"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do."- Deuteronomy 5:12-14.

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."- Exodus 20:8-11.

So what exactly does "not doing work" mean? Does this mean worshipping God or alternatively, sleeping in, engaging in entertainment, hanging out with friends etc.?

  • 3
    What one does, or does not do, on the Sabbath, would depend on whether one was a practising Jew who strictly adheres to the Mosaic Law, or if one was a Christian. Perhaps you could edit your question to specify which religious point of view you seek and, to avoid people giving their personal opinions, ask for facts and references to back up the beliefs of that religion. That would improve your question.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 9:41
  • 1
    @Lesley One esteemeth one day above another ; one esteemeth every day, Romans 14:5. Some have entered into a perpetual sabbath of rest, Hebrews 4:3. This is a matter of faith, not works. ['In sabbath' was actually correct.]
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 10:16
  • 1
    @Nigel J - I stand corrected,and yes, all days are to be dedicated to God as holy. Salvation-rest is entered only by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 10:39
  • @Lesley . . . . . Amen.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 11:37

6 Answers 6


Being in Community is a big theme for Sabbath.

Exodus 20/Deuteronomy 5 - Slaves and Sojourners are considered part of the family.

Genesis 1 and 2 - God rested with Creation, he also communed with them in the evenings.

Isaiah 58 - Talks of a fast that restores people to the community and draws that into a relationship with Sabbath.

Being Restored is a theme for Sabbath.

Jesus often healed on the Sabbath and restored people, The previous example of Isaiah 58.

Mark 2 gives the example of Disciples, in community eating and compares it to how David also restored energy to his men using the holy bread.

Resting is a theme for Sabbath

Similar to restoration, resting is used in the language of the Sabbath. Renewal and recreation are also synonyms, that could be used. This is an underlying theme in most of the text already presented.


Isalah 58:13

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

this verse sheds a little light on how to obey the commandment. according to him, hanging out with friends is clearly not recommended. then what remains? even “sleeping” is a verb, that is, an action that formally may be prohibited, which is absurd! There is a text, also, which says that priests in the temple violate the Sabbath by working, but it is possible for them. it seems to me that the only right option is to turn to the sources in the book of Genesis, it was there that the Sabbath was first mentioned. God rejoiced at everything that, according to the book, he did in 6 days, enjoyed it. According to this, it seems logical to me to assume that the actions of "rejoicing", "praying", "serving others" are the right way to fulfill the commandment.


Sabbath was created for man not man for sabbath.

I feel Jesus speaks to this subject well in Mark 2

Do things not for yourself but for the glory of God and His kingdom.

  • Meditate on his word
  • Study the Bible
  • Meet/help others in His name, etc.
  • Definitely rest (not sleep or be slothful) - from your labors, studies, and so on to help renew your mind and spirit.

Living under grace, its how we, in our hearts, approach the sabbath that I feel is important not a specific prescription.

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    Why should sleeping/napping be prohibited as a form of rest?
    – ig-dev
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 0:13
  • I did not mean to say it was prohibited. Nothing is prohibited, but not all things are expedient. 1Corinthians 10:23 Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:20
  • I believe your statement "rest (not sleep)" is your personal take on it. Whether resting in the form of sleep is "expedient" or not depends on the circumstances. There is nothing associated with the Sabbath that would preclude it, and your personal warning against sleeping appears out of place.
    – ig-dev
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 22:54
  • I believe when I wrote my original answer what I was trying to differentiate between, was "resting" to please oneself vs. resting to replenish one's mind, study the word of God, etc. And yes, absolutely my take, for me on my walk. I believe what is in one's heart is what counts and also believe God knows what that is. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 23:53

The Jewish “sabbath” is called Shabbat, which means “to cease, to end, to rest” and any kind of work, or deliberate activity, is prohibited during Shabbat. For example:

Any activities that contribute to personal profit or gain are forbidden. Jewish rabbinical tradition lists 39 categories of acts forbidden on Shabbat: plowing earth, sowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying, untying, sewing stitches, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, flaying, tanning, scraping hide, marking hide, cutting hide to shape, writing two or more letters, erasing two or more letters, building, demolishing, extinguishing a fire, kindling a fire, putting the finishing touch on an object, and transporting an object (between private and public domains, or over four cubits within public domain). Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/shabbat.html

