Both the Old and New Testaments utilise the plural form of the word
'sabbath' in various contexts.
Unfortunately many translations have incorrectly rendered several
New Testament Greek references to 'sabbaths' as 'Sabbath'. It seems
this has largely been due to their lack of awareness of the Old
Covenant law. So, as a result, translators have simply thought many
plural sabbath verses were referring to the weekly Sabbath.
OLD TESTAMENT SABBATHS
The Old Testament utilizes the word 'sabbaths' in various situations.
1) To define a specific set of weekly sabbaths, those defining the
period between the first and third month assemblies.
Lev 23:15 And you shall count for yourselves from the day
after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought
the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths
shall be completed.
:16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh
Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering
to the LORD.
Deut 16:9 You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin
to count the seven weeks from the time you begin
to put the sickle to the grain.
:10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the
LORD your God ...
2) In reference to the multiple land sabbaths before the observance
of the fiftieth year.
Lev 25:8 And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for
yourself, seven times seven years; and the time
of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you
:10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, ...
3) Scripture also uses the word 'sabbaths' in a general sense and in
these cases there is some uncertainty as to exactly what is meant.
Exod 31:13 Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:
'Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for they are a
sign between Me and you throughout your generations,
that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies
Lev 19:3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his
father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your
Verses such as the above portray a link between the plural word
'sabbaths' and the fourth commandment. (Note the text of Exodus
31:14-17 goes on to talk about the seventh day Sabbath.)
Many scholars have considered the plural form of sabbath may
legitimately refer only to the weekly sabbath.
However, verses which are undoubtedly talking about the weekly
sabbath (when used in a general sense, rather than to refer
to particular weekly sabbaths) do not depict the plural form!
For example the word sabbath is encountered 4 times in Exodus
31:15-16 and is never in the plural form.
This has lead some to believe that the word 'sabbaths', when
used in a general sense, refers to multiple types of sabbath.
Apart from the weekly sabbath and the land sabbath there are
also other days represented as sabbaths!
- The Day of Atonement
Lev 23:27 Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall
be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy
convocation for you; ...
:31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a
statute forever throughout your generations in
all your dwellings.
:32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest,
and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth
day of the month at evening, from evening to
evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath."
Lev 16:29 This shall be a statute forever for you: In the
seventh month, on the tenth day of the month,
you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at
all, whether a native of your own country or a
stranger who dwells among you.
:30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement
for you, ...
:31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you
shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.
( NB: Like the weekly sabbath the Day of Atonement
was - a complete day of rest, Lev 23:31
- breach punishable by death, Lev 23:30
- statute forever, Lev 16:31, 23:31. )
- Other Annual Assembly Days
There were 6 other annual appointment days on which one could
not do any customary(occupational) work. Refer chapter 23 of
Three of these days are defined as days of 'sabbathism'.
Lev 23:24 Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In
the seventh month, on the first day of the month,
you shall have a rest (sabbathism), a memorial
of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.
:39 Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month,
when you have gathered in the fruit of the land,
you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven
days; on the first day there shall be a rest
:39 ... and on the eighth day a rest (sabbathism).
While the word 'sabbath' (Strong's reference 7676) is not
expressly used in these verses it is apparent these days
were also a form of sabbath, ie break from normal work.
4) The Old Testament frequently presents the word 'sabbaths' in the
context, 'Sabbaths, New Moons and set feasts'.
The meaning of sabbaths in this context has to be derived after
consideration of the terms 'new moons' and 'set feasts'.
However, in summary it appears in this context that 'sabbaths'
is alluding to the weekly seventh day and the Day of Atonement.
For a fuller discussion refer to the page on 'New Moons'.
NEW TESTAMENT SABBATHS
'FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK'
This expression is commonly found in the New Testament referring to the
day Christ rose and is additionally mentioned in Acts 20:7 and 1Cor 16:2.
The Greek is commonly 'first of the sabbaths' and refers to the wave
sheaf day which began the counting toward Pentecost. In other words the
notion 'sabbaths' here connects back to the first form of 'sabbaths'
discussed under point one above, ie a specific set of weekly sabbaths
defining the period between the first and third month assemblies.
For a fuller discussion refer the page on this topic.
'DAY OF THE SABBATHS'
Luke 4:16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been
brought up. And as His custom was, He went
into the synagogue on the day of the Sabbaths
(not 'Sabbath day'), and stood up to read.
Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came
to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the
synagogue on the day of the Sabbaths (not
'Sabbath day') and sat down.
Acts 16:13 And on the day of the Sabbaths (not 'Sabbath
day') we went out of the city to the riverside,
where prayer was customarily made; ...
This term 'day of the sabbaths' could refer either to the wave sheaf
day (the first day of the sabbaths period) or Pentecost (the last day
of the sabbaths period).
[ NB: In Luke 4:16 the term is encountered prior to the period
of the 'sabbaths' as mentioned in Luke 4:31. So it seems
the term 'day of the sabbaths' is actually describing the
wave sheaf day. ]
'IN/ON THE SABBATHS'
Luke 4:31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee,
and was teaching them in the Sabbaths.
Mark 1:21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on
the Sabbaths He entered the synagogue and taught.
Mark 2:23 Now it happened that He went through the grainfields
on the Sabbaths; and as they went His disciples began
to pluck the heads of grain.
Matt 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on
the Sabbaths. And His disciples were hungry, and
began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
Luke 13:10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the
A reference to the period of the seven Sabbaths between the Feast of
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost.
Luke 6:1 Now it happened on the Sabbath second-foremost
that He went through the grainfields.
The purpose of the expression 'second-foremost' was to make it clear that
the disciples did not pluck the grain prior to the occurrence of the
wave sheaf ceremony (as such an act was expressly forbidden in the Law,
refer Lev 23:14).
In the context of the period of the seven weekly sabbaths there is a weekly
Sabbath which precedes the wave sheaf ceremony, it immediately precedes
the counting of the days toward the Feast of Weeks. Therefore it seems
logical that this weekly Sabbath be identified in this context as the
Hence the expression 'Sabbath second-foremost', apparently meaning 'Sabbath
second-to-the-foremost", would be identifying the next weekly Sabbath, that
is the first of the seven weekly sabbaths. On this day the restriction of
Lev 23:14 would not be applicable.
This verse should read;
Matt 28:1 At the end of the Sabbaths (not Sabbath),
..., Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
came to see the tomb.
Advising that two sabbaths passed between Christ's death and rising,
the annual sabbath of the 15th and a weekly Sabbath.
There are many other New Testament verses which refer to multiple types
Matt 12:5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbaths
the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and
12:10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand.
And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on
the Sabbaths?"; that they might accuse Him.
:11 Then He said to them, "What man is there among you
who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the
Sabbaths, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?
:12 "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?
Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbaths."
Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees said to Him, "Look, why do they
do what is not lawful on the Sabbaths?"
3:2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal
him on the Sabbaths, so that they might accuse Him.
:3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand,
:4 Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbaths
to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"
But they kept silent.
Luke 6:2 And some of the Pharisees said to them, "Why are
you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbaths?"
:9 Then Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one thing:
Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good or to do evil,
to save life or to destroy?"
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