Book 1 - Chapter 7: Of the First Sabbath - by Herman WitsiusThe Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius
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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)
Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).
Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.
This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.
Chapter VII: Of the First Sabbath
I. WE said that the first Sabbath was the fourth sacrament of the covenant of works. In order to treat somewhat more fully on this, it will not be improper to make it the subject of a whole Chapter: Moses gives us the history of it, Gen. 2:2, 3, in these words: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made; and God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The more fully to understand these words, and from them to answer our design, we shall distinctly discuss these three things. 1st. Inquire whether what is here said about sanctifying and blessing the seventh day, ought to be applied to that first day, which immediately followed upon the six days of the creation, and which was the first that shone on the works of God when completed; or whether it be necessary to have recourse to a prolepsis, or anticipation by which we may look upon those things as spoken of the day, on which, many ages after, the manna was given in the wilderness. 2dly. We shall explain the nature of that first Sabbath. 3dly. and lastly, Point out in what respect it was a sacrament.
II. There is no occasion to mention, that the first of these points has been matter of great dispute among divines, without coming to any determination to this day; nor do I choose to repeat what they have said. I shall only observe, that perhaps the parties might easily agree did we know what we are to understand by sanctifying and blessing the seventh day mentioned by Moses. But if we suppose, in general, that God rested on the seventh day from his work, that is, not only desisted from creating new species of creatures, but acquiesced and took complacency in the work which he had now finished, especially in man, who was formed after his image, and furnished with those faculties by which he was enabled to acknowledge and celebrate the perfections of God shining forth in his works; and that he set this his resting before man as a pattern by which he should be taught to acquiesce in nothing but in God, for whom he was created; please himself in nothing but in glorifying God, which is the end of his creation: moreover, that he sanctified this day, of which we are speaking, by commanding it to be employed by man for that sacred work, adding a promise that all that time thus employed by man should be highly blessed to him; if, I say, we thus in general suppose as all these things are evidently truth, there is good hope that all equitable judges will allow that we adhere to the simplicity of the letter, and interpret this history of Moses as the narrative of a thing done at that time, which the holy prophet was then describing.
III. I am glad to find the celebrated Cocceius assents to this. His words are these, on Gen. 2 §. 6. Some imagine that “this verse (namely 2) is put by way of anticipation. But it is not probable that Moses, in recording this blessing and sanctification, did by no means speak concerning the original Sabbath, but only concerning the Jewish sabbath. This is plainly doing violence to the text, if one day be understood, which God blessed and sanctified, and another on which he rested from his work.” And the very eloquent Burman, though inclining to an anticipation, yet owns that “the words of Moses may be understood of that perpetual sabbath, the seventh day after the creation, which first saw the works of God perfected, and most auspiciously shone on the world; whence it is said to be peculiarly blessed by God, and afterwards to be celebrated and sanctified by men for all ages to come,” SynoPsa. Theol. lib. ii. c. 5. §. 11. See the same author, de œconomia fœderum Dei, §. 208, 209. We shall say no more on this, as we could rather wish to see the orthodox agreeing among themselves than contending with one another. And indeed this must be acknowledged if we would properly explain in what manner this sabbath was a sacrament of the covenant of works.
IV. The best Hebrew authors, on whose authority those of the opposite opinion are wont to build upon, agree with us in this dispute. For in the Talmud they inquire, why man was created on the evening of the sabbath? and of the three reasons they give, this is the last, “that he might immediately enter on performing the command.” The famous Ludovicus de Dieu, mentioning these words, on Gen. 1:27, adds, by way of explication, “for since the sabbath immediately succeeded the creation of man, he immediately entered on the command of sanctifying the sabbath.” Baal Hatturim, after various interpretations of this passage, also subjoins this other; “in the hour that he created the world he blessed the sabbath and the world.” Jarchi also mentions this opinion, though himself was otherwise minded, “what would the world have been without rest; on the coming of the sabbath came rest, and thus at length the work was finished and completed.” By which he intimates that the institution of the sabbath was joined to the completing of the works of God. There are also some Jews, who will have Psa. 92, whose title is a Psalm or Song for the Sabbath-day, to have been composed by Adam. For thus the Chaldee paraphrases, “a hymn and song, which the first man said of the sabbath.” And R. Levi, in Bereschith Rabba, §. 22, at the end; “the first man spoke this psalm, and from his time it was buried in oblivion, but Moses came and renewed it.” Now I bring these testimonies to show that they speak too confidently who assert that it is running counter to the unanimous opinion of the Jews for any to insist that the precept of the sabbath was enjoined on the first man. Whoever wants more to this purpose may consult Selden de jure naturæ, &c. lib. iii. 13.
V. These things supposed, we are further to inquire, in what the nature of the first sabbath did consist. Here again, the learned run into very different opinions. I now take it to be my province to lay down such propositions, to which it is to be hoped that the orthodox, who are lovers of truth, will, without difficulty, give their assent.
