A Study on Genesis 2:1-3
Let’s open our Bibles to the second chapter of Genesis. Let us read the opening three verses in Genesis 2.
Genesis 2:1-3 “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts; and by the seventh day, God completed His work which He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (why? So that people can follow his example? No the reason is) because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
The creation account thus closes with those words, with a reference to the seventh day.
The seventh day is mentioned three times in those verses I just read to you. It is mentioned because it is important. The seventh day is unique. It has incomparable significance, indicated also by the fact that this is the first time the word “holy” is used in Scripture. The Hebrew word qedesh translated “sanctified,” in verse 3 is the word holy. The root meaning of qedesh, holy, in the form of qadash, the root, is thought to mean “to be cut off, or to separate.” And holiness, qodesha is elevation, or exaltation, above the usual level.
So this seventh day is a special day. It was a day set apart. It is a day cut off from the other six days and elevated. It was a day lifted up. It was a day exalted. It is then a very, very unique day. None of the other six days is so identified and set apart as holy or sanctified, as exalted and lifted up above the others. Hebrews 4 will later explain a greater significance of this specific seventh day for people of God. This is a unique day.
Now there are three reasons why it is unique and those three reasons are indicated by three verbs in this passage…
- the verb “completed,” you see it there in verse 1
- you see it again in verse 2, the verb “rested,”
- you see that in verse 2 and again in verse 3; and the verb “blessed.”
It became a sanctified day, it became a holy day, it became an exalted day, it became an elevated day for the three reasons, that which signified that God completed, God rested and God blessed. Each of those three verbs, by the way, is associated with the seventh day explicitly:
- Verse 2: “The seventh day God completed.”
- Verse 2 again: “He rested on the seventh day.”
- Verse 3, “He blessed the seventh day.”
So in each case the verb is tied explicitly to that seventh day which is mentioned three times.
Also, each of those three verbs is associated with the work of God.
- In verse 2, “God completed His work which He had done.”
- Verse 2 again, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
- Verse 3, “God blessed the seventh day and because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
So the pattern and the structure here is very simple. This is a sanctified day. This is a holy day. This is a set-apart day. This is a unique day. For the reasons that it marks out God had completed His work, rested from His work and blessed this unique day.
Now let’s just take those three for a moment and look at them. The first one is “completed.”
Verses 1 and 2 indicate the uniqueness of this day is connected to the fact that God completed creation. Verse 1, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts, by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done.”
It is clear by the language here that the work of creation was completed, that’s what the Hebrew term means. The entire work of God was completed so that on the seventh day it had been already completed and God rested. That is again to reiterate that creation was finished at the end of day six. The heavens were completed, the earth was completed and “all their hosts” simply means everything in the heavens and everything in the earth.
So then when you come to day seven in that original creation account, all creation has ceased. Now we remember on day one God created light; in day two He created water and the firmament. On day three He created the dry land; on day four the sun and the moon and the stars; on day five, the fish and the birds; day six, the land animals and man. Each day is demarcated and indicated by the phrase, “There was morning and there was evening,”. For example for all six days, God ends like this:
- Gen 1:8, “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day..
- there was evening and there was morning, a second day…
- there was evening and there was morning, a third day…
- there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day…
- there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day….
- there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day….
And at the end of the six days the heaven and the earth were completed. Back in verse 31 of chapter 1, “God saw all that He had made. Behold, it was very good.” That is God’s final stamp of approval on His completed creation at the end of day six. It was finished, it was complete, it was very good which was to say it lacked nothing.
Now that takes us to the second verb here, rested.
Genesis 2:2 “By the seventh day God completed His work” literally could be translated, “And since by the seventh day God had completed His work which He had done, He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
Repeatedly, I told you, three times it tells us that His work was done, His work was done, His work was done.
