The Signs of the Times, vol. 11


July 30, 1885

“The Sabbath at the Exode” The Signs of the Times, 11, 30.

E. J. Waggoner

It will be remembered that in last week’s review of Dr. Dobbs, we noticed his position that the Sabbath was first instituted at the waters of Marah (Exodus 15:25). Whether he had some doubts of that, or whether it was simply because he is determined to prove that it is not commanded at creation, we do not know, but in his second article he takes the position that it was instituted in the Wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16). On this point he says:- SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.1

“The first mention of the Sabbath is in Exodus 16:23, ‘To-morrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath’-where, by the way, the Hebrew has no definite article, reading ‘a rest of a holy Sabbath.’ The first intimation of this rest is verses four and five, where Jehovah tells Moses of the double rate of manna to be gathered on the sixth day. In verse 22 we find the people doing this, and the rulers of the congregation, apparently not having heard, or at least not remembering the injunction given in verse five, came to tell Moses. He explains to them: ‘It is that rest which Jehovah hath spoken of, a rest-a holy Sabbath-is to-morrow.’ It is only in verse 29 that we have the definite article ‘the Sabbath.’ ... Everything in the whole narrative seems to point to this as the first knowledge of the Sabbath. Careful study has convinced me that the weight of critical exegesis and scholarly interpretation places the beginning of the institution just here.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.2

The last statement, that “the weight of a critical exegesis and scholarly interpretation” places the institution of the Sabbath in the wilderness, gives us opportunity to quote from some critical scholars. The “Bible Commentary,” by a company of “Bishops of the Anglican Church,” has the following on Genesis 2:3:- SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.3

“The natural interpretation of these words is that the blessing of the Sabbath was immediately consequent on the first creation man, for whom the Sabbath was first made (Mark 2:27).... Moreover, it appears that, before the giving of the commandments from Mount Sinai, the Israelites were acquainted with the law of the Sabbath. In Exodus 16:5 a double portion of manna is promised on the sixth day, that none need be gathered on the Sabbath. This has all the appearance of belonging to an acknowledged, though perhaps neglected, ordinance of divine service; not as if then for the first time the Sabbath were ordained and consecrated.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.4

The same authority says that Exodus 16:23 “is at once a statement and an injunction. The people knew it as the Sabbath, they were to observe it as a great festival.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.5

Dr. Scott, in his comment on Genesis 2:3, says:- SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.6

“The sacred writer here both records the appointment of the Sabbath, and assigns the reason for it: ‘Because that in it the Lord rested from all his work.’ This is evidently historical, and not by anticipation; for the reason subsisted from the beginning, and was more cogent immediately than it could be at a distance of more than two thousand years, when the command was solemnly renewed from Mount Sinai, long after sin had marred the beauty of the great Creator’s work; and it concerns the whole human race, as much as the nation of Israel.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.7

Other testimony to the same intent is given by Dr. Scott. Dr. Adam Clarke as an observer of the first day of the week, and a most critical scholar, yet he was not able to find, either in the Hebrew or in any translation of Exodus 16, any authority for supposing that the Sabbath was first given in the wilderness. On Exodus 16:23, he says:- SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.8

“There is nothing either in the text or context, that seems to intimate that the Sabbath was now first given to the Israelites, as some have supposed; on the contrary, it is here spoken of as being perfectly well known, from its having been generally observed. The commandment, it is true, may be considered as being now renewed; because they might have supposed that in their unsettled state in the wilderness, they might have been exempted from the observance of it. Thus we find, (1) That when God finished his creation, he instituted the Sabbath; (2) When he brought the people of Egypt, he insisted on the strict observance of it; (3) When he gave the law, he made it a tenth part of the whole; such importance has this institution in the eyes of the Supreme Being.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.9

It may be well to state that “the weight of critical exegesis and scholarly criticism,” which places the institution of the Sabbath at the exode, is found among those German theologians who throw overboard a large portion of the Pentateuch as of a doubtful nature, and attribute a large portion of the remainder to a later age than that of Moses. SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.10

Concerning the statement that there is no definite article in the Hebrew of Exodus 16:23, but little need be said. In fact the Doctor makes no argument from it, but simply makes the statement. He has doubtless heard the statement made, or has read it somewhere, and thinks it must surely be an argument against the Sabbath, although he doesn’t know just how to make it, so he throws it in at random. As a matter of fact, although the definite article is not found in the Hebrew of Exodus 16:23, the word Sabbath is just as definite as it is in verse 29, where the definite article occurs. For instance, I may say “I went to church last Sabbath.” Now although I use no definite article, the word “Sabbath” is just as definite as it is possible to make it. Two paragraphs from a review of Armstrong’s Sunday book will be sufficient to put the matter clearly:- SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.11

“There are two methods of determining whether or not a Hebrew substantive is definite. 1. By the presence of the article. 2. By ‘construction.’ A noun may be determined to be definite as certainly and as easily in the absence of the article as in its presence, if the construction demands it. The article is then understood.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.12

“The word ‘Sabbath’ in Exodus 16, and in the decalogue, Exodus 20, is definite in every instance of its occurrence. It is made definite in chap. 16:29 and 20:8, 11 by the use of the article; it is equally definite in chap. 16:23, 25 and 20:10 by construction, in the absence of the article.” SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.13

The reader will doubtless wonder what bearing the absence of the article from verse 23 and its presence in verse 29 has on the Sabbath question. It has just this bearing: Many people who know nothing of the Hebrew will read such a statement from a man who writes “D. D.” after his name, and although they cannot see any point to it, they think it certainly must mean something, and as that supposed something is in harmony with their prejudices, they rest content. The “reverend” men who make use of such “argument” know very well that a title, and a few phrases from, or allusions to, a foreign language, are wonderful conscience easers. E. J. W. SITI July 30, 1885, page 457.14