Genesis 2:4

Lewis Reich lewreich at
Wed Dec 1 14:55:06 EST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: Ian Hutchesson <mc2499 at>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 11:51 AM
Subject: Re: Genesis 2:4

> I seem to be inexorably coming to the conclusion that the seventh day
> sabbath was instituted in the second century BCE. Notice the way that 1 &
> Maccabees handles the sabbath as though the conflict of handling military
> problems on the sabbath hadn't been faced before.

While that's certainly an intriguing question, it doesn't lead inexorably to
the conclusion that the Sabbath was a new institution.  At the time of the
Maccabean revolt there had been no independent Jewish polity, and thus no
independent Jewish army since the fall of the First Temple over four hundred
years earlier.  Looked at in that context, it is not at all surprising, at
least to me, that the question of how to reconcile the Sabbath with military
necessity, not having been actively presented for four centuries, did not
find a ready answer.

> So if sabbath originally meant full moon to the Hebrews, it would
> follow new moons in a list of cultic occasions, but if it meant the
> day, being more frequent one would expect it to precede new moons. We get
> late works such as Chr which gives Sabbaths, New Moons and Feast days. If
> the logic here is correct then the seventh day sabbath is a good dating
> indication for relative chronology of the development of biblical texts.

Is there any indication that shabbat originally meant "the seventh day"?
The text of Genesis itself suggests a different derivation.  In describing
the sabbath, the text refers always not to "the sabbath" but to "the seventh
day" and explains *va'y'khal elohim ba'yom hashvi'i mlakhto ahser asa*  -
God ceased on the seventh day the work that he had done;   *va'yishbot
mi'kol m'lakhto asher asa* - God rested, or ceased or refrained from all the
work that he had done.  *Shabbat* thus apparently derives from the verb
l'shbot - to rest or refrain.

I've always been curious about the relationship (if any!) between ML)KH,
work, and ML)K, literally messenger or agent, translated as angel.  Any

Lewis Reich

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