the Sabbath, became a sign to Israel that they were God’s special people (Exod. 31:13–17). It is also a symbol of the eternal rest God’s people will have with Him (Heb. 4:9–11).
Other Details of Creation (4-7). A summary of the six days' work of creation, with additional details .
        A Home Provided for Man (8-14). Work is not a curse. God gave Adam the task of guarding the Garden and tilling it. It was a fulfilling ministry for him. Man and God must work together to produce the harvest. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you.”
        Man's Privilege and Duty in the Garden (15-17) Adam is placed in the garden, and he is given the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge on penalty of death. The Creator has the right to govern His creatures. Love sets limits for the good of man. God calls us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. He wants children, not machines.
        The Process of Forming the Woman (18-25) Man’s naming the animals was a part of his “dominion” as the head of creation (1:26–28). He lost this dominion because of sin (Ps. 8), but we have regained it through Christ (Heb. 2:5). Adam also named his mate; he called her “Woman.” Later, he would call her “Eve.” God established marriage to meet man’s need for companionship (2:18) and to provide for the rearing of children (1:28). In addition it served as a picture of Christ and His church (Eph. 5:25–32). Adam gave of himself for his bride, and Jesus gave of Himself for His bride (John 19:31–37).

 

Commentary

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

 God has made the creatures that reside both in heaven and on the earth, and there are hosts or armies of them, which indicates they were numerous, but organized, disciplined, and under command. There must have been a great number of them, even at the beginning. Nevertheless everyone knows and keeps his place. God uses His heavenly hosts for the defense of His people and the destruction of His enemies; for he is the Lord of hosts—“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan 4:35; KJV). God’s kingdom and dominion is like himself, everlasting; there is no rebellion, in his kingdom. He lives and reigns forever, and of his government there is no end. All the nations are like nothing before Him. He has no need of them. The greatest men are nothing when compared to Him. Those that think highly of God think very little of themselves. His kingdom is universal, and both the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth are his subjects, and under His control. Both angels and men are used by him, and are accountable to Him. The highest angel is not above his command, and the lowest of men is not beneath His tender loving care. The angels of heaven are his armies, the inhabitants of the earth his tenants. His power is irresistible, and his sovereignty uncontrollable, because he does according to his will, according to his plan and purpose, according to his decree and counsel; He does whatever he pleases; and no one can resist his will, change his mind, or stay his hand, nor say unto him, What doest thou? Everything that God does is well done. He has the power to humble the mightiest of his enemies.
God’s work in the heavens and on the earth is finished and it is so perfect that nothing can be added to it or taken from it—“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Eccl. 3:14; KJV). God’s work is complete; and since then, no permanent change has ever since been made in the course of the world, no new species of animals been formed, no law of nature repealed or added to. He could just as easily finished in a moment what He took six days to do, but the work of creation was gradual for the instruction of man.


2 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.

We should not think of God’s resting on the seventh day as Him giving into the sheer exhaustion of His six days of creative work. The word translated “rested” is the Hebrew word “Shabbat” which means to cease or to desist from work, in this case. “Shabbat” (The modern term is “Sabbath.”) is the name of the day that was later given to Israel as a time of cessation from normal activities (see Ex 16:29; 20:10–11; Deut 5:15; Jer 17:21; Amos 8:5).


To say that God rested is anthropomorphism, a description of God’s activity in terms conducive to man’s understanding. The omnipotent God who “… fainteth not, neither is weary …” did not cease from His labors on the seventh day because He needed to rest. “Do you not know or have you not heard? The LORD is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary …” (Isa 40.28; NABWRNT). God finished all the creating He intended to do in six days, and rested on the seventh! He rested in order to give us an example that we could follow, that is, to labor six days, and rest the seventh from all manual activity. But God never stopped working, even though He stopped creating. The devil works seven days a week, so God does too. “But Jesus said to them, ‘My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too’” (John 5.17; NCV). Although he rested from creating, he never ceased from preserving and governing that which he had formed: in this respect he can keep no Sabbaths; because nothing can continue to exist, or serve the purpose for which it was created, without the continual energy of God. So I work—I am constantly employed in the same way, governing and supporting all things, comforting the wretched, and saving the lost; and to me, in this respect, there is no Sabbath.


