Is the Sabbath a creation ordinance? Part 2.


The following article is Part 2 of my comments regarding Chapter III of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s book, The Sabbath. In Part 1 of my comments, I critiqued the first three reasons why Dr. Fruchtenbaum asserts that the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance. Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s continues his Chapter III Sabbath analysis by stating:

The fourth way this [that the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance] is seen is that there is no command in the Book of Genesis to observe the seventh day, it only states what God did on the seventh day. It is not found among the Noahic commandments or among the commands God gave to Abraham, Isaac , or Jacob. Furthermore, there is no record of its practice between Adam and Moses.

The fifth way this is seen is that the Sabbath is never treated as a creation ordinance in the New Testament. Mark 2: 27 states: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Some try to use this verse to prove that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance. However, the point of this verse is not to deal with the origin of the Sabbath, but to deal with the purpose of the Sabbath: The sabbath was made for man. Furthermore, what Yeshua said was to contradict the Pharisaic teaching that Israel was created for the purpose of honoring the Sabbath. A second passage used to try to prove that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance is Hebrews 4: 3-4, but this passage is simply teaching about salvation rest on the basis of the Old Testament. The Book of Hebrews treats Genesis eschatologically for salvation rest, not as a creation ordinance. It also treats the Genesis Sabbath typologically of the future, heavenly rest.

Some Commands are Inferred. 

Regarding Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s fourth reason, my response is that there is no command in the Book of Genesis to wear clothes and yet we must conclude that to do such is a creation ordinance since God’s clothing of man in Genesis 3:21 demonstrated the action’s necessity on the part of man. Likewise, God’s resting on the seventh day demonstrated that action’s necessity on the part of man. Incidentally, verses like Leviticus 18:6-7 seem to take for granted that to be clothed is a creation ordinance; otherwise, and as stated earlier in Part 1, the commands not to “uncover nakedness” are consequently rendered meaningless. Why should Leviticus 18:6-7 proceed with the expectation that man must be clothed if clothing is optional? Of course, if one were to abide by Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s hermeneutic that the first time a command appears in Scripture must mark the inception of that command’s observance then one should not expect to find the condemnation of uncovering thy father’s nakedness prior till Leviticus 18:7; yet a variation of this act was deemed to be a transgression in the Scriptures as early as Genesis 9:22-25. One may say that the term “uncover nakedness” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse; however, the term’s literal usage in Ezekiel 16:36 demonstrates that it is not necessary to exclusively identify the term as a euphemism. Indeed in the same chapter (specifically in Lev 18:22-23) God also uses the very phrase that “uncover nakedness” is said to euphemize, namely, “to lie with”; therefore, it is less likely that God is employing a euphemism and more likely that the term “uncover nakedness” is meant to prohibit a broad range of impurity that begins with contemplating upon the nakedness of the said individual.  Obviously, if it is forbidden to approach the person to uncover their nakedness, then it is also forbidden to lie with that person since you cannot do the latter without first accomplishing the prior. Again, someone may counter by saying that Leviticus 18:7 “has less to do with nudity (especially casual nudity) than with sex;” however, and as Dr. David Guzik states: “the term uncover nakedness is broad enough to include the idea of inappropriate activity short of actual sexual intercourse.” So, the Genesis 9:22 passage must stand as at least one example where observance of an ordinance preceded its official declaration[1].

 The age-long, worldwide observance of the “week.”

The fifth reason Dr. Fruchtenbaum gives about the New Testament’s treatment of the Sabbath does not overcome the problem of Mark 2:27 despite its attempt to do so. The intent of a proposition can not change the meaning of a proposition especially when the words of that proposition are not subject to ambiguity. If the Sabbath was indeed made for man, and we know it was made in Genesis 2:3 after Adam was created, then it follows that the first man, Adam, had the Sabbath at his disposal especially since we see God, demonstrating by example, how to use this special day that He had set apart. After all, why would God honor the seventh day (by blessing it) and set the seventh day apart (by sanctifying it) all during Adam’s time in Genesis if by doing so He did not intend for Adam to think of the seventh day as anything more than an ordinary day? That God in Genesis 2:3 set the seventh day apart from the other days and honored it by resting or ceasing from work on that day even though God doesn’t need rest, is more than adequate proof for the reader to infer from all of this, that the seventh day was set apart for man and not for God. In regards to Mark 2:27, Dr. Henry Morris states:

His [God’s] blessing and hallowing of the seventh day … was for man’s benefit (Mar_2:27), and was obviously intended as a permanent human institution, not controlled by the heavenly bodies which mark days, months, seasons and years, but by the physical and spiritual need of all men for a weekly day of rest and worship, in thankfulness for God’s great gift of creation and (later) for His even greater gift of salvation. The Sabbath (literally “rest”) day was incorporated in the Mosaic covenant with Israel in a special way, but its use preceded Israel and will continue eternally (Isa_66:23)…The age-long, worldwide observance of the “week” is not contingent on the movements of the sun and moon (like the day, the month and the year) but rather is mute testimony to its primeval establishment as a memorial of God’s literal seven-day creation week.[2]

