The Sabbath In The Law Of Moses – Exodus 20:8-11



The following discussion reviews Chapter IV of Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s “The Sabbath.” In this section of Chapter IV, Dr. Fruchtenbaum exposits Exodus 20:8-11.

Exodus 20:8-11
(8)  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(9)  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
(10)  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
(11)  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.

Dr Fruchtenbaum says:
This passage contains the fourth commandment and six observations can be made. The first observation is that God used the word Remember in verse 8, not as a reference back to Genesis 2, but as a reference to its nearest context, Exodus 16. He can now say Remember, since it was already mentioned in chapter 16. However, in Deuteronomy 5: 12, which does not have the same context, He used the word Observe, rather than Remember.

The second observation, also in verse 8, is that they were to keep it holy; they were to keep it as a special day, separated from all others as a day dedicated to God.

The third observation, verses 9-10, is that the key way to keep it holy was cessation from work. This included family members, servants, strangers, and domesticated animals. God rested on the seventh day and so Israel is to rest on the seventh day.

The fourth observation , verse 11, is that only now is the word shabbat applied to the seventh day of Genesis 2: 2-3. Again, this does not mean that the Sabbath of the seventh day of Genesis 2 had already been set aside for humanity. The word wherefore in Hebrew is al kein, which means that the present command was based upon a previous event. The previous event was the fact that God rested on the seventh day, but it does not mean the command itself was previously enforced at the time of the event. The construction causally connects an event of the past with a situation or command in the present.

The fifth observation is that there is no obligation here to worship God on this day; the Sabbath was not a day of worship, but a day of rest.

And the sixth observation is that this was not a day of total inactivity, but a day of rest and refreshment. The rest itself was an act of worship; corporate worship was not a factor in the Old Testament Sabbath.

An unnecessary conclusion.

Dr. Fructenbaum’s first point is not a valid observation, but an unnecessary, and thus invalid inference. Employing this type of faulty reasoning is to commit a logical fallacy called “asserting the consequent.” It is important to remember this particular mistake in reasoning because Fruchtenbaum goes on to commit this same mistake throughout his book. The reason Fruchtenbaum attributes to God for why He used the word “remember” in Exodus 20:8, is because God was referring back to Exodus 16:23 which is the “nearest” Sabbath verse to Exodus 20:8. Amazingly, a confident Fruchtenbaum also asserts that God did not have Genesis 2:3 in mind when He said “Remember the Sabbath”; as if he knows the unrevealed reasoning of the Author, and as if it were impossible for the Author to refer back to two different Sabbath verses simultaneously. What is clearly seen is that everything mentioned by Dr. Fructenbaum is neither called for nor does it follow necessarily from the previously mentioned premise which merely asserts God’s usage of the word “remember.”
In fact, the Hebrew word for remember–zakar–has at least two different meanings within its semantic range; it can mean (1) to recall or (2) to cause to be remembered. Since this is the case, if the second meaning mentioned is in view, then God does not need a prior verse within Exodus in order to use the word “remember.” Moreover, even if the first meaning is in view (and not the second), the fact that Genesis 2:3 is the “purpose for the origin of” the Sabbath (and not Exodus 16:23) would make it the logical verse for God to ascribe remembrance to in Exodus 20:8–that is, if God were trying to limit Himself to one referent. Regarding God using the verb “remember”, Dr. Henry Morris states:

The Hebrew word for “remember” actually is in the sense of “mark” or “set aside.” The Israelites didn’t need to be told to remember the sabbath, because they, like other nations had been keeping time in weeks ever since the first week (Genesis 2:1-3). Note the references to the sabbath in the giving of the manna, prior to the giving of the Law (Exodus 16:23-29) [1].

The same fault in reasoning is seen in Fruchtenbaum’s explanation for why the Deuteronomy 5:12-15 passage doesn’t use the word “remember.” Since God doesn’t tell us why He used the word “observe” in Deuteronomy 5:12, the reader is required to regard Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s explanation as a superfluous argument.