Do not miss the importance of the Sabbath Day. What does it mean when it says that God rested from His work? Does it mean that God got tired, sat down to rest on the seventh day, and said that he had had a big week—that He had worked more than forty hours, and that He wanted to rest? If you look at it like that, it is perfect nonsense. Actually, God rested from His work, because it was completed in six days; He looked upon it and it was very good, and there was nothing else to do. I am retired now, but it used to be that every time I left my office for the day, I still had work all over my desk. I have never been able to sit down and say, “I’m through. I’ve finished it.” But God did. At the end of six days, He rested because His work was complete. This is one of the greatest spiritual truths there is. The Book of Hebrews tells us that as believers we enter into “rest”—that is, we enter into His Sabbath; we enter into His perfect redemption. He died on the Cross more than two thousand years ago for you and me, and He offers us a redemption that we can enter into. That is why Paul can write: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). I do not even have to lift my little finger in order to be saved—Jesus did it all.


Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
—Mrs. H. M. Hall


3 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.

“And God blessed the seventh day” to indicate that it was to be different than the other six days of the week. The original word “barach,” which is generally translated “to bless,” has a very broad meaning. It is frequently used in Scripture in the sense of speaking well of or to a person. So God has spoken well of the Sabbath, and of those who conscientiously observe it. Blessing is applied both to God and man: when God is said to bless, we usually understand the expression to mean that He communicates something good; but when man is said to bless God, we surely cannot imagine that he bestows any gifts or confers any benefit on his Maker. When God is said to bless, either in the Old or New Testament, it signifies his speaking good TO man; and this comprises the whole range of his exceedingly great and precious promises. And when man is said to bless God, it always implies that he speaks good OF Him, for making and fulfilling His promises. This insight will be helpful when we examine the various places where the word occurs in the Holy Scriptures. Christian brothers and sisters, God blesses you when by His promises He speaks good TO you; and you bless Him when, from an awareness of His kindness to your body and soul, you are thankful to Him, and speak well OF his name.


The seventh day must have been a twenty-four-hour period like the previous six and this is supported by Exodus 20:11—“In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” Since the creation week, God has been engaged in the work of providence—“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working’” (John 5.17; RSV); and there is no clear evidence (from the testimony of Scripture) that God commanded man to observe the Sabbath until the days of Moses. Before then scripture only mentions a seven-day week (see Gen 8:10–12 and 29:27–28, with 29:30). It was just before the giving of the Ten Commandments that God prepared Israel for the Sabbath law by permitting them only six days to gather manna—“he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay by to be kept till the morning.’” (Ex 16:23; RSV).

“Blessed and sanctified the seventh day” (See below for definition of Bless, Sanctification, and Sabbath.) denotes the extraordinary distinction placed upon the seventh-day, and shows that it was devoted to sacred purposes. It is a wise and beneficial law, providing that regular interval of rest which the physical nature of man and the animals utilized in his service requires, and the neglect of which may cause both to incur premature physical, mental, and spiritual decay. Additionally, it provides an allotted time for religious worship, and if God thought it was necessary in a state of primeval innocence, how much more necessary is it now, when mankind has a strong tendency to forget God and His Word?

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is a command of God (Gen 20.8). Since this was the most ancient tradition, God commanded Israel to remember it; as if he had said, Do not forget that when I had finished my creation I instituted the Sabbath, and remember why I did so, and for what purposes. The word ‏shabbath signifies rest or cessation from labor; and the sanctification of the seventh day is commanded, as having something representative in it; and indeed it does, because it represents the rest which remains for the people of God, and evidentially this is how it appears to be understood by the apostle, (see Hebrews 4). Because this commandment has not been specifically mentioned in the New Testament as a moral precept binding on all, some have presumed that there is no Sabbath under the Christian dispensation. The truth is, the Sabbath is considered as a type: all types are in full force until the thing signified by them takes place; but the thing signified by the Sabbath is that rest in glory which remains for the people of God, therefore the moral obligation of the Sabbath must continue till time be swallowed up in eternity.


