Exodus 20:10 MEANING

Exodus 20:10
(10) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.--Heb., But the seventh day (shall be) a sabbath to the Lord thy God--i.e., it shall be a day of holy rest from things worldly, and of devotion to things heavenly. (See Note 2 on Exodus 20:8.)

In it thou shalt not do any work.--This negative aspect of the Sabbath is further emphasised by particular prohibitions :--(1) The prohibition against gathering the manna on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26); (2) the prohibition against lighting a fire (Exodus 35:3); (3) against gathering sticks (Numbers 15:35). Some exceptions were allowed, as the work of the Priests and Levites in the Temple on the Sabbath, attendance on and care of the sick, rescue of a beast that was in peril of its life, &c. (See Matthew 12:5; Matthew 12:11.) But the tendency was to press the negative aspect to an extreme, and to ignore the positive one. By the time of the Maccabees it had come to be considered unlawful to defend oneself against the attack of an enemy on the Sabbath (1 Maccabees 2:32-38 :2 Maccabees 5:25-26; 2 Maccabees 6:11; 2 Maccabees 15:1); and, though this extravagant view did not maintain its ground, yet at the time of our Lord's ministry a rigour of observance was in vogue upon other points which exceeded the limits of reasonable exegesis. Our Lord's practice was pointedly directed against the overstrained theory of Sabbath observance which was current in His day, and was clearly intended to vindicate for His disciples a liberty which ecclesiastical authority was disposed to deny them. There are parts of Christendom in which, even at the present day, a similar spirit prevails, and a similar vindication is needed.

Nor thy son, nor thy daughter.--The whole family was to partake in the Sabbatical rest. Labour was to cease, not to be devolved by the stronger on weaker members.

Thy manservant, nor thy maidservant.--The rest was to extend also to the domestics, who specially required it, since the heavier labours of the household had to be performed by them.

Thy cattle.--Labour can scarcely be exacted from cattle without man being also called upon to work. God, however, "careth for cattle," even for their own sakes, and wills that the Sabbath rest be extended to them. "His mercy is over all His works," and embraces the dumb unreasoning animals no less than His human creatures. (Comp. Genesis 8:1; Genesis 9:9-11; Exodus 9:19; Deuteronomy 25:4; Jonah 4:11.)

Verse 10. - The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God. Rather - "The seventh day shall be a sabbath to the Lord thy God;" i.e., the seventh day shall be a day of holy rest dedicated to religion. All unnecessary labour shall be suspended and put aside - the law of rest and ease, so far as bodily toil is concerned, which was the law of man's existence before the fall, shall supersede for the time that law of heavy toil and continual unrest, which was laid on man as the penalty of his transgression (Genesis 3:17-19). Eden shall be, as it were, restored - man shall not "go out to his toil and his labour" - even the very beasts, pressed into man's service since the fall, shall rest. In it thou shalt not do any work. On the exceptions to this rule, which even Judaism, with its extreme formality and literalism, saw to be necessary, see Matthew 12:5, 11. Still in many respects, a superstitious adherence to the precept was maintained by religious Jews, who would not even defend themselves on the sabbath, if attacked by an enemy (1 Mac. 2:32-38; 2 Mac. 5:25, 26 2Mac. 6:11 2Mac. 15:1). Experience, however, taught them that the law had not been intended to extend so far, and after a time they determined, not to seek battle, but to accept if, and do their best, on the sabbath day (1 Mac. 2:41). Thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter. The rest is to extend to the whole family. Work is not to be merely devolved by the parents upon the children. Thy manservant, nor thy maid servant. It is to extend beyond the family proper, to the domestics of the household, who are to enjoy the respite from toil and to have the advantage of the religious refreshment, no less than their masters. Nor thy cattle. God's care for cattle is a remarkable feature of the Old Testament dispensation. God, at the time of the flood, "remembered Noah and the cattle which were with him in the ark" (Genesis 8:1). Soon after, his covenant, not to drown the earth any more, was established "with the fowl, and with the cattle, and with every beast of the earth," no less than with man (Genesis 9:9-11). In the Psalms he de clares that "the cattle upon a thousand hills" are his (Psalm 50:10). In Jonah, we find that Nineveh was spared, in part because there was in it "much cattle" (Jonah 4:11). The precept, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn" is characteristic of the Mosaic dispensation, and had no parallel in the written codes or in the actual customs of other ancient nations. Animal suffering was generally regarded as of small account in the ancient world; and the idea of protecting animals from ill usage was wholly unknown. On the contrary, as Dr. Dollinger well observes (Jew and Gentile, vol. 2. pp. 346-7): "The law was specially careful about the welfare of animals; they were to be treated with compassion and kindness. Domestic animals were to be well fed, and to enjoy the rest of the sabbath. The Israelites were to help to lift up the ass which had fallen beneath its burden, and to bring back the beast that had gone astray (Exodus 23:5, 12; Deuteronomy 25:4)... The young was not to be taken from its mother before the seventh day... From these and similar ordinances - such, for instance, as about the least painful method of killing animals - it is plain that the law tried to subdue that coarse turn of mind and unfeeling cruelty, which are engendered by the maltreatment of animals." Nor the stranger that is within thy gates. The "strangers within the gates" of Israel are those foreigners who voluntarily sojourned with them in their camps or (afterwards) in their towns. A "mixed multitude" had gone up out of Egypt with them (Exodus 12:38), and accompanied them in their wilderness wanderings. The command that these too should rest, was at once a restriction upon their liberty, requiring them to conform to the habits of those among whom they dwelt, and an admission of them into participation in some portion of the privileges of Israel. The sacred rest of the sabbath prefigured the final peace and happiness of the blest in heaven; and they who were commanded to share in the first, were encouraged to hope that they might also participate in the second.

