By Joseph Bates (adapted)
If the Sabbath was not instituted in Eden, why would Moses mention it in his account of the creation of the world? Why not appropriately reserve mentioning it for two or three-thousand years in his history, until the time when manna fell in the wilderness? (See Exodus 16:23.) Then he could state that this was the institution of the seventh-day Sabbath.
I answer (and for the very best of reasons), that he didn't do that, because the Sabbath wasn’t instituted when the manna fell!
Let’s look at that text: “And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice
as much bread as on any preceding day, 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-morrow is the ‘rest’ of the holy Sabbath. Bake that which ye will bake.” (Exodus 16:23).
If this had been the establishing of the holy Sabbath, Moses would have said, “Saturday shall be the Sabbath”, and he would have explained what the Sabbath was. But instead, he speaks as familiarly about the Sabbath as we do when we say, “Tomorrow is Friday”, showing that the Sabbath had been known before.
You see, Moses had already taught them that not to “leave any of it until the morning” (verse 19). So the people must have had some previous knowledge of the Sabbath, otherwise how could they have known that they should gather two days’ manna on Friday? (It was only after the rulers had found the people gathering too much manna that they came to Moses for this explanation.)
Verse 20 verse shows that this was the first Sabbath since the first falling of the manna, because it had always previously spoiled and “bred worms by the next morning”, whereas, on this Sabbath morning it was found sweet and eatable (verse 24).
It had been 30 days since they had left Egypt (Exodus 16:1), and it was still 20 days before the 10 commandments were given. And we see that the weekly Sabbath had already been appointed before this time. Could it have been appointed even before the days of Moses? If so, when was it appointed? Answer: in the second chapter of Genesis, and nowhere else.
Hugo Grotius tells us “that the memory of the creation's being performed in seven days, was preserved not only among the Greeks and Italians, but among the Celts and Indians." Other writers note that Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabians, Britons and Germans all divide their time into weeks. Philo says “the Sabbath is not peculiar to any one people or country, but is common to all the world.” Josephus states “that there is no city either of Greeks or barbarians or any other nation, where the religion of the Sabbath is not known.”
But the great mass of the world’s people have paid little or no heed to what God had said about the particular day. History teaches that people have adopted particular days to suit themselves:
- Christian nations chose the first day, and call it the holy Sabbath.
- The Persians selected Monday.
- The Grecians Tuesday.
- The Assyrians Wednesday.
- The Egyptians Thursday.
- The Muslims Friday.
If it does not matter which day you keep holy to the Lord, then all these nations are right. But reflect one moment on that idea. . . . And then open your Bible and read the commandment of the God to all these nations:
“REMEMBER! (what you have been taught before) the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Which day is it Lord?) “The SEVENTH is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou not thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger, that is within thy gates.” Who is the stranger? (Gentiles.)
Now the reason for it will carry us back again to Paradise:
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the SEVENTH; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
“Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant; it is a SIGN between me and the children of Israel forever.” (Why is it Lord?) “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the SEVENTH day he rested and was refreshed.” (Exodus 20:8-11, 31:17)