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Holy Communion and the Bread & Wine on the Table of Shewbread/Presence

As Christians we are all used to taking communion or partaking in the Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table. It is a tradition that has been handed down through generations and is regarded as one of the most important customs carried out by Christians each sunday. Everyone understands the significance of the Bread and Wine being equaled to the Body and Blood of Christ. But do we really understand the real significance behind this Commemoration? Did it simply originate with Christ?

Now whether the Last Supper was a Passover Meal has been reviewed before here, so we will not be delving into that question again. The discoveries in that study led us to conclude that the Last Supper was a meal shared at the beginning of the 14th Day of the 1st Month of the Biblical Year. Although the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel seem to be contradicting each other, they all agreed that Christ died on the Passover and the Last Supper was held the night before. Even though the Last Supper seemed like a Passover seder, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the likeness of this theory. The Last Supper would have most probably been a Pre-Passover meal shared in celebration of the ushering in of the Passover day, and the upcoming Sacrifice, through which we came out of slavery to Sin, just as the Israelites came out of slavery to Egypt.

In this study we hope to find the reason behind Christ’s choice of Bread & Wine as a symbol and commemoration, and what it really means to partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table.

This study is broken down into the following parts:
1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
5. The Table of the Lord
6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
8. Conclusion

1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
On the eve before the Passover was killed, at the end of the 13th day and the beginning of the 14th day (The Biblical day starts at Sundown), Christ sat down with His Disciples to have His last meal – His Last Supper. The Day when the Passover Lamb was to be Sacrificed had begun. And as the Disciples were having their Supper, Yeshua – their teacher & master makes a parallel between His Body & Blood and the Bread & Wine that they consume.

Mat 26:26-28  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mar 14:22-24  And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luk 22:14-20  And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Joh 13:1-4  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

All 3 Gospels that record the breaking of bread and drinking of wine note the parallelism brought by Christ. Only John is silent in this sense, indicating that the Supper was before the Feast of Passover and moving onto the washing of feet after the meal. It is a fact that Yeshua equaled the bread to His Body and the wine to His Blood of the New Covenant. Even as Moses ratified the Covenant with Blood(Exo 24:8), Christ also ratifies the New Covenant with His Blood. So from the above we conclude as all agree:

The Bread = Yeshua’s Body
The Wine = Yeshua’s Blood

2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
Although Bread and Wine are not specifically mentioned we see that Covenants preceded with a meal between the two parties in celebration of the agreement at hand. We see such meals taking place between Abimelech/Isaac as well with God and the Elders of Israel. God wanted the elders of Israel to have a Covenant Meal after ratifying the Covenant with blood before Him.

Gen 26:26-30  Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD. And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

Exo 24:1-11  And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words. Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

After this Meal Moses straight away ascended the mountain and received instructions from God, of which the first was on making a Tabernacle for God. And one of the integral parts in this tent of meeting, was a table which stood in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle.

3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
The “Table of Showbread” as it is called in some of our English Translations, is one of the lesser known articles in the Tabernacle. The “shulchan lechem paneem” mentioned in Exo 25:30 can be directly translated as the “Table(shulchan) of the Bread(lechem) of Faces(paneem)” and is also translated in some of our English Bibles as Table of Bread of the Presence(because God was meeting face to face). The Table was one of the 3 Items mentioned to be placed inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle alongside the Altar of Incense and The Golden Lampstand(Menorah).

Exo 25:23-30  Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.

Exo 40:22,23  And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail. And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.

2Ch 29:18  Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof.

Heb 9:2  For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
The Table inside the Holy Place had twelve Loaves of Bread. Each loaf was made of two tenth deals (Approximately 3.5Kg) which would have made each loaf quite large in size. The Table also carried dishes, spoons, bowls and covers(qasah-cups) to cover(Nawsak-Pour) Drink Offerings. Prepared every Sabbath, the 12 Loaves of Bread signified the 12 Tribes of Israel as it is set in order before YHVH being taken from the Children of Israel by an Everlasting Covenant. The 12 loaves together represented the whole of Israel. When the new loaves were set on the Sabbath the old ones were taken away, and none but the priests were allowed to eat them. The Drink Offering for which the Cups were placed on the table, carried Wine; as the Drink Offerings were made exclusively with Wine(Exo 29:40, Lev 23:13, Num 15:5,7,10, Num 28:14). The Table of Presence/Showbread was also known as “The Table” & “The Pure Table”.

