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7th Day Rest - Sabbath

The Significance of 7

The number seven is a big deal in the Bible. Why? It’s a symbolic representation of key concepts in the Bible. Tim outlines the symbolic usage of seven and sheds new light on how a person’s practice of taking a sabbath or resting every seventh day is "woven into the fabric of the universe."
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Episode Details

October 21, 2019
65 min

Episode Details

October 21, 2019
65 min

Show Notes

QUOTE

“Genesis 1 isn’t just telling you about what type of world you’re living in; it’s showing you, as a Israelite reader, that your life of worship rhythms are woven into the fabric of the universe.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The idea of resting and the number seven are intimately connected in the Bible.
  • In Genesis 1, the word or number "seven" has two key symbolic meanings: seven represents a full and complete world, and getting to seven is a linear journey from one to seven.
  • The rhythm of practicing sabbath or resting every seventh day is one way that humans can imitate God and act like they are participating in the new creation.

SHOW NOTES

Welcome to our second episode tracing the theme of seventh-day rest in the Bible!

In part 1 (0-18:30), Tim shares some of the numeric symbolism in Genesis 1. The opening line of Genesis 1 has seven words, and the central word, untranslated in English, is two Hebrew letters, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet: aleph and taw.

When one isolates the theme of time in Genesis 1, another design pattern emerges that provides a foundation for all of Israel’s rituals of sacred time.

Tim points out that there are many other ways the number seven is symbolic in the Genesis narrative: there are seven words in Genesis 1:1, and fourteen words in Genesis 1:2. There are seven paragraphs in Genesis 1:1-2:3 marked by “evening and morning.” The concluding seventh paragraph in Genesis 2:1-3 begins three lines which have seven words each (Gen 2:2-3a).

In part 2 (18:30-28:30), Tim points out similar observations.

Each of the key words in Genesis 1:1 are repeated by multiples of seven in Genesis 1:2-2:3.

“God” = 35x (7 x 5) “land” = 21x (7 x 3) “skies” = 21x (7 x 3) Key words repeated seven times:

“light” and “day” on day 2 “light” on day 4 “living creature” (חיה) on days 5-6 “God saw that it was good” God speaks 10 times in Genesis 1:1-2:3. Seven times are divine creative commands to the creation itself: “let there be….” Three times are divine initiatives toward humanity: “let us make ‘adam…,” “be fruitful and multiply,” and “behold I have given to you….”

Tim cites scholar Umberto Cassuto:

“To suppose that all these appearances of the number seven are mere coincidence is not possible. This numerical symmetry is, as it were, the golden thread that binds together all the part of the section.” (Umberto Cassuto, From Adam to Noah: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis)

Tim says all of this numerical symbolism is completely intentional. The authors want us to learn that seven represents both a whole completed creation and a journey to that completeness.

In part 3 (28:30-41:00), Jon asks why the number seven became so symbolic in ancient Hebrew culture. Tim says the origins of the number seven being associated with completeness is likely tied to the lunar calendar of moon cycles. The biblical Hebrew word for “month” is “moon” (חדש). Each month consisted of 29.5 days, and each month consisted of four 7.3-day cycles, making a “complete” cycle of time. However, the sabbath cycle is independent of the moon cycle, and sabbaths do not coincide with the new moon. It is patterned after creation, and stands outside of any natural cycle of time.

Tim then makes an important note on Hebrew word play. Seven was symbolic in ancient near eastern and Israelite culture and literature. It communicated a sense of “fullness” or “completeness” (שבע “seven” is spelled with the same consonants as the word שבע “complete/full”). This makes sense of the pervasive appearance of “seven” patterns in the Bible. For more information on this, Tim cites Maurice H. Farbridge’s book, Studies in Biblical and Semitic Symbolism, 134-37.

In part 4 (41:00-52:30), Jon asks what it means for God to rest?

In response, Tim says there are two separate but related Hebrew concepts and words for rest.

The Hebrew word shabat means “to cease from.” God ceases from his work because “it is finished” (Gen 2:1). Compare with Joshua 5:12, “The manna ceased (shabat) on that day….”

The Hebrew word nuakh means “to take up residence.” Compare with Exodus 10:14, “The locusts came up over the land of Egypt and rested (nuakh) in all the land.” When God or people nuakh, it always involves settling into a place that is safe, secure, and stable. 2 Samuel 7:1 says, “Now when King David dwelt in his house, for Yahweh had provided rest from his enemies….”

The drama of the story, Tim notes, is the question as to whether humans and God will nuakh together? All of this sets a foundation for later biblical stories of Israel entering in the Promised Land, a land of rest.

In part 5 (52:30-end), Tim asks what it means that God blessed the seventh day?

Tim cites scholar Mathilde Frey:

“Set apart from all other days, the blessing of the seventh day establishes the seventh part of created time as a day when God grants his presence in the created world. It is then his presence that provides the blessing and the sanctification. The seventh day is blessed and established as the part of time that assures fruitfulness, future-orientation, continuity, and permanence for every aspect of life within the dimension of time. The seventh day is blessed by God’s presence for the sake of the created world, for all nature, and for all living beings.” (Mathilde Frey, The Sabbath in the Pentateuch, 45)

Tim says in Genesis 1, the symbolism of seven is a view that the “seventh day” is the culmination of all history. Tim cites scholar Samuel H. Balentine.

“Unlike the previous days, the seventh day is simply announced. There is no mention of evening or morning, no mention of a beginning or ending. The suggestion is that the primordial seventh day exists in perpetuity, a sacred day that cannot be abrogated by the limitations common to the rest of the created order.” (Samuel H. Balentine, The Torah’s Vision of Worship, 93)

Tim also cites scholar Robert Lowry: “The seventh-day account does not end with the expected formula, “there was evening and morning,” that concluded days one through six. Breaking the pattern in this way emphasizes the uniqueness of the seventh day and opens the door to an eschatological interpretation. Literarily, the sun has not yet set on God’s Sabbath.” (Richard H. Lowery, Sabbath and Jubilee, 90)

Show Music:

Defender Instrumental by Tents Optimistic by Lo Fi Type Beat Kame House by Lofi Hip Hop Instrumental It’s Ok to Not Be Ok by Highkey Beats Hometown by nymano x Pandress Resources:

Maurice H. Farbridge, Studies in Biblical and Semitic Symbolism Umberto Cassuto, From Adam to Noah: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Mathilde Frey, The Sabbath in the Pentateuch Samuel H. Balentine, The Torah’s Vision of Worship Richard H. Lowery, Sabbath and Jubilee Show Produced By:

Dan Gummel

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