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The Fourth Commandment:
Honoring the Day of HaShem as a non-Jew

Part 2 of 4: How and Why Shabbat Was Given
By Shlomo Phillips © August 30, 2009 (last update: April 10, 2015)

Go to: Study Home Page.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Part One: Origin of the Sabbath.
Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat.
Go to: Part Four: How and Why the Sabbath Day Was Rejected.

Shabbat For All.

While everyone is to keep the Shabbat, for Jews the Sinai Covenant adds aspects not given to non-Jews. This includes the commandments of remembering our Exodus from Egypt. These additions reflect "... a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever."

It is for this reason that many rabbis rule that non-Jews are not obligated to observe Shabbat at all. Some even warn Gentiles that should not do it. They view non-Jewish observance as the usurpation of Jewish halacha(law).

In defending the sanctity of Shabbat we may go too far at times. The initial Genesis instructions do require everyone to observe Shabbat by recalling the acts of our mutual Creator. At the same time, the specifics of Jewish observance -- like the candle lighting, the wine, the meal, the tallit and kippa, the prayers, and so on -- are things developed later by biblical and rabbinic tradition and are prohibited to non-Jews. Each group should properly observe its prescribed requirements. As Rebbe Nachman teaches:

There is no need to look for extra stringencies: this is foolish and confusing. The essence of serving God is simplicity and sincerity. Pray much, study much Torah and carry out many good deeds without seeking out or inventing unnecessary restrictions. Simply follow the path of our forefathers.
Both Jews and non-Jews do well to honor Shabbat, each in their own prescribed ways without adding additional stringencies.

Shabbat observance is incumbent upon all Jews, religious or not.

Monotheistic Noahides, should observe Shabbat in accordance with their covenant.

Non-Jews who do not acknowledge HaShem as Creator as defined in Torah have no reason to observe Shabbat. To whom would they be giving thanks?

Likewise with those who say they embrace Torah and yet deny the absolute oneness of the Creator as declared in the Shema need not observe Shabbat. Who would their thanks and praise be directed to? Would they really be acknowledging HaShem or would they be praising a trinity of gods? Something condemned in Torah. Would their worship be directed to a mortal being who lived and died?

No, HaShem is the sole Creator and to Him alone is our Shabbat worship and thanks properly given. HaShem alone is the Source and sole focus of proper Shabbat observance. Let others observe their own days in their own ways.

For Jews: "You [Israel] shall keep..." The Hebrew word for "keep" is shomer. This word means to guard or to place a protective hedge around something. Jews place a "hedge" of tradition around Shabbat as one would place a fence around a lovely flower garden to protect, enhance, and set it apart as something wonderful. Jews and Noahides who are Shomer Shabbat both guard and honor the Day of Creation and the Creator. In addition, Jews recall the Exodus from Egypt according to well established Jewish Tradition. Noahides recall the creation with gratitude.

Jews 'remember' two primary events while Noahidim give thanks for one. Both Jews and Noahidim remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God; Zakhor et yom ha-Shabbat l'kad'sho - Exodus 20:8

In this way everyone is to be Shomer Shabbat according to their proper Covenant. For Noahidim it is the remembrance of creation, for Jews a second reason is given:

Deuteronomy 5:6 "I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
5:7 You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.
5:12 Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord your God commanded you.
5:13 Six days may you work, and perform all your labor,
5:14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your ox, your donkey, any of your livestock, nor the stranger who is within your cities, in order that your manservant and your maidservant may rest like you.
5:15 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God took you out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore, the Lord, your God, commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
For Jews the Shabbat rest also reminds us of the harsh slavery in Egypt and of HaShem's rescue of our ancestors. While Shabbat is to be observed by everyone in honor of our Creator, for Jews it is also the weekly thanksgiving and reminder of His delivering us from slavery and oppression in Egypt and all similar situations throughout our long history. Why did/does HaShem deliver us? He delivers us so that we can serve as a kingdom of priests among the nations (Exodus 19:6), blessing them (Genesis 12:3) and pointing them towards the Creator. This is the central job of the Jewish people.

