Our Pleasure on the Sabbath?

Some people feel that the end of Isaiah chapter 58 is referring to the weekly Sabbath; however, the context of the whole chapter is about the High Sabbath of the Day of Atonement ("the day of your fasting" verse 3).

Letís look at the Scriptures that first tell us about the Sabbath and what it is.


Exod 16:29 (KJS) See, for that [Yahweh] hath given you the sabbath, 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.
Yahweh didn't want men to have to labor by gathering food on the day of rest that He created for them.  The last part of this verse has even been perverted to mean that we cannot step out of our house (later by Rabbis, 2000 cubits) on the weekly Sabbath, when the obvious intent here was not to go out to gather the food, part of the normal daily toil of survival.


Exod 20:8 (KJS) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of [Yahweh] thy [Mighty One]: [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:
11 For [in] six days [Yahweh] made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore [Yahweh] blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (set it apart from other days).
Here is the first place in Scripture where we are told what is required to keep the Sabbath holy (set apart); we are not to do the work that we normally do the other six days.  We are to rest from our normal work (cease working) as Yahweh ceased working after the six days of creation.


Exod 31:14 (KJS) Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it [is] holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth [any] work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to [Yahweh]: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Again, only work is described as "defiling" the Sabbath.  It is being made clear that Yahweh wants us to cease from the work we do on the other six days and to make this day free of toiling for our existence.


Exod 35:2 (KJS) Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to [Yahweh]: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.
Again, only work is described as prohibited on the Sabbath;  Added here is the statement not to start a fire on the Sabbath.  This required gathering the wood and the task of getting the fire going and stabilized; quite a bit of work.  Doing this before the Sabbath started made it simple and non laborious to just add a log occasionally to keep the fire alive.  The Sabbath concept is not one of a list of  "do notís," but one of being relieved of much of the normal daily struggle to survive.


Levi 23:3 (KJS) 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 [Yahweh] in all your dwellings.
Again, the repeated statement about the keeping the Sabbath is do not work as you do on the other six days.  A set apart assembly is described here on the weekly Sabbath; this means meeting with others in worship.


Nehe 10:31 (KJS) And [if] the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, [that] we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy dayÖ
Nehemiah instructs the people of Yahweh not to interact with people who are breaking the Sabbath by working, even though they are not of the people of Yahweh.  Again, working for a living is the focus of what is prohibited on Sabbath.


Jere 17:24 (KJS) And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith [Yahweh], to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;
The burden being referred to is commercial supply, so that people understood that even though they didnít go to work, as in their shops, they shouldnít stock up their businesses on the Sabbath even though the doors of business were technically closed.


Matt 12:1 (KJS) At that time [Yahshua] went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
Now, we can see the error of the Pharisees who had come to teach that almost any physical labor broke the Sabbath;  the disciples had picked the grain to eat it themselves, not as their normal job engaged in during the other six days of the week and not as a gathering of food to stock up for the day.


Mark 2:27 (KJS) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
This statement by the Messiah clarifies the concept of the Sabbath;  to allow men, women, servants, and their animals to be relieved of  their daily jobs that they do during the week for compensation (money or room and board).  The repeated instruction over, and over, and over is not to do the work you do on the other six days. The set apart assembly is most likely set on this day since the distractions of a work day are removed including the gathering food and starting a fire.

It has been stated 1 that when Yahweh finished creation, His blessings overflowed upon his creatures and upon man.  Man did not have to toil daily for existence, everything was provided.  This was lost through the fall of Adam, but not forever; through redemption and mercy Yahweh will restore it.  This "rest" of Yahweh is the goal creation is destined to reach.   The weekly Sabbath was commanded for man to see, and experience in a small way, what was lost under the curse of sin 2; a restful, peaceful existence to enjoy life and walk humbly with our creator 3.

Thus, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  Man is not to afflict himself on the weekly Sabbath, he is to enjoy it and the freedom it gives him from having to "go to work to make a living."  His praise and worship is offered up to Yahweh during the set apart assembly of the day, and he should enjoy the gift of life either alone or with others; such as letting the children play and perhaps playing with them, enjoying music tapes, CDs or playing his own musical instrument, or reading a good book in his recliner.  It is a day of peace to look forward to and remind us of  the rest Yahweh will give his people as he provides for us eternally under the new heaven, on the new earth and in the New Jerusalem.

1) Ungerís Bible Dictionary p.940
2) Genesis 3:17-19
3) Genesis 3:8 and Micah 6:8


Some have mistakenly used the following Scriptures out of context to conclude that the weekly Sabbath must be a solemn day with no pleasures of life allowed.  These Scriptures all refer to the Day of Atonement, which is one day of the year of "afflicting" oneís self; this being interpreted by most to mean fasting for 24 hours and denying ourselves of lifeís pleasures.  Since Messiah did suffer and die to provide our atonement, this attitude for this one day seems correct today as it did in ancient times for other reasons.