Lev 24:5-9  And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.

Num 4:7,8  And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover(Nesek-Drink Offering) withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.

Exo 37:16  And he made the vessels which were upon the table, his dishes, and his spoons, and his bowls, and his covers to cover withal, of pure gold.

1Ki 7:48  And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was,

2Ch 13:11  And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.

1Ch 9:32  And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath.

It is stated in the Mishnah ” teaches that they(priests) used to lift it up and exhibit the Shewbread thereon to those who came up for the Festivals, saying to them, Behold the love in which you are held by God! –Menachoth 96b & 29a. Why did the Priests say “Behold the love in which you are held by God!”? The table represented the Covenant God had made with Israel – the bread resembling Israel while the Wine most probably resembled the Blood of the Covenant.

5. The Table of the Lord
The Table of Showbread was also known as the “Table of the Lord”, and God Himself calls it “My Table”. The Table of Showbread was the only Table that had any connection to God. Built according to specific instructions by God, this Table was where He came face to face (hence “Lekhem-Pawneem” which means Bread of the Faces commonly translated as showbread or bread of the presence) with Israel. The other main feature of the table was the Drink offering which is Wine – known as the Blood of grapes(Gen 49:11, Deut 32:14). The Bread and Wine on His Table signifying coming face to face or having Fellowship with His Children in remembrance of His Covenant was surely an integral part of the Tabernacle. Every Sabbath, the bread was renewed and the Table with its bread and wine was before the face of God continually.

Mal 1:7  Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

Mal 1:12  But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

Eze 44:16  They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.

Eze 41:22  The altar of wood was three cubits high, and the length thereof two cubits; and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof, were of wood: and he said unto me, This is the table that is before the LORD.

6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
According to Lev 24:8 the Table was set on behalf of the Children of Israel by the Everlasting Covenant. If the Wine kept on the Table of Shewbread symbolized the Blood of The Covenant and the Bread symbolized the Children of Israel, Then the Bread and Wine symbolized in the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament writings could be categorized as below.

Old Testament Scriptures

New Testament Writings

Bread symbolizes Israel

Bread symbolizes Christ’s Body

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the Mosaic Covenant

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the New Covenant

7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table in connection with a specific issues that the Corinthian Congregation was having – Eating meat from the markets which could have been selling animals which were sacrificed at pagan temples (which was common at that time). A more detailed study on this subject can be read here. Paul speaks of the “cup of blessing” and the “communion of the blood of Christ”. The “Bread” and the “communion of the body of Christ”. and then he says we are the body of Christ. According to the above comparisons of Bread in  the Old Testament and New, it could be said that Yeshua equated His body to the body of Israel. In other words we are all His body and a part of Israel – God’s Chosen people. Paul also speaks of Israelites by birth who partake in the altar (which is the tabernacle). Why did Paul bring a connection of the Tabernacle to the blood and body of Christ? Was it because he understood the origins of the Communion we partake? Was his reference to the “Lord’s Table” one which spoke of the Table of Shewbread?

1Co 10:15-21  I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

8. Conclusion
While we are used to calling Communion as the “Lord’s Table”, the only Table of the Lord in the Scriptures was the Table of Shewbread, specifically made according to designs given by God. The Table of Presence as it is also called, was a Table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle of God which carried Bread which symbolized Israel and the Drink Offering of Wine which probably Symbolized the Blood of the Covenant. The Table was to be before God continually with fresh loaves of Bread added each Sabbath. The Table represented a meeting of Faces(as it is called shulchan lechem paneem – Table of Bread of Faces) as in Communion/Fellowship and was a kind of eternal Covenant Meal where God remembered Israel and the Covenant He had with them. While Yeshua used the Bread and Wine to be equaled to His Body and Blood, the reason probably originated from the Original Lord’s Table. He was equaling Israel that He was going to reign over someday(Acts 1:6, Luk 1:33) to be His Body and equating the Blood He shed to the Blood of The Covenant, just as Moses ratified the Covenant with the Blood of the Covenant(Exo 24:8). As we partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table we do remember the Covenant God has made with us and that we are His Body/His People. The Bread and Wine has deeper roots in the Scriptures than we thought, being connected to the Mosaic Covenant as well as the renewed Covenant. As often as we eat the bread and drink the wine, let us remember that we are His Body and we are saved only through the Blood of the Covenant which was shed for us. Let us partake of it without having any uncleanness as the Aaronic Priests also did. Let us remember God’s Love for us, and that His Covenant is before His face continually, forever.

