Sabbath - (Hebrew: verb shabbath, meaning "to rest from labour"), the day of rest. It is first mentioned as having been instituted in Paradise, when man was in innocence (Gen. 2:2). "The sabbath was made for man," as a day of rest and refreshment for the body and of blessing to the soul.
It is next referred to in connection with the gift of manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16:23); and afterwards, when the law was given from Sinai (Exo. 20:11), the people were solemnly charged to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Thus it is spoken of as an institution already existing.
In the Mosaic law strict regulations were laid down regarding its observance (Ex. 35:2, 3; Lev. 23:3; Lev. 26:34). These were peculiar to that dispensation.
In the subsequent history of the Jews frequent references are made to the sanctity of the Sabbath (Isa. 6:2, 4, 6, 7; Isa. 58:13-14; Jer. 17:20-22; Neh. 13:19). In later times they perverted the Sabbath by their traditions. Our Lord rescued it from their perversions, and recalled to them its true nature and intent (Matt. 12:10-13; Mark 2:27; Luke 13:10-17).
The ancient Babylonian calendar, as seen from recently recovered inscriptions on the bricks among the ruins of the royal palace, was based on the division of time into weeks of seven days. The Sabbath is in these inscriptions designated Sabattu, and defined as "a day of rest for the heart" and "a day of completion of labour."
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