Did the cycle of seven days exist before the time of Moses?

The 2500 years between Creation and Moses is described by only a small portion of the Bible, and that portion never mentions the Sabbath.  However, the many references to seven days imply the existence of a seven day cycle, which implies the existence of a seventh day, for the seven day cycle exist because of the special seventh day.

Overview

Abraham ready to slay Isaac

According to Biblehub, Abraham received the promise of many descendants in 2085 BC; approximately 2000 years after creation.

More than 600 years later, in 1446 BC, Moses received the Law.  This page considers evidence for the Sabbath in the 2500 years between Creation and Moses.  This long period of time is only briefly described in Genesis and perhaps also in the book of Job.

Seven Day Cycle

These two books never use the name Sabbath, but a search for the phrase “seven days” in Genesis will show seven occurrences.  Similar searches for four, five, six, eight or nine days will show not a single occurrence.  Genesis also refers to a “week”.   The frequent references to seven days imply the existence of a seven-day cycle, which implies a special seventh day, because the seven-day cycle exists because of the seventh day.

The references to seven days are the following::

  1. Seven days after Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, God sent rain.
  2. Noah waited seven days before he sent out a second dove.
  3. He waited another seven days before he sent out a third dove.
  4. Joseph observed seven days of mourning for his father.
  5. Seven days after the first plague God sent Moses to Pharaoh to warn him of the second plague.
  6. Job’s friends sat with him for seven days.

Furthermore, Laban required Jacob to wait a “week” before he took Rachael as his second wife.  This implies that the ancients had a name for a period of seven days, which would confirm the existence of a seven-day cycle.

There are also references to seven years:

  1. Jacob worked seven years for Rachael, but Rachael’s father gave him Leah as wife.  Jacob then worked another seven years for Rachael.
  2. Joseph had a vision of seven good years and seven bad years.

The Jews from the time of Moses onward had both a seven day cycle and a seven year cycle. Similar to the seventh day, during the seventh year “the land shall have a sabbath rest” (Lev. 25:4).  The references to seven years in the time before Moses imply that a seven year cycle already existed before Moses.  This supports the conclusion that a seven day cycle with a special seventh day existed before Moses, because the seven year cycle is derived from the seven day cycle.

Although evidence exists for a seven-day cycle, and therefore that the seventh day was special before the time of Moses, there is no indication what man did on that day.  In particular there is no evidence that man kept it as a day of physical rest, as the Jews were instructed to do.

Evidence for a Seven-Day Cycle

The Sea Is Divided

The second book of the Bible (Exodus) describes the exodus of Israel out of Egypt, including how they received the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20), which includes the Sabbath commandment.  The first book of the Bible is Genesis.  This book covers thousands of years, but never uses the term “Sabbath” for the seventh day.  However, it is shown below that Genesis often refers to “seven days” and even to a “week”:

The Arc

Noah Seven days after Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, God sent rain (Gen 7:4, 10). After the rain subsided Noah sent out a dove “to see if the water was abated from the face of the land”.  The dove returned to the ark.  Noah waited seven days before he sent out a second dove (Gen. 8:8-10).  The dove came back with an olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth.  But he waited another seven days and sent the dove out again (8:12).  This time the dove did not return.  It seems that even during the flood, with water covering everything, it was important for Noah to keep track of a seven day cycle. In this way the specialness of the seventh day was transported with Noah from the antediluvian to the new world.

Rachael and Leah

Jacob Jacob worked seven years for Rachael, but Rachael’s father Laban tricked him, and gave him Rachael’s older sister Leah as wife.  When Jacob confronted Laban, Laban said “Complete the week of this one” (Leah).  Laban then suggested that Jacob work another seven years for Rachael, which he did (Gen. 29:20-30).

Joseph Joseph had a vision of seven good cows and seven ugly cows. Both the seven good cows and the seven ugly cows represented seven years (Gen. 41:26-30).  Joseph also observed seven days of mourning for his father (Gen. 50:10).

Seven days in Genesis – A search for the phrase “seven days” in Genesis will show seven occurrences.  Similar searches for four, five, six, eight or nine days will show not a single occurrence.  This also implies the existence of a seven day cycle before the time of Moses.

The book of Exodus, in the description of the plagues, before Moses received the Ten Commandments, also refers to seven days.  After the Lord turned the Nile into blood (Ex. 7:20), He waited seven days (Ex. 7:27) before He sent Moses to Pharaoh (Ex. 8:1) to tell Pharoah “I will smite your whole territory with frogs” (Ex 8:2).

Job It is estimated that Job lived before Abraham. (Biblehub.com states “It is possible that Job is the oldest of any book of the Bible written approximately 2100-1800 BC.”) In this book we also find a seven day period.  When Job’s three friend came to him, they sat with him “for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13).

These examples imply the existence of a seven-day cycle even before the time of Moses, which implies a sanctified (set apart for special use) seventh day, because the seven-day cycle exists because of the sanctified seventh day. As indicated above, Genesis also refers to “seven years” in the time before Moses.  This also implies a sanctified seventh day, because the seven year cycle is derived from the seven day cycle.

No Sabbath Commandment

Although evidence exists for a seven day cycle before the time of Moses, no evidence exists that the seventh day was a Sabbath before Moses and one should not assume that the seventh day was a day of physical rest before Moses.

Sabbath: Table of Contents

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