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What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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Delicacy of Construing the Law Given Moses

I recently had a correspondence on whether resting on the "seventh yom" as commanded in Exodus means the "yom" -- the daylight period --- defined in Genesis 1:5 or 24 hours, as is a common alternative usage.

My friend advocated the 24 hour view, and I advocated the 12 hour view. I did so because of the competing injunction of the Law's command "thou shall not kill." For the Sabbath command's original context was within a theocracy where its violation was a death penalty. Thus, unless sanctioned by law, an erroneous judicial execution  of someone working on the "seventh yom" would make the executioners / judges guilty of murder. When we put back the command we are reading into its fuller original context, one must realize the command against murder requires strict reading of the Sabbath command, and not one loose or even likely. We must have certainty before condemning others or ourselves for violating the Sabbath command.

Here is some of what I wrote him in April 2013.

The Consequences Were Death, Implicating the Accuser In Murder if Wrong

I just want to plant a thought and then when I write later, it will make more sense why I am being a stickler to narrowly construe the law to avoid unintended condemnation.
Violation of sabbath is a death penalty offense under the Law. Thus, hedges are reasonable human ways of not getting near a death-penalty. However, because it is a death penalty law, when examining an actual violation, one must strictly adhere to the Law's words, and go no further. So if one meaning -- 12 hours -- is narrower, and there is no clear indication of 24 hours -- a completely valid alternative meaning, the better approach in construing a death-penalty provision is to not take a man's life without the clearest possible indication from God to do so. Otherwise, we who engage in an unjustified judicial killing (or spiritual condemnation) become guilty of murder. A hedge may be a wise teaching in light of the  threat of death and possible spiritual death. But it means we need to not read broadly but narrowly such provisions. And we must distinguish for our listener the concept of a hedge versus that of a violation.
This issue can be seen in the incident where Jesus spoke to the woman allegedly caught in adultery. (This is alluded to in the ancient GATHM as well.) Jesus was being a stickler for the letter of the Law. The law required 2 witnesses. In the Sanhedrin procedure book, it identifies that before the witnesses testified, there was a qualification procedure. The 2 witnesses were examined to determine if they were "without sin," and hence credible. So when Jesus came on a crowd about to throw stones at the woman, things were amiss. Where were the 2 witnesses "without sin" who were eyeball witnesses of her misdeed (not circumstantial evidence)? The rule of eye-witness testimony is another way the Law restricts the likelihood of a death penalty ever applying to most crimes -- no circumstantial evidence as we permit was admissible. So Jesus says to the crowd, "he who is without sin, throw the first stone" -- the exact letter of the Law applicable to the 2 witnesses who testify -- they must throw the first stones. Jesus said this not because she was innocent, but because the letter of the Law is a guard against using it to kill people unless the strictest letter of the Law requires it. 
Hence, all our interpretations of sabbath and commerce on sabbath have to be with this in mind, for the words we are interpreting held physical execution as the original penalty. The penalty is transferred now to God's hands spiritually, but He is not going to interpret today any differently than He expected Moses and the magistrates that followed him to apply.
So when I do respond, bear in mind there is no small consequence when we accuse someone of violating the Law, and making their life turn on whether an ambiguous word like YOM should be applied in its broadest or most narrow sense. What did God expect Moses to understand when He gave Moses the command where its violation was physical death? I fully anticipate the teachers gave the people hedges -- start early on Friday night to be safe. But if the issue was whether there was a violation, and someone picked up sticks at night to light a fire to cook, would you have killed him in the theocratic era? 
You have agreed that the word YOM in Genesis 1:5 says "day" is the daylight period. In Exodus 20:10, it never says rest on the "Sabbath," but says instead to rest on the "seventh yom" -- a "Sabbath to the Lord." Why would it be so precise? http://biblos.com/exodus/20-10.htm 
I have more comments on what you wrote, but I wanted to ask you to please think about the above in anticipation of my getting back to you later. 
Blessings, and Shalom
Brother D. Joseph

My Friend's Reply


Hey Brother D. Joseph



I anticipate your coming email!  J


I can already for see that much of our discourse is going to be based on something you said: “So if one meaning -- 12 hours -- is narrower, and there is no clear indication of 24 hours.”  This is where the crux of the issue lies, in my opinion.  I believe that there IS clear indication of 24 hours, whereas you do not.  Since this point is at this time irreconcilable I don’t see how fruitful further discussion on the topic will end up being.  I have already stated that I 100% believe that “daylight” is a valid alternative meaning of yom.  However, its meaning is hardly limited to that (as you so succinctly quoted from the NASEC). 