What did Christ, His Disciples & Paul consider as “Scripture”?

Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? What was considered as Scripture in the 1st century AD? One would say “Obviously the Bible”. But hang on! Did anyone inclusive of Paul, carry our Bible? Did they carry a Bible at all? Did Paul consider his own writings as Scripture? Did he read or ever hold his letters which were written to specific assemblies in different cities, as Scripture? Let’s check what our Bibles say about the matter.

The Bible – A Brief History
Our current Bibles are composed of 2 sections divided as The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament in our English Translation consist of 39 books, while the new contains 27.

The New Testament containing 27 books/letters which were first put together in 367, by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and is said to have been accepted by the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa in 393AD and again accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. The oldest Manuscripts of the New Testament are preserved in Greek – the main language of the 1st Century, while the original works such as Matthew’s Gospel is said to have been written in Hebrew according to Papias.

While there is no scholarly consensus as to when the Old Testament Canon was fixed, some scholars argue that it was done in the time of the Hasmonean dynasty (140BC – 116BC). The Old Testament” as we call it, was completely written in Hebrew and consisted of three divisions – The Torah (5 Books of Moses i.e. Genesis to Deuteronomy), The Nevi’im (Prophets) & The Ketuvim (Writings/Psalms).

The Old Testament divisions can be seen mentioned in the verses below

Luk 24:27  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luk 24:44  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Joh 1:45  Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
Act 26:22,23  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
Act 28:23  And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

yeshua_scrollThe phrases “Moses”, “Law” or “Law of Moses” in the New Testament, denotes the first 5 Books of the Old Testament which were written by Moses. “Prophets” denotes all the books written by the Prophets such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Obadiah, Daniel, etc. The Psalms and the rest of the writings together with “Moses” and “Prophets” put together, made up the Old Testament in the 1st Century AD.

1) Law (also known as Moses, Law of Moses or Law) wherever you see these terms referred in the New Testament writing, it means the first 5 Books of the Bible which were written by Moses – Mat 5:17, 7:12, 22:40, Mar 12:26, Luk 2:22, Luk 16:29,31, 24:27,44, Joh 1:45, 5:45, 7:23, Act 6:11, 13:15,39, 15:5, 21:21, 24:14, 26:22, 28:23, 1Cor 9:9, 2Cor 3:15, Heb 10:28, Rom 3:21
2) Prophets which contains all the Major and Minor Prophets – Mat 5:17, 7:12, 22:40, Luk 16:29,31, 24:27,44, Joh 1:45, Act 7:42, 13:15,40, 24:14, 26:22, 28:23, Rom 3:21
3) Psalms (also known as the Writings) which contains the Book of Psalms and the rest of the writings – Luk 20:42, 24:44, Act 1:20

The Format of the Scriptures that were read by Christ, the Disciples & Paul
In our minds whenever we read the New Testament writings, we see everyone opening books and reading from bound books that we are familiar with. But the truth is that there were no bound books at the time. Printing would be introduced 1500 years later. So what was the format of the Scriptures they had? All of the writings were copied on Scrolls made of parchment/Animal skin and rolled and kept. We can see an instance of this in Luke 4:17.

Luk 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened(g380) the book(g975), he found the place where it was written,

scribe1In the above verse “opened” should be translated as “unrolled” according to the Greek word used there (G380 – ἀναπτύσσω – anaptussō – Thayer’s Greek Definition: to unroll). Furthermore, the word used for “book” can mean a scroll as the same word (G975 – βιβλίον – biblion)  is seen again in Rev 6:14 translated as Scroll. These scrolls were copied by hand, with the utmost care and it is said that it would take a scribe a whole year and the skins of a whole herd of sheep to create one copy of the 5 books of Moses.

The Availability of the Scriptures that were read by Christ, the Disciples & Paul
Just as most of us imagine Christ, the disciples and even Paul reading a bound Bible, when in fact they were reading rolled up Scrolls – some imagine that the early Christians carried their own copy of the Scriptures. It is very unlikely that the early believers even owned a copy of the Scriptures, as it was quite costly. Only the Synagogues in each of the cities would have a copy that could be read on the Sabbath day when the people assembled together.  

