Deuteronomy 5:12-15 – Sabbath


Deuteronomy 5:12-15


The third word for Catholics and Lutherans, the fourth for Protestants and Judaism, deals with the day of rest.


As we have seen, positive statements introduce and delineate all three sections of the Decalogue. The concerns of the first section, dealing with Israel’s relationship with God (vv. 6-11), and the third section, dealing with Israel’s societal relationships (vv. 16-21), join forces in this central section dealing with the Sabbath. In the Book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day; in the Gospel accounts Jesus and his disciples are criticized by some for not… (“rest” in Hebrew).

Deuteronomy’s presentation of the Decalogue closely follows that of Exodus 20:2-17. It differs most, however, in its view of the Sabbath. This is curious, since the Sabbath is not mentioned in the rest of the book. Where the Exodus version of the Decalogue grounds the Sabbath in God’s “rest” on the seventh day following the six days of creation (Exodus 20:8-11; compare Genesis 2:1-3), Deuteronomy offers God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt as an alternative motivation. When they were enslaved, rest was prohibited. When they observe (not “remember,” as in Exodus 20:8) the Sabbath by doing no work, Israel is reminded of their liberation. By granting Sabbath rest to their families, slaves, visitors, and animals, Israel is called to transcend social and even human distinctions.

Despite Christian attempts to transform this commandment into a regulation of Sunday worship, the day itself must be what we would call Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and there are no liturgical or cultic observances or rites prescribed. The Sabbath is, as its name implies, a day of rest. Christians worship on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection.