Which day is the correct Sabbath as prescribed in the ten commandments found in Exodus 20:8-11?

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


6 Answers 6


The command to observe the Sabbath established a system of reckoning time. Unlike months and years which can be counted and tracked by the moon and the sun, the seven-day cycle has no natural or astronomical markers. It can only be observed on the correct day by correctly and continually counting days. There is no Scripture which names days of the week; therefore there is no Scriptural basis for stating which named day of the week is the first day or the seventh day.

The naming of the days is an extra-Biblical custom and the precise alignment of man’s names for the days of the week to the LORD God’s numbered days of the rest, is a matter of tradition. It is generally accepted the Sabbath corresponds to Saturday where it is observed by the Jewish people. In general, Christians choose to observe the "Sabbath" on Sunday. The two traditions can be characterized by why the specific day of the week was chosen:

Jewish Tradition: Saturday - follow the Law and remember creation
Christian Tradition: Sunday - remember the resurrection of Jesus

Legally, the day which is named is the last day of the week. It is called "the Sabbath" and it is to be recognized by what takes place on this day:

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places. (Leviticus 23:3)1

The Sabbath is a day of solemn rest, a holy convocation, and a lack of work.2 "Convocation" means gathering together, a place of assembly, a recitation, or reading. [H4744-miqra']

The question of the Sabbath and the first day of the week is discussed elsewhere on this site: In Acts 20:7, why is the phrase τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων translated “the first day of the week” when it could mean “the first Sabbath”? and Did Acts 20:7 take place on Sunday midnight or Monday midnight? Regardless of how the language is understood in terms of the day of the week, a Christian tradition of gathering for worship (based on Acts 20:7) is one which falls the day after the Jewish tradition of the Sabbath.

The actions described in Acts 20 do not necessarily mean Paul and his companions did not also observe the Sabbath on the previous day. Given the numerous references in Acts to Paul in the synagogue on the Sabbath and the references to his observing the Passover and other feast days, it is more likely he observed the Sabbath and gathered the following day.

The reference to creation establishes both the cycle and how the days are recognized:

…And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5)
…And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:8)
…And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. (Genesis 1:13)
…And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (Genesis 1:19)
…And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (Genesis 1:23)
…And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)

As can be seen, the unique description is at the end of the cycle. By way of comparison, the LORD’s calendar also includes annual days to observe. These days are observed in specific months. Like days, months are numbered. However, the first month is also identified by name:

Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. (Deuteronomy 16:1)

In the first month, which is the month of Nisan… (Esther 3:7)

Knowing the name of the first month properly aligns when the counting starts. This feature of the weekly calendar is absent from Scripture. While there is no certain way to identify which day of the week is the first day, the Sabbath day was identified by the LORD:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Exodus 16:4-5)

Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none. On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. (Exodus 16:26-27)

The Sabbath day was marked (before the Ten commandments) by the lack of manna. This continued for the 40-years the Israelites were in the wilderness. Thus the Jewish tradition has its roots not only in the commandment to work six days and rest on the seventh; it has the tradition of knowing which day is the seventh day. Unless they lost rack, miscounted, or stopped counting, the Sabbath Day is the day known on man's calendar as Saturday.

1. All Scripture is from the English Standard Version
2. Rest and not working are described as separate actions. Solemn or Sabbath rest would mean complete rest encompassing the mind. So do not think about or plan work.


By "true" I believe you mean "the one described in Exodus 20". If so then it is as it says, the seventh day. The Jews reckoned their days beginning at sundown and the first day began on sundown of what is secularly called "Saturday":

KJV Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The seventh day (aka the "sabbath") begins on what is secularly called Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown.

There are other sabbaths such as every seventh year:

King James Bible Leviticus 25:4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

The "Sunday Sabbath" is a pagan tradition that has been established as a pseudo-sabbath by many religious groups but has no true basis in scripture.


Luke 23 (KJV)

51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.

52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.

53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.

54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.

56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

Jesus was crucified on the preparation day.

The women prepared spices for Jesus' body the same preparation day and rested according to the commandment that you referred to, in Exo 20:8-11.

Luke continues:

Luke 24 (KJV)

1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.

Across the world Christians recognize the day of Jesus' crucifixion as Good Friday. They recognize the first day, when Jesus rose from the dead as Easter Sunday.

Thus, the day between the preparation day and the first day is the day when Jesus' body remained in the tomb, the 7th day we call in the secular world, Saturday.