Christ considered what we call the Old Testament as Scripture
Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) speaks of no other writing other than the books of Moses, Prophets & Writings/Psalms as “Scripture” (Mat 21:42, Mat 22:29, Mat 26:54,56,  Mar 12:10,24, Mar 14:49, Luk 4:21, Joh 5:39, Joh 7:38, Joh 10:35, Joh 13:18, Joh 17:12)

The Gospel writers and the disciples considered what we call the Old Testament as Scripture
Gospel writers Mark, Luke, John, other disciples, James and even Peter refers to the Old Testament as “Scripture” (Mar 15:28, Luk 24:27, Luk 24:32, Luk 24:45, Joh 2:22, Joh 19:24, Joh 19:28, Joh 19:36,37, Joh 20:9, Act 1:16, Act 8:32,35, Act 17:2,11, Act 18:24,28, Jas 2:8, Jas 2:23, Jas 4:5, 1Pet 2:6, 2Pet 1:20, 2Pet 3:16)

Paul considered what we call the Old Testament as Scripture
In so many instances Paul refers to the Old Testament calling it “The Scriptures”. (Rom 1:2, Rom 4:3, Rom 9:17, Rom 10:11, Rom 11:2, Rom 16:26, 1Cor 15:3,4, Gal 3:8,22, Gal 4:30, 1Tim 5:18, 2Tim 3:16). Out of this list, of special concern is a beloved verse which almost every Christian knows by heart.

2Ti 3:15-17 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Paul tells his beloved son Timothy that he has known the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child. The Holy Scripture mentioned here could only be what we refer as the Old Testament. Paul adds to his words explaining that all of the Scriptures are given by the inspiration of God for teaching, as proof, to correct and to train in righteousness. While most of us read 2Tim 3:16 believing it is speaking of our Bibles when it says “Scripture”, it is clear that Paul is referring to the Scriptures that they had. The Scripture which Timothy was familiar with from the time he was a child. What we refer to as the Old Testament.

Today’s view of the Old Testament and the New Testament
OT NTMany Christians see the Old Testament to have been given only for the Jews/Israel while the New Testament to be given to the Gentile/Christian. While there was no New Testament in the hands of Christ, His disciples or Paul – they would have never imagined of a congregation that believes in Messiah while giving the least bit of attention to the Old Testament – the “Holy Scriptures” in their eyes. The man-made division of “Old Testament” & “New Testament”, has brought only division to the Christian body as a whole. Many denominations have made the True Scripture, an enemy of the Christian. They have turned its oulook into a curse. Something which is “Old” and done away. Only if more Christians would pay attention to what the writers of the New Testament say, in their original context. Today’s Christian is not being built on the foundation of the True Scripture – as most new believers are told to even skip the Old Testament and start with the New. We forget that the Bereans who were called noble, turned to Scripture when it came to checking Paul’s words. If only all of us Christians today, turned to the Scriptures to check whether all of the doctrines taught to us by our pastors, teachers and denominations agreed with Scripture!

Conclusion
While all the proof in the New Testament writings point towards the “Old Testament” being referred to exclusively as Scripture, many Christians today give the “Scriptures” of our Messiah, His Disciples and even Paul, step-motherly treatment. Some are engrossed so much in the New Testament, that they see no reason to read the “Holy Scriptures” as Paul mentioned them. The New Testament is looked upon to provide teaching, proof, correction and training, while the Old Testament is seen as an abolished book today. Paul could not have been referring to His own writings as “Scripture”, as these letters were written to specific individuals and congregations, tackling specific issues distinct to those individuals/congregations. For example, Paul’s letter to the Roman Congregation, was sent to Rome and not Corinth, Colosse, Ephesus, Thessalonica, etc. His letter to Timothy was written specifically to Timothy and no one else.

Furthermore, these individual letters that constitute the New Testament were put together and agreed upon as canonical only in the late 4th Century. The New Testament writings are a necessary part of a Christians life, as it reveals to us about Christ, His disciples and their teachings. But we should not forget that what they considered as “Scripture” was nothing else other than what we call the Old Testament books of Moses, the Prophets & the Psalms. It is time that Christians wake up and give the proper place that “God’s Word” the “Holy Scriptures” deserve!

