Monday, December 28, 2015

Staying "Put" in the Garden of Eden: The Deeper Meaning of Shabbat According to Genesis Rabbah

This past week I saw something that encouraged me and something that discouraged me--both in regard to Gentiles observing Shabbat.  The encouraging thing was to read a friend's Facebook post about his Shabbat preparations--in particular that he had a crockpot full of venison.  Now that's a good way to delight in Shabbat!

But then I read James Pyles' post entitled "Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, And Shabbos Observance Revisited" which was about how Gentiles shouldn't keep Shabbat and I found it to be very discouraging. 

So to encourage myself I reflected on what the Torah has to say about the universal appeal of Shabbat.  To that end, let's look at a midrash that discusses how Adam experienced the rest of Shabbat while in the Garden of Eden.  The passage addressed by the midrash is as follows:
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” Genesis 2:15
The midrash focuses on the language of "put him in the Garden":
“ A. ‘And he put him’ (Gen. 2:15) means that he gave him [Adam] the religious duty of observing the Sabbath [linking ‘put’ to the meaning of ‘rest,’ which the same root yields].  B.  This is in line with the following verse of Scripture:  ‘And he rested on the Seventh day’ (Gen. 20:10).  C. ‘To till it’ (Gen. 2:15).  ‘Six days shall you till’ (Ex. 20:9).  D.  ‘And to keep it’ (Gen. 2:15). ‘Keep the Sabbath day’ (Deut. 5:12),” Genesis Rabbah as quoted in Neusner’s “A Theological Commentary to the Midrash
Here we see for the first time in Torah that it is not enough for man to have a time of rest but man also needs a place of rest--needs, in fact, the Garden of Eden--the place where G-d rests and dwells.  But now that the Garden of Eden is lost, how is man to find the dwelling place and resting place of G-d?  Torah provides a clue:
“We will go into his dwelling place: we will worship at his footstool.  Arise, O LORD, into thy resting place; thou, and the ark of thy strength.  Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.  The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.  If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.  For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it,” Psalm 132:7-14
“This is what the Lord says:  ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Where is the house you will build for me?  Where will my resting place be?  Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord,” Isaiah 66:1-2
"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,'" Exodus 33:14
So the Temple of Israel becomes the new Eden.  There's all the main elements of Eden found in the Temple--the Tree of Life (Menorah), the river of life (Ezekiel 47:1), the Cherubim, etc.  But until such time as we have the House of the L-rd in Israel, we have something almost as good:  we can turn our homes into Eden:
“…one [finds] the definition of forbidden labor [on Shabbat] in those activities required for the construction and maintenance of the tabernacle, which is to say, God’s residence on earth.  The best statement, predictably, is the Talmud of Babylonia Shabbat 39a:
‘People are liable only for classifications of labor the like of which was done in the tabernacle.  They sowed, so you are not to sow.  They harvested, so you are not to harvest.  They lifted up the boards from the ground to the wagon, so you are not to lift them in from public to private domain.  They lowered boards from the wagon to the ground, so you must not carry anything from private to public domain.   They transported boards from wagon to wagon, so you must not carry from one private domain to another.’
….Hence to act like God on the Sabbath, the Israelite rests; he does not do what God did in Creation…
What then takes place inside the walls of the Israelite household when time takes over space and revises the conduct of ordinary affairs?  Israel goes home to Eden.  How best to make the statement that the Land is Israel’s Eden, that Israel imitates God by keeping the Sabbath—meaning, not doing the things that God did in creating the world but the things God ceased to do on the Sabbath—and that to restore its Eden, Israel must sustain its life—nourish itself—where it belongs?...Israel’s Eden takes place in the household open to others, on the Sabbath, in acts that maintain life, share wealth, and desist from Creation,” Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began
May G-d bless all of you, my brothers and sisters, with a miniature Eden next Shabbat!  May you all experience His perfect peace, rest, and joy!




  1. Hi Peter, I don't think there is anybody in the book of Genesis that kept the Sabbath. Neither Adan, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or his sons ever kept a day of rest. At least, it is not written about it. Of course the Jewish people were asked to keep it when the ten commandments were written, but I don't think you can prove that the Sabbath is required by non-Jews.