20:3-11 The first four of the ten commandments, commonly called the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those should be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before he had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be true to his brother, who is false to his God. The first commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comes short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of this command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship, that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour, or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment, Remember, shows that it was not now first given, but was known by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, Mr 2:27; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God,.... Not which he rested on, and ceased from the works of creation in, though he did rest on the seventh day of the creation, and so on every other day since, as well as that; nor does it appear, nor can it be proved, that this day appointed to the Jews as a sabbath was the seventh day of the week from the creation of the world; but was either the seventh day of the week from their coming out of Egypt, or from the raining of the manna: but this is called the Lord's sabbath, or rest, because enjoined by him to the people of Israel, and not to them until they were separated from other people, and were a distinct body of men under a certain meridian; for it is impossible that one and the same day, be it the seventh, or any other, should be kept to exactness of time by all the inhabitants of the earth; it being night with one part, when it is day with another, and not the same day to them all:

in it thou shall not do any work; of a servile nature, exercise any trade or any hand labour, or any kind of work for pleasure or profit, only works of mercy and necessity. No labour or handicraft was to be exercised, according to the Jewish canons (f), until the going out of it, or the appearance of the stars:

thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter; neither a man nor his children, male and female, such as were under age, and under the tuition, direction, and care of their parents, who were to instruct them in this kind, and not suffer them to work on this day, and much less oblige them to it; for as for those that were grown up, and no longer under the inspection of parents, and were heads of families themselves, they are included in the word "thou", and are in the first place charged in this command:

thy manservant, nor thy maidservant; this is to be understood, according to the Jews, not of hired servants, concerning whose rest from labour a man was not bound (g), but of such as were born in their house, and bought with their money; and of such menservants as were circumcised, and in all things professed to be proselytes to the Jewish religion, and to conform to it; for as for one that only received the commands of the sons of Noah, and was not circumcised, he might do work for himself on the sabbath day, but not for his master; and no Israelite might bid him work on the sabbath day for the necessity of an Israelite, though he was not his master (h). If a servant does work without the knowledge of his master, and it is known to all that he does it without his knowledge, there is no need to separate him from it, or take him off of it (i): so maidservants, when they did things without the knowledge of their masters and mistresses, and without being bid to do it, they were free to do it: thus, for instance, they say (k),"a cheese which maids make of themselves, of milk that belongs to an Israelite, is lawful when he does not bid them make it:"

nor thy cattle, of any sort whatever that is used to labour, because if the cattle did not rest, servants could not, who are concerned in the care and use of them: in Deuteronomy 5:14, the ox and the ass are particularly mentioned, because laborious creatures; the one were used in ploughing, and treading out the corn, and the other to ride upon, and carry burdens; and concerning the latter the Jews have this canon (l),"he who is going in the way, (or on a journey,) and has sanctified for himself the day, and has money with him, and has an ass; and though he has with him an idolater, he may not put his bag upon his ass; because he is commanded concerning its rest; but he may give his bag to the idolater to throw it upon it; and at the going out of the sabbath he may receive it from him, and even may not give him a reward for it;''but not only those, but all sorts of cattle were exempt from labour on this day, as horses, camels, mules, &c. which, according to the Jewish canons, as they were not to be employed in work by the Jews, so they were not to be let or lent out to an idolater (m): nor the stranger that is within thy gates: who was a proselyte of the gate, and not of righteousness; as for the proselyte of righteousness that was circumcised, and professed the Jewish religion, about him there could be no doubt concerning his rest on this day; but the proselyte of the gate, his case was not so clear, and therefore is particularly expressed; and by which description it should seem that he was not obliged by this law, had he not been within their gates, or a sojourner in anyone of their cities; since it was contrary to the laws and usages among whom they dwelt, and might be an offence to some, and a snare to others, and, as Grotius thinks, might be to their detriment, get their work and their gain from them, they are forbid to work; and yet, according to the Jewish writers (n), they might work for themselves, though not for an Israelite, as before observed.

(f) Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. Orach Chayim Hilchot Sabbat, c. 293. sect. 2, 3.((g) Lebush, par. 1. c. 304. sect. 1.((h) Schulchan Aruch, ib. c. 304, sect. 1.((i) Lebush, ib. (k) Schulchan, ib. c. 305. sect. 21. (l) lb. c. 266. sect. 1.((m) Ib. c. 246. sect. 3.((n) Maimon. Hilchot Sabbat, c. 20. sect. 14.

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