AFTER GOD’S SIX DAYS of creative activity, the bible says on the seventh day “God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). The noun form of the verb ” to rest” is shabbat, which is the Hebrew name for the sabbath day.
Thus we see that the observance of the sabbath as a day of rest among Jews and Christians alike has its roots in creation itself. Indeed, in the Ten Commandments, the command about keeping the sabbath day makes this explicit: “For in six days the Lord made Heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it” (Exodus 20:11).
The sabbath day was to be unlike any other day in that all men and women were to stop their regular work. And beyond being a physical day of rest, it was to be a holy day actively “remembered” or “observed.”
God did not rest because he had become tired from creating. The Bible says God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). The idea of God resting is more that he ceased creating things. He found what he had created to be completely adequate (“very good”), and he thus finished his work.
Unlike the other six days of creation, where we read that “there was evening and there was morning” for each day (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), this day has no statement about its ending. This idea of God’s rest extending beyond the “creation week” is further shown in both the Old and New Testaments when people enter into “God’s rest”—that is, enjoy a proper relationship with God.
In the Old Testament and in Judaism, the sabbath day is the seventh day of the week, extending from sundown on the sixth day to sundown on the seventh. In Christianity, the idea of using the sabbath for remembrance led to the designation of the first day of the week as the day of rest, in remembrance Jesus’ resurrection on that day.
Jesus urged his followers not to cross over into blind legalism in trying to observe the sabbath. He said that “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27)