Now the verb “rested” is very interesting, shabath in the Hebrew (it is not the Hebrew word for Jewish Sabbath). Rested is not to imply any kind of weariness. It is not that God was worn out after a tough work week. Isaiah 40:28, you ought to remember this verse, Isaiah 40:28 says, “He faints not, neither is weary.” When God works whether He’s working in creation or whether He’s upholding the creation by the Word of His power as we see in Hebrews 1, or whether He’s accomplishing any particular task, there is no dissipation of energy, there is no law of entropy, there is no breaking down of matter, there is no disintegration in the absolute, ineffable, pure, holy power of God. That’s why Psalm 121:4 says He doesn’t slumber and He doesn’t sleep. He needs no replenishing. He needs no refreshing because He never gets weary, He never gets tired.
What does the Hebrew verb mean? Rested is a word that we could misunderstand. The Hebrew word simply means “not to do work.” It is a negative connotation, primarily, not to do work. And what it is saying is since He had completed the creation, there was nothing for Him to do with regard to the creation. He did not begin another create for six days and rest on the seventh day cycle. He ceased to work on that very first seventh day and onwards. He ceased. That’s what it means. And the word is used in those negative ways even the Mosaic Sabbath Law texts (Exodus 20), giving us the idea that the indication, first of all, here is that God was done with His work and so He didn’t do any further work.
But there’s something more than that. There is also a positive effect in that word. It can be used in a positive way and I want to draw that from Exodus 31:17. It says, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased and was refreshed.” He stopped. He stopped creating. He stopped making. “And was refreshed,” now that’s an addition. That’s the positive side of it.
Now you say, “What does it mean He was refreshed? That sounds again like He needed to sort of regain His dissipated energy. Not at all. The idea of that Hebrew word “refreshed” is the idea of satisfaction or delight. It is not to say that the result of God not working was some necessary replenishing of lost energy or strength, not some level of rehabilitation, but the idea of being refreshed or to find delight because of satisfaction. It’s really the response of God to what is stated in verse 31 that He saw everything He made, it was very good and as a result of that, He was satisfied. He found joy. He found delight. He found a certain fulfillment, satisfaction of accomplishment. Not unlike a master painter when he finishes his masterpiece and steps back to delight in what he has accomplished, not unlike a sculptor who molds the perfect image of a man and steps back having concluded his work to enjoy the finished product.
Now, it’s noteworthy, and you need to follow along with this thought. It’s noteworthy that there’s no mention of the word Sabbath here, it doesn’t occur in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the creation account. No mention of Sabbath…that word is not here. And furthermore, I want you to file this, there is nothing said about man resting here or ceasing from work. This is God’s rest, not man’s. It is not appropriate to inaugurate or imply here in Genesis some rest for man, that is to miss the point here. In fact, man isn’t even mentioned here in connection with this seventh day rest, only God is mentioned. No rest for man is inaugurated here. No Sabbath for man is inaugurated here. That doesn’t come until the Mosaic Law in Exodus 16. Marriage law was commanded in Genesis. Not to eat from the tree was commanded. However, no Sabbath law is given to man. That is significant.
And I want to take you further into understanding this. If you were to read through the six days and read day seven, what component of the first six days that was there in every single day is not in this discussion of day seven? The little phrase, that demarcation, that says…what? “There was morning and there was evening,” it’s not there…it’s not there.
It was in first six days…verse 5, verse 8, verse 13, verse 19, verse 23, verse 31. But when you look at the seventh day, you find no such formula and we might expect that “On the seventh day, there was evening and morning,” but it isn’t there. And, you know, in any kind of examination of the creation account, you can go into the minutest detail and you find careful, careful accuracy, great care taken by the Spirit of God in inspiring Moses to write down this description, this historic description of creation. It is a very, very careful account, carefully constructed. And when you see something there all the time and is all of a sudden omitted, there must be a reason, there must be a design, this can’t be accidental because everything in this account is so well thought out and well planned. What was God endeavoring to say by not saying that? Well I think it should be obvious but let me help you with it a little bit.
What are we talking about when we talk about God’s rest? That He was tired mentally, tired physically? No. Simply that He ceased, He ceased creating and then was, as it were, sitting back and just being satisfied with what He had created.
