Genesis 2:1-3 – Seventh Day of Creation

The six days of creation are finished.

  • Whether it is Sailhamer’s preparation of the Promised Land creation.
  • Whether it is Walton’s assigning purpose, order and function creation.
  • We now have to dig into the seventh day.

 

 

Observation:

Genesis 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

 

Creation began with the merism “heavens and the earth” and ends with it as well.

  • It seems a fitting ending.

 

Interestingly, one would have expected that God finished his “bara”.

  • But curiously, the text uses the “ordinary word for human work” (melaka) – Wenham.
  • A word that is translated throughout the OT as “work”, “task” or “business”.

 

There is the idea that the use of “work” is to parallel Exodus 40:33.

  • Exodus 40:33 (ESV) — 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.
  • More on this later.

 

It is also interesting that the word for Sabbath is not used though the seventh day clearly points to it.

  • It appears that the introduction of formal Sabbath observance was not introduced until Exodus 16.

 

The repetition present in these three verses should jump out at us.

  • Seventh day” is used three times.
  • Work that he had done” is used three times.
  • We are told he “rested” two times.

 

The seventh day is also completely different from the other six.

  • It lacks the “And God said” formula.
  • It lacks the evening and morning wording.
    • The seventh day continues?
  • Mathews says this indicates, “Creation was intended to enjoy a perpetual rest provided by God, although that rest was disrupted by human sin”.

 

Questions:

What then is the purpose of the seventh day?

Why the focus on “work that he had done”?

What does it mean that God rested?

What does it mean to bless a day and make it holy – blessing is usually given to living things?

What is God doing now – are we all deists?

 

The Basics:

The plain meaning of the text is fairly basic.

  • John Sailhamer puts it this way…
  • “The reader is left with a somber and repeated reminder of a single fact: God did not work on the seventh day.”
  • Moses clearly wants us to see that God rested after the six days were done.
  • Rested means “to sever, to put to an end” (TWOT).
  • Obviously the thing that came to an end was the “work that he had done” – creation.

 

A significant question that arises is did God then remove Himself somehow since he rested?

  • In other words, this seems to support deism.
  • We will deal with this with Walton’s take.

 

Why focus on rest?

  • Given that the sixth day established mankind as God’s image bearers/representatives…
  • And given that the thing ended was described using the normal word for human activity…
  • It is obvious to all that mankind is also to follow suit and rest from work on the seventh day.
  • More on rest in a moment.

 

What about the blessing?

  • The seventh day (later known as the Sabbath) was set apart for worship of Yahweh.
  • We are to acknowledge and celebrate “the sense of completeness and well being God had accomplished at creation in behalf of all human life” – Mathews.

 

Additionally, rest from creation is the basis and foundation upon which the fourth commandment rests.

  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  • This commandment, “united the ‘word’ of creation and the regulating ‘word’ of the religious order for the newly created Israel” – Mathews.

 

Moreover, the blessing is also an ANE polemic.

  • By blessing the “cessation of a completed work” on the seventh day a couple of things occur – Mathews.
  • (1) God “expresses his mastery over time by sanctifying it” – Mathews.
  • (2) And this creates “the observance of Sabbath [which] was unique to ancient Israel” – Mathews.

 

Rest Redux:

Much more could be made of the “rest” theme.

  • In fact, we covered some aspects of it in Joshua.
  • Joshua 1:13 (ESV) — 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’
  • BTW – this language once again screams support of Sailhamer’s thesis.
  • Rest and “eretz” echo Genesis 1 and day Seven.

 

Suffice it to say that the idea of rest is at its core eschatological.

  • Remember, theologically speaking the seventh day of rest is ongoing.
  • “The Sabbath rest of God is eternal” – Mathews.
  • Yet, we know that the rest established on day seven will soon be shattered by sin.
  • A cycle we see over and over in the OT – rest/sin/exile.

 

Jesus’ Rest:

This cycle points forward to the need for a sustained and unbreakable rest.

  • Jesus agrees.
  • Luke 24:44 (ESV) — 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
  • John 5:46–47 (ESV) — 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

 

This rest is to be found in:

  • 1) The Gospel work of Jesus Christ at His incarnation.
  • 2) And ultimately in the everlasting rest to be fully inaugurated at His second coming.

 

Hebrews puts it like this:

  • Hebrews 4:3–11 (ESV) — 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

 

 

Divine Rest as a Temple:

John Walton sees, on his functional view, Day Seven as the most important day of the seven.

  • He suggests that a purely material account of creation fails to recognize the powerful functional significance of Day Seven.
  • The functional view also answers the question about what God’s work was/is during His rest.

