The Appointed Times of YHVH—The Shabbat Part I

Posted by on Feb 19, 2017

The appointed time Shabbat is universal and immemorial in its observance. It tells of the eternal Shabbat-keeping which remains for the people of God, as Apostle Shaul (Paul) has rightly said it in Hebrews. When we keep the Shabbat (Sabbath), the whole world knows who our God is and thus we know we have the sign the Creator has given us to keep: the Shabbat.

In the article Introduction to the Appointed Times of YHVH we discussed the festive seasons and days which YHVH called moa’dim “appointed times”, appointed and fixed by the Creator from the very beginning of His Creation. Each of these appointed times, however, is also called mik’ra meaning “meeting, convocation, assembly, rehearsal.” In this article we will continue to study Leviticus 23 starting with the first appointed time and meeting with the Creator: the Shabbat (Sabbath). 

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘The appointed times of Yehovah, which you are to proclaim as set-apart gatherings, My appointed times, are these:

Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Shabbat Shabbaton, a set-apart meeting. You do no work, it is a Shabbat for Yehovah in all your dwellings.’ (Lev 23:2-3)

The deep meaning of Shabbat

But first what does Shabbat (Sabbath) mean? The word שַׁבָּת Shabbat is closely related to the word שָׁבוּעַ shavua, week, which is a passive participle of the verb שָׁבַע shava. Another related word is שֶׁבַע sheva, which simply means “seven.”  

Here we witness a literal connection between the seventh (sheva) day and the appointed day of rest Sabbath (Shabbat). Hence, the Shabbat day comes naturally associated to the seventh day of the week  שָׁבוּעַ shavua, not to the first day, or any other day of the week. Therefore, we see this clear linguistic connection between Shabbat and the seventh of the week. 

Many have been left to believe that the Hebrew word “Shabbat” means a rest and although the Shabbat of YHVH leads us to a rest, it does not mean a rest. The verb שָׁבַע shava, which means “to complete”, or also means “to fill up to the fulness” as it is related to the word שָׂבַע sava, which means “to fill to satisfaction.” Therefore, the word Shabbat literally means “completeness” as we see that the Creator completed His work on the seventh day of the Creation.

And in the seventh day Elohim ended (כָּלָה) His work which He had done, and He ceased (שָׁבַת) on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. (Gen 2:2)

From this verse we see that the verb שָׁבַת shavat couples with the verb כָּלָה kalah, “to end” meaning to cease, hence, the word שַׁבָּת Shabbat literally means “cessation” or “to completely stop, end, and terminate” any work.

E.W. Bullinger writes his insight on the matter:

In the Hebrew, seven is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence, the meaning of the word ―seven is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full and complete and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it. Hence, the word shavat – to cease, desist, rest, and Shabbat, Sabbath, or day of rest…It is seven, therefore, that stamps with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used. Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seven days, which, artificial as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of the eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfectionNumber in Scripture, E.W. Bullinger, 1967, Kregel Publications, page 167-168.

And indeed whether the world realizes it or not, all observe a seven-day week as it has been ordained from the Creation.

However, the word שַׁבָּת Shabbat has much deeper meaning than just a rest after all work is ceased.

Another derivative of the word שַׁבָּת Shabbat is שְׁבוּעָה shevuah, that is “sworn” or an oath, as seen in Gen_26:3, but also this word couples with the word for a covenant, as seen in Psa_105:9-10. Or,  שָׁבַע shava, to swear which means literally “to seven oneself”, as seen in Deu_7:8, or where both words שְׁבוּעָה shevuah, an oath, and שָׁבַע shava, to swear, as they appear in Jer_11:5.

The meaning of שָׁבַע shava, to swear, comes from the common practice in the ancient world of making seven declarations when making an oath, hence, “to seven oneself”.  

Such a declaration makes the oath seven times to show the sincerity of the oath. So, what seven declarations YHVH did make when He retook the oath before Israel in Egypt? These are the seven promises in Exo_6:1-8 which are in the Preamble of the Wedding at Mount Sinai in Exodus 20.  