VI. We are to distinguish first, between the rest of God, and the rest of man, which God enjoined upon him, and recommended by his own example: in this manner also Paul distinguishes, Heb. 4:10, “he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.”
VII. The rest of God consisted not only in his ceasing from the work of any new creation, but also in that sweet satisfaction and delight he had in the demonstration of his own attributes and perfections, which were gloriously displayed in the work he had now finished, especially after he had added a lustre to this inferior world by bestowing upon it a most excellent inhabitant, who was to be a careful spectator, and the herald and proclaimer of the perfections of his Creator, and in whom God himself beheld ου μικρον της δοξης αύτοῦ απαυγασμα, “no small effulgence of his own glory.” Wherefore it is said, Exod. 31:17, “and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed;” not as if he was fatigued, but as rejoicing in his work so happily completed, and in which he beheld what was worthy of his labour.
VIII. God having rested on the seventh day, sanctified it, as well by example as by precept. By example, in as much as he brought man, whom he had newly formed, to the contemplation of his works, and revealed to him, both himself and his perfections, that he might love, thank, praise, and glorify him. And indeed, because God rested on the seventh day from all other works, and was only intent upon this, we may conclude that he sanctified it in an extraordinary manner. He likewise sanctified it by precept, enjoining man to employ it in glorifying his Creator. “To sanctify” (as Martyr, whom several commend, says well), “is to set apart something for the worship of God, as it is also taken here.” And it was very justly observed by Calvin, “that it was the will of God his own example should be a perpetual rule to us.” Rabbenu Nissim, quoted by Abarbanel, on the explication of the law, fol. xxi. col. 3, is of the same opinion: “and this is the sanctification of the sabbath, that, on that day, the soul of man be employed on nothing profane, but wholly on things sacred.”
IX. God’s blessing the seventh day may be also taken in a twold sense: First, for his declaring it to be blessed and happy, as that in which he had peculiar pleasure to enjoy by observing all his works in such order as to be not only to himself, but to angels as well as men, a most beautiful scene, displaying the glory of his perfections. This is what David says, Psa. 104:13, “the glory of the Lord shall endure for ever, the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” Thus God himself rejoiced on that day, and consequently blessed it. For as to curse a day is to abhor and detest it, as unfortunate and unhappy, as afflictive and miserable, Job 2:14; Jer. 20:14: so, by the rule of contraries, to bless a day, is to rejoice in it, as delightful and prosperous. And indeed what day more joyful, more happy than that which saw the works of God perfected, and yet not stained by any sin, either of angels, or probably of men? There has been none like it since that time, certainly not since the entrance of sin. Secondly, It was also a part of the blessing of this day, that God adjudged to man, if he religiously imitated the pattern of his own rest, the most ample blessings, and likewise in that very rest, the earnest of a most happy rest in heaven; of which more fully presently. Elegantly said the ancient Hebrew doctors, that “the blessing and sanctifying the sabbath redound to the observers thereof, thatthey may be blessed and holy themselves.”
X. The rest here enjoined and recommended to man comprises chiefly these things: in general, that he shall abstain from every sin through the whole course of his life, that giving nothing but uneasiness both to himself and his God. As the Lord complains, Isa. 43:22, “thou hast been weary of me, O Israel,” and verse 24, “thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” By sinning, we dreadfully transgress against the rest of God, who cannot delight in a sinner, of whom and his work he says, Isa. 1:14, “they are a burthen to me,* I am weary to bear them.” But more especially, it is likewise man’s duty, that as he is the concluding part of the works of God, and the last of all the creatures that came out of the hands of his Creator, not so to harass and fatigue himself about the creatures, as to seek his happiness and good in them; but rather, by a holy elevation of mind, ascend to the Creator himself, and acquiesce in nothing short of the enjoyment of his unbounded goodness, of the imitation of the purest holiness, and of the expectation of the fullest rest and intimate union with his God. This, indeed, is the true and spiritual rest, always to be meditated upon, sought after, and to be observed by man.
XI. Moreover as man, even in the state of innocence, was to perform solemn acts of piety, together with his consort and children, and to be their mouth in prayer, thanksgiving, and praises; it was necessary at that time, that laying aside all other occupations, and all cares about what related to the support of natural life, and ordering those about him to rest, he might, without any hinderance from the body, religiously apply himself to this one thing, which I hope none of my brethren will refuse. At least the celebrated Cocceius readily allows it. Whose words are these, Sum. Theol. c. xxi. §. 10: It is right in itself, and a part of the image of God, that man should, as often as possible, employ himself in the worship of God (that is, laying aside the things pertaining to the body and its conveniences, be wholly taken up in those duties which become a soul, delighting in God, glorifying him and celebrating his praise) and that too in the public assembly, for the common joy and edification of all.
