Laws of The Sabbath

Years ago, I read about a railroad that conducted an experiment. It purchased two new locomotives. One was kept in constant service, regardless of Sunday. In the use of the other, late each Saturday they pulled its fire and released the steam. On Sunday it was allowed to cool down … More


Moses tells the Israelites what the Lord has commanded them to do. Even while building the tabernacle, they must keep the Sabbath, for the sake of knowing the Lord as the one who set them apart and as the one who created the world in six days (vv. 12-17). Observing the Sabbath reminded the Israelites of the Lord’s identity as the Creator. God’s instructions for making the tabernacle and its furnishings and designating priests, all set apart, for God’s service, exemplified what it meant, for the people themselves to be sanctified.

They and their descendants are to obey the laws of the Sabbath (v. 12). By doing this they will know that He is in charge (v. 13). They can work six days, but they must rest on the seventh day (v. 14). If they work on the Sabbath they will be put to death (v. 15). Every generation of Israelites must respect the Sabbath (v. 16). This day will serve as a reminder that He (as creator God) made the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day (v. 17). 

The two tablets of the Testimony contained the Ten Commandments (v. 18). These were not the only code of laws in the ancient world. Other laws had come into existence when cities or nations decided that there must be standards of judgment and ways to correct specific wrongs. God’s laws for Israel were unique in that (1) they alleviated the harsh judgments typical of the day; (2) the rich and the poor received the same punishment; (3) they did not separate religious and social law.


The Sabbath had two purposes. It was a time to rest and a time to remember what God had done. I need to make sure my day of rest provides a time of both refreshment and remembrance of God.

Exodus 31:12-18 (English Standard Version)

And the LORD said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'" And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

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