Tuesday: The Sabbath Before Sinai

God doesn’t reveal how He communicated the eternal principles of His law to humanity before Mount Sinai, but the evidence is clear and substantial that the giving of the law on Sinai was not the world’s initial exposure to its precepts.1

Many people, forced to concede that point, argue instead that it was only the Sabbath commandment, not the others, that was first given at Sinai, and therefore it is exclusively Jewish and doesn’t pertain to Christians today.

How valid is that claim?

Read Genesis 2:1–3. What does this passage teach us about the Sabbath before Sinai? 

Next, in Exodus 5:1–5, the Bible reveals Moses and Aaron struggling with Pharaoh in regard to the question of letting Israel go. Verse five is particularly enlightening.

Read Exodus 5:5. What indication is there of the Sabbath in this text?  

Pharaoh’s response, “You make them rest from their labor” (NKJV), seems clear enough. The original language reads even more pointedly. Though there are several words for rest, the verb Pharaoh uses is built on the word for “Sabbath.” The striking language of Pharaoh to Moses and Aaron reads like this, “You make them sabbath from their labor!” a hint, if nothing else, to the reality of the Sabbath rest before Sinai.

Concrete proof of the Sabbath before Sinai, though, appears in Exodus 16, when God miraculously provided manna for Israel in the wilderness. This 40-year miracle began before the children of Israel reached Mount Sinai.

Read Exodus 16:4–30, focusing especially on verses 23–30. How do these verses prove the existence of the seventh-day Sabbath before the Mount Sinai experience?  

Notice the words of the Lord to Moses in verse 28, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” (NKJV), a clear indication that God’s laws and commandments existed before the revelation at Sinai, and that among those commandments and laws was the seventh-day Sabbath. Thus, though something monumental happened with the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments themselves obviously weren’t new.

How is your Sabbath experience? Do you love the Sabbath, dread it, or are you ambivalent about it? What can you do to have a deeper and richer experience with the Lord through the gift of His Sabbath day?



Tuesday: The Sabbath Before Sinai — 11 Comments

  1. "You make them rest from their labour" It says the word rest is built on the word sabbath. Can anybody throw more light on the Hebrew word used here and translated as rest as there is not much details on this?

    • William, I wrote about this in what I posted last week in the weekly Sabbath School Commentary I post on my website. Here is an excerpt that you may find helpful:

      The very first instance when God made something holy in the Bible is in Genesis. “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:3, NIV It is interesting that in the Hebrew, the word (שָׁבַת֙(in English "Sabbath")) we have often translated as “rest” is more subtly nuanced than we see in the English. It might be more properly rendered as “stood still.” While God actively passed through the other days of creation, on the seventh day He “stood still.” His presence remained with that day, and that presence made that day holy in a unique manner. This is why Hebrews 4 refers to a Sabbath rest yet to be entered into. It is referring to an invitation continually extended by God to enter into His presence.

        • George, if you have a Bible text that says that man was created holy, could you please share it with us? Thanks.

        • It is true to say that the first direct mention of holiness was is in GEN.2:3.. I believe the first concept of holiness was displayed on the 6th day when GOD declared and made man holy GEN.1:26-27.And GOD said let us make man in our own image,after our own likeness:and let them have dominion over the the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air,and over the cattle,and over all the earth,and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.(vs 27) So GOD created man in HIS own image in the image of GOD created he him male and female created he them.So isn't it fair to conclude that man was created in GOD'S image and likeness so GOD made man to possess his character( one is holiness) ?In Patriarchs and prophets page 45,Ellen White says..Man was to bear GOD'S image, both in outward resemblance and character,further down in the paragraph she said that..he was holy and happy in bearing the image of GOD and in perfect obedience to HIS will. On page 48 the forth paragraph begin by saying that our first parents though created innocent and holy, were not placed beyond the possibility of wrongdoing GOD made them free moral agent etc.how do you explain this ?

        • Thanks for you answer, George. I am unclear about your question though. You ask for an explanation. What is it that you feel needs explanation? Thanks.

        • Dear George,

          I believe that you have successfully made your point. Man was first made holy. However, man is not a thing. Therefore, I think you would have to concede that the Sabbath was the first instance of God making some thing holy, except that marriage is a thing and that it was created holy before the Sabbath.

          God bless.

    • I don't understand, George. Are you saying you do not believe what you quoted that Ellen White wrote in Patriarchs and Prophets? If you do believe it, and that is clear to you, I still don't understand what you need explained.

      I do not see a conflict between the fact that the first time the Bible says God made something holy is in Genesis 2:3 and what Ellen White said in Patriarchs and Prophets. Do you?

  2. Tuesday – The Sabbath Before Sinai
    1 . Before Sinai, the Sabbath was instituted at Creation, by God, as a divinely sanctified and specific day of the weekly cycle of time.
    2 . Proof of the Sabbath, as part of a divine set of laws before Sinai, is offered by the reason of the miraculous provision of manna for Israel in the wilderness.


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