“Without hesitation the ancient reader would conclude that this is a temple text and that day seven is the most important of the seven days. In a material account day seven would have little role, but in a functional account, as we will see, it is the true climax without which nothing else would make any sense or have any meaning” – John Walton.

 

Why would this be seen as a temple text?

  • In the ancient Near East, “deity rests in a temple, and only in a temple” – Walton.
  • So, from a functional standpoint, the temple functions as a place for divine rest.

 

So how does this relate to Genesis and Yahweh?

 

Rest:

To answer this question, we have to understand the ANE concept of divine rest.

  • “In the ancient world rest is what results when a crisis has been resolved or when stability has been achieved” – John Walton.
  • With this rest in place, “normal routines can be established and enjoyed” – Walton.
  • So the work doesn’t cease from a divine perspective.

 

What the rest signifies is a change of context for divine action.

  • One state of affairs is ended and a new state of affairs begins.
  • Old activity is replaced with a new activity in a new context.

 

The OT tells us that this new state of affairs/context is the Sabbath – God’s Temple Rest.

  • Exodus 20:11 (ESV) — 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  • According to Walton, this text succinctly shows the transition from the state of affairs of the six days to the state of affairs that accompany God’s Temple Rest – a blessed and holy rest.
  • Psalm 132 will help us here.

 

Psalm 132 also captures this idea and hints at the purpose of this new state of affairs.

  • Psalm 132:7–8 (ESV) — 7 “Let us go to his dwelling place [temple language]; let us worship at his footstool! [ark language]” 8 Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
  • Psalm 132:13–18 (ESV) — 13 For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. 16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. 17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. 18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”

 

So Day Seven tells us that God has taken up residence in his “dwelling place” to actively administer a new state of affairs in creation.

  • These affairs involve worship, blessing, provision, salvation and dealing with Israel’s enemies.
  • All activities related to the image-bearers who are living in the context/state of affairs of God’s Temple Rest.

 

But notice in verse 17 that within the context of this new state of affairs – God’s Temple Rest – we also see the coming horn of David.

  • Jesus
  • As we saw earlier, God’s dwelling in the temple and His rest all point to Jesus.

 

The White House?

Walton says God’s Temple Rest is, in modern terms, God taking up residence in the White House.

  • This means that God’s activity is ongoing.
  • The president doesn’t (or at least is not supposed to) enter the White House and do nothing.
  • God (like the President) “is in the control room from where he runs the cosmos that he set up.”

 

This means that God’s Temple Rest “is the ongoing work of creation” – John Walton.

  • In other words, on this functional view creation continues under a new set of circumstances/context.
  • When “the work that he had done” ceased, a new work began.
  • God’s Temple Rest symbolizes this new work.
  • The work of Redemptive History can now ensue under the order God has established.

 

Does this view add to our understanding of the fourth commandment?

  • Perhaps our way to observe this “rest” is to participate in God’s redemptive history.

 

Walton sums up his take like this:

“God…has taken up his rest in the center of this cosmic temple. Through him, order is maintained, and nonfunctional disorder is held at bay – through him all things cohere. Genesis 1 is thus an account of the functional origins of the cosmic temple…”

 

In fact, the rest of the OT can be seen through this lens.

  • God’s functionaries – the elect of Israel – routinely bring disorder by sin and disobedience.
  • In grace and mercy, God always seeks to restore them.
    • To restore order to His cosmic temple.

 

Importantly, this restoration takes its final form in Jesus/Spirit fulfilling Jeremiah 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

 

And with our new life in Christ, the temple motif continues.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
  • Where is the temple now?
  • Why does the temple reside there?

 

A Way to Look at It:

God’s Temple Rest described on day seven is administered through God’s covenant in all its form – Sinai, Abrahamic, etc.

  • This is seen, as we hinted earlier, in Exodus 40:33.
  • Exodus 40:33 (ESV) — 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.
  • “Moses ‘saw’ all the work the people ‘had done,’ and he ‘blessed’ them” – Mathews.

 

This text points to a link “between creation-sabbath and Moses’ tabernacle” – Mathews.

  • This link “binds God’s first work at creation with his newly directed work among Israel” – Mathews.
  • This work is God’s Temple Rest work.

 

And with Jesus, God’s Temple Rest is administered through the Holy Spirit.

  • The Spirit regenerates the heart.
  • The Spirit administers God’s grace to us.
  • The Spirit seals our salvation.
  • With these, God’s Sabbath rest is replaced in Jesus and the Spirit with resurrection rest.
  • A reason we moved the day of rest to Sunday.

 

“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God’s presence” – John Walton.

  • A presence that serves “as the defining element of existence”.
  • In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God!!