Exodus 31:14-15 NKJV

You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

There was significant punishment FOR working on the Sabbath according to Exodus. That being said, I notice that it also says: Work shall be done for six days.

What I'm wondering then is:

Was there any consequences for NOT working all six days?

  • It would be inhumane by God to expect bedridden Ill people to work on any of the weekdays. Commented Mar 4 at 0:19
  • @Constantthin most certainly. That was actually part of the reason I was curious about the reason for this.
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 4 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


Let me offer a simple analysis of the Sabbath commandment from the formal listing in Exodus 20. It can be divided into four sections as follows:

  1. What? The command

8 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

  1. How? How is sanctity achieved"
  • 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 which you must not do any work
  1. Who? To Whom does this apply?

—neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant or livestock, nor the foreigner within your gates.

  1. Why? Why keep the Sabbath?

11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Now, this commandment is often called the "Rest" commandment, but many omit the other half of the commandment - to work the other six days. This same injunction is repeated in Ex 31:15 and Deut 5:13.

There are some obvious exceptions to this command to work which included:

  • no work was allowed on annual feast and festival days such as Passover/unleavened bread, Pentecost, Yom Kippur, etc
  • no work was required of the old and infirm
  • no work was required of students in the schools of the prophets.
  • etc.

Ellicott observed something similar:

(9) Six days shalt thou labour.—The form is certainly imperative; and it has been held that the fourth commandment is “not limited to a mere enactment respecting one day, but prescribes the due distribution of a week, and enforces the six days’ work as much as the seventh day’s rest” (Garden in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. iii., p. 1068). But the work on the six days is really rather assumed as what will be than required as what must be; and the intention of the clause is prohibitory rather than mandatory—“thou shalt not work more than six days out of the seven.”

It should be remembered that in the agrarian subsistence society that was ancient Israel, there was a need to limit work (hence the Sabbath commend), not encourage more work - if a family did not work then they did not eat. Therefore, in a sense, the penalty of not working was the threat of starvation.

  • Thank you. It was a part of the command that I hadn't thought about much. +1
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 3 at 20:53

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