Jewish Rabbis on the Sabbath and the Gentiles

20140219-123759.jpgBy Leif L.

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
Hi Leif,
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)

And again:

“But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinion, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances… For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham.” (Dialogue With Trypho the Jew, 150-165 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, page 206)

This shows that it was known in the second century among Jews and Christians that the Sabbath was not kept before Moses, even by Israel before the Exodus.

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.

Addition, August 18, 2018:

Here is another quote from a Jewish Rabbi I was in touch with. Don’t misunderstand what he is saying regarding the link between the Sabbath and creation. The Sabbath commandment is patterned after God’s rest at creation (which is clear from Exodus 20). What Rabbi Schwartz is communicating is that the Sabbath institution, as a commandment or requirement, did not begin until Moses, when it was given as a sign between the people of Israel and their God.

The Sabbath was only ever an obligation to the nation of Israel after the Exodus (“throughout their generations” Ex. 31:16); not even Abraham was under obligation to keep the Sabbath. Based on Talmudic writings, Jews believe Abraham observed not only the Sabbath, but all 613 of the Jewish laws, as a forefather and example to the Jews that were to follow.

Dear Leif,
Shabbat is definitely built into Creation, and therefore there is an idea of resting, contemplating, learning, thinking on this special day. However, it is only an obligation for the Jewish people. Even Avraham [Abraham] who kept all mitzvos [613 commandments], did so of his own, but was not obligated to do so. 
Best wishes,
Avraham Tzvi Schwartz”

(Edited and expanded Aug. 13, 2014, March 15, 2015 and August 18, 2018 – L.L.)


11 responses to “Jewish Rabbis on the Sabbath and the Gentiles

  1. Pingback: The Sabbath, I: Blessing or Curse? | Solus Christus | In Christ Alone·

  2. Hi Leif, Thanks for the insights. I never would have considered this had you not brought it to light.

  3. Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for the kind response. I am from a Sabbatarian background that harshly condemns any and all who do not rest and worship on Saturday. It is an unfortunate reality that I must continually deal with, and increases my appreciation for the freedom we have in Christ from the condemnation that originates with those who place their faith in ritual observances.

    The apostles wrote plainly that there is no place for such in the New Testament church.

  4. This was a brilliant action on your part, to correspond directly with some rabbis. This is a good example for anyone to follow: do your own research; go to the source; ask questions. While their responses were brief, they gave you some of their precious time. How many rabbis did you contact initially and what was the response rate?

    • “Seventh-day Adventists believe that in some future end-world scenario, they will be compelled by the government to work on their Sabbath.” —

      SDA’s already do their own works every single Saturday! How? By promoting their false, 1844-concocted version Christ, which is idolatry, and promoting a false she-prophet, which is antichrist sinning against Jesus’ words at Matt 7-15-23.

      SDA’s do not need gov’t to force them to work on Saturdays, they already deceivedly break all the commandments all on their own! See James 2:10 if in doubt.

      “a fear among SDA’s that the Christianized state would no longer tolerate them and begin to persecute them specifically for their abstinence from work on Saturday, even to the excess of threatening their lives.” —

      Beings that SDA’s already violate the entire law they pretend to keep, they are also muderers breaking the “thou shalt not kill” commandment. And liars. They spread lies about the future activities of Sunday-churchers! It can be seen that since SDA’s are already muderers, they already persecute Sunday-churchers, lying about them, and threaten their lives. Such is the case of SDA’s being deceived and worshipping satan: everything is upside down for the hell-bound SDA. This includes all their ministers and Ellen White.

      All this comes about for an unregenerate people who refused to idenrify Wm Miller and Ellen White as ministers of satan, see 2Cor 11:4,13-15.

      And they raise their deceived babies to commit this same, atrocious sin.

      Truely an abominable, dispicable people. Such twisted religious liars.

  5. I probably asked 20 different rabbis. I posted all but a couple, which were either too short to be useful, or too generic to answer the questions I asked.

    I was amazed at how clear and uniform the answers of these rabbis were, and they spawned a lot of further inquiry on my part. Hence the chain of articles here, in which I try to provide facts and points of view that were unknown to me just a few years ago.

