Seventh-Day Adventists/Origin of the Sabbath
I have been talking with an SDA friend about the Sabbath being for all Christians. Of course he uses Genesis 2:2-3 as a text that "proves" that all must keep the Sabbath. I used Nehemiah 9:13-14 to show that the Sabbath wasn't given until after the Exodus. But he still says that the Genesis text is the one that we must go with over Nehemiah or any other text because it was given at creation. What can I answer to his claim?
Thanks for all that you do,
Dear Brother Dave:
Let's be honest the word "Sabbath" does not even appear in his text.
"Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:1-3 NASB).
We do find the words "seventh day" and "rested" in the text. In v. 2 God completed his work of creating by the end of the sixth day. Therefore, God rested or ceased from creating because he was finished by the seventh day. Nothing about a Sabbath being instituted. God finished creating all that He wished to create by the seventh day so He rested; i. e., He ceased or stopped creating. In v. 3 God blessed and sanctified the seventh day because He rested or ceased from His work of creating the world and all that was in it. Young's Literal Translation uses the word "ceased" in place of "rest" perhaps such a translation would help your friend from fixating on the word "rest".
"And the heavens and the earth are completed, and all their host; 2 and God completeth by the seventh day His work which He hath made, and ceaseth by the seventh day from all His work which He hath made. 3 And God blesseth the seventh day, and sanctifieth it, for in it He hath ceased from all His work which God had prepared for making."
The Good News Bible uses the word "stopped". Again perhaps this translation will help your friend not to see "rested" and translate that in his mind as "Sabbath".
"And so the whole universe was completed. 2 By the seventh day God finished what he had been doing and stopped working. 3 He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day, because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working."
So we see that "Sabbath" is not used or commanded in this text or any where else in Genesis for that matter. We do see that God took six days to create the world and all that is in it. He finished His work by the seventh day. He then blessed and sanctified the seventh day because that was the day that He rested, ceased, or stopped creating all that He wished to. Again, no mention of "Sabbath". Since your friend wants there to be the institution of the Sabbath in Creation he sees the mention of the "seventh day" and "rest" and reads "Sabbath".
Now let's look at the other text you mentioned, Nehemiah 9:13-14.
13 “Then You came down on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.
14 “So You made known to them Your holy sabbath,
And laid down for them commandments, statutes and law,
Through Your servant Moses." (NASB).
Verse 13 locates where this is occurring, "Mount Sinai". God is giving the law. Verse 14 mentions the Sabbath. It was "made known" through Moses to Israel. This passage is very clear that on Mount Sinai God "made known" the Sabbath. Which one of these two passages is the clearest concerning when the Sabbath was made known? Which one of these two passages explicitly mentions the Sabbath by name? For which one of these two passages is it easier to find an alternate explanation not related to the origin of the Sabbath? Obviously the Genesis passage is the easiest to find another explanation for since it does not even mention "Sabbath" neither do we find the Sabbath being observed shortly after this supposed Creation institution. It is not until centuries later that the Sabbath is first mentioned (Exodus 16) and then observed as something new or "made known". Then the Sabbath was codified at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20), and made the ceremonial sign of the Old Covenant (Exodus 31). Of course there are other passages that pertain to the origin of the Sabbath, but since you were concerned only with these two, I will stop here.
If I can be of further help to you please let me know.
God Be With You,