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Exodus 31:17 (ESV) reads:

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

I understand the rested means cessation of work, but when it says "rested, and was refreshed", it sounds like God became refreshed as a result of stopping his work. Wouldn't that mean that God was tired while working?

Side note: I have seem people refernce the way of speaking in english "that movie was refreshing", but is does that manner of speaking exist in Biblical/Ancient Hebrew?

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The answer to the OP's question is explicitly answered (including the context of creation) in Isa 40:28 -

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out.

Thus, in Gen 2:2, Ex 20:11 and Ex 31:17 where God is said to rest on the seventh day, it was not for the purpose of recovering from tiredness.

The operative verb in Ex 31:17 translated "refreshed" is נָפַשׁ (naphash) which occurs four times in the OT as follows:

  • Ex 23:12 - For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the son of your maidservant may be refreshed, as well as the foreign resident.
  • Ex 31:17 - It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ”
  • Josh 11:14 - The Israelites took for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but they put all the people to the sword until they had completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone who breathed [= "refreshed"].
  • 2 Sam 16:14 - Finally, the king and all the people with him arrived, exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.

The verb נָפַשׁ (naphash) means, "take breath, refresh oneself" (BDAG).

Note that its use in Josh 11:14 shows that it does not necessarily mean to recover from tiredness, although the word can be used that way (eg, 2 Sam 16:14).

Benson comments in Ex 31:17 as follows:

On the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed — And, as the work of creation is worthy to be thus commemorated, so the great Creator is worthy to be imitated by a holy rest on the seventh day. The expression, was refreshed, is spoken after the manner of men. It seems to signify that delight and complacency with which God surveyed all his works, and pronounced them good, Genesis 1:31. Of this divine pleasure we may form some faint idea, by comparing it to that solace and refreshment which a benevolent mind enjoys upon bringing into execution some noble and arduous, some generous and well concerted plan for advancing the glory of God and good of mankind.

Matthew Poole is more specific and helpful:

Was refreshed; not as if he had been weary with working, which surely he could not be with speaking a few words, nor can God be weary with any thing, Isaiah 40:28; but it notes the pleasure or delight God took in reflecting upon his works, beholding that every thing he had made was very good, Genesis 1:31.

The reason for this is stated by the Pulpit commentary:

And was refreshed. Literally," and took breath." The metaphor is a bold one, but not bolder than others which occur in holy scripture (Psalm 44:23; Psalm 78:65). It does but carry out a little further the idea implied in God's "resting." We cannot speak of any of God's acts or attributes without anthropomorphisms.

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  • Excellent quote from Isaiah. Couldn't think of an appropriate one, myself. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 1, 2023 at 16:20
  • Keep in mind that the author of Isaiah was not the author of Genesis and may have had a different idea about God in mind.
    – David
    Dec 1, 2023 at 21:16
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    @David - but both the author of Genesis and Isaiah were inspired by the same Holy Spirit, 2 peter 1:19-21, 2 Tim 3:16.
    – Dottard
    Dec 1, 2023 at 21:20
  • @Dottard The commentaries state that "was refreshed" notes the pleasure or delight of God. But as in my side note, "refreshed = pleasure" is common usage in english, but why can we say that it also holds in Hebrew? How do we not know that Exodus 31:17 contradicts Isaiah 40:28?
    – User2280
    Dec 2, 2023 at 5:18
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    @Dottard but the "it was very good" comes before the resting of the seventh day, so how can u apply it to refreshing.
    – User880
    Dec 2, 2023 at 15:25
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No, the text does not indicate he was tired after creating.

In English, when it says he "rested", that does imply he might've been tired, as you point out. But the Hebrew word is שבת (shabat) which more accurately means "ceased". Ceasing is often for the purpose of rest or celebration, but its purpose is not inherent in the meaning.

I'm familiar with ceasing for the sabbath. As a human, I might be tired, but I might not. I still take a break. Another aspect of it is that if all I do all week is restful, the command for the sabbath is to "cease" - to change it up on that day. Obviously I shouldn't work just to cease from resting, but I should perhaps do something different on that day.

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    – agarza
    Dec 2, 2023 at 14:52
  • The question was more geared towards "was refreshed", i stated tbat I knew rest = ceased. It seems like ceasing work made God refreshed.
    – User880
    Dec 2, 2023 at 15:26
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Ceased not Rested
Genesis 2 (ESV)

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 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. 3 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.

The Hebrew שָׁבַת means rest or cease. Since the heavens and the earth were completed it is possible to understand what takes place next as saying God ceased His work. This paints one of two pictures. Either God created and then was uninvolved in what takes place after, or God finished the work of creating and began a different work after the Seventh Day. Obviously the Bible describes God's work after the Seventh Day; so the picture of an uninvolved God is wrong.

Yet, the work God is described as doing after the Seventh Day is different from that of the first six days. After reading the entire Bible we can place God's work in two categories: creation and redemption. Creation was finished by the Seventh Day and God ceased that work, and began a different work.

After the Seventh Day, the work of redemption began and has continued uninterrupted:

John 5:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”

Jesus explains explicitly what Judaism understood implicitly: God is always working. Man is able to enjoy a day of rest every six days. God, on the other hand, remains at work every day after He ceased His work of creating on the Seventh Day.

