Is the Sabbath only for Jewish people?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
Some claim that the Sabbath is just for Jewish people or Israelites. What does the Bible say about this subject?
The Sabbath was first revealed in Genesis 2:1-3 before there were any Jewish people or any distinction of nations whatsoever. The only two people alive at that time were Adam and Eve. This is why Jesus said that it was given to all mankind: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). The seven-day cycle continued to be observed by later generations, such as in the days of Noah (Gen. 8:10-12).
God chose the nation of Israel to be His chosen representatives of the nations (Ex. 19:4-6). They were supposed to be a Kingdom of priests to the rest of the earth; this included spreading God’s way of life world-wide. God revealed to them the Sabbath and by extension the seven-day week (Exodus 16, Ex. 20:8-11). When He did so, He reminded them that the Sabbath was HIS day.
Exodus 16:23, 29 – “23 And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning…29 See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” (ASV)
Exodus 20:8-11 – “8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (ASV)
Jesus kept the Sabbath and we are also told to follow His example!
John 14:12 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” (ASV)
I Cor. 11:1 – “12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” (NIV)
Throughout the Bible, God affirmed that the Sabbath is HIS. He was the first one to rest upon the day. In the New Testament, we are also instructed to follow His example in this manner:
Leviticus 19:1-3, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.'” (NIV)
I Peter 1:15-16: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.'” (NIV)
The Apostle Peter instructed us to pattern our holiness of life after God and quoted Lev. 19:2, which concerning the Sabbath.
Within the many verses in the Bible on the Sabbath, there are specific ones addressed to Gentiles and all of humanity relating to Sabbath observance (see Isaiah 56:1-7 as an example). In these verses, the Sabbath is referenced as its own covenant with mankind. In the last age of God’s plan, the New Heavens and the New Earth, all mankind will worship Him on the Sabbath.
“22 ‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:22-23, NIV).
Ultimately, we keep the Sabbath because we are made in the image of the God who created and rested on the Sabbath Himself (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:1-3) and because our Savior, Jesus, kept the Sabbath. The Sabbath is never called Jewish or Israelite in the entire Bible. God always addresses the Sabbath as “the Sabbath of the Lord your God” or “My Sabbath.” We have a sample list of verses at the bottom of this article that demonstrate this fact.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org
Other related articles: Were the Ten Commandments in Existence Before Mount Sinai?
A sample of verses where God takes ownership of the Sabbath:
Exodus 20:10 – “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:”
Leviticus 19:3 – Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:30 – Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 23:2-3 – 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.
Leviticus 26:2 – Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 5:14 – 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Isaiah 56:4 – For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Isaiah 58:13 – 13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Ezekiel 22:26 – Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Ezekiel 23:38 – Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my sabbaths.
Ezekiel 44:24 – And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.
Mark 2:27-28 – 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.