Genesis 2:4

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Wed Dec 1 21:43:04 EST 1999

At 14.55 01/12/99 -0500, Lewis Reich wrote:
>> 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.
>While that's certainly an intriguing question, it doesn't lead inexorably to
>the conclusion that the Sabbath was a new institution.  

Dear Lewis,

There are a number of reasons I didn't get into. This, the apparent novelty
in 1 & 2 Maccabees, is an important one.

>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.  

This doesn't reflect the situation as I understand it. Jerusalem had
suffered a number of sieges. Remember for example Dan11:14, and note the
importance of the walls in Ben Sira50:2-4. I think classical authors allude
to various sieges. There were many occasions in which Jerusalemites had to
defend themselves.

It seems extremely difficult (at least to me) that the problem hadn't been
posed previously had the sabbath been an established cultic day prior to
the writing of the Maccabees texts.

>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 seventh
>> 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"?

Not that I know of. (The parallel between Hos2:11 and Ps81:3 indicates a
different meaning.)

Yet Gen1-2 makes the case that the sabbath is in fact the seventh day, ie
after the six days of creation, God rested; though with the more universal
and transcendent God image presented in the first account, one wonders why
God needed to rest other than to institute the sabbath.

>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.

Linguistic explication is an important process with regard to the
development of cultic significance. You'll see numerous linguistic
explanations for the significance of names in Genesis (eg the sons of
Jacob), but how many of these explanations would you accept as being the
sources of the names?

Though Genesis is at the start of the OT/HB, that location doesn't give it
any a priori historical precendence for its linguistic speculations. 



>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

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