I understand, and for the most part agree with your desire to adhere solely to the text of the Torah for judgment purposes.  I do this as well.  However, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend like the prophets and leaders didn’t come from Yahweh.  There are several things in the Torah that we only have more intimate knowledge of due to tradition today (with no specific command).  For instance, Num. 15:38-39 commands us to wear tassels on the four corners of our garments to remember the commandments.  I suspect that this is one of the commands that you do not feel is necessary for Gentiles, though I disagree.



What we are NOT told in this command is what the tassels are supposed to look like, what type of material they were to be made from, what animals the dye for the blue cord was able to come from, etc.  Another example is found in Dt. 17:17 where kings are restricted from multiplying many wives to themselves.  Now, we know that the most famous king of Israel, the one through whom the very Messiah would come, David, had multiple wives.  He had at least 7 wives.  Now, to you and I this would definitely be considered “multiplying” wives to oneself.  But, obviously this wasn’t a breach of the command.  On the other side, however, Solomon had hundreds of wives, and hundreds of concubines.  These ended up leading him into idolatry and the splitting of the nation of Israel into two.  So, clearly he was in breach of the command.  But, since there is no fixed number in the Torah, we can’t make a strict judgment on that point.  The testimony of the prophets and some traditions help us to pinpoint some of this stuff.


We know that Yahweh changes not (Mal. 3:6).  So, with that in mind, we know that if bearing a burden and doing commerce on the Sabbath (i.e. causing others to work included) was enough for him to bring wrath and destruction in Jeremiah’s day, it would have been enough in Moses’ day, just like it would have been enough in Nehemiah’s day. 


I understand where you are trying to go with Nehemiah putting hedges around the Torah.  But, again, you have to be willing to call him a Pharisee to do so.  Nehemiah’s order to the keepers of the gates was not just an idle one.  It was a “hey guys, you did this crap in the past and look what happened to the city last time” kind of order.  He wasn’t referencing history just to make a new hedge around the Torah.  He was referencing history to draw a parallel between what the Israelites of the past did to bring Yahweh’s wrath upon them and what the people before him were doing.  His reference to the wrath of Yahweh in the past served as a clear threat of what would happen again if they continued to profane the Sabbath.  If indeed the 12 hour Sabbath were true, he would have been “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” by enforcing anything other than a strict 12 hour Sabbath.  He wasn’t threatening just the punishment of man, he was threatening the punishment and judgment of Elohim.


You seem to choose to believe that Nehemiah was doing this, I choose to believe he was a faithful and obedient servant of Yahweh who did NOT add to or take away from the word.


Just to cross check myself in my understanding of commerce on Sabbath I asked another trusted brother what he thought about engaging in commerce with non-spiritual-Israelites on Shabbat.  The first words from his mouth were “What kind of witness is that?!?”  I found it interesting that the first words from his mouth were the first thoughts in my mind when I read through your study.  To think that we could go to a restaurant on Sabbath, and watch a chef slave over a hot stove to make us a meal, when we wouldn’t do the same thing for them on that day is just silly (to put it lightly), in my opinion.  To think that we could go to Walmart and have two workers carry a 200 lb weight set out to our truck for us on Sabbath when we wouldn’t bear a load out of our homes is again, silly.  Our light in those instances is indeed darkness.  They don’t see the truth of rest on Sabbath through us, they see a façade. 


I urge you to consider the following arguments in your search as well:


1)      You asked previously if I believed Yahweh only worked during the “daylight” portion of creation week.  My answer, no.  Why?  Because “daylight,” as you reference it, didn’t exist until the 4th day.  I, personally, do NOT believe that the “light” created on day one is the light of the sun, moon, and stars.  These weren’t created until day 4, so technically there was no “daylight” (light from the sun) upon the earth until then.  So, to restrict the Sabbath day to a 12-hour portion of sunlightbased on the Genesis yom usages just doesn’t fly.  Days 1-3 reference an evening-morning sequence before the sun even existed. 

