Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Deuteronomy 5:12 NASB
Observe – One of my dear friends sent me an article about the two Sabbath commands. The other one is the more familiar verse, Exodus 20:8. But if you read them side by side, you realize (especially in Hebrew) that they are not identical. The text in Exodus uses the Hebrew verb zakar (to remember) but the text in Deuteronomy uses the verb shamar (to guard). The differences are obscured in many translations, but were the subject of some concern by the rabbis.
Let’s stretch a little. If we think about the rabbinic solution to this difference, we might recall something from our studies in Genesis 2 and 3. Since the homophone of zakar (male) means “to remember,” we suggested that this is a word play on the role of the male. He is to remember God’s command in the Garden and subsequently to remember all of the commandments given by God after leaving the Garden. One of these is to honor the Sabbath. The Exodus passage connects God’s instructions to the assignment in Eden.
But what about the Deuteronomy version? Does the verb shamar also find a home in Eden? The homophone of neqevah (female) is about setting a boundary. We noticed that the role assigned to Havvah was not remembering God’s command. She wasn’t present when the command was given. But she is to establish the boundary for the fulfillment of the command by guarding the man who was given the command. Her job is to take care of him in such a way that he fulfills his assignment. We pointed out that her covenant with YHWH establishes Adam as the beneficiary. She is his protector and guide. She is to establish and guard the fence so that he doesn’t get into trouble.
It seems to me that the Deuteronomy version of the Sabbath commandment suggests the feminine side of the Sabbath. The male side appears in Exodus. Remember. The female side appears in Deuteronomy. Guard. Just as both male and female are required to fulfill the prime directive in Eden, so they are both present in Shabbat. Men are to remember what God commanded about His day of rest. Women are to establish the fence around that day to protect it from encroachment that would defile its purpose. In the home of a married couple, Shabbat cannot occur without the participation of both. It’s interesting that the rabbinic idea concerning the positive and negative commands also finds some parallel in Eden. God gives Adam the first commandment. It has positive and negative elements. “Eat (feast) on all the trees” – positive. “But of this Tree” – negative. Which part of the command becomes the issue for Havvah? Is setting the boundary an essentially positive or negative action? Which part of Sabbath-keeping are you doing? Is it the one assigned to you?
Topical Index: Sabbath, observe, guard, shamar, remember, zakar, Deuteronomy 5:12, Exodus 20:8
THANK YOU to all who are praying for my daughter Rachel in Navy boot camp. Rachel graduated on Friday. She was voted the top recruit of her division by her peers. She was also promoted to E-3, a two step promotion. She received recognition from her Chief and is set to go to A school in Pensacola. I talked with her and she said that she felt all the prayers made a big difference to her. She also wanted to thank everyone who sent mail. She got a lot! She is proud to represent your trust in her and knows God is directing all this.