He was enjoying it. He was delighting in it. I mean, it was the delight of God to see the work of His hands that had never existed before this time. How refreshing it must have been, how delightful, how well pleased God must have been when He saw the created universe free from sin, free from the curse, no human death. And how much God must have delighted when He walked through the Garden and fellowship with man, with Adam and the wife He made for him, named Eve. What a delight it must have been.
And God must have delighted in the fact that everything that man needed had been provided for him. Everything necessary was there for the happiness of Adam and Eve, this was the seventh day. But the reason it doesn’t say evening and morning is because that God’s rest didn’t end in 24 hours, did it? It didn’t end. The rest of God was not about a day of the week. It was not one day of the week. It was a STATE. In fact, God’s delight wouldn’t end until when? Sin came. That seventh day inaugurated some period of time, rest, in which God delighted in a world that sparkled with pure life and a world which enjoyed the presence of God and a man and his wife in open fellowship with their creator ever day. Sin and its resulting curse still unknown. And so we could say that on day seven, God entered into a permanent STATE of rest, at least permanent until sin. See: God’s rest is not same as the Jewish weekly Sabbath
The conditions and characteristics then of that seventh day were designed by God to continue and they would have continued had it not been for the sin of Adam and Eve. It was not God’s design that they would eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and bring a curse. It wasn’t God who prompted them to do that and destroy their paradise. The entrance of sin devastated Eden’s perfection. As the prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 59:2, “Your sins, your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.”
The seventh day rest and its perfection conditions were to remain after God having created in which He delighted. We don’t know how long that was because we don’t know how long it was until man sinned.
Summarizing God’s rest then. That seventh day offered an an ongoing rest. He was delighting in the satisfaction of the goodness of what He had made in all of its pristine perfection. It was characterized by His delight and His satisfaction. He enjoyed perfect fellowship with Adam and Eve daily from that seventh day onwards, and so did Adam and Eve (it was not one day in seven). And I remind you again, the seventh day of rest in Genesis had nothing to do with man. God didn’t say to Adam and Even…Now you folks, every time a seventh day rolls around, you do this. There’s no command for man to rest on the seventh day. There’s no command for Adam to do that after the Fall. God doesn’t say, “Okay, now that you’re fallen you can only work six days and take one off,” that is not in Genesis. There is no Sabbath rule given here. There is no Sabbath rule given in the Abrahamic Covenant. You come in to chapter Genesis 12 and the following chapters and you have the rehearsal of the Abrahamic Covenant, and there is no discussion of any Sabbath, there’s no discussion of any single day. There is no condemnation for not observing a day either.
God explicitly commands certain things in Genesis and God explicitly condemns disobedience like in the case of Cain’s offerings even without a direct command. However, neither is there a command to observe a day (weekly, monthly, yearly) in Genesis nor a condemnation for not observing a day.
So when you look at the seventh day here, what you’re seeing is a day related to God. He ceased from His work and He delighted in what He had made.
The 7th day of Creation lasted only 24 hours, but the memory of it will last forever. The day a person graduates from college is a very blessed day, and the day for the graduation ceremony is set aside by college leadership. A college graduate will always remember that day without the need for any weekly, monthly, or annual rituals.
Now is it wrong to be reminded ourselves DAILY that we can enter God’s rest and that He created us? That’s exactly what Hebrews 4 says that His rest still stands for anyone to enter daily if we believe what God says about our salvation through Christ. By the way Hebrew 4 also shows that Jews did not enter God’s Seventh day rest even though they had a weekly Sabbath rest. Some see God’s pattern in Genesis as a fitting example for man to rest. Sure, if we decided to remember this seventh day, every seventh day, we are free to do so. In fact, we are to remember that God is creator in all our days (Ecclesiastes 12:1), not one day in seven. However, Christians are not commanded to do so, though the Jews were.