XII. After man had sinned, the remembrance of God’s resting and sanctifying the seventh day ought to rouse him from his slowness and dulness in the worship of God, in order to spend every seventh day therein, laying aside, for a while, all other employment. But it will be better to explain this in Calvin’s words: “God therefore first rested, and then he blessed that rest, that it might be ever afterwards holy among men; or he set a part each seventh day for rest, that his own example might be a standing rule. Martyr speaks to the same purpose: “Hence men are put in mind that, if the church enjoins them to set apart a certain day in the week for the worship of God, this is not altogether a human device, nor belongs only to the law of Moses, but likewise had its rise from hence, and is an imitation of God.” All this is also approved of by Cocceius, whose excellent words we will subjoin from the place just quoted, §. 12: “The consequence of these things in the sinner is, that if encompassed with the infirmities of the flesh, and exposed to the troubles of life, he may at least each seventh day recollect, and give himself up to far preferable thoughts, and then cheerfully, on account of that part of the worship of God which cannot be performed without disengaging from business, abstain from the work of his hands, and from seeking, preparing, and gathering the fruits of the earth.” And as this celebrated expositor approves of this, I know not why he should disapprove the elegant observation of Chrysostem, on Heb. §. 13; “That hence, as by certain preludes, God hath enigmatically taught us to consecrate and set apart for spiritual employment each seventh day in the week.” If we all agree, as I hope we may, in these positions, which seem not unhappily to explain the nature of the first sabbath; I truly reckon, that a way is paved, and a great deal done, to compose those unhappy disputes about the sabbath of the decalogue, which, for some years past, have made such noise in the Dutch universities and churches.
XIII. Having thus explained the nature of the first sabbath, we proceed to inquire into its spiritual and mystical signification; from whence it will be easy to conclude, that we have not improperly called it a sacrament; or, which is the same, a sacred sign or seal (for why should we wrangle about a word, not scriptural, when we agree about the thing?) of the promises of salvation made by God to Adam. We have Paul’s authority to assert, that the sabbath had some mystical meaning, and respected an eternal and happy rest, Heb. 4:4–10. And this is justly supposed by the apostle as a thing well known to the Hebrews, and which is a corner-stone or foundation point with their doctors. It was a common proverb, quoted by Buxtorf, in Florilegio Hebræo, 299, “The sabbath is not given but to be a type of the life to come.” To the same purpose is that which we have in Zohar, on Gen. fol. v. chap. 15: “What is the sabbath day? A type of the land of the living, which is the world to come, the world of souls, the world of consolations.” These things, indeed, are not improper to be said in general; but as you will not readily find any where the analogy between the sabbath and eternal rest especially assigned, can it be thought improper, if, by distinguishing between the rest of God, the rest of man, and the seventh day, on which both rested, we should distinctly propose the mystical meaning of each?
XIV. The rest of God, from the work of the creation, was a type of a far more glorious rest of God from the work of the glorification of the whole universe. When God had created the first world, so as to be a commodious habitation for man during his probation, and an illustrious theatre of the perfections of the Creator; he took pleasure in this his work, and rested with delight. For he bestowed upon it all the perfection which was requisite to complete that state. But he had resolved, one day, to produce a far more perfect universe, and, by dissolving the elements by fire, to raise a new heaven and a new earth, as it were, out of the ashes of the old: which new world, being blessed with his immutable happiness, was to be a far more august habitation for his glorified creatures; in which, as in the last display of his perfections, he was for ever to rest with the greatest complacency. And besides, as God, according to his infinite wisdom, so wisely connects all his actions, that the preceding have a certain respect to the following; in like manner, since that rest of God after the creation was less complete than that other, when God shall have concluded the whole, and which is to be followed by no other labour or toil; it is proper to consider that first rest of God as a type, and a kind of prelude of that other, which is more perfect. In fine, because it tends to man’s greatest happiness, that the whole universe be thus glorified, and himself in the universe, that God may altogether rest in him, as having now obtained his last degree of perfection, he is said “to enter into the rest of God,” Heb. 4:10.
XV. This rest of God was, after the creation, immediately succeeded by the rest of man. For, when he had formed man on the sixth day (as possibly may be gathered from the simplicity of Moses’s narrative), he brought him into Paradise on the seventh, “ינחהו בנן עדן and put him, or, as others think the words may be translated, he made him rest in the garden of Eden,” Gen. 2:15; was not this a most delightful symbol or sign to Adam, that, after having finished his course of labour on this earth, he should be translated from thence into a place far more pleasant, and to a rest far more delightful than that which he enjoyed in Paradise? And when, at certain times, he ceased from tilling the ground in Paradise, and gave himself wholly up to the religious worship of God, with a soul delighting in God; was not this a certain earnest and a prelibation to him of that time, in which, exempted from all care about this animal life, he should immediately delight himself in the intimate communion of God, in being joined with the choirs of angels, and in doing the works of angels?