The Sabbath was set aside for humanity in Genesis 2:3

Regarding Dr. Fructenbaum’s fourth observation, it’s interesting that, for his remarks back in Exodus 16:23-30 he states: “this passage contains the first occurrence of both the word shabbat and the concept of the Sabbath as a day of rest, for the word was not used in the Book of Genesis”; but now here in Exodus 20:11, he says that “the word shabbat [was indeed] applied to the seventh day of Genesis 2:2-3.” Well, which is it? One almost gets the idea that Dr. Fructenbaum is playing word games with us. Since Exodus 20:11 uses the word “shabbat” to describe the seventh day in Genesis 2:2-3; then it’s misleading to put forth the argument that Exodus 16:23 is the “first occurrence of … the concept of the Sabbath as a day of rest.” Doing so gives the reader the impression that the word “shabbat” was not used to refer to the seventh day of the first week in Genesis when Exodus 20:11 tells us the opposite. So we see that the word “shabbat” WAS used to define the Genesis 2:3 rest, despite the fact that the first time the reader encounters this truth explicitly is in Exodus 16:23. The remarkable irony about Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s suggestion that “the Sabbath of the seventh day of Genesis 2 had [not yet been] set aside for humanity” and “[was not] enforced at the time of the event [‘s creation]” is that the bible requires the reader to draw the exact opposite as a conclusion. Consider the following:

  1. God worked six days and rested on the seventh in order to furnish man with a blueprint for how to live life. (Genesis 2:3)
  2. God refers to this pattern of working six days and resting on the seventh as keeping the Sabbath. (Exodus 20:11)
  3. Man was present when God created the Sabbath. (Genesis 1:26 – Genesis 2:3)
  4. God created the Sabbath for man. (Mark 2:27)

Speaking on the phrase “Remember the Sabbath Day”, Joseph Exell in the Biblical Illustrator commentary states: “[The Sabbath] is no new institution which you are now to learn about for the first, but it is an old observance, not Israelitish, but human, Noachic, and Adamic, which you, God’s Israel, are to remember, that you may sustain it in its purity, just as you are to sustain a true and spiritual worship as against idolatry…The other expression which proves the universality of its application (in addition to its very position in the Decalogue) is the reason given for the Divine order—because in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath Day and hallowed it. The reason began at the creation, and therefore the observance began at the creation.”[2]

What else can be said except that when God rested on the seventh day of Genesis 2:3, that day became the Sabbath, a day of rest that by definition was set aside for all humanity. A day that Adam had at his disposal since he was already created.

The Conclusion.

In summary, God, in Exodus 20:11 said to “remember” the Sabbath but He doesn’t say to remember the Sabbath because it “was already mentioned in Exodus 16” nor can one validly infer that Exodus 16:23 must serve as the basis for why God commands the remembrance of the Sabbath without transgressing the rules of logic.
Furthermore, the fact that in Exodus 20:11, the seventh day and the Sabbath day are used interchangeably to speak of the day when God rested, demonstrates that: (1) the seventh day in Genesis 2:2-3 was the first Sabbath day and (2) the Sabbath day was not created exclusively for Jewish observance since at the time of its creation in Genesis 2:3 there were no Jews present, just Adam and Eve.
But let us not forget that even if the Sabbath had not yet been set aside for humanity in Genesis 2:3, this unwarranted speculation would still not excuse man of his future responsibility to continue Sabbath observance. For during the upcoming Millennial reign of Christ and for all eternity, verses like Ezekiel 46:1 & Isaiah 66:23 reveal that all flesh will observe the Sabbath. So anyone that presently eschews or discounts Sabbath observance must eventually decide how they will deal with this truth from the Word of God.




1.  See notes on Exodus 20:8, The DEFENDER’S Study Bible, Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D.

2. See notes on Exodus 20:8-11, The Biblical Illustrator, Joseph S. Exell, M.A.

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