    Do your own research. Don’t confine it to one particular source (author, church organization) that supports your personal point of view. All reliable facts will lead to the truth, and truth has nothing to fear.

  6. Leif, one other thing to consider which I’ve been unable to get a good answer from anyone teaching against gentiles keeping the sabbath is, just who was judging the uncircumcised Colossians? Most Protestants will tell you that the same ones from Acts 15, believers from the Pharisee party were judging them for not keeping the sabbath but that makes no sense, for as the Rabbi’s whom you’ve question reveal that Jews never required uncircumcised gentiles to keep the sabbath or feasts. That’s why Acts 15 is about circumcision and coming under the whole law, and to the Pharisees the whole law meant the written law as well as the oral law.

    Since the Colossians were not circumcised, no Jew would judge them for not keeping the sabbath and feasts until they were circumcised.

    So, who was judging them in regards to eating, drinking, sabbaths, feasts, and when to keep the feasts (new moons)? Consider the possibility that the Colossians were indeed keeping the sabbaths and the feasts while uncircumcised, the believing Pharisees would most certainly be judging them for that, especially if the Colossians were only obeying the written law and not the oral traditions.

    Honestly that’s the only explanation of Col. 2 that makes any sense. They were keeping the sabbath and feasts, just like the Corinthians were keeping the days of unleavened bread 1Cor. 5:8.

    Kevin McMillen

    • Hello Kevin,
      Thank you for your comment. The answer is pretty simple and obvious, given the message and context of the letter to Colossians.
      Certain gnostic teachers had a lot of influence among the believers in Colossae; they set themselves up as sources of hidden salvific truth – the necessity of keeping certain Jewish laws, heeding visions, worshipping angels, ascetic practices, diminishing the deity of Jesus, etcetera. They were pointing people to such practices and beliefs to bring them closer to God, rather than holding to the Head, Jesus.
      Paul is warning the church not to fall under the condemnation of these false teachers, nor to heed their deceptive doctrines that draw attention away from the cross, where their debt was paid in full, and from the blood that has made peace between them and God, by which means alone can sinners be transferred to the kingdom of his dear Son.
      As with the Galatians, the Colossians were turning to works to try to mend the breach because of sin. If that were at all possible, Jesus died in vain. Those works and ceremonies pointed to the only One who can give us life, but as fallen humans, we always want to return to dead works to please the living God. This is probably the greatest error the church has fallen into through the centuries.
      I hope that helps.

    • Regarding:
      “They were keeping the sabbath and feasts, just like the Corinthians were keeping the days of unleavened bread”
      Jesus taught that none keep the OT law, John 7:19, Galatians 6:13, James 2:10. Perhaps you would like to correct Him. Is He deceived? Or are you?

      Perhaps you would like to correct God, and make His scripture read as follows to better reflect your own deception:
      “So let some people judge you in food, drink, and regarding a festival or a new moon and sabbaths…let some people cheat you out of your reward, taking delight in false lawkeeping…vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds” notColossians 2:16,18

      Jesus believes Galations 6:13, perhaps you wish to correct Him (is He deceived?) and Paul with the following to better reflect your beliefs:
      “For even most of those who are circumcised keep the law” notGalations 6:13

      Jesus taught that none kept the law, but perhaps you refuse apply that teaching to yourself nor submit to that teaching, preferring to correct Him as well:
      “…quite a few of you keep the law…” notJohn 7:19
      By not submitting to His true words, you are failing to deny self, sinning against Jesus’ command to deny self. More sabbath-boast canceling sin, see James 2:10.

      If you are worshipping a deceived, correction-needing “jesus”, consider that you may have been tricked by a rabbi, or certain sabbath pretenders and their fake she-prophet into worshipping satan, the worst form of idolatry, which means that all involved are lawless lawbreakers, putting themselves firmly on the wrong side of Matt 7:15-23, disobeying everything Jesus taught. Notice the horrific outcome in verse 23, notice no forgiveness mentioned. How is this any different than the mark of the beast? Yes, I am referring to jews and SDA’s.