XVI. May not this rest both of God and man, falling upon the seventh day, after the six of creation, properly denote, that the rest of the glory of God is then to be expected, after the week of this world is elapsed? And that man is not to enter into rest till he has finished his course of probation, and God, upon strictly examining it by the rule of his law, finds it complete, and in every respect perfect? And are we to reject the learned observation of Peter Martyr, that “this seventh day is said to have neither morning nor evening, because this is a perpetual rest to those who are truly the sons of God?”
XVII. It is indeed true, that, upon Adam’s sin, and violation of the covenant of works, the whole face of things was changed: but all these things [we have been speaking of] were such, as might have been signified and sealed by this sabbath to Adam, even in the state of innocence, and why might it not really have been so? For the apostle expressly declares, that “God’s resting from his works, from the foundation of the world,” Heb. 4:3, had a mystical signification. It is therefore our business to find out the agreement between the sign and the thing signified; for the greater analogy we observe between them, we shall the more clearly and with joy discover the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, manifesting themselves in various ways. It cannot but tend to the praise of the divine architect, if we can observe many excellent resemblances between the picture given us by himself, and the copy. Indeed, I deny not, that Paul, when discoursing of the sabbath, leads us to that rest, purchased for believers by the sufferings of Christ. But it cannot thence be inferred, that, after the entrance of sin, God’s sabbath borrowed all its mystical signification from the covenant of grace. For, as to the substance of the thing, the glorious rest promised by the covenant of works, and now to be obtained by the covenant of grace, is one and the same, consisting in a blessed acquiescence or rest of the soul in God. As this was sealed to man in innocence by the sabbath, under the covenant of works; so likewise it is sealed by the sabbath under the covenant of grace, though under another relation, and under other circumstances. For God, having perfect knowledge that man would not continue in the first covenant, had, from all eternity, decreed to set on foot a quite different order of things, and bring his elect, by a new covenant of grace, to the most peaceful rest. Accordingly, he settled, in his unsearchable wisdom, whatever preceded the fall, in such a manner, that man, viewing them after the fall with the enlightened eyes of faith, might discover still greater mysteries in them, which regarded Christ and the glory to be obtained by him. But we are not to speak of this here. Whoever desires a learned explanation of those mysteries, may consult Mestresat’s sermons on the fourth Chapter to the Hebrew.
XVIII. This sabbath also put man in mind of various duties to be performed by him, which, having pointed out above, §. 10, 11, I think needless to repeat now. And thus we have executed what we promised concerning the sacraments of the covenant of works.
XIX. And here I might conclude, did not a very learned man come in my way; whose thoughts on the first sabbath being widely different from the commonly received notions, I intend, with his permission, calmly to examine. He therefore maintains, that Adam, on the very day of his creation, being seduced by the devil, had involved himself and the whole world in the most wretched bondage of corruption; but that God, on the seventh day, restored all things, thus corrupted by the devil and by man, by his gracious promise of the Messiah: upon this restoration he rested on that very day; and that rest, upon the reparation of the world, being peculiar to the seventh day, may be the foundation of the sabbath. Doubtless, “on the sixth day, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them,” Gen. 2:1. And God, beholding the works of his creation so perfect, pleasantly rested in them. This was the rest of the sixth day. But on the same day Satan corrupted all; for, upon losing heaven, of whose host he was one, and which he greatly diminished by associating many other angels to himself, and so far rendered that habitation a desert; and on earth, by means of a calumnious lie, he rendered man, the prince of the terrestrial host, a subject to himself, a rebel to God, and destitute of life. This was the corruption of the earth. And thus heaven and earth, so beautifully finished by God on the sixth day, were on the same basely defiled by Satan and by man. This occasioned God to be engaged in a new work on the seventh, even to restore what had been thus defiled and corrupted, and to complete them anew; which he did on the seventh day, when the Mediator, God-man, was revealed by the Gospel, whom, in the promise, he appointed to triumph over Satan, the corrupter of all, and so to restore all things; both of the earth, where he began the restoration by delivering the elect of mankind from the bondage of corruption; and of heaven, by bringing the same chosen people into the heavenly habitation, in order to its being again repeopled with that colony of new inhabitants: in this manner he will complete the restoration. Which completion Moses intimates, verse 2; “and on the seventh day God ended his work, which he had made.” This finishing of the לצשות made, is very distinct from the finishing of the creation, mentioned verse 1. When God had done all this, upon giving his Son to men for a Mediator and Redeemer, he himself rested in this his last work, as this is “the man of his delight,” Is. 42:1. And this rest was the only foundation for instituting the sabbath. This institution consists of a twofold act: the first is of blessing, by which God blessed that very day, by a most distinguishing privilege, to be the day devoted to the Messiah, who was revealed in it by the Gospel. For, this is the honour of the sabbath, that it is “the delight, on account of the holy of the Lord being glorified,” Is. 58:13. The other act is that of sanctification, by which he set it apart for a sign and memorial of that benefit, because through and for the holy of the Lord, he chooses to sanctify the elect. This is the sum of that opinion. Let us now consider whether it be solid, and can be proved by scripture.
