Sabbath, the Day of Delight

By Abraham E. Millgram | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX
THE SABBATH IN THE BIBLE

BIBLICAL commentators frequently point out that the command to observe the Sabbath is repeated in the Bible twelve times, the most important being in the Decalogue. The Sabbath is thus singled out in the Bible as the most important of all holy days. It is described not only as a memorial of Creation and of the exodus from Egypt, but as the "sign of the covenant between God and Israel."

The biblical references to the Sabbath are either in the form of legislation such as the command not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath, or exhortations such as the prophet Jeremiah's repeated pleas for Sabbath observance, or historical accounts such as Nehemiah's enforcement of Sabbath observance. All these references reveal the Sabbath as an old institution, generally recognized and widely honored, but still in a state of development, still far from the form it assumed in rabbinic times. It is only toward the end of the Bible, in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, that we discover a tendency to associate the Sabbath with complete physical rest and general intellectual stimulation.

Although most of the details of Sabbath observance are post-biblical in origin, the general nature it was destined to assume, and the central role it was destined to play in Jewish life are fully rooted in the Bible, as the few excerpts in this chapter amply illustrate.

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