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
3 "You shall kindle no fire
in any of your dwellings on
the Sabbath day."
א תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל 3) )
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
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.”
7 On one of the Sabbaths,
when we were gathered
together to break bread,
Shaul began talking to
BGTActs 20:7 VEn de. th/|
mia/| tw/n sabba,twn
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
evxie,nai th/| evpau,rion(
pare,teine,n te to.n lo,gon
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.