The Sabbath

A selection of verses showing what the Bible tells us about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, equivalent to Saturday in the Western calendar.

Its importance for those under the law of Moses is emphasised because it is the fourth of the Ten Commandments given by God to Israel at Sinai:

Exodus 20 verses 8 - 11

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 You shall labour six days, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; 11 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.

The provision is for the benefit of all:

Exodus 23 verse 12

12 “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant, and the alien may be refreshed. 

The law of Moses prescribes the death penalty for those who do not keep the Sabbath as specified. God regards keeping it as Israel’s acceptance of God’s covenant with them:

Exodus 31 verses 15 - 16

15 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.

Israel’s failure to keep the Sabbath law is one reason for their being taken from their homeland as prophesied in Leviticus 26:

Leviticus 26 verses 32 - 35

32 I will bring the land into desolation, and your enemies that dwell in it will be astonished at it. 33 I will scatter you amongst the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you. Your land will be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. 34 Then the land will enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land. Even then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, even the rest which it didn’t have in your Sabbaths when you lived on it.

The king of Babylon fulfils this prophecy as recorded in 2 Chronicles:

2 Chronicles 36 verses 20 - 21

20 He carried those who had escaped from the sword away to Babylon, and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfil the LORD’s word by Jeremiah’s mouth, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. As long as it lay desolate, it kept Sabbath, to fulfil seventy years. 

The apostle Paul tells us that believers are not required to keep the Sabbath:

Colossians 2 verse 16

16 Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day,

The Sabbath is a reminder of God's promise of a final rest for his people:

Hebrews 4 verses 9 - 11

9 There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. 11 Let’s therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.