Remember Your Chains

Sabbath Study, Part 14

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses (nearing the end of his life at 120 years) reminds the children of Israel of all that the Lord has commanded them. Chapter 5 begins with his review of the Ten Commandments. This time, however, he includes a Sabbath reference that wasn’t given in Exodus 20.

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)

You were a slave.
This reason for the Sabbath is not a contradiction of Exodus 20, which gave a different reason. It is simply an additional reason to observe the Sabbath. One thematic element of Deuteronomy is God’s deliverance of His people from the land of Egypt (15:15, 16:12, 24:18, 24:22), an historic event that also symbolizes the Christian’s deliverance from the slavery of sin and his entrance into the rest of God. The Christian will fully and ultimately experience this rest in Heaven.

As redemptive history unfolds, we are given more and more insight into the various symbolic purposes of the Sabbath. The first is what we have already seen: we rest on the Sabbath because God rested. That is, we can look at the finished work God has done and be satisfied with its efficacy. Second, we see in this passage that the Sabbath rest is a reminder that we have been rescued from the bondage of sin to live under the freedom—the easy yoke—of Christ. Third (as we will see later on), we rest on the Sabbath as a reminder that one day we will enter into Heaven and enjoy an eternal rest.

God brought you out.
“… it has been thought probable that, the commemorative design of the institution being well known, the other reason was specially mentioned on this repetition of the law, to secure the privilege of sabbatic rest to servants, of which, in some Hebrew families, they had been deprived. In this view, the allusion to the period of Egyptian bondage (De 5:15), when they themselves were not permitted to observe the Sabbath either as a day of rest or of public devotion, was peculiarly seasonable and significant, well fitted to come home to their business and bosoms” (JFB, on v. 14).

So, a command designed for God’s glory can also work for the good of mankind—including those commonly downtrodden (i.e., servants). In fact, in the book The Taste of the Sabbath (which, for the record, I have not yet read in full), Stuart Bryan connects between the dots of the Sabbath commandment and the keeping of justice. That is, he believes that “the Sabbath was intimately connected with the preservation of justice in Israel. In particular, the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit of those who could be most easily exploited in society: servants, slaves, and immigrants—in other words, the poor and needy.”

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

Commentaries Used
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary

[Other quotes linked to original sources]