2)      Gen 2:17 – “the day you eat of it you shall surely die”- Does this mean that eating the fruit of the tree during a midnight stroll through the garden was acceptable?


3)      Gen 3:14 – “all the days of your life”- Does this mean that curse of the serpent was lifted at night?


4)      Gen 6:4 – “on the earth in those days”- did the fallen ones (Nephilim) only come to the earth in the daylight portion?


5)      Gen 10:25 – “in his days the earth was divided”- was the earth united during hisnights?


6)      Gen 15:17-18 reads, “And it happened, the sun had gone down, and it was dark. Behold! A smoking furnace and a torch of fire that passed between those pieces!  18  On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, I have given this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”  The sun was set at the time of this sign to Abraham.  And yet the text of the Torah says in that “day” Yahweh made a covenant with him.


7)      Gen 26:1 – “in the days of Abraham”- was there only famine during the day and not the night?


8)      Ex 10:22 – “And Moses stretched out his hand to the heavens, and darkness of gloom was in all the land of Egypt three days.”  This darkness was so thick it could be felt (10:21).  It is unlikely that any “daylight” was seen during this time.  Did the thick darkness lift during the nighttime period?


9)      Ex. 12:17 – “this very day”- Compare with Ex. 12:29-31 where the children of Israel left after midnight on the 15th of the first month.  This was not during the “daylight” portion, yet was still called a “day”.


10)   Ex. 12:41 – “it happened on this day all the armies of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt”- yet, it did not happen during the “day”, it happened at night. (cf. 12:51)


11)   Ex 23:15 – “seven days”- Are we permitted to eat leavened bread at night?


12)   Ex 24:16 – “and the cloud covered it six days”- did the cloud disappear at night?


13)   Num 3:13 – “For every first-born is Mine, from the day I struck every first-born in the land of Egypt, I have set apart to Myself every first-born in Israel, from men to animal. They are Mine. I am Yahweh.”   Yahweh didn’t strike the firstborn during the “daylight” portion of a day, he struck them at midnight.  Yet, this is still a yom in his eyes.


14)   Num 6:4 – “all the days of his separation” – was a nazarite allowed to drink wine at night?




Long story short…yom means more than just 12 hours in the daylight.  I will observe the Sabbath as the prophets did and as Yahweh restored through Nehemiah, and as all recorded history we have in Yeshua’s day testifies to – from Friday around sunset through Saturday around sunset.  I see no other option that aligns with Torah, the Prophets, Yeshua, History, and tradition (good tradition, not evil).




On another note, I am glad that we agree on the adultery story in the Gospels.  There is another reason that something was up with that accusation as well.  Both the woman AND the man were supposed to be brought if they were caught in the act of adultery.  But, in that case, only the woman was brought.  This was already against Torah from the outset and should have raised major suspicion in everyone witnessing it.  The Torah was not followed in that case, you are absolutely right!  I believe Nehemiah, as a part of the Hebrew culture for decades, and about 2,400 years closer to the giving of the Torah and the than we are, likely knew better what the true Sabbath was.  We would be wise to follow his directions if they do not contradict Torah, and indeed they do not.




My two cents (okay, maybe three! J ).




Blessings, A.



My Reply


Teaching as the law what is truly the doctrines of men was the error of the Pharisee, not merely teaching the doctrines of men. A hedge is not the same as what the Pharisees did. A hedge teaching openly declares this is a doctrine  of men so as to guard against the violation of the law which is certain. It confesses there is a possible ambiguity in the law, but the hedge is not foisted on the community as what the law certainly teaches. The hedge is proposed instead as a means the community guards against an absolutely certain violation.

But no one is condemned to death physically or spiritually for violating the hedge.  That is potentially murder ... a violation no less of the same law which gives us the sabbath command. I am guarding myself from murdering in my mind those whose acts are potentially innocent.

So my behavior is the same as yours, but my conscience on Friday night is not in fear of judgment of violating Sabbath for if it were otherwise I would harshly be judging brothers as potentially Sabbath violators for Friday night behavior when God did not give me the clear right to proclaim their condemnation.

So avoiding the violation of the the murder command is what requires absolute certainty, and not mere arguments about yom's potential or even likely meaning. Interpreting the law has serious consequences on the issue of Sabbath, and must be carefully balanced...one command in light of another.


More later.
Shabbat shalom
Brother D. Joseph