XX. The whole foundation of this opinion is, that Adam fell on the very day in which he was created; which the scripture no where says. I know that some Jewish doctors, with boldness, as is their way, assert this; and, as if they were perfectly acquainted with what God was about every hour, declare that man was created the third hour of the day, fell the eleventh, and was expelled Paradise the twelfth. But this rashness is to be treated with indignation. The learned person deems it his glory to be wise from the scriptures alone; and justly, for thus it becomes a divine. But, what portion of scripture determines any thing about the first sin? We have here scarce any more than bare conjectures, which at best are too sandy a foundation on which any wise architect will ever presume to build so grand an edifice.
XXI. Nay, there are many things, from which we rather incline to think that man’s sin happened not on the sixth day. For it was after God had, on that day, created the beasts; after he had formed Adam of the dust of the earth; after he had prescribed him the law concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil; after he had presented to him the beasts in Paradise, that, upon inquiring into the nature of each (which also he performed with great accuracy, as the great Bochart has very learnedly shown, Hierozoic. lib. i. c. 9,) he might call each by their proper names; after Adam had found there was not among them any help meet for him, for the purposes and convenience of marriage; and after God had cast Adam into a deep sleep, and then at last formed Eve from one of his ribs; all these things are not of a nature to be performed, like the other works of the preceding days, in the shortest space of time possible, and as it were in a moment; but succeeded one another in distinct periods, and during these, several things must have been done by Adam himself. Nay, there are divines, of no small note, who insist that these things were not all done in one day; and others postpone the creation of Eve to one of the days of the following week: but we do not now engage in these disputes. After all these things, the world was yet innocent, and free from all guilt, at least on the part of man. And God, contemplating his works, and concluding his day, approved of all, as very good and beautiful. He had yet no new labour for restoring the fallen world, which would have been no ways inferior to the work of the creation. But what probability is there, that in those very few hours which remained, if yet a single hour remained, Adam should have parted from Eve, who had been just created, exposed his most beloved consort to an insidious serpent, and that both of them, just from the hands of the Creator, should so suddenly have given ear to the deceiver? Unless one is prepossessed in favour of the contrary opinion, what reason could he have, notwithstanding so many probabilities to the contrary, prematurely thus to hurry on Adam’s sin. Since, therefore, the whole of this foundation is so very weak, what solid superstructure can we imagine it be capable of.
XXII. Let us now take a nearer view of the superstructure itself, and examine whether its construction be sufficiently firm and compact. The very learned person imagines he sees a new labour or work on the seventh day, and a new rest succeeding that labour, which is the foundation of the sabbath. The labour was, a promise of the Messiah, by which the world, miserably polluted with sin, was to be restored; and that Moses treats of this chap. 2:2, “And on the seventh day God ended his work, which he had made.” The rest was, the satisfaction and delight he had in that promise, and in the Messiah promised. But let us offer the following considerations in opposition to this sentiment: 1st, If God, on the seventh day, performed the immense work of recovering the fall—a work which, if not greater, yet certainly is not less than the creation of the world out of nothing, and he was again to rest, when he had finished it; certainly, then, the seventh day was as much a day of work to God, and no more a sabbath, or day of rest, than any of the preceding days. For God, having finished the work of each day, rested for a while, and delighted in it. 2dly, Moses, in the second verse, makes use of the same word, by which he had expressed the finishing of the world in the first. But, the finishing in the first verse, as the learned person himself owns, relates to the finishing of the creation; what necessity then can there be for giving such different senses to one and the same word, in the same context, when there is not the least mark of distinction? 3rdly, Hitherto, Moses has not given the least imaginable hint of the fall of our first parents: is it then probable, that he would so abruptly mention the restitution of the world from the fall; and that in the very same words, which he had just used, and was afterwards to use for explaining the first creation? What can oblige, or who can suffer us to confound the neatness of Moses’s method, and the perspicuity of his words, by this feigned irregularity and ambiguity? 4thly, It may be doubted, whether we can properly say, that, by the promise of the Messiah, all things were perfected and finished, since God, if we follow the thread of Moses’s narrative, did, after this promise, punish the world with a deserved curse: and the apostle still says, of the world, that “the creature was made subject to vanity, and groans under the bondage of corruption,” Rom. 8:20, 21. It is indeed true, that the promise of the Messiah, which could not be frustrated, was the foundation of the comfort of the fathers; but the Scripture no where declares that, by this promise, as immediately made after the fall, all things were finished; nay, even this promise pointed out that person, who, after many ages, and by various acts, not of one and the same office, was to effect the true consummation.