The true sabbath is that which Paul speaks of in Hebrews 4:9 :

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God [KJV]

There doth remain, then, a sabbatic rest to the people of God [Young's Literal]

There remaineth, therefore, yet a rest to the people of God [Tyndale]

Having created, God rested. There was no more to do, regarding the first creation. It was there, for a purpose. Thereafter, God's work was to do with that (spiritual) purpose.

The Law entered in due to the activity of Serpent, then woman, then man. It entered in because of transgression, it was 'added' (laid down, tithemi) because of transgression, Galatians 3:19.

But that was not God's rest, as the writer to the Hebrews proves - there remaineth a rest. The rest was not a legal one, for the Law gives nobody rest, day nor night.

They that are of faith, these are Abraham's true children, Galatians 3:7. And to these is the promise made of a rest, perpetually, in Christ.

They that first heard these things, entered not in, through unbelief, Galatians 4:6, so the rest remains. It remains to be entered in by faith.

Which is why we are to fear, Hebrews 4:1, lest we enter not in to the promise, but come short of it, through unbelief.

As to days, one man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day, Romans 14:5. Let no man judge another, therefore, in respect of an holyday or of the sabbath, Colossians 2:16 . . .

. . . which are but a shadow of things to come.

But the body, is of Christ.

  • 2
    What does this answer have to do with the OP's question regarding Exodus 20:8-11?
    – user17080
    Oct 13, 2017 at 11:25
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim If you check the edit above, you will see that someone has changed the heading which the original OP wrote.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 13, 2017 at 11:48
  • 2
    The title was indeed changed to bring the question on-topic. Your answer relates to the off-topic version of the question. It is a theological response, not a hermeneutic answer.
    – user17080
    Oct 13, 2017 at 12:01
  • I believe it answers the question. Fundamentally.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 13, 2017 at 17:11

Shabbat and the reality of traditions. Today's shabbat in Judaism is a tradition born under the Roman pressure in the 2nd century AD. Jews in Ysrael under the last Sanhedrin and his leader Hillel II, did a compromising choice due to the romman pressure. They kept the observance of the "chodesh", New Moon and adopted the saturday as the shabbat. Contantine changed the Julian calendar and put Sun-day as the First day of the week to honor the day of the sun, been a sun worshiper. Until the 4th century, "saturn-day" was the first day of the week. THE SHABBAT Ps 104:19 He made the moon for appointed times; The sun knows its going down. Appointed times: H4150 מוֹעֵד mowed (mo-ade') n-m. מֹעֵד moed (mo-ade') מוֹעָדָה mow`adah (mo-aw-daw') [feminine, 2 Chronicles 8:13] 1. (properly) an appointment, i.e. a fixed time or season. 2. (specifically) a festival.

The text in Hebrew shows that "appointed times "moedim" (plural) are determined by the moon, and the seasons by the sun. Gen 1:14 And Elohim said, “Let lights come to be in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and appointed times, and for days and years,

The Moedim are clearly listed in the book of Vayiqra (Leveticus), and the First of them is: Lv 23:1 And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, Lv 23:2 “Speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, and say to them, ‘The appointed times (Moedim) of יהוה, which you are to proclaim as set-apart gatherings, My appointed times (Moedim), are these: Lv 23:3 ‘Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to יהוה in all your dwellings.

The First of all moedim is the SHABBAT. In the First century this is what Philo of Alexandria write concerning the shabbat:

“Again, the periodical changes of the moon, take place according to the number seven, that star having the greatest sympathy with the things on earth. And the changes which the moon works in the air, it perfects chiefly in accordance with its own configurations on each seventh day. At all events, all mortal things, as I have said before, drawing their more divine nature from the heaven, are moved in a manner which tends to their preservation in accordance with this number seven. … Accordingly, on the seventh day, Elohim caused to rest from all his works which he had made.” …

Notice that Philo says the moon is perfect in its shape or appearance at seven day intervals. Had a Hebrew speaking Israelite written this he would have said “it perfects chiefly in accordance with its own configurations on each Sabbath day instead of each “seventh” day

The Decalogue XXX (159),

But to the seventh day of the week he has assigned the greatest festivals, those of the longest duration, at the periods of the equinox (Tekufah) both vernal and autumnal in each year; appointing two festivals for these two epochs, each lasting seven days; the one which takes place in the spring being for the perfection of what is being sown, and the one which falls in autumn being a feast of thanksgiving for the bringing home of all the fruits which the trees have produced”…

Equinox: Ps 19:4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He set up a tent for the sun, Ps 19:5 And it is like a bridegroom coming out of his room, It rejoices like a strong man to run the path. Ps 19:6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end; And naught is hidden from its heat.