Is Sabbath, Saturday, Sunday or Everyday? Defining the Biblical Sabbath day – Part I

2000 years after Yeshua, the first Apostles and the New Testament accounts written in the Bible, there is much debate about what “Sabbath” means. Some think it is of little importance while others believe it is everyday. Some say, “Isn’t love that matters? and keeping God’s Commandments?” There are others who say, “Is God really so petty, that He wants us to keep a certain day holier than others?”

As this is quite a vast subject, with lots of questions and arguments around it, we will break this study down into 2 or 3 parts. In the 1st Part we will lay the groundwork in understanding The Sabbath day which is also God’s 4th Eternal Commandment.

In Part 1, we will cover these areas

  1. Biblical Definitions behind the word Sabbath
  2. The origins of the Seventh Day Sabbath
  3. The connection between the 7th Day of Creation to the Sabbath
  4. Why was this Commandment given to man?
  5. Is the Sabbath a day of special significance to man or to God?
  6. What is this Commandment? How do we obey it?
  7. The do’s and dont’s of the Sabbath
  8. The truth behind the claim that the 7th Day of Creation is not a 24Hour day
  9. Scripture References and important facts about the Sabbath

In Part 2 of this study, we will move onto answering some of the questions and thoughts that exist about the Sabbath.

  1. Did Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) break the Sabbath, showing us that it is no more?
  2. Since the “Keep Sabbath Holy” Commandment is never mentioned in the New testament, it is clearly not important
  3. Hebrews 4 proves that Yeshua is our Sabbath rest, not any particular day. We should keep everyday holy, not any particular day
  4. The 1st Century Church met on Sunday’s since the “Lord’s Day”(Yeshua’s resurrection) is on Sunday, which means they didn’t keep the Sabbath.
  5. There is no mention of the Sabbath in the book of Revelations
  6. Col 2:16,17 proves that we do not need to keep the Sabbath
  7. Yeshua said that I am working just as Father God is always working. So we do not need to keep the Sabbath, as Yeshua & God is working on the Sabbath
  8. Yeshua gave Commandments that abolished the Old, which contained the Sabbath Commandment
  9. The Sabbath Commandment is not a Spiritual Commandment, while we are asked to keep the Spirit of the Law, and not the letter of the Law
  10. We are under grace and not under Law, so we do not need to keep the Sabbath
  11. Yeshua is the Lord of the Sabbath, so this Commandment ends with Him
  12. The Sabbath was made for Jews, not Gentiles. It was given to Israel and not the church
  13. It doesn’t matter which day you keep, as long as you keep one and you are fully convinced in your own mind according to Rom 14:5,6
  14. Sabbath keepers are working for their salvation and have fallen from Grace
  15. Gal 4:9,10 specifically says not to be in bondage to observing days
  16. Even if we do need to keep the Sabbath, we wouldn’t know which day it is because of the numerous calendar changes in history
  17. There is no proof in Scripture that the Sabbath is Saturday
  18. There is no Sabbath service near to where I live. Am I to keep Sabbath by myself? Isn’t it better for me to go on a Sunday and worship God along with others?
  19. How can this be right, when everyone I know including powerful Pastors & Teachers worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath
  20. Their were strict Laws concerning the Sabbath such as not lighting a fire. Are we supposed to stay in the dark without cooking food just to observe this old Sabbath Law?

1) Biblical Definition behind the term “Sabbath”
So let’s get down straight to it, and check the Definition of the word “Sabbath” in the Original Hebrew Manuscripts. (We will check the Greek Definitions in the Second Part of this Study)

H7676 – שׁבּת – shabbâth – shab-bawth’ – Intensive from H7673; intermission, that is, (specifically) the Sabbath: –  (+ every) sabbath.

This word “shabbâth” originates from H7673. Let’s look at this word as well.

H7673 – שׁבת – shâbath – shaw-bath’ – A primitive root; to repose, that is, desist from exertion; used in many implied relations (causatively, figuratively or specifically): – (cause to, let, make to) cease, celebrate, cause (make) to fail, keep (sabbath), suffer to be lacking, leave, put away (down), (make to) rest, rid, still, take away.

Wherever the Seventh day Sabbath is mentioned, H7676 shabbâth is used in the Old Testament Scriptures. While H7673 – shâbath is used as the word “Rest” in most verses including Gen 2:2, where it says, “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.”

