The Fourth Commandment

Sabbath Study, Part 10

After escaping the Egyptians at the Red Sea, the Israelites are led through the desert until they reach Mount Sinai. Moses climbs the mountain to meet with God and receives the Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment, as spoken by the very mouth of God, states the following:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

As we have seen, the Sabbath was already known to the Israelites before the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:23-30). Here, God makes an explicit connection between the Sabbath rest and the seventh day of the creation week. The children of God were called to keep a weekly rest in order to commemorate God’s work on their behalf.

“It is intimated that the sabbath was instituted and observed before; but in their bondage in Egypt they had lost their computation, or were restrained by their task masters, or, through a great degeneracy and indifference in religion, they had let fall the observance of it, and therefore it was requisite they should be reminded of it. Note, Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect. It also intimates that we are both apt to forget it and concerned to remember it. Some think it denotes the preparation we are to make for the sabbath; we must think of it before it comes, that, when it does come, we may keep it holy, and do the duty of it” (Matthew Henry).

The Sabbath day.
The Sabbath day, rooted in the creation week and exemplified by the perfect rest of God, foreshadows the perfect rest God’s children will one day enjoy in Heaven. “Because this commandment has not been particularly mentioned in the New Testament as a moral precept binding on all, therefore some have presumptuously inferred that there is no Sabbath under the Christian dispensation. The truth is, the Sabbath is considered as a type: all types are of full force till the thing signified by them takes place; but the thing signified by the Sabbath is that rest in glory which remains for the people of God, therefore the moral obligation of the Sabbath must continue till time be swallowed up in eternity” (Adam Clarke).

Six days you shall labor.
“No work should be done on the Sabbath that can be done on the preceding days, or can be deferred to the succeeding ones” (Adam Clarke).

You, nor your son, nor your daughter…
“The charge of keeping the Sabbath aright lies specially upon the governors of families, and other superiors who are bound to keep it themselves, and to see that those under their charge also keep it” (Francis R. Beattie).

The Lord blessed.
A sanctified day of rest—one in seven—has its roots in the very beginning of history. Before the giving of the law (Ex. 16:23-30), before the Fall of man (Gen. 2:1-3), God blessed and hallowed one day of the week as a day of rest for His people. Having existed outside the law, it cannot be affected by the law. (As we see with the fourth commandment, God is not adding a new law that didn’t exist, he is simply taking something that already existed and making it a part of His law.) So even when the law of God is fulfilled in Christ, the Sabbath remains unaffected. Indeed, as we have already mentioned, and as we will see more clearly later, the Sabbath rest remains as a sign of the future and ultimate rest God’s children will enjoy (Rev. 14:13)—a rest the ungodly will never experience (Rev. 14:11).

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by Matthew Henry
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke

[Other quotes linked to original sources]