A Written Discussion ... Upon the Sabbath



Hitherto I have been on the negative, attempting to show that the passages of Scripture, relied on by Eld. Waggoner to prove that the sabbath was given at creation for man’s observance, are thoroughly consistent with the giving of the sabbath at a much later date. It is with pleasure that I now take the affirmative and attempt to show when the sabbath was given. If I am successful in locating its origin this side of the exode, my former position will be unanswerably corroborated. WDUS 24.1

To the reader I would say that our space is limited and I have much to tell; I cannot, therefore, pause to elaborate or repeat, but shall concisely give solid facts and reasons. Were this an oral debate which could be heard but once, I would be at every pains to explain and elaborate, but being written it is not needed. WDUS 24.2

l. When an institution is instituted or enacted, or mentioned for the first time, the definite article “the” is always wanting. WDUS 24.3

Take, for example, the seven annual sabbaths which the Lord gave to the Israelites: WDUS 24.4

1 and 2. The first and seventh days of unleavened bread.—Exodus 12:15-17: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day shall ye put away leaven out of your houses. * * * And in the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation to you: no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you” WDUS 24.5

3. Pentecost-Leviticus 23:21: “And ye shall proclaim on the self same day, that it is a holy convocation unto you; ye shall do no servile work therein; it is a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout all your generations.” WDUS 24.6

4. The first day of the seventh month.—Leviticus 23:24-25: “In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, ye shall have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” WDUS 24.7

5. The tenth day of the seventh month. The great day of atonement.—Leviticus 23:27-32: “Also on the tenth day of the seventh month there shall be a day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation unto you. * * * It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you.” WDUS 24.8

6 and 7. The fifteenth and twenty-second days of the seventh month.—Leviticus 23:39: “Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the seventh day shall be a sabbath.” WDUS 24.9

It in precisely in this indefinite way that the weekly sabbath is first introduced to our notice and to the attention of the Israelites. For the sake of easy reference, as well as some criticisms, let me here transcribe so much of the sixteenth chapter of Exodus as we shall have use for. WDUS 24.10

(4) “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (5) And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. * * * (22) And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for a man: and all the rulers came and told Moses, (23) And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath [Heb. and Gr. a rest, a rest of holiness] unto the Lord; bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. (24) And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein, (25) And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for it is a sabbath [so also Heb. and Gr.] unto the Lord; to-day ye shall not find it in the field. (26) Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath [Heb. and Gr. a sabbath], in it there shall be none. (27) And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. (28) And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? (29) See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath [Gr. and Heb. the sabbath], therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread for two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. (30) So the people rested on the seventh day.” WDUS 24.11

From this it necessarily follows that the idea of a sacred sabbath was a new thing; for WDUS 25.1

1. This, its first mention, introduces and describes it as a new affair is introduced and described. Note the language, v. 23, “To-morrow is (not the sabbath, as it a well known institution, but) a sabbathism,” i.e. a rest. They had often rested when weary and so readily comprehended this, but were surprised that, whether weary or not, the following day must be spent in rest. Then Moses adds another thought, that of sacredness,—“a rest of holiness.” But how holy? holy for what? “Of holiness unto the Lord.” Thus step by step, as one teaches a child a new thing, Moses taught the sabbath to the rulers. So also to the people, vv. 25-26,—“a sabbath.” WDUS 25.2

2. The definite article in the English version is supplied by the translators, who, no doubt, labored under the impression that the sabbath was an older institution; but there is nothing in the Hebrew or the Greek to warrant it; the article is wanting. WDUS 25.3

In Green’s Hebrew Grammer, §245.3. we read, The definite article in Hebrew is prefixed when the thing referred to is “suggested by the circumstances, or may be presumed to be well known.” §248: “Indefinite nouns are characterized as much by the absence of the article.” There are, however, three cases in which a noun is definite without the article: §246. 1. “Proper nouns, which are definite by signification. 2. Nouns with suffixes, which are rendered definite by the appended pronoun. 3. Nouns in the construct state before a definite noun, whether this has the article, is a proper noun, has a pronomial suffix, or is itself definite by construction.” But the passage under consideration comes under none of these exceptional rules. We are, therefore, shut up to this conclusion, that, had the sabbath been a pre-existent and well known institution, the presence of the article would be here demanded, and its absence proves this the first mention of the sabbath. WDUS 25.4

The same rule obtains also in Greek. See Crosby’s Greek Grammar, §469. “The article is prefixed to substantives, to mark them as definite.” §472: “A substantive not employed in its full extent may be rendered definite, (§479:) by previous mention, mutual understanding, general notoriety, or emphatic distinction.” Now the term sabbath (rest) is not employed in its full extent when describing the sabbatic institution, since it does not include all rest. Had it, therefore, been definite by “previous mention, mutual understanding, (or) general notoriety,” the presence of the definite article would have been demanded in Exodus 16:23-25 and 26. If this is not proving my position, I know not how anything can ever be proved. But I will add proof to proof. WDUS 25.5