XXIII. Our learned author urges the following reason, why those two finishings are not to be looked upon as the same: 1st, It would be a tautology, if not an inexcusable battology, or idle repetition, in such a compendious narrative; and either the first verse, or the beginning of the second, would be superfluous. 2dly, The finishing, or ending, verse 2, is annexed to the seventh day, by a double article, in the same manner as the rest is. “And on the very seventh day God ended his work, which he had made; and he rested on the very seventh day from all his work which he had made.” So that, if the former verb ויכל be rendered by the preterpluperfect, and he had ended, the latter וישבת must be rendered so too, and he had rested; but this is incongruous. Nay, since on the other days we reject the preterpluperfect tense, lest the works of the following day should be referred to those of the preceding, contrary to historical truth, it ought not then here to be admitted on the seventh day. 3rdly, When the third verse shows the cause of this rest, it speaks of distinct finishings, the latter of which is that of the seventh day: “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that in it he had rested from all his work, which God בדא created and made.” By two verbs he describes two actions; ברא denotes to create, and עשה, to adorn, to polish: these words are frequently of the same import; yet, when joined together, they are to be distinguished; as is owned, not only by christian, but by Jewish interpreters. (Thus it is, Is. 43:7; where another word is added, יצד, to form; and, as to all the three, בדא certainly signifies the creation of the soul, but יצד, the formation of the body, and עשה, reformation by grace.) But these two actions are so described, that עשיה, making, immediately precedes resting, and was the work of the seventh day; but בריאה, creation, the work of the six preceding days. 4th, To the same purpose is the recapitulation of verse 4, which repeats and confirms the distinction just now mentioned: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created; in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Thus he recites the generations both of the first six days, in which the heavens and the earth, with their respective hosts, were created, and of the beginning of that one day, namely, the seventh, which is that of operation, in which he made, and polished, inverting the order; first the earth, then the heavens. Thus far our very learned author.
XXIV. But we cannot assent to these things, and therefore we answer each in order. To the first, I would earnestly entreat our brother, both to think and speak more reverently of the style of the Holy Ghost, nor charge those simple and artless repetitions of one and the same thing, even in a concise narrative, with an inexcusable tautology, if not a battology, or vain and useless repetitions. It does not become us, the humble disciples of the Divine Spirit, to criticise on the most learned language, and the most pure style of our adorable Master. It is very frequent in the sacred writings, more than once to repeat the same thing, in almost the same words, at no great distance asunder. This very second Chapter of Genesis, of which we now treat, gives us various examples of this. The reason of the sanctification of the seventh day, namely, the rest of God upon that day, is proposed in nearly the same words in the second and third verses. This learned person himself calls the fourth verse a recapitulation of what was just said. And what is the whole of the second Chapter, but a fuller explication of the formation of man, which indeed we have plainly, but more briefly, related in the first Chapter? Shall we therefore say that a part of the first Chapter, or the whole of the second, is in a great measure superfluous? Or shall we dare to charge God with tautologies, if not with inexcusable battologies? Is it not more becoming to tremble with awe at his words, and rather return him thanks, that, on account of the dulness of our apprehension, he has vouchsafed to propose, two or three times, the same truths, either in the same, or in a variety of words, having all the same meaning? For my own part, I would act in this manner without any doubt of acting as it becomes me.
XXV. To the second, I would answer: 1st, The words of Moses may be taken in this sense; namely, that God finished the work of the sixth day, and consequently of all the six days, in the very moment in which the seventh began. Thus the ancient Hebrews, and after them, R. Solomo, explains this manner of speaking; as thereby to intimate, that God, in the very moment in which he entered on the sabbath, finished his work; for God alone knows the moments and least parts of time in a manner totally distinct from the knowledge possessed by man. 2ndly, “Nor is it an improper observation of Aben Ezra, “that the finishing of the work is not the work itself,” but only means the ceasing from work, and that the text explains itself thus: and he finished, that is, and he rested; having finished his work, he worked no longer. 3rdly, But we need not insist on this. Drusius speaks to excellent purpose on this place: “The preterperfect Hebrew may be as well rendered by the preterpluperfect as otherwise. It is really so: the Hebrews have only one preterperfect, which they use for every kind of past time; and therefore, according to the connexion, it may be rendered sometimes by the preterperfect, and at other times by the preterpluperfect.” Let it therefore be rendered here by the preterpluperfect, and he had finished, as the Dutch translation has also done, and all the difficulty will disappear. Our learned author may insist, that if this be granted, then the following וישבת must be also rendered by the preterpluperfect. But it does not follow; for we are to consider the nature of the subject, and the different circumstances. The learned person insists that the word finishing is used in a different sense in the first, from what it is in the second verse; and shall we not be allowed to interpret a preterperfect, which by the genius of the language is indeterminate, sometimes by the preterperfect, and at other times by the preterpluperfect, as the subject shall require? And if elsewhere we justly reject the preterpluperfect tense, it is not because the genius of the Hebrew tongue does not admit of it, but because, as the learned person himself observes, such an interpretation is contrary to the truth of the history. Which not being the case here, such a reason cannot be urged. I will only add, if Moses wanted to say, what we imagine he has said, et consummaverat die septima, &c.; et cessavit, &c.; and, on the seventh, God had finished, &c., and rested, &c.; could he have possibly expressed in other words, or more aptly, according to the genius of the language, this sense? Were the learned person himself to render into Hebrew, word for word, these Latin words, he would certainly have rendered them in the same tense and mood as Moses has done.