Reinforcing Dr. Morris’ point about the “age-long, worldwide observance” of the seventh day time marker, Easton’s Bible Dictionary states: “The ancient Babylonian calendar, as seen from recently recovered inscriptions on the bricks among the ruins of the royal palace, was based on the division of time into weeks of seven days. The Sabbath is in these inscriptions designated Sabattu, and defined as ‘a day of rest for the heart’ and ‘a day of completion of labour.'[3]” John Kitto’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature also informs us that the “division of time into periods of seven days of which mention is made in the account of the deluge, and which is found among all ancient nations, Egyptians, Arabians, Greeks, Romans, and even among the American Indians, furnishes a strong confirmation of the opinion that the Sabbath is coeval with the creation.[4]” Hence we see that other historical accounts, though not biblical, attest to the antiquity of the week and thus the seventh day. It is important to remember these points because Dr. Fruchtenbaum continues by saying:

And sixth, yes, God did bless and sanctify the Sabbath, but the blessing and sanctification of the seventh day was to emphasize rest and cessation of work, not as an observance. Commenting on this point, Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of the Evangelical Theological College (now Dallas Theological Seminary), wrote:

It is incredible that this great institution of the Sabbath could have existed during all those centuries and there be no mention of it in the scriptures dealing with that time. The words of Job, who lived 500 years and more before Moses , offer an illustration. His experience discloses the spiritual life of the pre -Mosaic saint, having no written scriptures, and striving to know his whole duty to God. Job and his friends refer to creation, the flood, and many details of human obligation to God; but not once do they mention the Sabbath. Again, it is impossible that this great institution, with all that it contemplated of relationship between God and man, could have existed at that time and not have been mentioned at any portion of the argument of the book of Job.

Writing along similar lines, Dr. Charles L. Feinberg states:

There are some who find a reference to the institution of the Sabbath at creation… It will be noted that there is no hint that God gave the Sabbath to man. He alone rested… Not only do those who keep the seventh day try to read into this passage the institution of the original Sabbath for all mankind, but even others go to this passage for their supposed authority for the Lord’s Day. They reason that if the Sabbath received its authority here, and the observance of the seventh day has been changed to the first day, then the observance of the first day must go back to Genesis 2 for its authority. Another fact that militates against the view that the Sabbath began in Eden is that we find no mention of it for centuries later … A study of the period between Adam and Moses, a period of about 2,500 years, will reveal that the institution of the Sabbath is not mentioned anywhere… If the Sabbath did exist, then it is more than passing strange that, although we find accounts of religious life and the worship of the patriarchs, in which accounts mention is specifically made to the rite of circumcision, the sacrifices, the offering of the tithe, and the institution of marriage, we should find no mention of the great institution of the Sabbath. It did not exist …

In the New Testament , Genesis 2: 2-3 is not treated as a creation ordinance, but it is treated eschatologically of Messiah’s salvation rest . Hebrews 4: 3-4 uses the passage to teach that salvation rest is rooted in the Old Testament. It also interpreted typologically of the future, heavenly rest, as Harold H. P. Dressler, Professor of Biblical Studies at Northwest Baptist Theological College in Vancouver, Canada, states in his article “The Sabbath in the Old Testament”: Genesis 2 does not teach a “creation ordinance” … the institution of the Sabbath for the people of Israel, however, was based on the creation account and became a sign of God’s redemptive goal for mankind.

Dr. John P. Lange responds to Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s sixth point by asserting: “To object that the Bible, in its few brief memoranda of their [the patriarchs] lives, says nothing about their sabbath-keeping, any more than it tells us of their forms of prayer and modes of worship, is a worthless argument. The Holy Scripture never anticipates cavils; it never shows distrust of its own truthfulness by providing against [unnecessary] objections.[5]” I am compelled to agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Lange. Moreover, in reply to Lewis Sperry Chafer and Dr. Charles Feinberg who are both quoted by Dr. Fruchtenbaum to reinforce the idea that the seventh day rest as it pertains to men is not found in the scriptures until Exodus 16; I must say that other “strange” and “incredible” examples abound that would also lead one to conclude that an impossibility is being demonstrated; yet, these other examples (as I will show momentarily) are just as unrealistic as the notion that “25 centuries” elapsed after the creation of the world before man was confronted with the idea of a seventh day rest.   For instance, I find it equally “strange” and “incredible” that during the same “25 centuries” in which Lewis Sperry Chafer & Dr. Charles L. Feinberg bemoan the bible’s silence on the patriarchs observance of the seventh day rest, that those same patriarchs would know about the four time markers that were instituted in Genesis (i.e. day, week, season and year – See Gen 1:14 & Gen 2:3) and yet neglect to disregard all but one, namely, the week. For if the patriarchs HAD acknowledged the week it would be “strange” and “incredible” that they did so without any regard to its origin in Genesis nor the significance of that week’s seventh and last day. Moreover it seems “passing strange” and “incredible” that God was so concerned that male & female would properly cover their nakedness that he personally clothed them (Genesis 3:21) yet God stood by and watched for “2,500 years” while male and female incessantly toiled in the sweat of their faces all the while neglecting to inform them of the special day that Mark 2:27 tells us He had created on their behalf. Such unrealistic musings hardly demonstrate the supposed impossibilities that are said to follow. The bible does not claim to record every significant thing that occurred during the time period between Adam and Moses. Hence, there is no reason to automatically conclude that Scripture’s “2,500 year” silence in regards to the seventh day rest demonstrates the impossibility of the Sabbath’s observance during that period.

