Exod 20:11 bases the Sabbath on 6 literal days of creation

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”  Exod20:11 KJV

The Sabbath Law and Moses teaching here is taken by some to prove the 6 days in Gen1 are historical and literal.  Of course it does present just as much of a challenge to OEC brethren as there is no room for a gap in this formulation of creation.  Taken literally the passage really only fits YEC (and even then the order of events is ‘unusual’).

As per other posts, other brethren over time have held different views on the literalness of the timeframes in Gen 1.  They were obviously aware of this passage and while not accepting evolution, reconciled it with their understanding.

I suggest in the wisdom of God a 7-day cycle was established as being good for humanity.  The cycle was bound up in the semi-poetic language of Gen 1.  Of course this is speculation on my part but consistent with the foreknowledge of God who made the Sabbath for man and not the other way around (Mark 2:27).  However it is consistent with the parallel passage in Exod31:17 “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

In this instance, Moses adds that God was “refreshed” H5314, a word occurring only 3 times which AMG says is “a verb meaning to refresh, to rest, to refresh oneself. It refers to a renewal of energy in mind and body and applies to persons and work animals (Ex 23:12; 2Sam 16:14).  It is used figuratively of the Lord resting after creation, ceasing from His labor (Ex 31:17).”[1]

Does God literally need to take a break to renew His power?  No, Isa 40:28 makes that clear.  The expression is figurative, hence my suggestion that the linking of the Sabbath to the Gen 1 record does not of itself prove the literal timeframes involved.

Bro CC Walker in wrote” the law of the Sabbath applies with equal force whether the “days” of Gen. 1. be long or short.  This appears from the consideration that the Millennium is called a Sabbath (Heb. 4:18); unless indeed we are too narrow in restricting this “rest” to the millennium.  And if the literal Sabbath of twenty-four hours may thus stand as a figure for a vast period of time in the future, may it not equally well so stand for a vast period in the past?  But we do not say that this interpretation is infallible, though we are unable to find a better one”[2]

I agree with CC Walker’s circumspect position and reasoning.

The passage is also addressed by A. Norris as follows:  “The one substantial objection on Scriptural grounds which can be urged against the view is the statement in the Ten Commandments that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth” (Exod. 20: 11), and this is not as serious as might be supposed. For in his visions the writer had (on the view now presented) seen God do exactly that in six days, and seen the Sabbath sanctified because of it. He had learned (on the same view) that the true Sabbath was to be endless (for there is no evening and morning in Gen. 2 : 1–3), and he had been taught that the Sabbath kept by Israel was a type of the perpetual Sabbath to come: the image of the rest which remaineth.”[3]

Again this serves to show that respected brethren in past years who didn’t hold evolution and rejected 6*24 hours of continuous creative activity reconciled their view with Exod 20:11.

Bro Roger Evans made the following observations:

It should also be observed that the Sabbath was not instituted until the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt, (Exodus 16).  There is no record that it was commanded or kept before that.

Scripture clearly teaches that the six day working week was first established with Divine work (provision of manna) over six days followed by a rest from that provision on day seven.  In Deuteronomy it is declared that Sabbath was established as a rest from the unbroken 24/7 servitude of Egypt.  Throughout the Torah the Sabbath is mentioned as a novel institution originating in the fifteenth day of the second month of the Exodus- indeed the word Sabbath first appears in Ex 16.

The mention of Sabbath as a commemoration of Creation comes four chapters and half a month later- more as a secondary principle than a primary cause.

Given the above, the collective implication is that Sabbath was not instituted as a remembrance of Creation at all, but that the Creation record was retrospectively established as an etiological reinforcement of the Sabbath.

Therefore given that the seven day week is the principle and the creation narrative is a secondary illustration, it is quite probable that Genesis 1 was written to reinforce the seven day working week, rather than vice versa; and that it is more a supportive example rather than a literal precedent.

Careful reading of Exod 20:11 raises additional problems for those who claim to take things literally.  The order of events is somewhat different – what is created is the heavens, earth and the sea.  By contrast Gen 1 has the sea already in situ, then the heavens made followed by the earth.  Such difficulties are usually brushed over by the same types who demand their own brand of literal understanding for Gen 1 itself.


[1] AMG Old Testament Word Study

[2] Walker CC “Genesis and Geology” The Christadelphian, Volume 51 page 317 (1914)

[3] Norris, A.  Where Science & Religion Meet”  The Christadelphian Volume 102 Page 18 (1965)

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