And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
If this prohibition to work upon the Sabbath is introduced, as probably it is, lest the people, in their zeal for the service of the sanctuary, should be tempted to infringe upon the holy day, it has certain obvious sides of instruction turned towards ourselves. We cannot but see in it the high honour which God puts upon his Sabbath.
1. It is the one command of the Decalogue to which reference is made in the conclusion of this series of instructions. This implies its great importance. It shows that, in God's esteem, the observance of the Sabbath was intimately bound up with the best interests of Israel.
2. The Sabbath is declared to be a sign between God and the Israelites. It was to be a memorial to future generations that Jehovah had made a covenant with the nation, and had sanctified them to himself. But its very selection for this purpose was a tribute to its importance. The reason of the selection could only be that the Sabbath was in itself a boon of the highest kind to Israel, and had important bearings on the state of morals and religion. A well- or ill-spent Sabbath, as all history shows, has much to do with the character both of the individual and of the community. The Sabbath, further, is a "sign" in this respect, that it is at once a means for the promotion of true religion, and a test or indication of its presence. A disregard of Divine authority shows itself in nothing more readily than in a disposition to break in upon the day of rest - to take from it its sacred character.
3. The Sabbath is not to be infringed upon, even for the work of the tabernacle. There was no such excessive haste, no such imperative call, for the sanctuary being finished, that the Sabbath needed to be broken by the plying of handicrafts, in order to get it done. We are taught that even our zeal for God's work is not to be allowed to betray us into unnecessary infractions of the day of rest. . This is not, of course, to be applied to spiritual work, to afford an opportunity for which is one end of the giving of the Sabbath.
4. The breaker of the Sabbath was to be put to death. This was not too severe a punishment for the deliberate breaking of a law so repeatedly enforced, and the observance of which had been made by Jehovah a "sign" of the covenant between himself and Israel. Slight as the act seems, it was, in this case, a crime of a very flagrant order. It was punished as an act of treason. At the conclusion of these commands, God gave to Moses the two tables of testimony, "tables of stone, written with the finger of God." A symbol
(1) of the perpetuity of the law,
(2) of its want of power to regenerate (2 Corinthians 3:7). - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,