The Ten Commandments, For a Blessed Life – Kerygma Materials Commandment 4, the Sabbath.

Exodus Version. Chapter 20
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
Deuteronomy version. Chapter 5
12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
  1. The word Sabbath (“Shabbath” or שַׁבָּת in Hebrew) is derived from the Hebrew word “Shabath” (שָׁבַת) which means rest or cease.
  2. The Exodus passage was written by the priestly (P) writers who emphasized ritual. The Deuteronomy (D) writers emphasized the narrative that God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt and gave them land in exchange for being faithful, punished them when they stopped being faithful but would return and rescue them if they repented. How does this explain the difference between the two versions?
  3. In Deuteronomy, the Sabbath applies not only to the landowner but to his children, slaves, animals and even neighbors who are strangers/sojourners/“resident aliens” and not part of Israel. Being faithful means how you treat outsiders and those with less status. How would this apply today?
  4. Which of these speaks to you about the Sabbath commandment?
    1. If God commands, people must obey.
    2. If God rested for a day after working 6 days, we should too.
    3. Science describes the creation process differently than Genesis, and the details of Genesis story are making theological points about God, not science. This story does not require having 6 days followed by a seven.
    4. The commandments are part of a covenant between God and God’s people. In the ancient world covenants were agreements between powerful figures and less powerful ones, such as a landlord and his vassals or a conquering king and his subject people. This is a tradition ancient Israel used to articulate its relationship to God. An example is set forth in Joshua 28, where Joshua articulates the benevolent history of acts of God toward Israel and concludes “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The people agree to do so also, so Joshua writes a covenant in the book of the law of God and places a stone in the sanctuary as a witness to the covenant.   The commandments are thus not just dictations by an authority figure, but part of a covenant agreement by grateful people in exchange for God’s blessings.
    5. The Sabbath principals in the Old Testament involved not just a day of rest every week, but sabbatical years every 7 years and a Jubilee year every 50 years. Leviticus 25. Crop land would lie fallow, and debts would be forgiven
    6. Elders in ancient Israel determined that God wanted people to function in societies that operated in the best way for the most people. The later “ethical” commandments say that people should not kill, steal, lie, commit adultery are based on the revelation that God does not want people doing these things to each other. Similarly they perceived that people should have a day of rest every week.
  5. Jesus was criticized by the religious establishment for acts of healing or feeding hunger on the Sabbath. Matthew 12, 1-14; Luke 6, 1-11. Jesus said ““The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Mark 2, 27-28. Jesus saw his mission as fulfilling the law, which meant doing good was most important.
  6. For Jews, the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday night and goes to sunset on Saturday. Most Christians made Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, the Sabbath. Seventh Day Adventists, a Christian sect, takes Saturday as the Sabbath. Moslems do not accept that God rested after creation, but have communal prayers (Jumu’ah) on Fridays.
  7. What should the Sabbath mean for us?
  8. There used to be “blue laws’, which required retail businesses to close on Sundays. In the 1960s these laws started being repealed. Business owners that tried to observe them lost business to competitors. Today even important national holidays are more likely to have some shopping times offered.
  9. What do you see as an appropriate Sabbath for you? Why?
  10. America is having culture wars between various political groups and disputes over religion and religious requirements can be part of these.
  11. Some today believe that in a society where there is free choice, markets reflecting individual choices will reflect what is best for society. Others believe that unregulated markets allow the more powerful to exploit the less powerful in ways inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. For example employers can demand people work however many hours as is most profitable to the employers, which may be harmful overall. Restraining the powerful and protecting the vulnerable may require laws, but also institutions providing power to workers, social norms and religiously derived expectations that make sure that laws are not weakened or avoided. This is particularly true in a religiously diverse society.
  12. What “Sabbath principles” would you apply to today’s society? Should everyone have a day off? Should it be the same day or different days? Should we divide work responsibilities and rewards more evenly? Should there be “work life balance” and should it be for all or a privileged few? How important is it that people worship, rest, work and fellowship together at the same time? Some say that people spend less time together, that social institutions have weakened, and that internet social media are an inadequate substitute.
  13. What is the meaning of Sabbath to an unemployed person?