The Reason of the Sabbath in Deuteronomy 5

God reposing on Sabbath day. Illustration from...
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Deuteronomy seems to remove any ‘myth’ or supernatural involvement by God with the world and Israel’s liberation, so finding that the Sabbath is not related to Creation but to a memorial of Israel’s slavery is not out of the question. God still brought Israel out of Egypt, but the story is set as a means to remember that a curse is followed by blessing of liberation.

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. (Deu 5:12-15 NLT)

Maybe the Sabbath could be considered the world’s first May Day

Regardless or how we might wish to read into the text, the focus of the Sabbath here, and indeed various other memorials throughout the late book, is to call Israel’s attention to the fact that they were once slaves, accursed and then liberated. Creation is not explicitly mentioned in Deuteronomy, but seemingly, Israel’s connection to God comes through the Exodus. I might would use Amos to support this in which God compares the Exodus to other migrations of ancient peoples.

“Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians? ” asks the LORD. “I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and led the Arameans out of Kir. (Amo 9:7 NLT)

But, what continues to separate Israel from the nations is God’s covenant promise to Israel as expressed in Deuteronomy. This book is a call for renewal in several ways, and renewal begins by remembering where you have come from. Israel was once in bondage (and it was again, no doubt, at the time of the compilation of Deuteronomy) and need to be reminded that God had once brought them out and would do so again. To this, the Sabbath was given to remind them that after bondage, there would be a day of liberation.


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