      Kevin McMillen: “Consider the possibility that the Colossians were indeed keeping the sabbaths and the feasts while uncircumcised”

      That would be a very, very deceived idea to entertain! Jesus believes John 7:19, Gal 6:13, and James 2:10 against your theory, but maybe He needs correction from you one more time:
      “For whoever shall keep the WHOLE LAW and yet stumble in one teensy point, he does NOT break the whole law” notJames 2:10

      You don’t want people to deceive you with unscriptural ideas, but you set about right away to introduce others to your unscriptural ideas, thus violating, sinning against Jesus’ golden rule command in Matt 7:12. Remember, just one sin makes you a lawless sabbath breaker, see James 2:10. Claiming you keep sabbaths holy is merely bearing false witness, yet anotherbig, fat, juicy sin, canceling all boasts about being a 10-commandment keeper! Not to mention defiling yourself per Jesus’ teaching in Mark 7:15,20-23, compounded interest on all your other sins!

      It could be that you are a hearer of the word, but not a doer of the NT word, deceiving yourself (James 1:22). I am certain you do not want that for yourself unless you have been deceived by the sabbath enthusiasts/pretenders who have never kept a day holy in their entire lives, who think they keep the 10 commandments while promoting a false 1844-concocted-christ (idolatry) and a false she-prophet (antichrist sinning against Jesus and Matt 7:15-23). They deceive themselves mightily, sinning against Jesus’ command to not be deceived — more sabbath-boast canceling sin! Their whole lives are spent living out a lie.

      Plus, Jesus believes that OT law increases sin, Romans 5:20. I see it is working fabulously for all the sabbath pretenders! And that includes the Rabbi’s above who imagine the are law keepers while denying and rampant sinning against Jesus’ teachings (SDA’s, JW’s and Mormons included). They claim they are lawkeepers (jews), but they are liars and of the synagogue of satan, Rev 2:9 and 3:9. Very fitting that they have been deceived into worshipping satan. Jesus believes they sacrifice to demons, 1Cor 10:20 and are ministers of satan, 2Cor 11:4,13-15.

  7. Hello, my brother. I was getting in tune with this discussion moments ago. I have been understanding over a period ago that the sabbath is a 24 hr period one day a week since I was a little girl up until this brief insight. I’ve had so many questions that only answers came in that everyone can’t be wrong. It’s the day appointed for man to worship and rest from all labor. I am a person whose seeking for truth about the Sabbath and are we to keep it as ceremonial or not at all as Abraham and those before him. I am grateful for you guys but I give honor to my HEAVENLY Father for bringing me to this teaching and comments that followed. Thanks again my brother. Peace and blessings.

    • Hi Sherri: Thank you for your post.
      I was raised with the same understanding from around 8 or 9 years of age. Indeed, Saturday is the Sabbath, according to the Bible. That is not the debate here.

      Rather, the discussion, as relates to the way I was taught, is whether Sabbath observance has ever been required of Gentiles, and more specifically, Christian believers.

      There is no evidence that the Sabbath was observed prior to Exodus 16. I have pointed out evidence on this blog from numerous sources, including ancient Jewish teaching and modern Rabbis, that the Sabbath was never intended for Gentiles. The Scriptures never command it for anyone except the children of Israel. Moses, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul treat it as a ceremonial observance, a ritual law to be understood separately from moral law.

      This is a tangled subject for those who have been educated in the ways of Ellen White. My view based on the evidence is that the Sabbath principle has merits, but no place in the salvation of Christians or their spiritual walk. Christians may, of course, set aside one day in seven to rest, after the pattern of God’s rest after creation, but as a blessing of rest rather than a curse if it is broken. Never in the NT is a Christian believer either taught to observe the Sabbath, nor admonished for breaking it.

      Under such teaching, it occupies a place in the life of the Christian that was never intended. But certain religious organizations make billions by putting the Sabbath forth as a redemptive act required by Christians, and by setting themselves apart as “special” and “the only true church”, and condemning the body of Christ for failing to keep it. In this context, I have to say, it has become a curse to them, and a sinful and divisive act, and outside the proper place it is given in Scripture.

      I hope you are able to glean some truth from these posts. Blessings to you.

Please let me know what you think! I learn from your comments.

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