Ancient Myths and Honest Translations 4 – Sabbath

The Two Sabbaths In Torah – Civil and Religious

It’s called a weekend. The weekend is an ancient concept. The weekend has its origin around 4000 years ago. It was derived partly from a very ancient Jewish civil law that required households to take a day of rest after six days of work and partly from a Babylonian astronomy-based concept of seven days that corresponded to the seven big stars in the sky above (the seven known planets of the time that gave the number seven a mystical nature). The seven-day week is a strictly and purely human invention. It has no natural parallel in nature, and is comprised (these days) of five days of work and two days of rest. The weekly-monthly-yearly calendar itself is a human made invention. The closest that nature comes to a calendar is the lunar month, the equinox and solstice pairs of seasons that occur from rotation around the sun, and the daily transition of day and night. The 24 hour day is a purely human invention, too.

Now, having shared the obvious… Just how many of you are aware that the observance of a day of rest on the seventh day, known these days as Shabbat (the Sabbath), did not begin in ancient Israel as a religious observed day? Rather, it began as a civil work-related day of rest, based entirely in an ethical concern over the treatment of laborers. It would only be through the passage time, of hundreds of years later, that this day of rest would take a role in a national calendar as a religious mandated day of rest for everyone within this nation. In other words, there are two versions of the Sabbath preserved in the compiled and redacted book we know as the Torah (or “Bible”) – one civil, and one religious. How we know this is demonstrable as follows:

The Torah is comprised of very ancient Judean and Israeli writings, dating in origins to around 1000-900 BCE; the still ancient but less ancient later written Priestly writings (think Cohens and Levites), dating in origins to around 550 BCE; and a lot of miscellaneous writing pieces, from both secular and religious sources, having different origins of date throughout the BCE period of time. All these writings have been redacted together into one document in several time period stages (specifically, around 700 BCE and 400 BCE for the “Pentateuch” itself) into the highly edited and “canonized” religious book that much of the Western world knows about and considers “sacred”. It is with the nature of the Semitic language being read that we as translators can determine which passages belong to which period of time and to which writers (unfortunately, this noting of sources almost never makes it into translations into other languages from the original Hebrew language).

Now, with the concept of having a day of rest, a Shabbat or Sabbath, the earliest expression of it was written somewhere around 1000-900 BCE and it was a civil legislation upon those who employ laborers. The seventh day being a day of rest from work was not connected to a national calendar or to religious observance, but connected specifically to the number of days a laborer has performed physical labor. (In that time period, the religious version of a Shabbat or Sabbath was observed only once a month on the full moon of the month.) Later, with the priests invention of a national calendar through their obsession with numbers and rituals, the religious connection of the day of rest to the seventh days of the calendrical month, and the myths and laws they wrote that connects the day of rest to the national god of the theocratic priests, the Shabbat or Sabbath took on a whole new meaning and emphasis that is always specifically religious in nature and civil in behavior at the same time.

I’ll show you what I’m talking about, by placing the passages relating to Shabbat/Sabbath in their historical order, according to the writer, beginning with the most ancient and following with the more recent:

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The Ancient Israeli/Judean Concept of Shabbat – before 550 BCE, during monarchical polytheistic times

Sh’mot/Exodus 23.1-12 (the civil seventh day of rest from laboring work)

“You shall not utter a false report. Don’t join your hand with the wicked to be a malicious witness.”
“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil. You shall not testify in court to side with a multitude to pervert justice. You shall not favor a poor man in his cause.”
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of him who hates you fallen down under his burden, don’t leave him. You shall surely help him with it.”
“You shall not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”
“Keep far from a false charge, and don’t kill the innocent and righteous; for I will not justify the wicked.”
“You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds those who have sight and perverts the words of the righteous.”
“You shall not oppress a foreigner, for you know the heart of a foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
“For six years you shall sow your land, and shall gather in its increase, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the animal of the field shall eat. In the same way, you shall deal with your vineyard and with your olive grove.”
“Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant, and the foreigner may be refreshed.”