The connection between “Rest” and “Sabbath” can be seen in verses such as
Exo 16:29,30 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath(H7676), therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested(H7673) on the seventh day.

2Ch 36:21 To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths(H7676): for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath(H7673), to fulfil threescore and ten years.

Lev 26:34,35  Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths(H7676), as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest(H7673), and enjoy her sabbaths(H7676). As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest(H7673); because it did not rest(H7673) in your sabbaths(H7676), when ye dwelt upon it.

2) The Origin of the Seventh Day Sabbath
Some argue, that God did not institute the Sabbath on the Seventh day of Creation and even go on to say, that the Seventh Day of Creation could not be a Single 24Hour day. Let’s check whether these claims are true.

Gen 2:2,3  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (This verse says that God Rested from His work on the Seventh Day and blessed and sanctified the Seventh Day, which He did not do to any other day. We see this connection clearly stated by God in Exo 20:10,11 when He gave His Commandments)

3)The connection between the 7th Day of Creation to the Sabbath.
Exo 20:10,11  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

4) Why was this Commandment given to man?
Exo 31:17  It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Exo 23:12  Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
(God has said that it is a sign between Israel and Himself forever, and that it is given for rest and refreshment for man as it was for God on the 7th Day of Creation)

5) Is the Sabbath a day of special significance to man or to God?
Lev 23:2,3 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my “feasts”(H4150 – מועד – mô‛êd – an appointment). Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
Isa 58:13,14  If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Isa 56:2-6  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

The Sabbath is called “My Holy Day” and “My Feast/Appointment” by God along with other Feast/Appointed days which include days such as “Passover” & “Pentecost”(Pentecost means 50Days which refer to Lev 23:15,16 which was the same celebration everyone was gathered to in Acts 2:1. more on this in a later study on the Appointed days of God). He has also promised to Bless people who keep the Sabbath.

6) What is this Commandment? How do we obey it?
Since we have seen the clear connection between the Sabbath and Rest, we need to also understand a bit more about the Commandment of the Sabbath and the definition of keeping it “Holy” as well as what God meant when He said do not “Labour” and refrain from “Work“.

Exo 20:8-11  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it HOLY. Six days shalt thou LABOUR, and do all thy WORK: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any WORK, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Holy – H6942 – קדשׁ – qâdash – kaw-dash’to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.
This is the same word used in Gen 2:3 which is translated as “Sanctified” in English.

Labour – H5647 – עבד – ‛âbad – aw-bad’ – to work (in any sense); by implication to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.: –  X be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, + husbandman, keep, labour (-ing man), bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve (-ing, self), (be, become) servant (-s), do (use) service, till (-er), transgress [from margin], (set a) work, be wrought, worshipper.
This word has been translated to English as,
Till/Tiller/Tillest in Gen 2:5, 3:23, 4:2, 4:12
Dress in Gen 2:15
Serve/Served in Gen 14:4, 15:3, 15:14, 25:23, 27:29, 27:40, 29:15, 29:18,20,25,27,30, etc
Servant in Gen 49:15
Keep in bondage in Exo 6:5
Compel him to serve in Lev 25:39
Bondmen in Lev 25:46

WorkH4399 – מלאכה – melâ’kâh – mel-aw-kaw’ – properly deputyship, that is, ministry; generally employment (never servile) or work (abstractly or concretely); also property (as the result of labor): – business, + cattle, + industrious, occupation, (+ -pied), + officer, thing (made), use, (manner of) work ([-man], -manship).
– H5647 – עבד – ‛âbad – aw-bad’ – to work (in any sense); by implication to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.: –  X be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, + husbandman, keep, labour (-ing man), bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve (-ing, self), (be, become) servant (-s), do (use) service, till (-er), transgress [from margin], (set a) work, be wrought, worshipper.
This word has been translated to English as,
Business in Gen 39:11, 1Chr 26:29,30, 2Chr 13:10, 17:13, Est 3:9, Psa 107:23, Dan 8:27
Goods in Exo 22:8,11
Workmanship in Exo 31:3,5, 35:31, 1Chr 28:21
Industrious in 1Kin 11:28
Workmen in 2Kin 12:14,15, 1Chr 22:15, 25:1, 2Chr 24:13, 34:10,17, Ezr 3:9
Labour in Neh 4:22
Occupation in Jonah 1:8

According to the scores of Scripture above, you can clearly see that “Work”/”Labour” is not defined as “anything you do”(cooking, cleaning, helping someone in need, healing, etc). It is the Business you are involved with from Tilling the Ground to all other occupations we are involved in, to make a living.

