Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rules, Rules, and more Rules

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, not your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 19:8-11

This is what God has to say about the Sabbath. The Pharisees took these three verses and turned them into thirty-nine rules with a subset of rules beneath each main rule.

For example:

No plowing was a chief rule. Dragging a chair on soft earth and thereby leaving furrows in the ground was listed in the subset of rules under no plowing. Dragging a chair on a hard surface however would be allowed. (2 )

A Jew could only walk a short distance from his house. However if he planned ahead the day before and placed his lunch somewhere along the road, that could be considered his house and the next day he could walk the prescribed distance from his lunch to his destination. (3)

If the house of a devout Jew were to catch fire, the only things that he could save would be articles of clothing but he could not scoop up an armload of clothes. He would have to put on one piece of clothing, leave the burning building, remove said article, return for the next item, and repeat the process. (2) Rescuing clothing this way was necessary to comply with the 39th rule.

The 39th rule proclaimed that nothing could be carried. Jesus was all over this one when He
A. Healed the whiny lame man in John 5 and B. Told the guy to pick up his mat and go home.

The Jews took the Sabbath seriously. “In 167 B.C. Antiochus’ army put a stop to the Jew’s sacrifices. The people of Jerusalem, under the leadership of Matthias, revolted and then fled to the desert. Their hiding place was soon discovered, and the pursuing soldiers demanded that they repent and surrender.
The Jews refused to give in, but they also refused to fight because it was the Sabbath. They would not block the entrances to their caves or fight in any way. Approximately 1000 men, women and children died without resistance, because they considered the Sabbath sacred.”(1 )
No wonder Jesus healed under the noses of the Pharisees, on the Sabbath! The religious elite truly did place an unbearable burden on the people, a burden that neither they nor the people could live up to. No wonder the Pharisees attempted to control and manipulate Jesus. They had been trying for centuries with their system of works to control and manipulate God. Why should they do anything less when God became man and walked upon the earth?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Thank You, Jesus!

There are Orthodox Jews who continue to keep the Sabbath in the same manner as the Pharisees. Here are some links as to how this plays out in the twentieth century:
The 39 Categories of Sabbath Work

1. “Man for Sabbath or Sabbath for Man?” William L. Coleman, Eternity, September, 1977, p. 58.
2. Commentary by Bob Deffinbaugh (
3. Commentary by David Guzic (


Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

I clicked through the links. I noticed that Orthodox Jews can't even start a fire in their homes on the Sabbath. Are they to freeze to death if the electricity goes out in a snowstorm?

I'm so thankful that the Lord doesn't want us to live under such ridiculous man-made rules! Still, I feel for these people. They are so blind, and trying to earn their way into Heaven. Reminds me of myself before I knew Christ.

There was an interesting article in "Home Life" magazine this month about keeping the sabbath, and ways to honor it. We've been trying to put that into practice in our home. In just one Sunday, I noticed a HUGE difference!

Jennifer said...

Galatians 5:1 is one of my all-time favorite verses. I remember well the point in my life when that verse lept off the page at me... it was life changing. I whispered an "amen" in my heart with you, "Thank you, Jesus."

The Small Scribbler said...


The whole of Galatians is one of my favorite books in the entire Bible.


Alana said...

You never cease to amaze me with your introspective posts. I really enjoyed this one.

Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) said...

Awesome post Kate!

I'm so thankful to live this side of the cross!