The plan of redemption was conceived in the mind of God prior to the foundation of the world. It was a mystery then hid in him alone. Long ages before that mystery was unlocked to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ, who made the world’s atonement, it cast a love betokening shadow upon earth.
That shadow was the law. The law embraced the five books of Moses—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In proof of this, I cite a quotation from each book.
Paul says that women “are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law” (1 Cor. 14:34). Where does the law say this? In Gen. 3:16. I quote from the LXX: “The submission shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Genesis, then, is in the law. “The law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). Where? In Exod. 20:17. So Exodus is in the law.
Jesus makes two quotations from the law: 1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” This is taken from Deut. 6:5. 2. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is from Lev. 19:18. So both Deuteronomy and Leviticus are a part of the law. Again: “Have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matt. 12:5). This is from Num. 28:9. So all the five books of Moses are embraced in “the law.”
“The law having a shadow of good things to come” (Heb. 10:1). The whole law system was but a shadow, containing types and figures of the plan of perfect redemption. Its Passover, atonements, sacrifices, offerings, tabernacle, temple, altars, blood, priests, circumcision, and sabbaths, all belonged to the law of shadows going before.
Among the promises of coming redemption was that of Shiloh—the rest giver (Gen. 49:10). “And his rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). In fulfillment, Jesus came,  saying, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest… And ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28; 29). In the law of shadows there must be a type of this sweet and tranquil rest found in redeeming grace. Hence God set apart one day in seven, the seventh, as a “sabbath of rest.”
“Sabbath” means “rest.” Rest is the sole idea of the term. The law said, “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest” (Exod. 31:15). This is made still clearer in the Septuagint, where it is rendered, “But the seventh day is the Sabbath, a holy rest to the Lord.” That sabbath, or rest, was “a shadow of things to come.” It reached its fulfilment in Christ, in whom our souls have found an everlasting rest (see Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 4:1-11).
The Sabbath, then, was instituted by God, among the types and shadows of his great redemption. It pointed back to the creation, and forward to Christ, just as the Passover pointed back to Israel’s exodus from Egyptian bondage and forward to “Christ our Passover, sacrificed for us.” Whether, therefore, the Sabbath was instituted before Moses or not, it belonged to the law of types and shadows. Sacrifices began in the family of Adam, circumcision began with Abraham, yet both were nailed to the cross with all the ordinances of Moses.
But let us investigate, and find just when and where the Sabbath was first enjoined upon man. Saturday keepers lay no small stress upon a supposed pre Mosaic Sabbath. In fact, it is one of their main pillars. Back there in the dim past the events of an age were covered by a few lines in the Bible. Yet “the main reliance of Sabbatarians is upon arguments drawn from those remote times of darkness, while in the New Testament they find little to support their theories, but much to explain away.”
The scholarship of the world is somewhat divided on the subject of a pre Mosaic Sabbath. Much has been written on both sides of the question. In either case it has little bearing on present observance. But since our Sabbatarian friends rely greatly upon a belief in Sabbath observance from Eden, I desire to set before the reader what I sincerely believe to be the truth of the matter.
After reading much on both sides of the controversy, I have been led into the settled conviction that the argument for Sabbath observance from Eden down through the Patriarchal age rests upon a very sandy foundation. I shall submit the following proofs against it:
There is not one command in the book of Genesis to keep the seventh day as a Sabbath. In the language of Canright, “There is no statement that any of the patriarchs kept the Sabbath or knew anything about it. Sabbatarians say the record is so brief that it was omitted. Their proof, then, is what was left out!”
The first mention of the Sabbath as a rest day enjoined upon man that is recorded in the Bible is found in Exod. 16:23-30. This was twenty five hundred years after the creation of man. It was a new command to the Jews. On Friday, Moses said to the people, “Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath unto the Lord” (verse 23, Revised Version). On Saturday, he said, “Today is a Sabbath unto the Lord” (verse 25). “So the people rested on the seventh day” (verse 30). “And the people keep Sabbath on the seventh day” (LXX).
This language, with its context, seems to prove that the children of Israel there and then began resting on the seventh day; that the keeping of the Sabbath was a new thing to them. Their deliverance from Egypt marked a new era in their history. At this time the Lord gave them a new year and a new beginning of months. (See Exod. 12:2.) So, also, he for the first time gave them the Sabbath (Exodus 16). Many scriptures teach this fact, a few of which are given below.
“Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them)’ (Ezek. 20:10, 12). This text is conclusive. It simply states that God gave them the Sabbath when he brought them out of Egypt.
“I gave them my sabbaths” implies the act of committing it to them, and proves that they did not have it before. It was a new thing to them, and only for them. The place where God gave Israel the Sabbath was: “the wilderness.” It was given as a sign  between himself and that nation. So positively teaches the text quoted.
