to kindle a fire cannot be done on the Sabbath

Exodus 35 tells

us that anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put

to death, and then it also gives us a rather curious

commandment, not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath day.

Shemote (Exodus) 35:1-3

1 Then Moshe gathered all the

congregation of the children of Israel

together, and said to them, "These are

the words which YHWH has

commanded you to do:


2 Work shall be done for six days, but

the seventh day shall be a set-apart

day for you, a Sabbath of rest to

YHWH. Whoever does any work on it

shall be put to death.

3 You shall kindle no fire throughout

your dwellings on the Sabbath day."

Why would YHWH prohibit us from kindling a fire in our

dwellings on Shabbat? In many climates one needs to

burn a fire in winter just to keep warm, and the Sabbath

would hardly be relaxing or refreshing without heat.

However, if we look at this passage in the Hebrew, we

may be able to get a better feel for YHWH’s intended


Exodus 35:3

3 "You shall kindle no fire

in any of your dwellings on

the Sabbath day."

א תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל 􀃏

3) )


| בְּיוֹם



The word ‘kindle’ here is ta-ba-aru (

תְבַעֲרוּ ), which is

likely the Hebrew source for the English word “to burn.”

This is also the word used to describe the burning bush

in Exodus 3:2. Thus, the commandment not to kindle a

fire on Shabbat is probably the commandment not to

burn a fire on the Sabbath.

But even if the commandment in Exodus 35:3 is not to

burn a fire on the Sabbath, still we are left with the

question, why would YHWH command us not to burn a

fire for warmth (or for light) on His day of rest and

refreshment? Does He desire us to dwell in the dark,

and be cold? 

Let us consider that the phrase ‘your dwellings’ is

‘moshavotheichem,’ ( מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם ), which means ‘your

communities.’ Since wood had to be gathered by

hand, each individual family did not always build their

own fires. Rather, in ancient times, families and clans

built a community fire. This is where the people of one

extended family cooked, and conducted all manner of

work requiring fire, such as blacksmithing. Therefore, it

seems likely that what YHWH was really prohibiting

was the kindling or burning of a work or a cooking fire

on Shabbat.

We already saw in the last chapter that there were

many lamps in the upper room where the Apostle

Shaul was teaching.

Ma’asim (Acts) 20:7-8

7 Now on the first day of the week,

when the disciples came together to

break bread, Shaul, ready to depart the

next day, spoke to them and continued

his message until midnight.

8 There were many lamps in the upper

room where they were gathered


Many scholars dispute the translation “on the first day

of the week.” The Greek reads, “mia ton Sabbaton”

(mia/| tw/n sabba,twn), which many scholars maintain is

more correctly translated as “on one of the Sabbaths.”

Acts 20:7-8

7 On one of the Sabbaths,

when we were gathered

together to break bread,

Shaul began talking to

BGT Acts 20:7 VEn de. th/|

mia/| tw/n sabba,twn

sunhgme,nwn h`mw/n

kla,sai a;rton( o` Pau/loj

diele,geto auvtoi/j me,llwn


them, intending to leave

the next day, and he

prolonged his message

until midnight.

evxie,nai th/| evpau,rion(

pare,teine,n te to.n lo,gon

me,cri mesonukti,ouÅ

If this gathering did take place on one of the Sabbaths,

as some scholars contend, it would show us that Shaul

believed one could burn non-work-related fires (in this

case, lamps) on the Sabbath, for light.

What this shows us is that it is not YHWH’s intention

that we remain in the cold or the dark on His day of

worship and refreshment. That is why, if the penalty for

profaning the Sabbath is strict, the rules for keeping the

Shabbat must be interpreted with common sense.

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