Is the Sabbath intended for the Gentiles? The answer to this question is an essential starting point for dealing with the Sabbath issue.
This is the second part of a series about the Sabbath. Click here for a list of our Sabbath articles.
Gentiles and the Sabbath
Recently, I contacted a number of Jewish rabbis with the following questions. If anybody understands the Sabbath, it is the Jewish people, who have kept and guarded this observance for over 2500 years. The Torah was given to them, and they speak and read in its original tongue.
1. Was Sabbath observance ever required of Gentiles (non-Jewish people)?
2. Is the Sabbath a creation ordinance (that is, was it established at creation for all of mankind)?
3. Was the command to keep the Sabbath in effect before the giving of the law, and was it observed by Adam, Enoch, Noah and Abraham?
Here are the replies I received from these experts in Jewish law:
Gentiles are not meant to keep Shabbat…including all the people you’ve mentioned as well as all Gentiles today. Based on the Talmud it seems that Abraham did observe the Shabbat.
If by creation ordinance you mean A Noahide Commandment, then no it is not a creation ordinance.
Rabbi David Fredman, Aish Minnesota
Thank you for your insightful question. The answer is; it is written in the Torah that Shabbat is G-d’s special gift “between me and the Jewish people, a sign forever”. Shabbat is only for the Jewish people. I hope this is helpful.
Rabbi Chanosh Rosenfeld, Chabad Lubavitch of Hamilton
Shabbat is only given to the Jewish people or those converts to Judaism that will join them. Before the giving of the Torah there was no obligation to observe Shabbat, and gentiles don’t need to observe Shabbat.
Rabbi Chaim Sunitsky
The commandment to observe Shabbos was given specifically to the Jewish people. There is no reference in the Torah for it applying to other nations. I hope this helps.
All the best,
Rabbi Eliezar Zalmanov.
To the best of my knowledge:
- Sabbath observance was not expected of Gentiles. In the list of the 7 commandments that the rabbis determined were obligatory by Gentiles, Sabbath observance is not one of them.
- Seemingly although the Sabbath is derived from the six days of God’s creation followed by a seventh day of rest, also mentioned as the reason for observance in the Decalogue in the book of Exodus, Sabbath observance may not have been observed from earliest times. Rashi, the famous medieval commentator, claims in his comment on the first verse in Genesis that there are no laws in Genesis or the first 11 chapters of Exodus.
- Answered in the previous response.
Hope that helps.
Daniel Isaak, rabbi
The answered they gave to these inquiries are clear, simple, and unambiguous:
1. “Gentiles are not meant to keep Shabbat” “Shabbat is only given to the Jewish people”
2. “It is not a creation ordinance”
3. “Before the giving of the Torah there was no obligation to observe Shabbat”
This is the traditional Jewish view of the obligation of Sabbath keeping, and the basis for their belief that the Sabbath was intended for the Jew only, and not for other nations, is based on the Torah. As Rabbi Zalmanov states, “There is no reference in the Torah for it applying to other nations.”
Justin Martyr, in his discourse with Trypho the Jew in AD 150, wrote:
Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned [Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham], though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses… And you [fleshly Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God. For His word makes this announcement, saying, “That you may know that I am God who redeemed you.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 204)
This shows that it was known in the second century among Jews that the Sabbath was not kept before Moses, even by Israel before Sinai.
Messianic (Christian) Jewish Rabbi Derek Leman has an article on his website that agrees with the Orthodox Jewish statements above.
Our next article on the Sabbath examines the evidence from Scripture that the Sabbath was indeed intended for the Jews.
(Edited and expanded Aug. 13, 2014 and March 15, 2015 – L.L.)