A Sabbath Journey - Discovering the Sabbath Day

The Sabbath Day seems to be a major catalyst for inciting arguments between Christians and Messianic believers. The Christian mantra is that "Christ is our Sabbath rest"; while Torah observant believers recognize that God instituted the Seventh Day Rest in the very beginning, and the command was never reversed:

Not only did our Creator institute the SEVENTH DAY Sabbath in the very beginning (Genesis 2:2-3); but it is also one of the Ten Commandments: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" - Exodus 20:8-11. We see scriptures throughout Torah and the rest of the Bible that discuss the Sabbath ... a day that was instituted in the beginning and never, ever changed!

Some typical arguments include the following:

It is the latter two arguments which we will address here.

I will start this article by positing that we DO know that the 7th day is still the 7th day, as far back as we have historical records, and that there is a very simple explanation as to why we can say this! In an article on The Refiner's Fire, about the Calendar, we demonstrate that the 7 day week originated very early in human history, and despite the power of kings and rulers, though they seriously messed with the calendar date, there is no evidence they ever changed the day of the week; that is, the steady, continuous counting of 7 day periods remained unchanged through history.

So how is it that we do indeed observe the same Sabbath across the earth, every 7th day? And how can I say this when we all know the "international dateline" tells us it's a "different day" on one side or the other?

Well, let's do a "thought experiment"!

Let's imagine ourselves in the Biblical era, when it is first recorded in scripture that YHWH handed down the 7th day Shabbat. There, the Hebrews, under the guidance of Moshe, were fleeing Egypt toward the promised Land. Now, there is certainly evidence that observance of the 7th day was already known well before Moshe: YHWH blessed the 7th day in Genesis 2:3; and Noach for example, in Genesis 8, sent a bird out every 7 days to see if he could assess if the land was dry. If the 7th day Shabbat did not already exist in Noach's time, it certainly is curious why he would choose a "7 day period" between sending out a bird.

But let's assume that the Shabbat was not given till the Exodus. It was then that YHWH gave specific directions to count 6 days and the 7th is the Sabbath. You can read about it in Exodus 16. Also be aware that the "day" in the Hebrew calendar changes at sunset - not midnight as is the norm today for most civil calendars. So in this text, I will always say "sunset", because that marks a change of the day of the week for the Hebrews.

Now, let's say we were with Moshe, till he dies in the desert, and we cross the Jordan with Joshua, and we settle in the Land. We are still observing the steady counting of 7 days because Egypt, and the Promised Land are all in the same general geographic area on earth (see Figure 1), and the setting of the sun is pretty much the same for everyone in this region, plus or minus a few minutes.

That is, everyone in this geographic area "experiences" the same sunset at pretty much the same time of day no matter where they physically are in the area, so they certainly are counting the "same days", and making the same 7-day count. So most assuredly, if people stayed where they were, there is no reason to expect that the steady counting of 7 days would ever be broken.

Figure 1. The red oval represents the geographic area in which the Exodus took place.

Now, assume a few years have gone by and you've become restless, and you decide to travel! So you head East! (See Figure 2, below.)

You are, of course, on foot, as cars, trains, and airplanes are not yet invented. You can travel at best, 10-16 miles a day. You stop and set up camp each night. Note that the sunset you see, from just one travel day from home, is still the SAME sunset as seen from where you originated! Now, let's keep traveling each day, accumulating another day's journey from where you were the day before. The same statement remains 100% true: The sunset you see from where you are then is still the SAME sunset of the SAME day as was observed from your home.

Figure 2. Traveler on foot begins an Eastward journey.

If you did not eventually run into the Pacific Ocean, you could, theoretically, just keep going! So let's assume the earth is all land, and you could simply keep walking East! You would eventually reach a point where you were EXACTLY half way around the earth (though you would have no way of knowing that), but the statement is still true: The sunset you see from where you are now, even though you are 180o around the earth from home, remains the SAME sunset of the SAME day as observed from home! What you don't realize is that your sunset is simply happening several hours earlier than the SAME sunset will be seen from home. (Indeed, sunset where you are is now, at 180o, is 12 hours before home - but you really have no way of knowing this).

