Exod 31 notes


וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּת כִּי קֹדֶשׁ הִוא לָכֶם מְחַלְלֶיהָ מֹות יוּמָת כִּי כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂה בָהּ מְלָאכָה וְנִכְרְתָה   31:14

הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִקֶּרֶב עַמֶּיהָ

Exod. 31:14    ‘You shall keep the Sabbath, for it is holy to you.  Whoever profanes it shall surely die.  When any one will be doing work on it, then that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people.’

שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים יֵעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתֹון קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂה מְלָאכָה בְּיֹום    31:15

הַשַּׁבָּת מֹות יוּמָת

Exod. 31:15    ‘Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.  Whoever will be doing work on the Sabbath day shall surely die.’

Verses 31:14 and 15 don’t help in further identifying what is forbidden on the Sabbath.  The questions I raised in the discussion relating to Exod. 16:26 don’t find any new answers here.  If work means business or occupation, then that doesn’t exclude very much other than what we do to earn our livelihood.  But if work means creating, or operating any machine or tool or wielding a weapon, none of which is for our business, then that’s an entirely different matter.  Now work might include creating, because that was God’s work during the six “days” of creation. But has God said anywhere that we are prohibited from poor imitations of His kind of work?  Possibly, in Exod. 20:20.  But God’s work of creating the universe we know was making something out of much less, perhaps out of nothing. God created “light” where there had been none.  He created matter where there had been none.  He even created the heavens and the firmament where there had been none.  He created life where there had been none.  Can we create like that?  Of course not!  We create things from things, not from nothing.  We put things together when we “create,” to make something that appears new to us.  But the reality of our creating is that we create nothing new, nothing out of nothing, only something different.  We create a different way of doing something we may or may not have done before.  Does that seem like doing God’s work?  Not to me.

On the other hand, If work means employing tools we don’t use to earn our living, what does that mean?  Here’s how I see the response to that question:  We cannot tie our shoelaces.  We cannot brush our teeth.  We cannot put on our spectacles.  We cannot read a book.  We cannot sit on a chair.  We cannot lie in our bed.  We cannot use a fork or spoon to eat.  These, and many more, are all activities most of us have to do to survive on the Sabbath.

Does the prohibition of activities on the Sabbath include wielding a weapon that is not used to earn our living?  If it does, then we cannot do any of the things I mentioned in the last paragraph, because all the tools I mentioned can be weapons.

Thus as far as I can see, if the above arguments seem reasonable, they mean that Sabbath restrictions must be directed at the work that we do to earn a living during the six days of labor.  They do not mean that we cannot play.  They do not mean that we cannot do what we do during the week for recreation.  They do not mean that we can’t carry our personal things in our pockets.  The one legitimate restriction that I haven’t mentioned so far is that we cannot permit anyone in our household to do any of their six-day work, as indicated in Exod. 20:10.

A final remark about this verse (and the previous one) relates to the phrase “shall surely die” that appears in both verses.  In Exod. 31:14 we are given a possible explanation of what these expressions imply.  To die because of profaning the Sabbath may mean that when that person does eventually expire, the soul would not be gathered to its people.  A grievous death indeed!                                    [Back]