Biblical Principle #212: Israel’s Sabbath Laws

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Under the Law of Moses, God gave Israel instructions regarding various sabbaths.


A sabbath is a special day of rest. We have previously established that GOD implemented the sabbath rest for Israel during the exodus journey and that He included keeping the sabbath holy in the ten commandments He spoke directly to all the Israelites at Sinai.

In the Law, GOD expounded upon the previous sabbath instructions.

Weekly Sabbath

12 ‘Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your works, 14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work—you, your son and your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your ox, your donkey, and all of your cattle, and your resident alien dwelling among you; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 Remember, you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore, the Lord your God ordered you to guard the Sabbath day and to sanctify it.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 OSB

Symbol of Covenant

16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbaths, to observe them throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord created heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.’”

Exodus 31:16-17 OSB


30 ‘You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My holy things: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:30 OSB

Day of Sacred Assembly

1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath rest, a holy convocation to the Lord. You shall do no work on it; it is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.

Leviticus 23:1-3 OSB

No Fire

3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath Day; I am the Lord.”

Exodus 35:3 OSB

No Exception During Seedtime and Harvest

21 Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. There shall be rest in seedtime and harvest.

Exodus 34:21 OSB

Punishment for Breaking Sabbath

12 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “You shall direct the children of Israel, saying, ‘See to it that you keep My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbaths, because this is holy for you to the Lord. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; for whoever works on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath, a holy rest to the Lord. Whoever works on the seventh day shall be put to death.

Exodus 31:12-15 OSB

Scripture provides an example of such a punishment for an Israelite who broke the sabbath laws:

32 Now while the children of Israel were in the desert, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 So those who found him gathering wood on the Sabbath day brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel. 34 They put him under guard because they had not decided what to do with him. 35 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Let the man be surely put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones.” 36 So, as the Lord ordered Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones.

Numbers 15:32-36 OSB

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