The point is, you are still counting the SAME 7 day periods! You have not advanced or lost a day! Your counting of 7 continuous days did not somehow get "messed up" just because you kept traveling East!

Now, let's go back to where we started, from home, but this time we decide to travel West! See Figure 3. Each day, you go further and further West, but you are still experiencing, and counting, the SAME days as observed at home! You keep going West, till you reach the Atlantic Ocean, but we are still pretending all the earth is solid land, so you simply keep traveling West. You keep going till you reach 180o from where you began, and you are STILL experiencing the SAME sunset of the SAME day as observed at home, except, unbeknownst to you, your sunset is actually several hours LATER than when the sun set at home, on that same day.

Figure 3. Traveler on foot begins a Westward journey.

So traveling East or West, nothing would have affected your continuing to count the same 7 day periods as they were counting from home. Either traveler, Eastbound or Westbound never loses track of the 7 day count.

The point is that, back in the Biblical days, as people migrated from Egypt and Israel no matter the direction they migrated, EVERYONE was still able count the same, continuous 7 days, and EVERYONE still observed the SAME Sabbath day, because no matter where you were, no matter how far you had traveled from the Land (Israel), it was still the SAME day! The only difference, and this has NO EFFECT, is that if you were physically East of home, you actually experienced sunset earlier than home, and if you were West, your sunset is later than home. That's all.

Everyone still counted the completion of a "day" by sunset and the 7th day was still the same 7th day. There is no reason whatsoever to think or even argue that mankind somehow "lost track" of what day it was, in the continuous 7-day count given to Moshe, as they migrated to different parts of the earth, and counted 7 days for centuries.

Now the astute reader will see a conundrum we must deal with!

Recall, that as the Eastbound traveler continued East, his sunsets are an increasing number of hours BEFORE the sunsets of the same day in Israel. And, as the Westbound traveler continues West, his sunsets are a growing number of hours AFTER the sunset of the same day in Israel. So when both an East bound traveler and a West bound traveler eventually meet at that 180o point (see Figure 4) - both will think it's the same sunset!

But we know that this can't be! That is, the Eastbound traveler is unaware that his clock is now 12 hours AHEAD of his home, and the Westbound traveler is unaware that his clock reads 12 hours BEHIND his home - a total of 24 hours! Neither traveler has "lost" or "gained" a day, but together, the two travelers are now a whole day apart! They simply see that the Eastbound traveler's day is ending while the Westbound traveler's day is beginning. It is really very simple!

Another way to put it: At the 180o line, the Eastbound traveler, because his sunset was 24 hours before the same sunset as observed by the Westbound traveler will say: "Ah, sunset, the 7th day has just ended", while the Westbound traveler would say, "No, this sunset is just now beginning the 7th day!" (You see it really WAS the "same" day, but for one traveler the day is ending, while for the other the day is just beginning!)

Figure 4. "Discovery" of the "dateline". (See text).

We have "discovered" the requirement for the "international dateline"! But realize, no such "dateline" existed or was needed before the age of long-distance international travel! No one, ever, traveled eastward by foot and met another traveler who had gone westward by foot, met, and determined there was a "dateline problem". Thus the "dateline" is automatically needed, and defined only in our time. Nevertheless, everyone on earth still today, experiences the same 7-day count. Thus we can be assured that the same 7th day Sabbath has never changed or been "lost".

Further, it does not matter where we decide to put the "dateline", so the fact that today's dateline runs through the Pacific Ocean (about 40o West of that shown in Figure 4), and zig-zags around islands is perfectly okay! Everyone on earth still experiences the same day count, and Saturday, worldwide, is still the 7th day. Each of us simply observes the day from where we are! Some a few hours before Israel, some a few hours after!

Some will still argue that there are examples of areas of the world where the week-day count was changed! Yes, this is true! It has happened. But these were localized areas, they did so "on their own", and still there was no "worldwide" change to the weekday count. Even those localized areas eventually changed back to the established day-count. And while some areas did experiment with changing calendar week days, nowhere in history do we find that such a calendar change affected Israel where the Biblical calendar is maintained.

Thus we can be sure today we are still observing the same 7th day as did Moshe over 3000 years ago! It should be a joy and honor to obey and observe the 7th day as YHWH commanded. It is so sad so many people spend so much time defending instead why they don't!