The last verse, verse 12, is a reference to laborers needing a day of rest after six days of working. But, with there not being a national calendar standard that applied to all within the nation, yet, on what six days the laborers are to work and on what seventh day they are to rest was determined directly by the individual households – meaning, some households were resting when others were working.

Note, this passage above is immediately followed by the most ancient version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments that is in Torah (yes, there are two distinctly different Decalogues, too!).

Melachim B/2 Kings 4:22-24 (the religious monthly day of rest for ritual ceremony)

She called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the servants, and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.”
He said, “Why would you want go to him today? It is not a new moon or a Sabbath.”
She said, “It’s all right.”
Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward! Don’t slow down for me, unless I ask you to.”

This passage is making reference to the new moon and the full moon, or lunar Shabbat, which were tied to religious ritual ceremonies in ancient monarchical Israel and Judea.

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The Priest Jewish Israel Concept of Shabbat – after 550 BCE, during theocratic henotheistic times

Sh’mot/Exodus 20.8-11 (the religious calendrical weekly day of rest from work)

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it sanctified. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made sky and land, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it sanctified.”

This passage above is within the religious Decalogue or Ten Commandments of the 1st Temple priests, and it’s justification for the Sabbath law governing a national weekly Shabbat for all Israeli citizens is the priest’s Six Days of Creation myth.

D’varim/Deuteronomy 5.12-15 (the religious calendrical weekly day of rest from work)

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Yahweh your God commanded you. You shall labor six days, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God, in which you shall not do any work — neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm. Therefore Yahweh your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

This passage above is within the later rewritten version of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments of the 2nd Temple priests, and it’s justification for the Sabbath law governing a national weekly Shabbat for all Israeli citizens is the priest’s myth of the Exodus from Egypt.

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Because, most of you may not be familiar with the earliest version of the Decalogue (that existed well before the familiar Priest versions taught today in synagogues and churches), here it is:

Sh’mot/Exodus 23.13-19

“Be careful to do all things that I have said to you.”
“Don’t invoke the name of other gods, or even let them be heard out of your mouth.”
“You shall observe a feast to me three times a year.”
“You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib (for in it you came out of Egypt), and no one shall appear before me empty.”
“And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you sow in the field.”
“And the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field.”
“Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the God Yahweh.”
“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.”
“The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.”
“You shall bring the first of the first fruits of your ground into the house of Yahweh your God.”
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

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Judaism as an ethno-religion was not always monotheistic, and to say such is to be willfully ahistorical. Judaism slowly evolved from its original polytheistic form to a henotheistic form and, ultimately, into a modern monotheistic form over a period of 1,500 years (1200 BCE to 300 CE). It began with pre-monarchical/monarchical polytheistic Judaism (1200 BCE to 600 BCE) – which reverenced the gods Yahweh, El, Baal, and the goddess Asherah, and brought us the myths of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, Avraham and his family gods, the escape from Egyptian slavery, and wandering in the desert. Then arose the temple theocracy henotheistic form (700 BCE to 70 CE) – which reverenced Yahweh as a formless Elohim that is superior to all the gods and goddesses of the local pantheons (the highest “creator” god), and introduced us to the myths of the Six Days of Creation, the lineage of the ancient patriarchs between Adam and Avraham, and the priestly seven day calendar and religious laws. From this evolving Jewish heritage we now have the rise of the present rabbinical monotheistic form of Judaism (300 BCE to present) – which reverences Yahweh Elohim as the only existing one true “creator” god and all other names for “God” are referencing this not directly knowable and utterly formless Yahweh Elohim, and has brought us the first complete Hebrew “Bible” redaction, the written Talmud and the Mishnah, and all the present religio-cultural observances/laws and theology that we are so familiar with today.

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#Shabbat #Sabbath #FullMoon #Decalogue #TenCommandments #inhisimage #inhislikeness

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