To what end? To help bring about the Olam Haba (the Messianic world to come). For six days we are to work, blessing the world as co-creators with HaShem and then, on Shabbat, we are to enter into His Rest knowing that He is Master of all and that all of our efforts are meaningless without His blessings.

Torah is abundantly clear that from the very beginning Shabbat was declared sacred and decreed for all people. Shabbat is the day the whole world is invited to unite in peaceful honoring of our Creator. One can not successfully argue this point biblically.

And yet Shabbat was abandoned by most of the world!

As some point out, it is true that after the Genesis creation account there are no more references in the Torah to the Sabbath being observed until the period of the Exodus, when its detailed laws are given to Israel. Does this mean it wasn't observed? Of course not. A case cannot be from silence. The day remained holy. There is no biblical reason to debate this. We do know of course that the generations leading up to the Exodus gradually abandoned the Ways of God. This doubtless included Shabbat observance and even recognition of the day in many cases, but there were always those who kept it. Moshe restored the Sacred observance of this ancient tradition and instructed the people of Israel on its proper observance.

Moshe revealed the Words of HaShem and both restored the Seven Laws for the non-Jews and the 613 Laws for the Jews. The words of Torah are not his own creation. Because HaShem had set the Shabbat apart many people doubtless observed it without recorded comment. Moshe recorded its first revelation at Genesis 2:2,3 and then he delineations its rules for our people beginning at Exodus 12. As an Israelite his focus with Torah (i.e. Genesis - Deuteronomy) was Klal Israel. Noahides have a lot to learn from Torah of course, but its primary intended audience is Israel.

Shabbat observance is a universal commandment even though it is not listed among the Seven laws. Its purpose is to empower humanity to give heartfelt thanks to HaShem and to establish harmony with Him. For this reason perhaps it was not included under the Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach (i.e. the Seven Noahide Laws). Again this in no way suggests it was unknown to the people nor that the righteous Noahidim did not honor the Sabbath appointment before the Sinai revelation. Indeed the very number of these seven mitzvot (laws) suggests the importance of the Seventh Day.

Eventually Avraham came on the scene and entered into an eternal covenant with Elohim. Avraham was tested and found worthy, as was his son. Through his grandson Ya'akov (Jacob) the Twelve Houses of Israel came to be and the Covenant made with Avraham continued through them.

The Twelve Houses or Tribes of Israel were tested during the Exodus and HaShem chose to renew the Avrahamic Covenant through them as an everlasting bond with Shabbat as its key symbol. HaShem chose Moshe to establish His Torah in order to guide these People.

As the people of this Covenant the Israelites received both greater blessings and were held to greater accountability than other humans. Their keeping of Torah (including Shabbat, its ultimate sign of compliance) directly impacts the world entire for good and ill. As we read:

Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'
After being freed from Egyptian slavery:
Exodus 16:21. They gathered it [i.e. the Manna] morning by morning, each one according to his eating capacity, and [when] the sun grew hot, it melted.
16:22. It came to pass on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of bread, two omers for [each] one, and all the princes of the community came and reported [it] to Moses.
16:23. So he said to them, That is what the Lord spoke, Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook, and all the rest leave over to keep until morning.
16:24. So they left it over until morning, as Moses had commanded, and it did not become putrid, and not a worm was in it.
16:25. And Moses said, Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.
16:26. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day [which is the] Sabbath on it there will be none
16:27. It came about that on the seventh day, [some] of the people went out to gather [manna], but they did not find [any].
Note that Moshe did not explain what the Shabbat was as he described this, only what HaShem would do on it. Clearly they already knew about Shabbat and were supposed to be honoring it as is made clear in the next three verses:
Exodus 16:28. The Lord said to Moses, How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings?
16:29. See that the Lord has given you the Sabbath. Therefore, on the sixth day, He gives you bread for two days. Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day
16:30. So the people rested on the seventh day.
And Shabbat observance was restored among Klal Israel.