    1. Remi,

      I just have 2 points for your consideration:

      (1) It seems G-d explained to Adam and Eve how to offer a sacrifice and that this directive was passed on to Adam and Eve's children (see the passage about Abel's sacrificial offering). Yet Scripture does not tell us explicitly that G-d explained this directive to Adam and Eve. There is Scriptural evidence that implies Adam and Eve were commanded regarding proper sacrifices.

      (2) In the same way, the exegetical midrash to which I cited provides Scripture data which leads to the conclusion that G-d instructed Adam about Shabbat.

      It's entirely up to you whether you consider the Rabbis as capable to draw these logical inferences from the Scriptural data. For me, I see them as capable. But that's just me. I respect your right to disagree.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



    2. Hi Peter, I am not convinced that proper sacrifice was instituted. First, it was a thanksgiving offering. Second, Cain brought the fruit of the land. I don't think it was not accepted because Cain did not bring an animal sacrifice, but rather because of the intent of his heart.

      Also, none of these were sin offering, so I could as much guess that they offered sacrifice because they wanted to show their appreciation toward G-d. Just like they could have bring fruits or other precious possessions. So I don't really think that G-d showed them exactly how to sacrifice the animal.

      To use a midrash to prove your point would also be a weak argument.

      Regardless... it's not wrong to keep Sabbath anyway.

    3. Remi,

      Whether Caine's error was in the heart attitude or the execution, my point was that the text does not explicitly tell us what instructions regarding offerings were given to Adam and Eve and yet we may infer from the Scriptural data that instructions WERE given--because offerings WERE made.

      Just as we may infer that instructions regarding offerings were given, we may also make other logical inferences. My point was that the exegetical midrash made logical inferences based on Scriptural data. And I believe that the Rabbis are competent enough to make those sorts of inferences.


      What are your reasons for concluding that the inferences made in the midrash are NOT logical?

  2. remi wrote:
    1--"I don't think it was not accepted because Cain did not bring an animal sacrifice, but rather because of the intent of his heart...
    2--I could as much guess that they offered sacrifice because they wanted to show their appreciation toward G-d."

    Those sentiments are in conflict (i.e. wanting to please and negative intent) unless Cain knew that animal sacrifice would be more pleasing to G-d (the intent of his heart being to not fully please G-d).

    So, how would Cain know that G-d desired sacrifice and specifically animal sacrifice unless G-d revealed this to him?

    “...Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering..."
    ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:2-5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

  3. It's nowhere mentioned that G-d wanted a sacrifice. Even in your New Testament, it is written: "By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead."

    So Cain, as per the writer of Hebrew had less faith than Abel, he did not bring the wrong sacrifice. The law ask Israel to bring the first fruit of the land... It's only to fit your theory of "blood" that Abel needed an animal sacrifice.

    1. Remi,

      I had hoped you would answer my question: "What are your reasons for concluding that the inferences made in the midrash are NOT logical?"

  4. Hi Peter, I am not an hebrew scolar and not that familar with Midrash. As wikipedia say "Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings."

    I don't see why the word יָנַח should mean something else than put. Maybe someone else could be better to interpret the hebrew and say if the root has something to do with resting and why that rabbi did say it has to do with resting.

    1. Remi,

      RE: "I don't see why the word יָנַח should mean something else than put."

      Because that exact word is used elsewhere in Torah to refer to rest. : )

      You just need to understand a little Hebrew and then all of these wonderful connections will come into view.



  5. This is important because your premise is that Torah was only given at Sinai to the Jews.

    remi wrote:
    "It's nowhere mentioned that G-d wanted a sacrifice..."

    Yet both sons sacrificed. Weird.

    Most of our neighbors today eat animals. Would you approve if one started offering animal sacrifice to please G-d? Remembering that man ate vegetables at that time, if anything, it seems like G-d might have been be displeased with Abel and pleased with Cain.

    Jason wrote:
    "So, how would Cain know that G-d desired sacrifice and specifically animal sacrifice unless G-d revealed this to him?"

    1. Jason,

      Yeah, it's bizarre that he would say "It's nowhere mentioned that G-d wanted a sacrifice" given that there is a scarlet thread woven through the entire Tanak.

    2. Not all sacrifices are for sins... G-d does not desire sin sacrifices, what he wants is obedience!

      Talking of scarlet, what G-d said?
      Come now, let us settle the matter," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

      If you believe in Jesus sacrifice? No!

      If you are willing and obedient...

