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?
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.
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?