Why is this relevant?

Two reasons: First this is a direct reference to Sabbath observance BEFORE the Mosaic Covenant was issued (this took place before they even reached Mount Sinai). The holiness of the Sabbath therefore clearly did not originate with the Mosaic Law. It existed and was honored prior to the revelation of the Torah to Moshe as a Noahide observance.

Secondly, because this account affirms that the people already knew what the Sabbath was and what was expected of them. They just needed encouragement to resume its proper observance after their slavery in Egypt, even as some of the post-Shoah survivors struggled with this issue after that nightmare. This fact supports the view that although the Sabbath is not mentioned after Genesis 2:3 until here, there is no reason to assume it was not being honored by pious people.

The Ten Commandments

Now we come to Sinai and the issuing of the Ten Commandments:

The Seven Noahide Commandments were already in effect for everyone. They had been since Noach received them after the flood. To what degree they were still being observed we have no way of knowing. As the people of the Covenant more was required of Klal Israel however. For this reason HaShem established the 613 Laws that are applicable only to Jews. These laws include the Seven and are summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:1 God spoke all these words, to respond:
20:2 "I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
20:3 You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.
20:4 You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth.
20:5 You shall neither prostrate yourself before them nor worship them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a zealous God, Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, upon the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me,
20:6 and [I] perform loving kindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments.
20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for the Lord will not hold blameless anyone who takes His name in vain.
20:8 Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.
20:9 Six days may you work and perform all your labor,
20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities.
20:11 For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.
20:12 Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you. 20:18 ... The people remained far off, but Moses drew near to the opaque darkness, where God was.
20:19 The Lord said to Moses, "So shall you say to the children of Israel, You have seen that from the heavens I have spoken with you.
20:20 You shall not make [images of anything that is] with Me. Gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves.
The non-Israelites who were with Klal Israel are directly commanded in verse 10 to observe Shabbat along with the Hebrews:
...but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord, your God; you shall perform no labor, neither you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your beast, nor your stranger who is in your cities.
Shabbat therefore is not only a command for Jews. It is also for those who are associated with them in their Torah observance. Since Noahidim are associated with the Jews in their of worship of HaShem, Shabbat is applicable to them as well. Although again there are some differences in their observances as we will discuss in more detail later.

Shabbat is not a human ceremonial day devised by priests. It is the Day of HaShem Himself! Shabbat is not only 'the Jewish holy day,' it is the intended human holy day! Shabbat is the day for everyone to come together and observe and remember the God of us all in peace and unity.

20:11 For [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.
HaShem sanctified the Sabbath as the eternal memorial of His creative work. We had nothing to do with this! However we are all honored to join in the remembrance of our creation once a week no matter who we are.

Christians and Shabbat:

Despite the clear biblical teachings on this subject, most Christians reject Shabbat and hold the first day of the week as the proper day to set apart. They sometimes invoke 'proof texts' from the New Testament not understanding that the Scripture Jesus (Y'shua) most valued was the Torah (Matthew 5:18). The remainder of this study focusses on the teachings of Jesus, his disciples and on the Christian dogmas that altered their beliefs. Why and how did the Church abandon Shabbat and biblical monotheism? How can one return to proper Shabbat observance as a Noahide?

Shabbat is the greatest honor ever bestowed on creation by its Creator! The Sabbath is the day we are allowed to stop what we are doing and quietly behold the Glory of God in rest and peace! Shabbat is the day when heads of industry, humble farmers, the wealthy, the poor... when everyone can stand before HaShem as equals in awe of His glory that surpasses all else!

In part three we will see that Y'shua and his students were all Shomer Shabbat. I hope you will continue reading and will share this with your friends if you think they would be interested. Please contact me with any thoughts, corrections or questions you may have.

Please continue with:

Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat.
Go to: Part Four: How and Why the Sabbath Day Was Rejected.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Study Home Page.

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