Circuit: H8622 תְּקוּפָה tquwphah (tek-oo-faw') n-f. תְּקֻפָה tquphah (tek-oo-faw') 1. a revolution. 2. (of the sun) course. Ex 34:22 'And a feast of weeks thou dost observe for thyself; first-fruits of wheat-harvest; and the feast of in-gathering, at the revolution of the year (Tekufah).

Another translation give the verse as follow: Ex 34:22 “And perform the Festival of Shaḇu‘ot "c" for yourself, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering "d" at the turn of the year (Tekufah in the Hebrew text). Footnotes: c Feast of Weeks. d Festival of Sukkot (Booths). Ex 34:22 וְחַג שָׁבֻעֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ בִּכּוּרֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים וְחַג הָֽאָסִיף תְּקוּפַת הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

Speaking of “lunar” intervals, in Special Laws I. (178), Philo writes…

“…there is one principle of reason by which the moon waxes and wanes in equal intervals, both as it increases and diminishes in illumination; the seven lambs because it receives the perfect shapes in periods of seven days—the half-moon in the first seven day period after its conjunction with the sun, full moon in the second; and when it makes its return again, the first is to half-moon, then it ceases at its conjunction with the sun.”

Flavius Josephus lived from about 37 CE to 100 CE and undoes the Gregorian calendar in a different fashion but nonetheless supports the Creation Calendar and the lunar Sabbaths. There are in Scripture several passages that prevent any child of the King from ever accidentally falling into the wrong calendar for worship. Exodus 12:2-6 and Leviticus 23:4-14 introduce us to three fixed date work days. Abib 10, Abib 14 and Abib 16.

The 10th day of Abib is the day to set aside the Passover lamb. This is a work/commerce day. A sheepherder may have a suitable lamb, but a fisherman or a tent-maker may not. Abib 10 is the day to PURCHASE a suitable lamb. Abib 10 floats on the Gregorian calendar [translation: satyrday falls on Abib 10 at times]. Commerce is prohibited on Sabbath and there is NO legislation in Torah to purchase the Passover lamb on either the 9th or 11th of Abib IF satyrday just happens to land on Abib 10.

The 14th day of Abib is always the preparation day for the first day of Unleavened Bread. Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54--24:1, John 19:14, 31, 42—John 20:1. Satyrday falls on Abib 14 from time to time. The fact is that the 10th, 14th and 16th of Abib are, without exception, commanded work days. The barley could be harvested on the 16th after the Wave Sheaf had been offered, Leviticus 23:9-14. Can we harvest our fields on Sabbath?

If there is a continuous 7 day cycle, every few years either the 10th, 14th or 16th will fall on a Satyrday. Evidence: Abib 10 fell on a “Saturday” in 2003. The 14th fell on “Saturday” in 2004. YHVH never instructed Israel to do common work on a rest day Sabbath. He is not the Author of confusion.

It is Abib 16 that Josephus writes about, his words hammering the counterfeit calendar and its proponents. Please understand that Josephus is writing to a non-Israelite audience. In The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 10, section 5, he has this to say about the Passover season:

(248) “In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of the year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians, and law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover; and so we do celebrate this Passover in companies, leaving nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following. (249) The feast of unleavened bread succeeds that of the Passover, and falls on the fifteenth day of the month and continued seven days, wherein they feed on unleavened bread… (250) But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day, they do not touch them. …. (251) They take a handful of ears, and dry them, then beat them small and purge the barley from the bran; they then bring one tenth deal to the altar, to Elohim; and, casting one handful of it upon the fire they leaven the rest for use of the priest; and after this it is that they may publicly or privately reap their harvest.”

Josephus is explaining to the Gentile nations how the barley could be harvested on the 16th, and says exactly what Leviticus 23 says about the feast of Passover, Unleavened Bread and wavesheaf.