Levi 16:29 (KJS) And [this] shall be a statute for ever unto you: [that] in the seventh month, on the tenth [day] of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, [whether it be] one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:
30 For on that day shall [the priest] make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, [that] ye may be clean from all your sins before [Yahweh].
31 It [shall be] a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.
Levi 23:27 (KJS) Also on the tenth [day] of this seventh month [there shall be] a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto [Yahweh].
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it [is] a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before [Yahweh] your [Mighty One].
29 For whatsoever soul [it be] that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatsoever soul [it be] that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 Ye shall do no manner of work: [it shall be] a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It [shall be] unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth [day] of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
Isai 58:3 (KJS) Wherefore have we fasted, [say they], and thou seest not? [wherefore] have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
The above Scripture in the beginning of Chapter 58 identifies the day being referred to as the High Sabbath of the Day of Atonement  by describing it as "the day of your fast."  The only day the people kept as a fast was the Day of Atonement, an Annual Sabbath day. The subject of the entire chapter of Isaiah 58 deals with the peopleís attitude while they were fasting on the Day of Atonement. The "Sabbath" referred to in 58:13 below is the Day of Atonement; it should not be taken out of context as though it was the weekly Sabbath.  However, read on.
Isai 58:13 (KJS) 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 [Yahweh], honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in [Yahweh]; 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 [Yahweh] hath spoken [it].

As you have seen, of the many Scriptures we have read commanding us not to work on the weekly Sabbath, none mentions "afflicting your souls" or a prohibition of "doing thine own ways, finding thine own pleasure, or speaking [thine own] words."  The problem is how some define this phrase.  In Isaiah 58, this phrase is referring to unrighteous and unloving behavior toward others.  It is an idiomatic phrase from the Hebrew language. A word to word translation without considering the context of the chapter leads to misunderstanding,  which is why some think that the phrase means "having fun" (good clean fun), and that it is to be eliminated on weekly Sabbaths as part of "ye shall afflict your souls," which they also erroneously think refers to the weekly Sabbath.   So, they eliminate playing ball with your son in the back yard, listening to some classical music, asking someone how their family is (non-biblical topic), and taking their daily shower; these are not unrighteous actions that Yahweh wants us to eliminate.

Yes, we should turn away from unrighteous and abusive behavior toward others (as described in chp 58) at all times, not just on one High Day.
But, let us not make our weekly Sabbaths an incorrectly restrictive day due to the misunderstanding of a few words.  Let us
back away from the tree and look at the whole forest (ops an idiom!).  Let us cross check our ideas of what we think one line
of verse means, to see if it fits the Sabbath concept.  The weekly Sabbath rest looks forward to the eternal rest, and we will not be continually afflicting ourselves in the eternal rest.

In conclusion, I offer a review of Isaiah chapter 58.  May Yahweh Bless you.
Chapter 58 is a chastising of the people by Yahweh.

In verse 1 Yahweh tells Isaiah to openly and loudly inform the people that they are in rebellion.

In verse 2 Yahweh says they seem eager to know my ways
        as if they were a nation that does what is right!
        as if they had not forsaken the commands of Yahweh!
        they seem eager for Yahweh to come near them!
But Yahweh says they are actually in rebellion because they are not really eager to know His ways, or do what is right; they forsake Yahweh's commands and are not eager for Yahweh to come near them.

In verse 3 they are complaining that they have fasted and Yahweh has ignored them (has not rewarded them for their fasting).

So, in verse 4 Yahweh says, "Well on the day of fasting you just act like you always act - unrighteously." (my paraphrase)
Verses 4 gives examples of their unrighteousness and Yahweh says, "You cannot fast on this day and act unrighteously and then expect me to reward you just because you fasted." (Paraphrase)

In verse 5, Yahweh says, "I have not chosen a fast day just for one to humble himself, bow his head, and lye on sackcloth and ashes.  Is that what you call a fast day acceptable to Yahweh?"  (paraphrase)

In verse 6, Yahweh says,"This is the kind of behavior I expect to go along with your fasting:
    loose the chains of injustice
    untie the cords of the yoke
    set the oppressed free..."
Verse 7 is more examples of behavior that Yahweh desires to accompany the fasting; basically describing the type of people Yahweh wants them to be.

In verse 8, Yahweh says, "be like this and you will get rewards."  Then through verse 12, Yahweh tells the people the rewards they will receive for being righteous and loving to others.

Then in verse 13 and 14, Yahweh summarizes, (again my paraphrase) "So, if you keep this Sabbath day of the fast (Atonement) with this proper attitude of righteousness and love, not abusing and taking advantage of people (by "doing thine own ways, finding thine own pleasure, speaking thine own words"), then you will find joy in Yahweh and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and feast on the inheritance of Jacob."