“And remember that thou west a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm: THEREFORE the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath Day” (Deut. 5:15). God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt. Then, they never kept it until the reason existed for keeping it. Thus, it was first enjoined upon them in the wilderness.
The covenant enjoining the seventh day was not made before Moses. “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” (Deut. 5:2, 3). “Then follows a recital of the Ten Commandments, the covenant referred to.
So if we are to credit the inspired statement of Moses, we must admit that the law embodying the seventh day Sabbath had never been given to the ancestors of the Jewish nation. Nay, “The Lord made not this covenant with out fathers but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.”
We affirm that every assumption that the Sabbath had been previously given is a direct contradiction of these texts.
“Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven… and makest known unto them thy holy Sabbath” (Neh. 9:13, 14). “Though the Sabbath had been introduced a short time before when the manna first fell, it is but natural that Nehemiah should speak of it with the rest of the law, as given on Sinai, by the audible voice of God… and made a statute in Israel. If, then, we credit the testimony of Nehemiah, we trace the origin of that Sabbath to Moses in the wilderness. There is where God came down and gave that law.”
I shall now quote from The Sabbath and also from Canright. “Smith and Barnum’s Dictionary of the Bible says, ‘In Exod. 16:23 29 we find the first incontrovertible institution of the day, as one given to, and to be kept by, the children of Israel. Shortly afterward it was reenacted in the fourth commandment.’”
“There is no express mention of it previous to the time of Moses.”
—Jahn’s Biblical Archaeology.
“The celebration of the seventh day as a day consecrated to Jehovah, is first mentioned after the Exodus from Egypt, and seems to have preceded the Sinaitic legislation, which merely confirmed and invested it with the highest authority. There is no trace of its celebration in the patriarchal times.”
“The first record of its observance by the Jews is mentioned in Exod. 16:25, when, in addition to its being observed in remembrance of the original rest day of the creation, it was celebrated also in memento of the day of freedom of the Jews from Egyptian bondage.”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary says of the argument on Gen. 2:1 3 for the institution of the Sabbath in Eden, “The whole argument is very precarious… There is no record of its celebration in patriarchal times.”
—Smith’s Bible Dictionary
“The early Christian writers are generally . . . silent on the subject of a primitive Sabbath…. Such examination as we have been able to institute, has disclosed no belief in its existence, while some indications are found of a notion that the Sabbath began with Moses.”
Justin Martyr, who wrote only forty four years after the death of John, and who was well acquainted with the doctrines of the apostles, denied that the Sabbath originated at creation. Thus after naming Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, and Melchizedek, he says: “Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned, though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God.”
—Dialog with Trypho, chap. 19.
“Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances.
For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of the Sabbaths… before Moses, no more need is here of them now.
As, then, circumcision began with Abraham, and the Sabbath… with Moses, and it has been proved they were enjoined on account of the hardness of your people’s hearts, so it was necessary, in accordance with the Father’s will, that they should have an end in him, who was born of a virgin, of the family of Abraham.”
—Justin Martyr to Trypho, a Jew.
Thus it will be seen that Justin Martyr understood that the Sabbath began with Moses, and ended in Christ. This is in perfect harmony with the Scriptural teaching.
Irenaeus says: “Abraham believed God without circumcision and the Sabbath.”
—Adv. Hoeres, Lib. IV, ch. 30.
“Tertullian, A. D. 200, said: ‘Let them show me that Adam Sabbatized, or that Abel in presenting his holy offerings to God pleased him by Sabbath observance, or that Enoch who was translated was an observer of the Sabbath.”
—Against the Jews, sec. IV.”
Eusebius, A. D. 324 the father of church history, says: “They [the patriarchs] did not, therefore, regard circumcision, nor observe the Sabbath, neither do we… Such things as these do not belong to Christians.”
—Eusebius Book I, ch. 4.
Here, then, we have the testimony from the historical records from the second and third centuries that the Sabbath was not enjoined upon, nor observed by, the people of God till Moses’ time, or for 2,500 years after creation. The early church did not believe that the Sabbath originated at creation. I shall add the testimony of eminent men.
“The transactions in the wilderness above recited were the first actual institution of the Sabbath.”
— Paley: Watson’s Institutes, vol. II, p. 515.
“The Sabbath is no where mentioned, or even obscurely alluded to, either in the general history of the world before the call of Abraham, or in that of the first three Jewish patriarchs.”
—Paley: Wakefield’s Theology.
“Whether its institution was ever made known to Adam, or whether any commandment relative to its observance was given previous to the delivery of the law on Mt. Sinai… cannot be ascertained.”