Dr. Fruchtenbaum concludes:

Finally, six observations can be made on the issue of the Sabbath’s being a creation ordinance. First, the Sabbath rest law is not found in the Edenic Covenant, the covenant God made with Adam in Eden . Secondly, it is not found in the Adamic Covenant , the covenant God made with Adam after his expulsion from the Garden. Thirdly, it is not found in the Noahic Covenant, the covenant God made with Noah after the Flood. Fourthly, it is not found in the Abrahamic Covenant, the covenant God made with Abraham, with whom the Jewish people began. Fifth, there is no record of anyone’s observing the Sabbath throughout the Book of Genesis, from Adam to Moses. Sixth, there is the example of Job, a pre-Mosaic saint. There is no mention of the Sabbath, although Job does mention things in the Book of Genesis such as the Creation, the Flood, and many details concerning man’s obligation to God. So, concerning the issue: Is the Sabbath a creation ordinance? one can draw three conclusions: first, the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance; secondly, the institution of the Sabbath for the people of Israel was based on the creation account; and thirdly, it thus became an eschatological sign of salvation rest and God’s redemptive goal for mankind.

Again, the argument from silence has its limitations. It is irrelevant that the book of Job does not mention the seventh day rest since it does not come with a disclaimer suggesting that it was supposed to cover those types of details. Even if we were to stipulate that no one observed the Sabbath until Exodus 16:23, doing so would not tell us whether or not man SHOULD have observed the seventh day rest in light of God’s leading. We can only answer that question by discussing whether or not it is proper to infer rules for living from God’s actions in the Genesis creation account. If it is improper to infer rules for living from God’s actions in Genesis then why do the Scriptures on multiple occasions infer rules for living from God’s actions in Genesis? For instance, God, from the fact that He, in Genesis, made the first two people male and female, infers the ordinance of marriage (Genesis 2:21-24, Mark 10:5-9, Matthew 19:4-6). Furthermore, Paul, from the fact that God in Genesis first created Adam, and then Eve, infers the leadership role of man over woman (1 Timothy 2:13). Again, Paul, from the fact that God in Genesis, made woman from man and not the other way around, infers that the woman is the glory of the man and the man is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:8-9). Finally, and perhaps the most relevant inference of all, God, from the fact that He, in six days created the heaven, earth, sea and all that is in them and afterward rested on the seventh day, infers that man ought also to rest on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11). Therefore, we see that is not merely proper, but also prudent to infer rules for living from God’s actions in Genesis. What follows then, is that it’s not necessary for God to use Exodus 16:23 language in order for man to infer that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance.

Dr Fruchtenbaum’s summary:

This category can be summarized in five points. First, there is no use of the term shabbat or “Sabbath” in the Book of Genesis; it uses only the term the seventh day. Secondly, there is no command that it be observed as a day of rest. Thirdly, there is no record of anyone’s keeping the seventh day prior to Moses. Fourthly, the seventh day is emphasized as a day of rest and cessation from work, but not as a day of observance. Fifth, there is no basis for mandatory Sabbath observance for Jews or Gentiles on the basis of Genesis 2. If the Sabbath were a creation ordinance, it would be obligatory for Jews and Gentiles, not just Jewish believers.

My Summary:

I have refuted every single point that was mentioned by Dr. Fruchtenbaum as it pertains to whether or not the Sabbath is a creation ordinance. In conclusion, although I have adequately demonstrated that it is not wrong to regard the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, even if the reader were to conclude that I had fallen short in doing so, I still can’t see how that would obviate the obligation that all persons have to observe the Sabbath. Christians are obligated to observe the Sabbath in the same way that they are obligated to observe the other nine commandments that are also not explicit creation ordinances. Together, these ten commandments comprise the foundation of God’s laws.  The obligation that I speak of is not a salvific one but it does demonstrate that the saved individual possess a John 14:21 love. Also, and as I have said before, it is worth pointing out that according to the scriptures, in the future, ALL men will have to observe the Sabbath whether or not they keep it now or not (Isaiah 66:23, Ezekiel 46:1). So, the real question we should be asking one another is: are you prepared to keep the Sabbath in the Millenium (Ezekiel 46:1) and in eternity (Isaiah 66:23)?



1. See notes on Leviticus 18:6, Guzik Commentary on O.T. and N.T., Dr. David Guzik
2. See notes on Mark 2:27, The DEFENDER’S Study Bible, Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
3. See topic “The Sabbath”, Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1897., M.G. Easton M.A., D.D.
4. See topic “Sabbath”, The Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, John Kitto
5. Lange’s Commentary on Genesis 2:3, Rev. Dr. John P. Lange

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