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is YHVH’s passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto YHVH: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto YHVH seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. And YHVH spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. Leviticus 23:5-11

Here are a few more historical accounts of Israel’s lunar Sabbath…

The first is found in the Talmud the Steinsaltz Edition”, Volume XIV Tractate Ta’anit Part II (1995 by Israel Institute for Talmudic Publications and Milta Books), pages 205-206. It says the following regarding the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army:

Page 205: “Then late on the day of the ninth, close to nightfall, they set the Temple on fire, and it continued to burn the entire next day, on the tenth.” Page 206: “When the Temple was destroyed for the first time at the hands of Nebuzaradan [the captain of the guard], that day was the ninth of Av, and it was the day following Shabbat, and it was the year following the Sabbatical Year.... And similarly when the Temple was destroyed a second time at the hands of Titus, the destruction occurred on the very same day, on the ninth of Av.”

Guess what day the ninth day of Av was when Titus destroyed the temple? (The day after the weekly Sabbath, naturally.) If I’ve done the math right, the ninth day of the month follows the 8th day of the month. Correct? If the 8th day of the month is the Sabbath, so are the 15th, 22nd and 29th days of the month.

The historian Josephus records Sabbaths that can be pinpointed and they are on the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th and the New moon was not counted as one of the six workdays. Josephus records an interesting type of strategy by General Pompey and the Romans. The Roman’s saw that the Hebrews did not fight on the Sabbath unless attacked. So, the Romans simply moved their engines and battering rams up to the walls on the Sabbath day, which otherwise they could not do, and on the next day, they battered the city. See page 369-370. Antiquities of the Jews Book 14, Chapter 4, section 3.


When, according to Exodus 20:8-11 is the Sabbath to be observed?

Answer: the Sabbath is to be observed on the 7th day, after a 6 days period of work.

Your Sabbath starts on the evening before your day off work. In society this day is by convenience celebrated on the same day by everybody. In theory, this is Friday for most Muslims, Saturday for most Jews, and Sunday for most Christians. In practice, however, this day may be different for some people, due to unforeseen circumstances, or necessary societal work responsibilities. There is a passage in the Bible that can be leaned upon for Sabbath flexibility, namely 2 Chronicles 30. Mark 2:27 also supports my argument.

Mark 2:27 (NIV) "Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath".

"Thirty years ago the first Christians of the Senufo tribe in Burkina Faso accepted the cost of observing the Sabbath. Last week I mentioned how they wanted to know what sacrifices God requires of us. Reading the Bible for the first time, they quickly saw how important the Sabbath is. So their next question to the missionary linguists was, “When should we observe the Sabbath?” Their friends, family and neighbors took Fridays off each week because that is the Muslim day of prayer. Taking Sundays off would put them at odds with their families, with some of their market days, and the days that their farming co-ops might do field work together. Observing the Sabbath on Sundays could cost them dearly.

So they brought in an African theologian and pastor from neighboring Ivory Coast to help them discern this matter. He ended up his teaching by saying this: because the Christians changed the Sabbath from the Jewish practice of Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, to Sunday instead, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, I think it’s more important that you observe a weekly Sabbath, than when. I would think you can observe it on Friday, when everyone else around you is taking a break.

I would have respected their decision to do just that, if that is what they had chosen. It’s what I counsel people whom the community needs to have working on Sunday, like fire fighters, police, group home aides, paramedics, emergency room doctors and nurses. Oh….and preachers. I take Mondays off". (The Rabbi's Mistake: zionmennoniteoregon.org)

  • 1
    This is not what Exodus 20:8-11 says, nor does it answer the OP's question regarding those verse.
    – user17080
    Oct 13, 2017 at 11:32
  • The quoted verse only says work 6 days, and rest on the 7th. Oct 13, 2017 at 11:41
  • 1
    Exodus 20:11 makes it clear that the (patah under the bet in ביום) seventh day on which God rested is the sabbath day and that we observe it because God rested on that specific day of the weekly cycle, and that that day alone is holy, not just any day of the week that we chose. The only question left is if our current weekly cycle matches that of the OT..
    – user17080
    Oct 13, 2017 at 12:52
  • The Sabbaths of the Torah were not personal matters but national matters. That is, one couldn't individually decide when your day of rest was to be. If the job involved working on the Sabbath you would get another job. Everyone in Israel was to have the same day of rest and that day was the seventh day. See Revelation Lad's excellent answer for how the number of the days worked.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 13, 2017 at 15:55
  • In 1793 Napoleon tried to do away with the 7 day week by introducing a 10 day week. It failed and he reintroduced the 7 day week, 12 years later, in 1805. Oct 14, 2017 at 5:36

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