  6. Peter wrote:
    "Yeah, it's bizarre that he would say..."

    While Gene and remi haven't produced any logical reasons for abandoning the apostolic writings, Gene mentioned seeing hypocritcal behavior inside MJ. They, like we, seek a system that most closely aligns with our deeply held beliefs about G-d and His created order. When we think we've found it (as if it were out there), it's tempting to just plug our ears and stop searching.

    Science is the process of trying to disprove your hypothesis. [Which is why proving things like one-time past events (e.g. stellar evolution) and future events (e.g. global warming) isn't science!]

    Enter logical fallacy (i.e. misdirection).

    Christianity is idol worship! [Even when idol, worship, and the commandments dealing with them are explored in context, ignore meanings and repeat the meme.]
    Yeshua's death on the cross violates Torah!
    Torah doesn't pre-date Moses; it's only for the Jews!
    Cain sacrificed to show his appreciation but had negative intent!
    Yeshua declared all things food!

  7. for abandoning the apostolic writings...

    They abandoned the God who made them
    and rejected the Rock their Savior.
    16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods
    and angered him with their detestable idols.
    17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
    gods they had not known,
    gods that recently appeared,
    gods your ancestors did not fear.
    You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
    you forgot the God who gave you birth.

    If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known,

    Did Peter's grand father worshipped Jesus?

    You may find all reasons why One means a compound unity, but the logic of the verse is clear...

    Finally, you may want to look at how Paul twisted verses to say exactly what Moses did not say...

    the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”

    When Moses said exactly the opposite.

    Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

    Basically Moses say, look, you DON't need anybody to do it for you!

    The intent of Abel sacrifice is not mentioned, and as per Hebrews, it's because he had faith, not because it was an animal sacrifice that it was accepted.

    Yeshua's death on the cross violates Torah!

    Leviticus 17:
    Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it, instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD--that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people.

    Christianity is idol worship!

    Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt

    Torah doesn't pre-date Moses...

    Interesting, you agree with oral torah? Well... why not, I don't think it's a direction you want to go...

    Yeshua declared all things food!
    Go ahead, eat your bacon... Nothing against bacon, but G-d warned the Jewish people of what they should it and what they should not eat, therefore, Jesus saying that all things are food is removing from the word of G-d, not fulfilling!

  8. remi4321, you cite part of D'varim 13 "If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the WIFE YOU LOVE, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known,..." but forgot the rest, "gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people."

    You sum up that "Christianity is idol worship!" I know in other blogs, you (still) attend a messianic congregation because your WIFE does (as she knows Yeshua to be the Messiah). How do you handle this conundrum?

    Meanwhile, I'll just chew on this piece of bacon while I wait.

  9. Hi Marko, thanks for the question. First, I am not a judge or a levite. Second, I do not live in Israel nor am Jewish. Third, even Jewish people don't follow that because there is no Judges or Temple. Forth, as a believer, you also agree that this bible verse is biblical, so if your wife would be a Buddhist, that would mean the same and the same rule would apply. Thus, would you do as it is written in this verse? Of course not.

    My wife honestly believes that Jesus is god, but my point was not to condemn her or anybody. Put yourself back in the years of Yeshua, someone would have told you to worship him as G-d. Then, the Jewish person would have something in the Law forbidding him to follow that person. He would tell you, sorry, my father did not worship your Yeshua, he is then a "new arrival", a foreign god that our fathers did not know. We are not blind as you say we are, we only follow what G-d says. And that's why they refuse until this day to worship Yeshua/Jesus.

  10. Hi Marco, I just want to add something. Imagine I would have being a Jew in the time of Jesus and my wife would have come to me and say "come, I realized that Yeshsua is the Messiah and G-d". In the second temple period, the Jews did not have authority to kill, thus could not follow D'varim 13, but let say they did have the authority. What should that person do as per the Law? I am not saying that I could have done such a thing, but I would just say that's what G-d required and that's what Paul was doing. Could you say he was wrong to do so, when the Law ask us not to have pity? "I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church." I don't think he condemns himself there, but only followed what G-d said, isn't it?

  11. These poor Christians:

  12. Tanakh
    first book of Samuel has fifty mistakes. 
    second book of Samuel has seventy mistakes.

    first book of Kings has eighty mistakes.
    second book of Kings has one hundred mistakes.

    Tanakh has three hundred mistakes in four books.

    Book of Ezra has thirty mistakes.
    Deuteronomy has sixty mistakes.

    Tanakh has three hundred ninety mistakes in six books.