Shabbat Shabbaton, Shabbat Beloved
What does the phrase “shabbat shabbaton” mean? The Hebrew word שַׁבָּתוֹן shabbaton, is commonly translated as sabbatism, that is a Sabbath observance, as found in its Greek transliteration sabbatismos, “σαββατισμός” in Heb 4:9. It comes from the noun שַׁבָּת shabbat, meaning of cessation or “to completely end” any work. Shabbat comes from the verb שָׁבַת shavat, which means to cease what one is doing, therefore, shabbat does not mean a rest, as commonly understood, but it leads to a rest by ceasing any work.
So, what does the Hebrew word shabbaton mean? The word shabbaton is used only in the Torah and appears eleven times with the word shabbat in the combination shabbat shabbaton in Exo_16:23, Exo_31:15, Exo_35:2, Lev_23:3, where it clearly refers to the seventh day of the week, or to the seventh Sabbatical year as in Lev_25:4-5 and as found in Lev_16:31 and Lev_23:32, shabbat shabbaton refers to Yom Kippurim, the Day of Atonements.
“Shabbaton” has appearance of its own as in Lev_23:24 referring to Yom Teruah, in Lev_23:39 referring to the first day of the Festival of Sukkot, and to Yom HaShemini (The Eighth Day) which is a separate appointed time and a conclusion of all appointed times of YHVH. Therefore, we see that the terms “shabbat” and “shabbat shabbaton” are interchangeably used for the weekly Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, and for the annual Shabbat, Yom Kippurim. While “Shabbaton” alone is used for Yom Teruah, the first day of Sukkot, and Yom HaShemini (The Eight Day). These three autumnal appointed times have never been called “Shabbats” and we should also notice that the spring appointed times have never been called Shabbats and/or Shabbatons. Thus we see that the term “shabbaton” is very carefully chosen for a particular group of appointed times.
So, again, what does the word “shabbaton” mean? In short, we do not know, as its meaning has been lost to us, because the word “shabbaton” has never been used in a context other than in the context of the Appointed Times of YHVH. One thing is clear though: it is a noun derived from the word “shabbat” and the suffix “-on” and since “shabbat” means a cessation or termination of any work, we may expect to find the same or similar meaning of the word “shabbaton”.
In order to better understand the meaning of the Hebrew word “shabbaton”, we need to know that in Hebrew language there is no an intensive form of the nouns or verbs as they exist in other languages. To make an intensive form of a noun or verb in Hebrew, we simply used the word twice. So, we should expect that the word “shabbaton” intensifies the word “shabbat” and if this is so, then the constructive form “shabbat shabbaton” means a complete, full, total cessation of any work. But, as we will see further below, this Hebrew word means much to it than that.
“Shabbaton” שַׁבָּתוֹן could be a compound word as the name of the city of Hebron is. Nachmanides, a leading twelfth century Jewish scholar, wrote that the Hebrew name for Hebron, chevron, חֶבְרוֹן is a contraction of the words chaver, חבר, “friend” and the word na’eh, נאה, ‘beloved’ from where it takes the suffix “-on.” The word נאה na’eh, comes from the primitive root נָאָה na’ah, which means to be at home, that is, (by implication) to be pleasant (or suitable). A related word is נָוָה navah, to dwell, to prepare a home (Exo_15:2), to rest (as at home) through the implied idea of comfort and beauty. The word נָוָה navah, or its alternative spelling נָוֶה naveh, as an adjective meaning at home; hence by implication of satisfaction: lovely; and as a noun means a home, a residence of men, but also the dwelling of YHVH as seen in Exo_15:13.
In Your loving-kindness You led the people whom You have redeemed, in Your strength You guided them to Your set-apart dwelling. (Exo 15:13)
In this verse we find that the phrase loving-kindness (chesed) couples with set-apart dwelling (navah) as the implied idea is that one feels comely and loved at home, a place of beauty and comfort, and especially at the dwelling place of the Father.
Therefore, as the name of the city of Hebron alludes to its most famous resident Avraham who was the first beloved friend of YHVH, as it says in Isa_41:8 “But you, Israel, are My servant, Ya’akov, whom I have chosen, the descendants of Avraham my beloved“, so the name of the seventh day [Shabbat] Shabbaton שַׁבָּתוֹן is a contraction of the words shabbat, שַׁבָּת and na’eh, נאה “beloved” and alludes to its Creator YHVH Elohim to mean “Shabbat beloved”, because it is the sign between Him and His children forever.
But My Sabbaths you are to guard, because it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I, Yehovah, am setting you apart. (Exo 31:13)
Another interpretation of the word Shabbaton is that it could be an intensive form of the word Shabbat and the meaning of the phrase Shabbat Shabbaton is “Sabbaths of the Sabbaths”.
For more information on the meaning of the Hebrew word Shabbat, the reader may refer to the articles from the series The Appointed Times of YHVH, The Appointed Times of YHVH—The Shabbat Part I and Part II.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.