Exodus 35:2-3 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.
For those studying the commandments of God with a desire to apply its truth, not forsake it, this commandment can often result in some understandable confusion. Quite often we witness the House of Judah (Jews) applying this commandment in certain circumstances and in such a way that appears rather extreme. On the flip side, those in mainstream Christianity witness and study what orthodox Jews have done with this verse, and immediately demand the same application from anyone teaching obedience to all of God’s commandments. Sadly, this is often done in order to supposedly prove the futility of applying God’s commandments for today. Thus, why rest on the Sabbath as God commanded (as if rest no longer benefits us)?
It all can quickly become a mess. Such error becomes an obstacle for mainstream Christians in understanding the whole truth of the Word. Likewise, it is also often an obstacle for the House of Judah (Jews) as a doctrinal distraction from the true intent, purpose, and wonderful joy of the Sabbath that has been given to us. Some of the traditional “Jewish” practices as it relates to Exodus 35:3 would appear rather odd to many. How can we or do we make sense of this?
Some of those odd practices include only using special elevators that do not create a spark, the refusing to drive cars, or the avoiding many other such things that can be even loosely interpreted involving a fire on the Sabbath. While it must be admitted that such restraint and prohibitions are certainly affording parameter guidelines that prevent the breaking of this commandment in the literal or even beyond, at the same time the entire point and obedience to this commandment is simply being missed. In reality, that can become the larger issue.
We should consider the teachings of our Lord Yeshua (Jesus) in Mark 7:5-16. We certainly do not want to add or subtract from the Law of God (Deuteronomy 4:2), however nor do we want to invent traditions that replace the intent and purpose of the Law of God (Mark 7:5-16). There is an interpretive balance that requires us to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15), meaning there is also a wrong way to divide the truth. The Word of God is certainly sharper than a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), but sometimes our personal doctrines can really dull and dilute the truth. However, those who really desire to worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24) and obey the truth (Romans 2:8) will seek these things out.
Sometimes in our studies we forget the inclusion of context in our hermeneutics to assist in establishing correct understanding and application of God’s Word.Why would God not want us to light a fire on the Sabbath?
This is a simple question, but offers profound interpretive benefit in hermeneutical application. In verse three we find the fire is not to be “kindled” in the “dwellings.” Does this mean that if I am in a forest in the middle of nowhere, away from any “dwellings,” that I can create a fire? Technically, the answer is yes, if I already have my wood and I am not working to collect all of my firewood to create the fire (Numbers 15:32-36).
We can only conclude that there must be a reason why God is focusing on the “dwellings” of those during this time period as it relates to “kindling a fire.”
￼￼What purpose did the fires in the “dwellings” serve as opposed to any random fire one might kindle?
The telling difference is embedded in the intent and purpose of the commandment, established in the prior verse.Exodus 35:2-3 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.
The fire we are to not kindle is a fire related to work in some way. Thus, it is not necessarily the fire itself that is the issue, as some make it out to be. This explains the difference between the focus on “kindling a fire” in “dwellings” and not simply just anywhere. This begins to speak to what effort it takes to prepare and produce the fire, or what the fire is intended to serve, which is daily work.
In the Middle East thousands of years ago, a fire was a central element to facilitate much of the daily work activity. Cooking, cleaning, tool and supply production, are all examples of daily work that required fire. The type of fire God is referring to is a fire to support working. Not only was it a burden of work to prepare for that fire (thus do any such activity before or after the Sabbath) but the fire in context is also intended to serve the working person. This means that one who creates a fire on the Sabbath is intending to work. This is the relationship between fire and work God defines in the context that occurred in the “dwellings.” This commandment would have been correctly interpreted in this way by those intended to receive it when Moses delivered it. Should we ignore that, or apply that?
Those who are all caught up in commandments of men and believe they are to not push a button or turn on a switch may or may not have their heart in the right place, but are certainly missing the intended message God is speaking to regarding this commandment. God is simply stating to not only rest on the day He created for rest, but to not even prepare for or think of work. There are principles we can take from this commandment and also apply to our modern circumstances. Each believer should consider these things in their walk. For those who believe there is no modern application here have given this matter little thought in our work saturated daily lives and busy minds.
Presumably, when the prohibition was presented, kindling fire was indeed "work." Starting a fire was not as simple as flipping a lighter today or pushing a button. Nor is creating fire today intended (quite often) to serve our daily work. Some cultures today still use fire as the central need for daily work. We need to examine and apply these things through the eyes of the Giver and receiver of the commandment, not whatever interpretive glasses we are wearing at the time. Every Bible scholar should agree with such a statement.
There is a mainstream practical usage of fire today that is not related to work and was not present in the context of Exodus 35:2-3. More often than not, simply keeping warm in colder climates comes to mind as such an example. In such circumstances, applying Exodus 35:2-3 today as intended would mean having one’s preparation for a fire done before the Sabbath, and then using the fire to keep a household warm, but not for daily work. The obvious critical difference to recognize and ask as it relates to Exodus 35:2-3 is this; is the fire intended and used for work? How that question is answered defines the type of fire and thus enabling the correct application of Exodus 35:2-3.
If this was not the case, are we to believe that those in the first century talking and studying to the wee hours of the morning during weekly Shabbat fellowship were not using candles? Does that not include lighting a fire? Were they all sitting around in the dark?
The context of Exodus 35:2-3 is related to work activity, or simply not resting, unless we want to ignore the verse prior to verse three.
“Kindling a fire” meant something in the context it was given. Can it not be agreed that we should practice the commandment as it was given?
The conclusion of the matter is this. We should not work to create a fire that is intended to support more work. That is the only way the commandment could have been interpreted when it was given. Such an interpretation completely makes sense given the whole point of the Sabbath itself.So the question becomes this:
Should we apply the commandment as it was intended to be interpreted or should we apply it how our culture would interpret it? Should the interpretations of the commandments of God change based on every new generation, or should we interpret them through the generation in which they were given? Should interpretation be based on the culture of the reader or the culture of those present and living when the text was given?
Hopefully these questions expose the common sense that we should use in our hermeneutics. This is not as complicated as some have made it out to be. Some actually do desire this commandment to be that complicated because they love their “traditions of the fathers” (Mark 7). Some even want this commandment to be that complicated to use it as an excuse to abandon the Sabbath rest that was made for us.
The reality is that it is not that complicated. We are to rest, not work. This is for our benefit. We are to not work, nor consume ourselves with preparing or thinking about work on His set-apart (holy) day. Why would we want to? We might just find that focusing on God (the Word) instead of traditions of men or things of the world just happens to resonate well with our spirit. If something about ignoring the daily burdens of the world and entering into the weekly freedom of spending time with God and His family is frightening to us, then we have more complex issues to address rather than simple matters of obedience.
I pray that this study was a blessing to you.http://q.b5z.net/i/u/10105283/f/FAQ_-_Exodus_35-3_-_No_Fire_on_the_Sabbath.pdf