XXVI. To the third reason, I reply: 1st, The word עשה is very general, and signifies, to do a thing any how, well or ill. It is said, of penal or physical evil, Amos 4:13, עשך שהר עיפה, who maketh the morning darkness; and Ezek. 35:6, לדם אעשך I will prepare (make) thee unto blood. And of moral evil, Mic. 2:1, when the morning is light they practise it, יעשוה. We shall give more instances presently. Hence it appears, that the learned person too much restricts the meaning of this word, when he explains it by the words, to adorn, or polish; especially, if he would precisely confine it to the reformation by grace. 2dly, The same word עשה is often expressive of the six days work; as Gen. 1:31. “And God saw את כל אשר עשה all that he had made;” and Exod. 20:11, “In six days the Lord עשה made heaven and earth:” likewise Ezek. 46:1, ששת ימי תמעשה, the six working days, are opposed to the Sabbath. Neither does the learned person deny that the words בדא and עשה are often equivalent. And why not here also? Is there any necessity, or probable reason, for taking עשיה for the work of the seventh day, and בריאה for the work of the six preceding days. 3rdly, I think he goes a little too far, when he asserts that both Christian and Jewish interpreters admit that these words, when joined together, have distinct significations. Truly, for my own part, of the several interpreters both Jewish and Christian, whom I have consulted, I never found one who distinguishes the appearing of these words, as this learned author has done. See Facius on Gen. 1:1. Menasseh Ben Israel, de Creat. Probl. 4. Cocceius Disput. select. p. 70. § 72. Let us, in this case, hear the learned De Dieu, who thus comments on this passage. “It appears to be an usual Hebraism, whereby the infinitive, לעשות, added to a verb, including a like action, is generally redundant: such as Judges 13:19: And acting he acted wondrously: that is, he acted wondrously: 1 Kings 14:9: And doing, thou hast done evil; that is, thou hast done evil. 2 Kings 21:6: And working, he multiplied wickedness; that is, simply, he multiplied wickedness, or, he wrought much wickedness. 2 Chron. 20:35: He doing, did wickedly, doing is redundant. Psa. 126:2: The Lord doing, has done great things for them, doing is again redundant. Eccl. 2:11: On the labour, that doing I had laboured; that is, simply, I had laboured. Which last passage is entirely parallel with this in Genesis; for, whether you say, עשה לעשות, he doing, laboured בדא לעשנת he making, created, you say the same thing: unless that ברא signifies to produce something new, without any precedent or pattern, and which had no existence before: therefore, he making, created, is no other than, he made something new.” These things neither could, nor ought to be unknown to this learned person, considering his great skill in Hebrew learning. 4thly, He ought not to have made such a distinction, barely and without any proof between the words ברא, יצר and עשח, which are used by Isaiah 43:7; as if the first intends the creation of the soul; the second, the formation of the body, and the third, the reformation by grace: there not being the least foundation for it in scripture. For, 1. ברא sometimes signifies reformation by grace, as Psa. 51:10: ברא לי “Create in me a clean heart.” 2. יצר is sometimes applied to the soul, Zech. 12:1: “And יצד רוח ארם formeth the spirit of man within him:” and Psa. 33:15: חיצר יחד לבם “and fashioneth their hearts alike;” sometimes too it denotes formation by grace; as Is. 43:21: “This people יעשתי have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” 3. עשה is more than once used for the first formation of man; as Gen. 1:26, נעשה, “Let us make man;” and Gen. 2:18: אעשה, “I will make him an help meet for him.” Jer. 38:16: אשר עשה “that made us this soul,” says king Zedekiah to Jeremiah, without having any thoughts of a reformation by grace. As therefore all these words are so promiscuously used in Scripture, ought we not to look upon him who distinguishes them in such a magisterial manner, as one who gives too much scope to his own fancy? And what if one should invert the order of our author, and positively assert, that ברא here denotes reformation by grace, as Psa. 51:10; יצר the production of the soul, as Zech. 12:1; and עשה the formation of the body, as Gen. 2:8; what reply could the learned person make? But these are weak arguments. It is more natural to take these words in Isaiah as meant of the new creation and reformation by grace. And this accumulation or multiplying of words is very proper to denote the exceeding greatness of the power of God, and his effectual working in the sanctification of the elect. There is a parallel place, Eph. 2:10: “For we are his מעשה, workmanship נבראים created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God יצר, hath before ordained, that we should walk in them: as Isa. 22:11: יצרה מרחוק “fashioned it long ago,” which properly προητοιμασε he hath before ordained. From all this it appears, that this passage in Isaiah can be of no service to our learned author. 5thy, But if we must distinguish between το ברא and το עשה, nothing, I think, is more to the purpose than the interpretation of Ben Nachman. “He rested from all his works, which ברא, he created, by producing something out of nothing, לעשות, to make of it all the works mentioned in the six days: and lo! he says, he rested from creating and from working; from creating, as having created in the first day, and from working, as having completed his working in the remaining days.”
