God had formed and filled the earth, and now on the seventh day he rested (2:2-3). This seventh day was significantly different from the first six days of creation, as Kenneth Matthews has so clearly noted:
1) There was no creation formula – “And God said” – because his creative word was not required. 2) The seventh day did not have the usual closing refrain – “and there was evening and there was morning” – to indicate the day’s end. 3) The seventh day was the only day to be “blessed” and “made…holy” by God. 4) The seventh day stood outside the paired days of creation because there was no corresponding day to it in the preceding six. And 5) unlike the six creative days, the number of the day (the seventh day) is repeated three times.[i]
This is given dramatic significance because verses 2 and 3 contain four lines, and the first three are parallel (each having seven words in the Hebrew), with the midpoint of each line being the phrase “the seventh day.” Here’s how the Hebrew word order has it:
- Line one: So God finished by the seventh day his work which he did
- Line two: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he did,
- Line three: and God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,
- Line four: because on it he rested from all his work that God created to do.[ii]
The seventh day stands apart in solitary grandeur as the crown to the six days of creation. This indicates not only immense literary craft but deep theological significance. From the beginning of creation the seventh day was central, not only to creation, but to the ultimate destiny of God’s people, as we shall see.
Verses 2 and 3 each state that God rested. God certainly didn’t rest from fatigue. His creating power is infinite. God did not need a breather. God simply stopped his creating activity. Though God ceased his creating activity, he still worked (see John 5:17). God rested from creating but works in sustaining the world by his power, governing it by his providence, and insuring the propagation of its creatures.
God’s rest was one of deep pleasure and satisfaction at the fruit of his labor. This joyous rest of the Creator extended to Adam and Eve in paradise as, in their state of innocence, they lived in blessed peace with their Creator. And this original rest was the beginning of a type of the rest that was lost at the fall but will be restored through redemption and its final consummation.
God took such pleasure in the seventh day that he blessed it; which means that he made it spiritually fruitful. We know that the two preceding blessings in the creation account, first on living creatures and then on Adam and Eve bestowed fertility because in both instances God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (1:22, 28). The meaning here is essentially the same but in the spiritual realm. “God’s blessing bestows on this special, holy, solemn day a power which makes it fruitful for human existence. The blessing gives the day, which is a day of rest, the power to stimulate, animate, enrich and give fullness to life.”[iii] Kent Hughes notes: “The seventh day is one of perpetual spiritual spring – a day of multiplication and fruitfulness.”[iv] This would become of great importance and benefit to God’s people.
So God ceased from his creation labors on the seventh day, pronounced it “blessed” (spiritually life-giving), and then “made it holy.” The seventh day was the first thing to be hallowed in Scripture. It was therefore elevated above the other days and set apart for God himself. This blessed and holy day has no end. There is no morning and evening. It has existed from the completion of creation and still is. God still rests after the great event.
Since the “seventh day” has no closing refrain – no “And there was evening and there was morning” – the seventh day has no end and is eternal. And this Sabbath rest is taken up in the New Testament and interpreted in the context of Jesus as one greater than Moses (see Hebrews 4:9; cf. vv. 1-11). Have you come to rest in Christ?
Join us this week as we consider “The Lord of the Sabbath” and what this means for us today. Hope to see you and your family this Lord’s Day.
Grace upon Grace, Wayne
[i] Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), p.176.
[ii] Ibid., p.177.
[iii] Quoted in Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), p.43. This article was adapted from Hughes chapter on “God’s Rest”.
[iv] Ibid., p.43.