Sabbath Origins

George Athas gathas at
Wed Dec 1 20:58:26 EST 1999

> 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 & 2
> Maccabees handles the sabbath as though the conflict of handling military
> problems on the sabbath hadn't been faced before.

Perhaps this is just a literary technique used to highlight the
piety-in-the-face-of-opposition that the Maccabees showed. In other words, it may simply
be a device to make the Maccabees look good. It might also just reflect an attempt to
impose this particular Sabbath custom (re military involvement) on the entire population
of Palestine as a regulated custom. It seems odd that if the Sabbath custom of resting
once a week had only just begun, then the Maccabean wars would have killed the custom off.
It seems to me far more likely that the Sabbath (rest once a week) was a well established
custom by 167 BCE, hence the dilemma. The war and persecution probably helped to
consolidate Sabbath observance, but it seems to have been a well-entrenched custom, even
if it wasn't universally observed.

Best regards,
George Athas
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
Tel Dan Inscription Website
< gathas@ >

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