While בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר In-the-Desert [Bamidbar] or "Numbers" chapter 15 verses 33-34, we notice Guards are permitted to work (provide security) on the Sabbath.

"[34] They put him under-Guard, since it was not specified what was to be done to him." ( וַיַּנִּ֥יחוּ אֹת֖וֹ בַּמִּשְׁמָ֑ר כִּ֚י לֹ֣א פֹרַ֔שׁ מַה־יֵּֽעָשֶׂ֖ה לֽוֹ )

Would a מִשְׁמָר Guard not also be required to cease from work on Yom Ha-Shabbat, like the other Israelites?

  • Are Security roles not considered labor?
  • 2
    Why do you insist on using the Hebrew name for something in an English question where the English name would perfectly, and absolutely, suffice? Jesus appeals to the fact that security and wellbeing of humans and animals does not fall under 'work' on the sabbath. Sep 2, 2021 at 20:30
  • @SolaGratia - Why is your name Sola Gratia instead of Grace Alone? - If a question regards Torah why not reference the words in Ivrit? Sep 2, 2021 at 20:54
  • Are you suggesting that one day a week, Police and Security Services and Military should cease to function ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 2, 2021 at 22:38
  • @NigelJ - This question highlights ‘work’ (act of service) was performed on Shabbat in the wilderness. * I am only suggesting voluntary (not monetary) incentives of serving others on Shabbat appear to be permitted in the Torah. Sep 2, 2021 at 23:09
  • @solaGratia he just wants to show off that he can read Hebrew. Anyways the Q would be more appropriate for Judaism SE concerning the law application.
    – Michael16
    Sep 3, 2021 at 2:48

2 Answers 2


Jesus answered this question on several occasions:

Incident #1:

Luke 13:14-16 - But the synagogue leader was indignant that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. “There are six days for work,” he told the crowd. “So come and be healed on those days and not on the Sabbath.”

“You hypocrites!” the Lord replied. “Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it to water? Then should not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be released from her bondage on the Sabbath day?”

Incident #2

Matt 12:2-5 - When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for them to eat, but only for the priests.

Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are innocent? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.

Incident #3:

Mark 3:2-5 - In order to accuse Jesus, they were watching to see if He would heal on the Sabbath.

Then Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, “Stand up among us.” 4And He asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

But they were silent. Jesus looked around at them with anger and sorrow at their hardness of heart. Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored.

Incident #4:

Luke 14:2-5 - Right there before Him was a man with dropsy. So Jesus asked the experts in the law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”

But they remained silent. Then Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him on his way. And He asked them, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a pit on the Sabbath day will not immediately pull him out?”

Incident #5:

John 5:7-9 - “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am on my way, someone else goes in before me.”

Then Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man was made well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk.

Now this happened on the Sabbath day

Thus, Jesus' approach to Sabbath-keeping and its associated "holiness" or better, "separateness" was to sanctify in a practical way without making it a burden as illustrated by the above examples.

The Sabbath was intended to be a festival of celebration "to the LORD" (Ex 20:10, Isa 58:13) and a "delight" (Isa 58:14) because it was "the LORD's Day, and honorable" (Isa 58:14, Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5).

The same practical attitude appears in the incident of both Num 15:34 and the conquest of Jericho (Josh 6: 3, 14, 15), and in that recorded in 1 Sam 21:1-6 concerning David and the shew bread.


Israel at this time did not have a salaried army nor police force. Therefore, the guarding was presumably done by some volunteers who were otherwise occupied with other things - they were not paid for this service to guard.

  • Yes! The voluntary (not monetary) incentives of serving others on Shabbat appears to be permitted. - The אִ֛ישׁ מְקשֵׁ֥שׁ עֵצִ֖ים “man gathering wood” must have been performing duties for monetary gain. Sep 2, 2021 at 23:02

Work that kept people from dying wasn't restricted on the sabbath. The Pharisees criticized Jesus for healing on the sabbath because people he healed had been sick for years, so it was not life-threatening to wait.

12:9 Healing was not allowed on the Sabbath except when there was danger to life. Even then, measures could be taken only to prevent the condition from getting worse; nothing could be done to improve it. Jesus countered this obvious fallacy, saying it is indeed lawful to do good on the Sabbath. -- Hayford, J. W. (Ed.). (1997). Spirit filled life study Bible (electronic ed., Matt. 12:9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

They couldn't expect enemies and criminals to observe the sabbath.

Second Kings 11:4–12 (2 Chr 23:4–11) demonstrates that national defense and the defense of the king are allowable on the Sabbath. -- Babcock, B. C. (2016). Sabbath. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

However, exceptions to the sabbath also related to conflicting laws.

M. Erub. 10:11–15 lists a series of activities allowed on the Sabbath in the Temple but not allowed outside; -- Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 5, p. 2131). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

The same resources listed the Passover and circumcision.

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