7) The do’s and dont’s of the Sabbath
Further evidence for The Sabbath rest to be connected to rest from your occupation can be found in the below verse, which explains how Israel , at one time, was breaking God’s Commandment – The Sabbath, by going about their own occupations & businesses
Neh 13:15-22  In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves(Corn), and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals(game meat/hunted animals). There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware(Merchandise), and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

Frequently asked Question: If “work” in the Commandment is business oriented, why was the man in Num 15:32, who “gathered sticks” on the Sabbath punished?
The better question we need to answer here is, why was this man “Gathering” “sticks” in the first place? Let us see the meaning behind the words “Gather” and “sticks” used here.

“Gather” – H7197 – קשׁשׁ – qâshash – kaw-shash’ – to become sapless through drought; used only as denominative from H7179 [H7179 – קשׁ – qash – kash – From H7197; straw (as dry): – stubble].; to forage for straw, stubble or wood; figuratively to assemble: – gather (selves) (together).
This specific word “H7197 – kaw-shash” which is translated as “gather” is seen only 7 times in the Scriptures and is used in the case of gathering straw or wood as material for work such as Carpentry, Brick making or starting fires which was essential for industry in ancient times (Exo_5:7, Exo_5:12, Num_15:32, Num_15:33, 1Ki_17:10, 1Ki_17:12, Zep_2:1). Note: the word Gather can be seen in scripture over 150 times while this particular word is seen only 7 times

“Sticks” – H6086 – עץ – ‛êts – ates – a tree (from its firmness); hence wood (plural sticks): –  + carpenter, gallows, helve, + pine, plank, staff, stalk, stick, stock, timber, tree, wood.
This specific word is translated as “Tree” close to 200 times in the Bible, but is used only 10 times as “sticks”.

Could it be that this man was collecting wood for work? There is quite a bit of difference when you say that, “he was gathering sticks” and “he was foraging for wood”.

What about Exo 35:3, which says that one cannot light a fire on the Sabbath.
Some say, Are you seriously saying we need to keep a Commandment which has a Law attached to it, which says you cannot even light a fire? If God has commanded, we have to obey. But we need to understand what He meant by this first. What did He mean by not lighting a fire? Did He mean that everyone has to go hungry that day, because you cannot cook a meal? Did He mean that you have to sleep in the cold and freeze to death because you cannot light a fire? We have to understand God’s Words and His Laws before we make any assumptions.

In Exo 35:2,3, God speaks through Moses saying, Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day. What is the context of Exo 35:3? Why does He say not to light a fire? Because God did not want anyone to do “regular monetary work” on that day. Remember that fire was essential for “work” at that time. If someone uses this verse to say “If you keep the Sabbath, you shouldn’t even cook”, I would show them Exo 12:16 which talks about the High/Special Sabbaths of Unleavened Bread, and how God specifically says that people can prepare their meals on these special Sabbath days.

8) The truth behind the claim that the 7th Day of Creation is not a 24Hour day
Some claim that The Seventh Day of Creation like all the other days of Creation were longer periods of time, and that it has no connection to the 24Hour Sabbath Day because the 7th day of Creation was not a 24 Hour day. They claim that the week of Creation is Millions of years long and because of it, the 7th day of Creation is not a Sabbath. How else could we explain the remains of Dinosaurs and the questions that Science bring forward saying the earth is Millions of Years Old?

First of all, I must say, I do not disagree with “most” of what Science says. We clearly cannot refute the fact that Skeletons of Dinosaurs do exist, and they could be thousands of years old. I believe Dinosaurs did exist. But they had to have existed before Adam if they are Millions of years old. Whoa! some would call this notion Ludicrous. But just hear me out.

From Adam to today, is roughly close to 6000years. How do we know this? Because all of the Genealogies, Births, Deaths and dates have been provided for us in the Scripture without any missing links. (I have done my research on this, and this is not an assumption, but Scriptural fact). The Scriptures say Adam was 930 Years old when he died(Gen 5:5). If The days of Creation were long periods of time(Millions of Years), and Adam was Created on the 6th Day, wouldn’t he have died before the Seventh Day?