XXVII. The fourth reason coincides with the foregoing, only that it is still more cabalistical. 1st. It is a strange interpretation to say, that by תולודת the generations of heaven and earth, we are to understand not only their first creation, but their restoration by the promise of the Messiah. For it is quite foreign to the subject to tell us, that by the sin of the angels a state of corruption was introduced into the heaven of heavens, and thereby the throne of the divine majesty was basely defiled; for though by the angelic apostasy corruption had been introduced into heaven, yet by their ejection, whereby they were hurled into hell, the heavens were purged from that corruption. Nor was there any new heaven made by the promise of the Messiah that was given on the sixth day; for that promise made no alteration there, but only foretold, that after many years some elect souls were to be received into that holy and blessed habitation. 2dly, As to the order, in which the earth is put before the heavens, it is well known that the scripture does not always relate things in the same order. Nor from the mere order of the narrative, which is an arbitrary thing, can any arguments be formed. However, Junius’s observation is not to be rejected. “Earth and heaven are mentioned in an inverted order, because the formation of the earth preceded that of the heavens; for the earth was perfected on the third day of the creation, heaven on the fourth.” 3dly, It is doing manifest violence to the text, if we understand the formation of the earth and heavens, of their reformation by grace, in virtue of the promise of the Messiah, made on the seventh day; because Moses treats of that formation of earth and heaven, which was prior to that of plants and herbs; as appears from the connexion of verse 3 with verse 4. For thus the words run: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and heavens, and every plant of the field, before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field,” &c. Or, as the learned De Dieu shows, they may otherwise be very properly rendered: “in the day that the Lord made the heavens and the earth, there was yet no plant of the field created,” &c. So that this formation of the earth and heavens was prior to man’s own creation, much more to the fall, and to the restitution from the fall. And this verse wholly overturns the distinction which this learned person has invented.
XXVIII. And as we have thus shown, that the words of Moses neither mention nor intimate any work by which God restored all things from the fall on the seventh day; so neither of any rest from the work of restoration, which is the foundation of the rest of the sabbath. For, 1st, It is irrational to suppose, that when God promised the Messiah, he then rested from the work of the gracious reformation of the universe; because that promise was a prophecy of the sufferings, conflicts, and at the last of the death of Christ, by which that reformation was to be brought about and accomplished. 2dly, How can it be said that God rested, immediately after having made that promise, from all his work, when directly upon it he pronounced and executed sentence upon Adam, Eve, and the earth, that was cursed for their crime, and expelled them Paradise? Which work (to speak after the manner of men, compare Isa. 28:21) was truly a greater labour to God than the very creation of the world. And thus, instead of a sabbath, which Moses describes, this day is made one of the most laborious to God. 3dly, The sabbath day, after the publication of the first Gospel promise, was doubtless sacred to the Messiah, and to be celebrated to his honour by the saints with a holy exultation of soul. Nor shall I be much against the learned person, should he choose to translate Isa. 58:13, “that the Sabbath may be called a delight, on account of the holy of the Lord being glorified:” but it cannot, with any probability, be inferred from this, that the promise of the Messiah was the foundation of the first sabbath; since the sabbath, as well as other things, did not acquire that relation till after the fall. 4thly, The Scripture, in express terms, declares that the rest of God from the work of the first creation, which was completed in six days, was the foundation of the sabbath. “In six days the Lord made heaven and “earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh “day; wherefore he blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exod. 20:11. Which being plain, it sufficiently, if I mistake not, appears, that it is much safer to go in the old and beaten path, which is the king’s high way, than in that other untrodden and rough one, which the learned person, whose opinion we have been examining, has chosen to tread in. And so much for this subject.