 “Because that in it he had rested” is also why we should rest. Shabath, he rested; hence Sabbath, the name of the seventh day, signifying a day of rest—rest to the body from labor and toil, and rest to the soul from all worldly care and anxieties. One who labors with his mind on the Sabbath day is as guilty as one who labors with his hands. It is by the authority of God that the Sabbath is set apart for rest and religious purposes, as the six days of the week are appointed for labor. This continues today to be a wise provision! It is essentially necessary, not only to the body of man, but to all the animals used in his service: take this away and labor has the potential of being too great, so that both man and beast could break down under it. Without this consecrated day religion itself would fail, and the human mind would become desensitized, would soon forget its God. Even as a political regulation, it is one of the wisest and most beneficial in its effects of any ever instituted.

SANCTIFICATION—the process of God’s grace by which the believer is separated from sin and becomes dedicated to God’s righteousness. Accomplished by the Word of God (John 17:7) and the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:3–4), sanctification results in holiness, or purification from the guilt and power of sin.
Sanctification as separation from the world and setting apart for God’s service is a concept found throughout the Bible. Spoken of as “holy” or “set apart” in the Old Testament were the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the tabernacle, the Temple, the Sabbath, the feasts, the prophets, the priests, and the garments of the priests. God is sanctified by the witness of believers (1 Pet. 3:15) and by His judgments upon sin (Ezek. 38:16). Jesus also was “sanctified and sent into the world” (John 10:36).

SABBATH—(Heb. verb shabbath, meaning "to rest from labour"), the day of rest. It is first mentioned as having been instituted in Paradise, when man was in innocence (Gen 2:2). "The sabbath was made for man," as a day of rest and refreshment for the body and of blessing to the soul.
It is next referred to in connection with the gift of manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness (Ex 16:23); and afterwards, when the law was given from Sinai (Ex 20:11), the people were solemnly charged to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Thus it is spoken of as an institution already existing.
In the Mosaic Law strict regulations were laid down regarding its observance (Ex 35:2, 3; Lev 23:3; Lev 26:34). These were peculiar to that dispensation.
In the subsequent history of the Jews, frequent references are made to the sanctity of the Sabbath (Isa 56:2, 4, 6, 7; Isa 58:13, 14; Jer 17:20-22; Neh 13:19). In later times they perverted the Sabbath by their traditions. Our Lord rescued it from their perversions, and recalled to them its true nature and intent (Mat 12:10-13; Mark 2:27; Luke 13:10-17).

BLESS—
(1.) God blesses his people when he bestows on them some temporal or spiritual gift (Gen 1:22; Gen 24:35; Job 42:12; Ps 45:2; Ps 104:24, 35).
(2.) We bless God when we thank him for his mercies (Ps 103:1, 2; Ps 145:1, 2).
(3.) A man blesses himself when he invokes God's blessing (Isa 65:16), or rejoices in God's goodness to him (Deut 29:19; Ps 49:18).
(4.) One blesses another when he expresses good wishes or offers prayer to God for his welfare (Gen 24:60; Gen 31:55; 1Sa 2:20). Sometimes blessings were uttered under divine inspiration, as in the case of Noah, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses (Gen 9:26, 27; Gen 27:28, 29, 40; Gen 48:15-20; Gen 49:1-28; Deut 33). The priests were divinely authorized to bless the people (Deut 10:8; Num 6:22-27). We have many examples of apostolic benediction (2Co 13:14; Eph 6:23, 24; 2Th 3:16, 18; Heb 13:20, 21; 1Pe 5:10, 11).
(5.) Among the Jews in their thank-offerings the master of the feast took a cup of wine in his hand, and after having blessed God for it and for other mercies then enjoyed, handed it to his guests, who all partook of it. Ps 116:13 refers to this custom. It is also alluded to in 1Co 10:16, where the apostle speaks of the "cup of blessing."

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