Shabbat as a sign between YHVH and His children

At the heart of this wedding between YHVH and his children were seven unconditional promises:

Deliverance from the bondage in Egypt

1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exo_6:6)

2. I will deliver you from their bondage. (Exo_6:6)

The means of this deliverance

3. I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. (Exo_6:6)

4. I will take you to Me for My people. (Exo_6:7)

5. I will be Your Elohim. (Exo_6:7)

Deliverance into the land

6. I will bring you into the land sworn to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov. (Exo_6:8)

7. I will give it to you for an inheritance. (Exo_6:8). 

What are the seven things YHVH did before having given Israel the Covenant, because we saw that the word שְׁבוּעָה shevuah, an oath, couples with the word for a covenant? These are the seven tests of YHVH before giving Israel the Covenant on the seventh day (שַׁבָּת Shabbat) of third month at Mount Sinai. For more information on this, please, refer to Chapter The Beginning of Months of the present author’s book Reckoning of Time. Notice also that all these tests took place on Shabbat, the seventh day of the week.

A pattern of seven I will statements of YHVH can also be seen in Lev_26:3-12 or this is another set of seven declarations of blessings which are indeed an intricate part of the Covenant which He made with the children of Israel. 

But even with all that being said, we cannot come to the full conclusion of the matter of the Shabbat. What is more remarkable is that YHVH defines the Shabbat as a sign between Him and His children. We read:  

And you, speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘My Shabbats you are to guard, by all means, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I, Yehovah, am setting you apart. (Exo 31:13) 

And I also gave them My Shabbats, to be a sign between them and Me, to know that I am Yehovah who sets them apart. … And set apart My Shabbats, and they shall be a sign between Me and you, to know that I am Yehovah your Elohim. (Eze 20:12-20) 

So there remains a sabattismos (Gr.) for the people of Elohim. (Heb 4:9)

The Greek word sabattismos derives from another Greek word sabatton, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word shabbaton, as seen in Lev 23:3 in the phrase Shabbat Shabbaton.

So, when we rest on the seventh day, Shabbat, we are in His appointed time and meeting; we have the sign between YHVH and us, and the other people will have no doubt who our God is, because we have the sign of His Covenant, as He says, a sign between Me and you, to know that I am Yehovah your Elohim.

Who changed the Sabbath Day to Sunday?

So, who changed or thought he had the authority to change the Shabbat day (Sabbath) from being the seventh day to the first day of the week? For more on this topic refer to the articles Has the Messiah Abolished the Law? and Misunderstanding Paul.

Below are some quotes of the Catholic church regarding the Shabbat Day.

“Some theologians have held that God likewise directly determined the Sunday as the day of worship in the New Law, that He Himself has explicitly substituted the Sunday for the Shabbat. But this theory is now entirely abandoned. It is now commonly held that God simply gave His Church the power to set aside whatever day or days she would deem suitable as Holy Days. The (Roman Catholic) Church chose Sunday, the first day of the week, and in the course of time added other days as holy days.” John Laux, A Course in Religion for Catholic High Schools and Academies, 1936 edition, vol. 1, p. 51.

“Nowhere in the Bible is it stated that worship should be changed from Saturday to Sunday… Now the Church … instituted, by God’s authority, Sunday as the day of worship. This same Church, by the same divine authority, taught the doctrine of Purgatory long before the Bible was made. We have, therefore, the same authority for Purgatory as we have for Sunday.” Martin J. Scott, Things Catholics Are Asked About, 1927 edition, p. 136.

“Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the (Roman Catholic) Church, has no good reasons for its Sunday theory, and ought logically to keep Saturday as the Shabbat.” John Gilmary Shea, American Catholic Quarterly Review, January 1883.

 “The Catholic church for over one thousand years before the existence of a Protestant, by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday…The Protestant World at its birth found the Christian Shabbat too strongly entrenched to run counter to its existence; it was therefore placed under the necessity of acquiescing in the arrangement, thus implying the (Catholic) Church’s right to change the day, for over three hundred years. The Christian Shabbat is therefore to this day, the acknowledged offspring of the Catholic Church as spouse of the Holy Ghost, without a word of remonstrance from the Protestant World.” James Cardinal Gibbons in the Catholic Mirror, September 23, 1983.