For us, for those of us who believe in the one true and living God, we believe in creation and no day or week goes by without a memorial, without a witness, without a testimony that we are God’s creation. But something special happened in the new covenant, Christ rose from dead on the first day (we’ll talk about the precedence for the first day later).
I think that’s what’s on the heart of God as He blesses that special seventh day which inaugurated not a day of rest but a STATE of rest, which Hebrew 4 shows that we can enter today, daily. And I think we need to leave it at that. He did not start working on the following week, and bless the following seventh day. He just blessed that first seventh day without evening and morning (which doesn’t mean He blessed every seventh day ever since) because he considered that the creation of the previous six days was complete and very good.
Genesis 1:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (why? So that people can follow his example? No the reason is) because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
Now all of that opens up the subsequent teaching on the Sabbath law on the Mosaic economy. How is that connected to this? We just leave Genesis where it is and next time let’s go through the Sabbath law of the Mosaic economy and show you if and how that connects and if at all it establishes any precedent for what we do now on the first day, the Lord’s resurrection day. That’s going to be a fascinating study.
Father, it’s…it’s such a joy to just see the Word of God come to life. We bless You, we honor…we thank You for…for doing it in a week. Every day we glorify You as our creator. We adore You as our Redeemer. We realize, God, that it is beyond our comprehension that You could create in six days. Your power and Your wisdom is way beyond us. It is equally beyond our understanding that You would redeem us. But, Lord, You filled us with such richness for we know You and we love You and thus we can remember You as the creator every single day, every week, every month, every year. May we never forget, never forget. And may we glorify You for all that You’ve done. By virtue of the work of Jesus Christ we offer You our prayers and our lives in Christ’s name. Amen.
Follow up questions
Doesn’t Exodus 20:11 teach us that, “God rested at creation because He instituted the Sabbath back then.”
No, that’s not what Ex. 20:11 says. God instituted the Sabbath at Sinai because he had rested back then at Creation. Read Genesis. There is no command for Adam and Eve to take a day off or rest every seventh day in Genesis. Neither is there an example for anyone in Genesis.
The reason why God commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath is given in Deut. 5:15:
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Can time or days be sanctified and blessed without requiring a rest?
As the Jubilee Sabbath year shows (Lev. 25:8-12), time can be holy without requiring a rest.
“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year. For it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you ( Lev 25:10 ,12).
God made the Jubilee Sabbath year hallowed, sanctified and holy for Israel, but there is no record that Israelites rested or ceased from work during that sanctified year. Similarly, Adam was not commanded to rest in Genesis, nor are Christians asked to rest on the seventh, but the Israelites were commanded to do so after deliverance from Egypt. Sabbath was part of the “tablets of the covenant” (Deut. 9:9), and that covenant is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13;9:1). Jesus did not command anyone to observe Sabbath, neither did the apostles under the new covenant. However no one should hold anyone on to a Sabbath or judge anyone for observing or not observing it (Col. 2:16,17).
Does Genesis say that man is required to set aside a day of rest or worship?
No. Before humans sinned, they lived in a blessed and holy time, in which they were in a state of peace with God, trustful and obedient DAILY. They did not need to labor for six days and cease on the seventh day. How can Adam observe a Sabbath on their second day? Sabbath command given to Israel after Exodus had two parts: work for six days, rest on the seventh day (Ex. 16;Ex 20). Adam did not work for six days, only God did. God ceased because He was finished with His creative work. Man continued to experience this rest of God since the seventh day as Hebrews 4 shows.
Adam and Eve did not need to set aside a day for communion with God, for they had it continually, everyday. The first humans did not need to rest on the second day of his life. Sabbatarians assume a rest was made for man in Genesis, but Genesis doesn’t teach that. Man was not made for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27), instead it was given as man’s servant (Ex. 16, 20). God wan’t us to have fellowship with Him daily. Just like there was no requirement to rest every seventh day in Genesis, another prophecy indicates that the day-night cycle will cease in the new heaven (Revelation 21:25), showing that there will be no Sabbaths.
