ABSTRACT: God engrained the specialness of the seventh day permanently into human existence. Every seventh day was elevated above other days to be a blessing to mankind. The seventh day is necessary to eternally sustain man’s sin-less perfection in a perfect world by strengthening the intimate relationship between man and His Creator. There is no indication that man, before sin, was required to rest on the seventh like the Jews were commanded to do. But it is proposed below that man, every seventh day, ceased his normal activities to refresh his connection with His Creator.
BLESSED AND SANCTIFIED AT CREATION
The Creator sanctified and blessed the seventh day when He created life:
“By the seventh day God completed His work …
and He rested on the seventh day
from all His work which He had done.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,
because in it He rested
from all His work which God had created and made.”
(Gen 1:31-2:3; cf. Exo 20:11)
God rested on one day only, but He blessed and sanctified every recurring seventh day.
The seventh day was blessed. This means, as Jesus’s stated, that it was “made for man” (Mark 2:27); made to be a blessing to mankind.
The seventh day was also sanctified. Sanctified means that it was separated from other days by being elevated above them. God obviously set the day apart for use by people, not for Himself or for angels.
Time on this planet is divided into years, months, weeks and days. Years are derived from the rotation of the earth around the sun. Months are derived from the rotation of the moon around the earth. Days are derived from the rotation of the earth around its own axis. But the origin of the seven-day cycle is a mystery. The entire world divides time into weeks, but there is no physical seven-day cycle in nature from which the week could have been derived. Critical scholars tell us that the Jews obtained the notion of a seven-day cycle from the surrounding nations, but according to the Bible, it originated in creation.
AN INTEGRAL PART OF CREATION
But it is even more important to understand the relationship between the creation and the seventh day. Our Creator did not need six days to create life on this planet; He could have done it in a blink of an eye. He also did not need to rest after six days of creation because He is not a man that He should become tired (Isa 40:28). He “rested” to create the seventh day. God created in six days to establish the seventh day as special. The specialness of the seventh day is, in other words, not an afterthought or a mere token of creation, but an integral part of life on this planet; never to be separated from life on this planet.
If one accepts a literal six-day creation, with the Creator resting on a literal seventh day, through which He created the seventh day as a sanctified and blessed part of life, then one should accept the specialness of the seventh day as permanently engrained in human existence; blessed and sanctified for all peoples and for all times. Is that not what Jesus said when He referred to the Sabbath as “made for man”? Since it was set apart and made to be a blessing before sin, it is not a ceremonial prescript that pointed forward to Christ and that was annulled by His death.
Since the seventh day was part of the creation of order and life on this earth, it is proposed here that the seventh day was made to fulfill a special purpose. It is not merely symbolic or ceremonial, but a necessary part of life, without which life cannot thrive as intended. And since the seventh day was made, sanctified and blessed before sin—when the world was still perfect—it was established to sustain perfect life eternally in a perfect world.
The LORD sanctified and blessed the seventh day because He rested on that day (Gen 2:2-3; Exo 20:11). That first seventh day, therefore, was somehow very special. It is proposed here that “rested” here does not mean to recover from physical exertion, because the Creator does not become tired (Isa 40:28) and because God could also rest on the 8th and subsequent days. Young’s Literal Translation uses the word “ceased” instead of “rested”. If we use this understanding we can speculate that He ceased the busyness of His creation activities to spend time with man and His other creatures in the beautiful home he made for them. It is therefore proposed here that the purpose of the seventh day was to maintain man’s sin-less perfection by strengthening the intimate relationship between man and His Creator.
The Law of Moses commands the Jews, “you shall not do any work” (Exo 20:10). They were not told what to do on the seventh day, except to rest. But in the creation account, there is no direct indication of what was expected from man on that day. In particular, there is no evidence of a commandment to keep the seventh day as a day of physical rest.
The seventh day was sanctified before man first sinned; when man still lived in Eden. After man sinned, God cursed the ground (Gen 3:17), expelled man from Eden, and prevented him from eating from the tree of life. The ground was cursed so that it would bring forth “thorns and thistles”, and man had to earn his food “by the sweat of your face” (Gen 3:19). “In toil you will eat of it” (Gen 3:17). Physical rest became a necessity, and perhaps it was for that reason that the Sabbath was later given to Israel as a rest day. But before man first sinned, when he still lived in Eden, physical rest was not necessary. It would be a mistake to apply the Law of Moses to the original seventh day, as it existed in perfect circumstances in Eden.
It is fair to assume that man was supposed to do the same as what the LORD did on that first seventh day. It is proposed here that the LORD used that first seventh day to spend time with newly created man; to establish a personal relationship between man and his Creator. For that reason it is proposed here that man in Eden, following the Creator’s example, ceased his normal activities on each seventh day to enjoy a much higher activity which was critical for his spiritual well-being; namely to refresh his connection with His Creator, Who is the Source of all Life and Truth.
Theologians sometimes argue that God did not sanctify and bless the Sabbath at creation. They argue that Genesis was written by Moses after he received the Sabbath commandment and that what Moses meant by Genesis 2:3 is that God sanctified and blessed the seventh day by giving it as a day of rest to Israel, thousands of years after creation.
Firstly, this contradicts the natural reading of the text. There is no indication in Genesis 2 or anywhere else in the Bible that the seventh day was sanctified only thousands of years later:
“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exo 20:11).
Secondly, this would contradict Christ’s statement that “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).
Thirdly, God was not tired after six days because He never becomes tired. He did not have to rest. For that reason, we conclude that He “rested” to establish and sanctify the seventh day. But He rested on that first seventh day only. This would mean that the seventh day was special immediately after creation.