Reading the first two verses in the Scriptures can help us understand how the Dinosaurs, if they are millions of years old, could have lived before Adam. Let’s check this claim. (Please note that this is my interpretation of the event of Creation and not clear fact as most of the other scriptures we have read through.)

Gen 1:1  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Gen 1:2  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

It is absolutely clear that God created the Heaven and Earth in the Beginning of time(whatever time this is. Please note, that this could have been Millions of years ago). But the 2nd verse shows us that the earth was suddenly formless and void with darkness upon the earth. Did God make a formless thing with darkness prevailing on it?(Remember all other things were made perfect in one go). So, could it be that there was a great amount of time between the 1st Verse and the 2nd Verse? What I am trying to say is, that God did not reveal everything to Moses(who wrote Genesis). Yes, God did Create everything at the very beginning, but between verse 1 & 2, something had terribly gone wrong with the earth(Maybe something like, what happened in the time of Noah).

Anyway, whether I am right or wrong, the Seventh Day of Creation cannot be a “Thousand Years”, as Adam would have died before entering the Seventh Day, if that was so.

Scripture References and important facts regarding the Sabbath

  1. The Sabbath is one of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:8-11, Deut. 5:12-15).
  2. God finished His work of creation, rested, set apart and blessed the 7th day (Gen. 2:2-3, Ex. 31:14,17)
  3. God tells his people to keep the Sabbath so that we know that God is the one who sanctifies us (Ex 31:13)
  4. God tells his people to keep the Sabbath “throughout your generations – forever.” (Ex. 31:13, 16)
  5. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s authority over His people (Ex. 31:13, 17)
  6. The Sabbath commandment was written with the finger of God (Ex. 31:18, Deut. 9:10).
  7. God sent Israel into captivity for breaking and profaning the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:17,18)
  8. Those who observe the Sabbath will be given “a place and a name better than sons and daughters” (Isa. 56:3-5)
  9. God promises to specially bless and bring those who keep the Sabbath to his Holy Mountain (Isa. 56:2,7)
  10. The Sabbath is intended to be a delight and people who keep it are blessed (Isaiah 58:13)
  11. In the future, after the Final Judgment, the Sabbath will still be in effect (Isa. 66:22-23)
  12. The Lord gave the Sabbath as a sign or a mark between Him and His people (Eze 20:12-24)
  13. God mentioned Sabbath breaking in a list of indictments against his people (Ezek. 22:8, 26, 23:38)
  14. The prophet Ezekiel describes a future temple in which the Sabbath will still be in effect (Ezekiel 46:1-12)
  15. God takes away the Sabbaths and the Feasts as a punishment (Hosea 2:1-11)
  16. Yeshua did not come to abolish even the least of God’s commandments (Matt. 5:17-19)
  17. Yeshua showed how to properly keep the 7th day Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-12, Mark 2:27-28, 3:2-4, Luke 6:1-11)
  18. Yeshua taught that the Sabbath would be in effect after his death and before the great tribulation (Matt. 24:20-21)
  19. Yeshua set an example by observing the Sabbath (Mark 1:21, 6:2, Luke 4:16, 13:10)
  20. Even after His crucifixion, some women “rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)
  21. The Jerusalem council gave gentiles four basic commandments because they knew they would learn the rest of God’s commandments in the Synagogues on the 7th day Sabbath (Acts 15:21)
  22. Paul taught the people to uphold the Law of God which are the commandments (Romans 3:31)
  23. Jesus kept the Saturday Sabbath, and Paul was an imitator of Jesus, teaching others to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1)
  24. Paul kept the 7th day Sabbath (Acts 13:14 ; 16:13 ; 17:2 ; 18:4)
  25. We are told that love for God = obeying his commandments (1 John 5:3).
  26. Those living in the end-times who keep God’s commandments, are praised in the Book of Revelations (Rev. 12:17)

I Sincerely hope that I have covered all the important facts regarding the Sabbath and given you a new view into one of God’s eternal Commandments. In the next part of this study, we will delve into questions and misunderstandings that concern the Sabbath, proving the facts whether the Sabbath is Saturday, Sunday or everyday and try to make this Commandment of God clearer and more relevant to our lives.