Most Christians assume that Sunday is the biblically approved day of worship. The Catholic Church protests that it transferred Christian worship from the biblical Shabbat (Saturday) to Sunday, and that to try to argue that the change was made in the Bible is both dishonest and a denial of Catholic authority. If Protestantism wants to base its teachings only on the Bible, it should worship on Saturday.Rome’s Challenge Dec 2003

“Is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.” James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 edition), p. 72-73 (16th Edition, p 111; 88th Edition, p. 89).

“For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Shabbat be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Shabbat day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the [Roman Catholic] church outside the Bible.” Catholic Virginian, October 3, 1947, p. 9, article “To Tell You the Truth.”

We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 364), transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.” Peter Geiermann, C.S.S.R., The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p. 50, 3rd edition, 1957.

Philo: Declares the seventh day to be a festival, not of this or of that city, but of the universe. M’Clatchie, “Notes and Queries,” Vol. 4, 99

Egypt (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus) (200-250 A.D.): “Except ye make the Shabbat a real Shabbat (sabbatize the Shabbat,” Greek), ye shall not see the Father.” “The oxyrhynchus Papyri,” pt,1, p.3, Logion 2, verso 4-11 (London Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898).

“Bulgarians the early season of its evangelization had been taught that no work should be performed on the Shabbat.” Responsa Nicolai Papae I and Con-Consulta Bulgarorum, Responsum 10, found in Mansi, Sacrorum Concilorum Nova et Amplissima Colectio, Vol.15; p. 406; also Hefele, Conciliengeschicte, Vol.4, sec. 478

The Bulgarians had been accustomed to rest on the Shabbat. Pope Nicholas writes against this practice. (Pope Nicholas I, in answer to letter from Bogaris, ruling prince of Bulgaria.) “Ques. 6-Bathing is allowed on Sunday. Ques. 10-One is to cease from work on Sunday, but not also on the Shabbat.” Hefele, 4,346- 352, sec. 478

“Pope Nicholas I, in the ninth century, sent the ruling prince of Bulgaria a long document saying in it that one is to cease from work on Sunday, but not on the Shabbat. The head of the Greek Church, offended at the interference of the Papacy, declared the Pope ex-communicated.” Truth Triumphant, p. 232 

Cardinal Gibbons in Faith of Our Fathers, 92nd ed., p. 89, says, “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.”  

Archbishop of Reggio at the Council of Trent in 1562 openly declared that tradition stood above Scripture! His words were, “The authority of the Church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures, because the Church had changed . . . the Shabbat into Sunday, not by the command of Christ, but by its own authority.” Canon and Tradition, p. 263.

The observance of the Sabbath is not always easy

In conclusion, here are some curious things for reasoning.

Jerusalem is the center of the world. Jerusalem is described in Eze_5:5 as forming the central point of the earth in a geographical sense.

Thus said the Master Yehovah, This is Yerushalayim which I have set in the midst of the nations, with the lands all around her. (Eze 5:5)

And indeed if we look at the Earth the land of Israel is in the midst of the dry land of the Earth, or as the Creator says it, Jerusalem is. The present author would not be surprised at all, if the very spot where the Temple once stood is the center of the world. And if we have to go even further: the very spot where the Ark of the Covenant was.

But the world says London Greenwich is the center. Greenwich, a borough of Greater London on the Thames, has zero degrees of longitude that runs through Greenwich and time is measured relative to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

As the sun goes down on Friday evening in Jerusalem, the Shabbat begins. But as the sun moves westward those who live in Europe starts the Shabbat about two hours later and in America: a few more hours later, depends on the time zones. As the sun continues to move westward, it arrives at the man-made dateline which has 180 degrees of longitude and where man changes the date. Now, at the dateline, a strange thing happens: on the eastern side of that imaginary line the Shabbat begins at sunset but on the western side of that date line the Shabbat ends; it looks like there is a 24 hour difference.

In North Europe behind the Arctic Circle there is an interesting scenario, as well. The sun sets on the Friday evening in November and is hidden until the end of January next year. During the summertime the sun never sets for a few months.

And a third scenario: astronauts living in the International Space Station where the sun sets and rises several times “a day.” 

How can one observe the Shabbat in these three cases? Just a few thoughts for consideration.

Please, proceed to the next article regarding the observance of the Shabbat day: The Appointed Times of YHVH—The Shabbat Part II.

This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.


May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days