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Genesis 1:24-31 DAY 7
The Post-Creation Sabbath

Hebrew Text

wtkalm yuybvh <wyb <yhla lkyw - And God finished his work on day seven

The origin of the Sabbath is probably from the 6&7 day cycle of the phases of the moon each month. Six days of the new moon, and on the seventh day there was the quarter moon which was celebrated. Another six days then on the seventh was the full moon which was celebrated. Probably during the captivity there was no one to watch for the phrases of the moon so it became disconnected from the lunar cycle. The new moon and full moon are only mentioned in scripture.

Later the sun, moon, and five planets were connected to the week which we still have today. Sunday is the day of the sun. Monday is the day of the moon. Saturday is Saturnís day. Tuesday through Friday are Germanic names for the other planets. Tuesday is Tuiís day the god of war, Mars. Wednesday is Wodenís day, Mercury. Thursday is Thorís day, Jupiter. Friday is Friggís day, goddess of love, Venus. The word "friend" comes from the same root word "Fri." Genesis One avoids naming the days of the week after any gods.

Gordon comments that the noun "sabbath" was not used because it may be confused with the meaning of Saturn (1979, 300). Just as sun and moon are not named. It is demythologizing the seventh day. The Jews were known as "Saturnís people" (Tacitus Histories, 5:2). The Roman Saturnís day is similar to the Sabbath. This festival was seven days when all work and business was stopped and slaves were given temporary freedom (Gordon 1979, 300 note 6).

Stolz believes that the Sabbath developed out of major festivals that lasted seven days with the final day being a Sabbath (Wenham 35; THWAT 2:863-9). Robinson analyzed the occurrences of the root word for Sabbath and concluded that the primary meaning is not one of rest. The seventh day was a day of completion. He takes both the Hebrew and Akkadian root back to the biliteral root by which means "making a turn" which implies coming to an end (1980, 41). The moon on the fifteenth day of the month becomes full, it turns from waxing. This may be the different turns or phases of the moon.

Old Testament

The phraseology of Exodus 40:33 where Moses finishes the tabernacle is similar to finishing the creation of the world.

Numbers 28:11-25 tells of offerings on the new moon and the full moon then a festival of seven days.

Psalm 81:4 says, "Sound the ramís horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast" (NIV). This is similar to other ancient cultures. It may be that the Sabbath just started out as a feast on the 15th of the full moon, and then the new moon and then the four quarters of the moonís phases.

Isaiah 1:13 says, "Stop bring meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations" (NIV).

Hosea 2:11 says, "I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days' all her appointed feasts" (NIV). 

Sumerian Texts

The earliest use of a seven day week is connected with seven days of feasting which can be traced back as far as the 23rd century BC to the time of Gudea (Hildegard and Lewy 1943, 3). Hallo writes, "In the celebrated cylinders of Gudea of Lagash, we are introduced to the generalized Sumerian term for lunar festival es-es" (Hallo 1977, 5). There are offerings for the new moon, the first crescent (literally "chariot of the 7th day") and the full moon (crescent of the 15th day). There is no account of the 3rd crescent. The use of the word "chariot" may be because of the moon being compared to a chariotís wheel.

Gudeaís dedication of the great temple at Lagesh which lasted seven days is similar to Solomonís dedication of the temple at Jerusalem (Hallo 1977, 12).

In Summer the moon god Nanna was considered superior to the sun. The moon god was the father of the sun. Their month was based on sighting the lunar crescent. Their year was based on 12 lunar cycles with a 13th sometimes added. One text says, "[Nanna], fixing the month and the new moon, [setting] the year in its place" (Cohen 1993, 3; A. Sjoberg ZA 73 (1983) 32). Annual festivals tied to the seasons were assigned fixed days in an "irrelevant lunar schema" so they intercalated the year (Ibid.). The equinoxes were also very important. In the OT they are called "turn of the year" (Exodus 34:22 and 2 Samuel 11:1). At one time there was a six month year marked by the equinoxes called mu-an-na (Ibid., 7).

There also may be a connection with the counting system of the Sumerians which is based on the number 60 and multiples, 6, and 3,600 which might be tied to the phases of the moon (six days between phases).  

Akkadian Texts

The Hebrew word tbv is probably from the Akkadian word Sapattu, the day of the full moon, the 15th of the month.

In Akkadian the 7th 14th 19th 21st and 28th days of each month were unlucky. The 19th day is exactly 49 days from the last new moon. Neo-Babylonian hitpu offerings were on these same days excluding the 19th.

In the Atra-hasis epic Enki says, "On the first, seventh, and the fifteenth day of the month I will make a purifying bath" (Lambert and Millard 1969, 57, 59).  

Ugaritic Texts

In the Baal Cycle it tells how the palace of Baal was build. First a summary statement is given, then the details. Gibson translates, "[Quickly] his mansion was built, [quickly] his palace was raised" (1978, 62; KTU 1.4 VI 16-17). Choice cedar trees from Lebanon are brought. A fire is set that burns for 6 days, and on the 7th day it ends. The fire turned the silver into ingots and the gold into gold bricks. Some scholars think the building of Baalís palace is the building of the universe (Fisher, 1965, 313-24). Note that it take 6 days then on the 7th day it is finished just like in Genesis.

There is another text that tells about Keretís march to Udum that end climactically on the 7th day and he camped 7 more days around the city (KTU 1.14 III 10-15, V 3-7). This is very similar to Joshua taking Jericho.

In Aqhat Danielís prayers are not answered until the seventh day. The sacred number 7 is used a number of times in Ugaritic.  

Egyptian Texts

At the completion of Ptahís creation of the world the Memphite Theology states, "So has Ptah come to rest after his making everything and every divine speech as well, having given birth to the gods" (COS, 23). This parallels Godís rest on the 7th day.

Westermann comments, "The background to what is said about the rest of God at the end of his creative action is a motif which is widespread in the history of religions, the leisure (otiositas) of the creator God—It means that the creator god will not intervene any more in the work which he has completed" (1994, 167; see also Pettazzoni 1954, 32).

In the Hymn to Amon-Re it says, "Heliopolitan, Lord of the new moon festival, For whom are performed the six-day and quarter month festivals" (COs, 39).

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