Consider the Context
The passage in question is introduced with a statement about the LORD at work:

Exodus 31:

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

What is understood implicitly about divine work after the Seventh Day is stated explicitly: the LORD is the one who makes the Israelites holy. Therefore, He was and is at work. This work is uninterrupted. It does not stop on the Sabbath; in fact, it would not be wrong to say it continues because of the Sabbath.

Consider the Command
Exodus 20:

8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Man's rest comes after and before work. It is a one-day interruption of continuous work. The command is given in terms of a seven day period: six days will you work but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. There is no explicit mention of what takes place after the Sabbath because man's continued existence, or simply the continuous nature of time is inherent to the command to rest. One must stop working for one-day before work resumes.

The command is justified on the basis of God's work of creation: 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. It is possible to use the justification for the command to (mis)understand God's work. That is, just as man takes a one-day Sabbatical from continuous work, God does likewise.

However, our English obscures what the LORD said about Himself. He נוּחַ, settled. He did not שָׁבַת, cease. This means the comparison to the pattern of work is different from how the Seventh Day was described. Man's one-day interruption of work is necessary because the LORD נוּחַ, settled on the Seventh Day, and in doing so blessed the Sabbath Day(s) and made them holy.

"Take a Deep Breath"
The Sabbaths which follow the Seventh Day were blessed and made holy because of what the LORD did on the Seventh Day:

Exodus 31:17:

It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

And was refreshed in Biblical Hebrew is וינפש. The word is נפש, which, if pronounced נֶפֶשׁ, neh'-fesh, means living being, or the breathing being. Pronouncing the word as נָפַשׁ, naw-fash' (refreshed) is not necessarily wrong, it simply fails to capture the best sense of what happened on the Seventh Day. The LORD was not refreshed because He was tired. The LORD breathed and began His work of redemption.

One could say after ceasing the work of creation the LORD breathed to began His work of redemption and it is that breath which sustains creation. Or one might say the LORD took a deep breath knowing the sacrifice which redemption would one day require.

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While the biblical evidence overwhelmingly favors the idea that God does not tire, there is at least one passage which states the opposite. Interestingly, it is in Book of Isaiah, whose prophecy in 40:28 teaches the reverse proposition.

Isaiah 1:14

  • Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load. NABRE

  • Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. NKJV

But this weariness is unrelated to the "rest" of Genesis 1, for in Isaiah 1, God is tired of human sin, while in Genesis, God rests from His labor. Whether in Genesis or Isaiah, the thing to keep in mind here is that we are dealing with anthropomorphism. God is beyond categories such as tiredness and refreshment. In my view, however, since God is a person, He feels emotions. God experiences joy and suffering, delight and sorrow. So while God does not need to rest from physical exertion, we can rightfully imagine God's weariness of His people's persistent sinfulness. Conversely we can also think of God's relief and refreshment that, after the eons of time expressed as seven "days," He at last created human beings to be His children.

God's work in Gen. 1 was, in that sense, complete. God could now "rest" as Adam and Eve grew in creativity, love, responsibility and ultimately parenthood - to fully manifest God's Image. Unfortunately they did not fulfill their responsibility but fell into sin.

Conclusion: Genesis 1 expresses God's relief in His accomplishment, prior to the Fall. Isaiah 1 express God's weariness due to human sin.

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    The question was more geared towards Exodus 31:17, How do we know Exodus 31:17 doesn't contradict Isaiah 40:28. I know refreshing in english can also mean "to take pleasure" but does that usage also exist in Hebrew?
    – User2280
    Dec 2, 2023 at 5:21
  • That is how I understand the meaning of the text, especially based on the context in Genesis, where God expressed joy that his creation was "very good." See my answer to your formal question here Dec 3, 2023 at 3:54
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Moses taught us that God found forming the fictitious world of "Middle Earth" tiring. Rather than saying that his god exhibited this human attribute, pious Christians (and some Jews) argue from obscure passages in texts from centuries later that there must be a translation problem. Christian expositors are utterly disingenuous; or at least that is what the evidence shows.

Moses has his god throwing a hissy fit and performing "carpet bombing" via a flood, because he figured he was wrong to make humans, because it turns out that they don't really feel internally inclined to not have sex, not eat pork, not work Sundays, not experiment with science, and so changed his mind and put all of humanity except "eight souls."

My advice is to carefully, diligently and flexibly consider Moses' god without the nonsensical rabbinic theodicies that mean nothing. Genesis says that god rested from his labor, and dang, there is no sleep as pleasant as that of a working man.

[Exo 31:17 NASB95] [17] "It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased [from labor,] and was refreshed."

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A day on Earth is defined as the time it takes for the planet to complete a full rotation on its axis, commonly known as a solar day, requiring the presence of both the Sun and Earth.

The Genesis narrative does not explicitly mention Earth, but the Sun, Moon and stars were created on the fourth day.

Genesis 1:16-19 NIV

16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

This prompts the question: how were the initial three days measured in the absence of the Sun?

The answer may lie in Exodus 20:10. God made the seventh day a sabbath. On this day, no one shall do any work including the servants, animals and even foreigners. The rest on the seventh day God demanded was not because of God's fatigue but serves as a commandment (The fourth commandment Genesis 20:8), prohibiting human labor, particular to landlords who might otherwise force their slaves to work without rest.

Therefore the 'day' in Genesis is a metaphor. God rest on the seventh day establishes a model for a day of rest for the wellbeing of human being.

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