Should we assume that God expects us to observe the seventh day?
He set apart the Seventh day from the first six days, but God did not command anyone to observe that day in Genesis or Remember that day. He “created” fish on the fifth day. He did not command anyone to make fish on the fifth day or follow His pattern of the six days or seventh day. We can’t assume that Adam and Eve were told to keep every seventh day when there is no command. If God wanted man to rest on a day, He would have commanded them, just like He commanded them marriage, and He commanded Abraham circumcision, altars and many other things. He did not command a Sabbath in Genesis 2, and there is a reason for it. See: Hebrews 4.
Also, if are to really follow God’s example on that first seventh day, we will have to cease from work on seventh day, and onward. That’s exactly what God did. He entered into a STATE of rest from Creation. Not just one day , but from the seventh day onward.
What was the understanding of the mainstream Jews and some of the early Christians about a Sabbath in Genesis?
The understanding of the mainstream Jews is that no one observed a sabbath day in Genesis; it was only commanded for Israel. The Jewish Talmud says, “The children of Noah…were given seven Laws only, the observance of the Sabbath not being among them” (Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:21 (Soncino edition, p. 23).
Justin Martyr, who wrote only 44 years after the death of St. John, and who was well acquainted with the doctrine of the apostles, denied that the Sabbath originated at creation. Thus after name Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot and Melchizedek, he says: “Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned, though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God.”Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 19.
Irenaeus (AD.130) says: “Abraham believed God without circumcision and the Sabbath.” Adv. Hoeres, lib 4, c. 30.
Tertullian, A.D. 200, said: “Let them show me that Adam Sabbatized, or that Abel in presenting his holy offering to God pleased him by Sabbath observance, or that Enoch who was translated was an observer of the Sabbath.” Against the Jews, section 4.
Eusebius, A.D. 324, the father of church history, says: “They (the patriarchs) did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, nor do we.” Eccl. Hist., book 1, chapter 4.
John Bunyan says: “Now as to the imposing of the seventh day Sabbath upon men from Adam to Moses, of that we find nothing in holy writ, either from precept or example.” Complete Works, page 892.
Lev 23:1-3 The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord…..”
The above statement is at the beginning of Leviticus 23 and it is a broad heading or introductory statement for the list that follows. The Bible lists the following headings, the FEASTS OF THE LORD as follows:
- The Sabbath (v. 3)
- The Passover and Unleavened Bread (vs. 4-8)
- Firstfruits (vs. 9-14)
- Feast of Weeks (vs. 15-22)
- Feast of Trumpets (vs. 23-25)
- Day of Atonement (vs. 26-32)
- Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 33-43)
- The Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee (ch. 25)
All the Jewish holy days were a combined package that stand or fall together – including the weekly Sabbath. After summarizing all of them side by side, the text says:
Lev 23:44 So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the LORD.
It is claimed by Seventh-Day Adventists that the Lord here separates out the Sabbath from all other holy days, showing that it is of a different nature, in these words, verses 37, 38: “These are the feasts of the Lord: beside the Sabbaths of the Lord.” Yes, but read the whole verse, “beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your free-will offerings, which ye give unto the Lord.”
Not only the Sabbath, but gifts, vows and offerings are also excepted with the Sabbath in the same verse. The idea is this: the Sabbath ritual, the gifts, vows and offerings are of regular weekly or daily occurrence, whereas the other holy days and special offerings were to come only once a year at stated seasons. When these yearly offerings and holy days came at the same time of the regular daily or weekly service they were not to take the place of the regular daily and weekly services, but must be observed besides all these. Any one can see that this is the simple meaning of the words “beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts,” etc. The idea is not to distinguish the Sabbath above the other feasts, but to say that these must be kept in addition to the regular service of the Sabbath and the daily offerings. Sabbath ritual was a Sign of the covenant with Israel, just like Circumcision, and Passover were Signs, all of which were ceremonial laws, that Christ fulfilled, and no longer a requirement in the New Covenant.