—John Milton: Christian Doctrine, vol. I, p. 299.
“That the Israelites had not so much as heard of the Sabbath before this time [the wilderness], seems to be confirmed by several passages of the prophets.”
“Now as to the imposing of the seventh day Sabbath upon men from Adam to Moses, of that we find nothing in holy writ, either from precept or example.”
—John Bunyan: Complete Works, page 892
On page 895 of the same book Bunyan says, “The seventh day Sabbath, therefore, was not from paradise, nor from nature, nor from the fathers, but from the wilderness and from Sinai.” Bunyan was well versed in Scripture.
From all the foregoing it is clearly seen that the united scriptural testimony, the most authentic historical records, the teachings of the most highly learned and eminent men, all point to the wilderness and Sinai for the institution of the Sabbath. It is clearly traced to Moses and the law.
Upon what, then, do Saturday keepers base their claim for a pre Mosaic Sabbath? Upon their own misinterpretation of the words of Moses in Gen. 2:2, 3. They argue that God rested, blessed, and sanctified the seventh day in Eden, and that hence an obligation rests upon all to observe it.
That this reasoning is incorrect and the whole argument unsound I shall now proceed to show.
1. The Book of Genesis, including these words, was not written at the time of the creation of man, but twentyfive hundred years later, by Moses himself. In fact, this statement of Moses’ in Gen. 2:2, 3 was not written until after the covenant enjoining the seventh day Sabbath upon the Jews had been delivered upon Sinai.
2. The language clearly proves that God did not bless and sanctify the day back at Eden when he rested, but at a later date. “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.” He blessed and sanctified the day “because in it HE HAD rested.”
He rested back in Eden. But God’s rest did not make the day holy. It was not holy in itself. Twentyfive hundred years later God in the wilderness blessed and sanctified the seventh day as a holy day to the Jewish nation, and assigned as one reason for doing so that “in it he had rested.” After God blessed and sanctified the day in the wilderness, Moses wrote the book of Genesis; and in writing the account of the creation he said that God began resting on the seventh day from all his work, and that the same day on which God had rested he now sanctified and blessed. Here again the inspired Word points to the wilderness for the institution of the Sabbath.
“As this narrative, i. e., Gen. 2:2, 3, was composed after the delivery of the law, for their special instruction, so this passage was only intended to confirm more forcibly I that institution; or that it is to be understood as if Moses had said, ‘God rested on the seventh day, which he has since blessed and sanctified.’”
—Kitto’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
To this we say amen. The language of Genesis II cannot be understood in any other light, unless the text is wrested.
“As the seventh day was erected into a Sabbath, on account of God’s resting upon that day from the work of creation, it was but natural enough in the historian, when he had related the history of the creation, and of God’s ceasing from it on the seventh day, to add, ‘And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that on it he had rested from all his work which God created and made’; although the blessing and sanctification, that is, the religious distinction and appropriation of that day, were not made till many ages after.
The words do not assert that God then blessed and sanctified the seventh day, but that he blessed and sanctified it for that reason.”
—Paley: Moral and Political Philosophy, Book IV, ch. 7.
On this point I quote the following from Canright:
“As Moses wrote his books after he came to Sinai, after the Sabbath had been given in the wilderness, he here mentions one reason why God thus gave them the seventh day, viz.: because God himself had set the example at creation; had worked six days and rested the seventh.
Such use of language is common. We say General Grant was born at such a time. We do not mean that he was a general then, but we mention it by anticipation, using a title which he afterwards bore. So in Gen. 3:20, ‘Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.’ Here is a future fact stated as though it had already occurred. So 1 Sam. 4 :1, the Jews ‘pitched beside Eben ezer.’ But the place was not named Ebenezer till years after (1 Sam. 7:12).
‘Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor’ (Luke 6:16). Here a future fact with regard to Judas is mentioned when he is first spoken  of, though the act of betrayal did not take place till years later. Just so when the seventh day is first mentioned, its sanctification is referred to, though it did not occur till afterwards.”
— D. M. Canright
3. “Though the record from Adam to Moses covers a period of twenty five hundred years; though we appear to have a full account of the religious customs and worship of the patriarchs, such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc., though we are told about circumcision, the altar, the sacrifices, the priests, the tithe, the oath, marriage, feast days, etc.; yet never a word is said about anyone keeping the Sabbath.”
The first mention of the Sabbath’s being kept by anyone is recorded in Exodus 16. It began with Moses and was instituted in the wilderness. To go back of Moses for proof in favor of Saturday keeping is going outside the Bible, into the fogs and mists of speculation and darkness.
The Sabbath and The Lord’s Day by H. M. Riggle, 1928