Where does the Sabbath first get mentioned? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
While there is a Sabbath described in Genesis 2, the term itself does not show up there. So where does it first appear? You can look all throughout the book of Genesis and you will be disappointed.
“Okay. Maybe the word Sabbath doesn’t appear, but how about the concept of the seventh day of the week?”
Nope. Outside of the creation week, it doesn’t show up at all. The number seven shows up very frequently. Seventh as in the ordinal does not.
The first appearance shows up in Exodus 16 and in this reference, it is to the Israelites going out and gathering manna in the Exodus wanderings. Food isn’t exactly the most abundant, so God would have this strange breadlike substance come down and it was called Manna, which meant “What is it?” Every day, the Israelites could go out and get some. However, if they tried to save it until morning, it was disgusting and filled with maggots. There was one exception to this.
On the sixth day, they could store it overnight and it would not have maggots or stink in the morning. Moses tells everyone on the sixth day to gather enough for two days. The seventh day is to be a Sabbath. They are not to go out and do the work of gathering food. Of course, there are some who try, and they are disappointed, as is Moses.
What’s interesting about this is Moses doesn’t have any need to explain this. At this point in the text, nothing is said about why this is the Sabbath day or even what the Sabbath day is. So what are the options?
It could be that this was already known and part of the background knowledge? It didn’t need to be explained. Granted, odds are that they did not get to enjoy their Sabbaths while they were slaving away under Pharaoh in Egypt. They could have well welcomed a six-day work week.
It could be that this was already known, but the further explanation is known to be coming in the Ten Commandments, so why mention it here? This one also makes sense. Moses knows well what is coming in the story and sees no need to reinvent the wheel.
It could be that this was unknown, but that doesn’t really make much sense as it is said without explanation at all. Again, one could say it isn’t because that is coming in chapter 20. No doubt, the reader who read the account at the time knew the reason, but we don’t know what the Israelites were thinking.
I am much more inclined to go with 1 or 2 and if I had to pick one, I would probably pick the first one. Still, this time is worth mentioning because it is the first time that the Sabbath is mentioned for the people in the Bible. In this case, don’t go out and pick up food and get enough for two days on the day before.
This is the first story, but it won’t be the last, and sadly, some stories for Israel concerning Sabbath will not be that good and will sadly set the precedent for a history of failure on the Sabbath.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)