3. When the original sabbath law is elsewhere quoted the same facts stare us again stubbornly in the face. “These are the words which the Lord hath commanded, that ye should do them: Six days shall work done, but the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of the rest to the Lord,” Exodus 35:1-2. Here the same rules apply as before. This version is faithful in spite of the translators’ prepossessions which made them turn commentators in the former case, though the construction is the same. WDUS 25.6

4. The rulers did not expect a sabbath-it took them by surprise. “And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they (some of the people) gathered twice as much bread, two omers for a man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said (to me and Aaron,) To-morrow is a rest, a rest of holiness to the Lord.” Exodus 16:22-23. Had the sabbath been a pre-existent institution, certainly “the rulers of the congregation” would have remembered it. The supposition that they had forgotten it is not sufficient to account for Moses’ answer. In that case he would have said, Tomorrow is the sabbath, the day on which the Lord rested from creation and which He sanctified for man’s observance. Anything short of mentioning the facts of the creation week would have been no explanation. WDUS 26.1

5 The people knew nothing of a sabbath. In the beginning of the seventh day after the first falling of the manna, Moses addressed the people thus: “Eat that (extra omer of yesterday’s gathering) to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to-day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days shall ye gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, in it there shall be none.” vv. 25-26. This we know to have been addressed to the people, since “all the rulers” were informed the day before. Had the people known the sabbath as an old institution, the laws of every language having a definite article would have required its use here. That the people did not look for a sabbath appears also from the fact that some of them did not gather a double quantity of manna on the sixth day, expecting to work on the seventh. “And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.” v. 27. Moreover, when the Lord reproved them, (no doubt for all past disobedience, but) especially for disregard as to the quantity to be gathered on each day and for breaking the sabbath given them that day, He spoke of the sabbath as definite and known. “How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that (because) the Lord hath given you the sabbath, 1 therefore, he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days: abide ye every man in his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.” vv. 28-30. The fact of using the article “the” here, when we know the sabbath was known, as well as in Exodus 20:8., “Remember the sabbath,” confirms the conclusion I have drawn from the absence of the article in the previous mentions. WDUS 26.2

II. My second argument is founded on the fact that the sabbath was given as comemorative of two events, God’s resting on the seventh day, Exodus 20:8-11, and the deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Hence it was not till after such deliverance. He would be a foolish architect who would build a house before all the foundations were laid. I have already sufficiently dwelt on this while on the first proposition, and hence dismiss it with this additional remark: The circumstance that Deuteronomy 5:15, names an item not found in Exodus 20., proves nothing against its having been given at the original proclamation of the decalogue from Sinai, any more than because all the conditions precedent to the remission of sins, under the New Economy, as, faith, repentance and baptism, are not found in any one record of the Comission, but must be sought by a combination of them all. Besides, Moses expressly declares that all he gives in Deuteronomy 5, as part of the decalogue was both proclaimed from Sinai and written on the two tables of stone. Deuteronomy 5:22. WDUS 26.3

Moreover, the transactions of Exodus 16., such as the commandments concerning the gathering of the manna, were of a tentative character, preparing the people for the giving of the law; for the Lord Himself said it was, “That I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” Hence it is that God gave His ordinances as arbitrarily as possible. He required the gathering of an omer of manna for every man, allowed the greedy to have no more, and the indolent no less, even miraculously decreasing or enlarging the quantity when necessary. He required on the sixth day the gathering of a double portion without telling of a sabbath to follow, or that there would be no manna on that day to gather, and in the face of the fact that all previous attempts to save it from one day to another had failed. When at length the sabbath was introduced, it was as arbitrarily as possible-simply, and in keeping with the other requirements, as a rest sacred to God, without any reference to creation or to their deliverance from bondage. The permanent legislation on the sabbath, together with the assignation of proper reasons, was reserved to that grand and solemn day when Jehovah strode to His throne on Sinai, and Israel as “a holy nation” was born. WDUS 26.4

III. That the sabbath was first given in the wilderness is expressly stated by Nehemiah 9:13-14. “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: WDUS 27.1

And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, WDUS 27.2

And commandest them precepts, statutes and laws, WDUS 27.3

by the hand of Moses, thy servant: and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst.” WDUS 27.4

How could it be possible to “make known” the sabbath to the Israelites if they knew it already? It is not possible to construe this as a re-making known of a forgotten sabbath, since WDUS 27.5

1. The parallelism shows that “madest known” is a kind of equivalent for “gavest” and “commandest.” WDUS 27.6

2. The Israelites had not forgotten the Lord’s past dealings so as to make it possible to use “made known” as expressive of re-calling their attention to them. Thus WDUS 27.7

[1.] They remembered the promises to their fathers. Genesis 1:24; Exodus 3:16. WDUS 27.8

[2.] The Hebrew midwives “feared God.” Exodus 1:15-17. WDUS 27.9

[3] Moses’ parents had faith in God. Hebrews 11:23. WDUS 27.10

[4.] The people worshiped God in Egypt. Exodus 2:23-25. WDUS 27.11

[5.] And they observed His ordinances, as circumcision; for this was necessary to eating the passover, and they were ready for it. Exodus 12. WDUS 27.12

Surely, then, the sabbath could not have been a forgotten ordinance or institution, but “madest known” expresses an original giving. WDUS 27.13