2And on the 7th day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the 7th day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the 7th day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all his work which God created to be made.
On the 7th and last day of this creation account, our author not only presents the deity resting from his creative work, but more significantly consecrating and blessing the 7th day as holy. That is to say, the creator god creates and proclaims the last day of creation as a holy day of rest, a Sabbath—distinct from the previous six non-sacred or common days.
This is a significant point which is largely neglected, misunderstood, and/or interpreted away by so-called modern day Creationists and fundamentalists who, despite their claims, do not believe in the creation of the world as presented here in Genesis. This is not some subjective or baseless claim that I am making, but one that the text itself, with its ancient worldview and culturally-formed beliefs, is making against the ignorantly and hypocritically drawn claims of Creationists. For they, as do all of us, perceive and live in a world which is radically at odds to that envisioned in this text and believed by its author, and by extension its god. We do not believe nor perceive the world to be inherently, essentially, and categorically divided up into sacred dates set by the lunar calendar, and a weekly reoccurring sacred day (our Saturday), all of which were created as sacred and holy by God himself when he created the earth and the skies. This is what our author believed. This was his worldview—not ours!
As we saw with the creation of the luminaries for the purpose of being able to observe and thus keep Yahweh’s holy festivals, the same applies here: the Sabbath is to be observed precisely because the god of creation created the 7th day as a holy, sacred day when he created the world. This is our author’s point. And it explains why the punishment for non-observance was so severe. From the perspective of our author and his priestly guild, to neglect and not observe that which the god of the world created at creation as a sacred, distinct, holy day was blasphemous pure and simply. The punishment? Swift and inviolable death!
And Yahweh said… “And you shall observe the Sabbath because it is a holy thing to you. Anyone who desecrates it shall be put to death!… Six days work shall be done, and in the 7th day is a Sabbath, a ceasing, a holy thing to Yahweh. Anyone who does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. And the children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath through their generations, an eternal covenant!” (Ex 31:12-16)
These are the things that Yahweh commanded to do them: “Six days work shall be done, and in the 7th day you shall have a holy thing, a Sabbath, a ceasing to Yahweh. Anyone who does work in it shall be put to death!” (Ex 35:1-2)
And the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and they found a man collecting wood on the Sabbath day… And Yahweh said to Moses: “The man shall be put to death! All the congregation is to batter him with stones outside the camp!” (Num 15:32-35)
All of these passages were written by the same author who wrote Genesis 1:1-2:3—an elite Aaronid priest, and they were written to legitimate and authenticate his guild’s worldview, which consisted in safeguarding the sacred time and sacred space created by the creator deity at the world’s creation—according to this priestly guild!
Again, our task is not to judge the beliefs of this author and by extension his god, or to judge whether the punishment of death for any and all violations of this “eternal” divinely-decreed law is just or not; nor is it our task to harmonize or interpret away this author’s belief system so that it meshes with our own modern beliefs and worldview, or to ignorantly and hypocritically claim that his beliefs and worldview, and by extension those of his god, are our beliefs and worldview. These types of practices are all negligent of and disingenuous toward this ancient text, its author, and the beliefs represented therein!
Rather our goal is to understand the text. To understand his beliefs and see them as a product of his worldview. To understand why this author felt so strongly about violations against the Sabbath that he evidently placed this belief as an “eternal law” on the lips of his god, Yahweh! In short, what could possibly have been seen as the appropriate punishment for profaning that part of the created world which god Yahweh himself made and created as holy at creation but death? This was the worldview of our ancient elite priest and his guild. It is not ours!
Thus according to the elite priestly guild that penned Genesis 1:1-2:3, the creator god not only created the things of the visible world as seen through the perspective of our ancient Israelite scribe—daylight, skies to hold back the waters above, dry habitable land with tamed seas, the luminaries to distinguish between day and night and to function as signs indicating the fixed dates of Yahweh’s festivals, the animals of the earth after their kind, and man in the image of the divine beings—but additionally he created specific lunar dates and intervals of time as sacred! These were embedded into his creation; they are as much a part of the created world as earth’s animals or the skies above.
That the 7th day was created and proclaimed as a consecrated holy day to be distinguished and observed on a weekly basis from the previous six non-sacred or common days was as much of an inviolable fact inherit in the created world for our author as the skies above! Therefore, any violation of this created order—that is, what God himself created—was met with a swift death! You cannot break an inherit and god-created essential part of the cosmos. That is what the priestly writer was getting at. Profaning a day that was created and consecrated as sacred time by God at creation was an act that was not tolerated by this sect, nor for that matter its god. Doing profane or common work on the Sabbath not only blasphemed the very day that the creator god created in its essence and nature as holy, but it also blasphemed the creator god himself who deemed and declared it holy, to himself and to his people!—a blasphemous act repeated today on a weekly bases for any individual hypocritically claiming that he/she believes in this text! For in truth I assure you, nay the text itself does, that they do not believe in this text, its worldview, and its beliefs! Their hypocrisy is born from their ignorance about the text, its author, its beliefs, its historical and literary contexts, etc.
This, then, is to understand and even appreciate an ancient text on its own terms and as a product of its unique historical context—here an elite priestly guild’s worldview and belief system. It is my hope that we as evolved human species of the 21st century can start to be honest to these ancient texts and their beliefs—recognizing that they are not our beliefs!—and by extension start being honest to ourselves.