However, Shabbat means much more than simply ceasing from manual labour. The purpose of Shabbat is to focus attention of God, to worship Him and to concentrate purely on spiritual things. The basis for this “day of rest” comes from Genesis 2:2 where God ceased from his creative activity on the seventh day. In Exodus 20:8 God commanded the Israelites to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”:

This four-word phrase in English is only one word in Hebrew. It means “consecrate,” “set apart,” or “sanctify.” The Israelites were to make a distinction between the seventh day and the rest of the week. The Sabbath was different. It was to be dedicated to the Lord. The priests were to double the daily sacrifices on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9–10), marking the day with increased sacred activity. The rest of the Israelites were to mark the day with decreased activity—no work at all—in honour of the Lord. The penalty for desecrating the Sabbath with work was death (Exodus 31:14; Numbers 15:32–36).

Keeping of the Sabbath was a sign of the covenant between Israel and the Lord: “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come” (Exodus 31:13). As Israel kept the Sabbath set apart, they were reminded that they were also being set apart: “So you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy” (verse 13). Believers today, being under the New Covenant, are not bound to keep the sign of the Old Covenant. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/remember-the-Sabbath-day.html

Christians are no longer under the requirements of the Hebrew Law but are under the law of Grace:

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference [between Jew and Gentile], for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-25).

The point is that no Christian is under any obligation to adhere to the Mosaic Law because we are no longer constrained by the Old Covenant. We have been set free and are in the New Covenant. When it comes to Sabbath keeping, or keeping one day more sacred than another, the principle in Romans 14:5-12 applies:

Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord... You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

Hebrews chapter 4 describes how all believers have entered into God’s rest through faith:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest”

That is not a call to earn one’s salvation by works, but is an exhortation to enter salvation-rest by faith and not follow Israel’s sad example in the desert. Source: NIV Study Bible Notes

Resting from physical labour/work on the seventh day of the week is good for the body and the mind. Focusing our attention of God and on spiritual matters is good for our mind and our soul. But there is no law demanding we “do this” or “not do that”. It is a matter of conscience. If a Christian is able to dedicate the seventh day of the week to worshipping God, by going to church and by reading the Bible, then that is fine. But no Christian has any right to judge or condemn a brother or a sister in Christ who does not adhere strictly to what they think is “right”.

Your conscience should tell you whether or not your actions are pleasing to God and bringing Him honour. Everything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).


Christ fulfilled (all of) the Mosaic Law. See Romans 10:4. Also see Galatians 4:9-11, Ephesians 2:13-16. And finally, Colossians 2:16

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.-NIV

Nonetheless, I know many Messianic Jews, and Christians who still keep a day per week, as a day of rest, Scripture reading, reflecting, and family.

Though it is no longer a command, and we are not under The Law, this does not mean many do not still practice certain portions of the Law.

So, if a Christian had to be working at his trade, working in his yard, or laboring of any kind it would appear he is not in violation of his Christian responsibilities, as we are no longer under The Law as I have noted herein.


I believe there is a lot more to Jesus' words in Mark 2:27 that speak to this very question. Jesus says:

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

Compare this to what Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:8,9:

For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

As well as in 1 Tim. 2:13:

For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

So when Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man we see a clear reference in His words to the creation of Eve since she was made for man.

Eve was created to be Adam's companion and the were to enjoy intimacy with one another both physically and emotionally but only on a human level.

The Sabbath there fore was created for special companionship with God and intimacy with Him on a spiritual level.

Can you see how problematic it becomes to prescibe what should be done on the Sabbath? How do you prescribe to a married couple what to do so they can experience companionship and intimacy? You can mention some general pointers that are really important but I hope you can see how silly it would be to go into any more details that that.

What works for one couple might not work for another and so too does God's word give the basics about the Sabbath in the ten commandments and a few other verses, but it is very silent about any more details for the very reason I am stating.

God is saying, let us get together on the Sabbath. I have set the time (the seveth day) and you determine the activity. And as long as it leads to spiritual companionship and intimacy with God, it is good as a Sabbath activity.

That is why Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Many Christians believe He was disregarding the commandment as a Jewish institution when infact He was merely restoring the original intent of the 4th commandment.

  • When you speak of the Sabbath as being on the seventh day, do you mean the last day of the Jewish week (sundown on Friday till sundown on Saturday)?
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 10:45
  • Just remove the word 'Jewish' from your comment and then you have exactly what I mean.
    – user58803
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 11:49

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