Andrews University Seminary Studies, Autumn 2000, Vol. 38, No. 2, 223-229.

                  Copyright © 2000 Andrews University Press.  Cited with permission.





                                                     H. R. COLE

                                        Pacific Adventist University

                                         Boroko, Papua New Guinea


            Many scholars in modern Judaism have discerned universal

dimensions to the Sabbath.1  However, few writers in earlier Judaism ever

saw them.2  It is almost superfluous to add that non-Sabbatarian Christians

have rarely seen these dimensions either.

            This failure to see universal dimensions may seem surprising, for three

passages in the Pentateuch affirm that the rg, "resident alien," is to rest on the

weekly Sabbath, along with the Israelite (Exod 20:10; 23:12; Deut 5:14).

However, rabbinic Judaism has traditionally identified the rg in these passages

as the ger saddiq, the circumcised "righteous alien," rather than the ger toshab,

the uncircumcised "sojourning alien." The ger saddiq was a newcomer to

Jewish territory, but not to the Jewish religion.3

            By the rabbinic period, the rg was understood in terms of religious


     1 E.g., Leo Baeck, "Mystery and Commandment," in Contemporary Jewish Thought, ed.

Simon Noveck (New York: B'nai B'rith, 1963), 202; idem, This People Israel:  The Meaning of

Jewish Existence, trans. Albert H. Friedlander (New York: Union of American Hebrew

Congregations, 1964), 138; Martin Buber, Moses, East and West Library (Oxford: Phaidon Press,

1946); Hermann Cohen, Reason and Hope: Selections from the Jewish Writings of Hermann

Cohen, trans. Eva Jospe (Cincinnati, OH: Hebrew Union College, 1993), 87,116, 117, 225. Note

the universality implied in the title of Abraham J. Heschel's book, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for

Modern Man (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Young, 1951). See also Roy Branson,

"Sabbath-Heart of Jewish Unity," JES 15 (1978): 722-732.

     2 Philo,, has an extremely universal view of the Sabbath, as he has of the whole of Judaism,

which he strives to present as nothing more than Greek philosophy in its purest form ("On the

Account of the World's Creation Given by Moses," 89). Genesis Rabbah 11:5 teaches that if the

Gentiles will not keep the Sabbath now, they will be forced to as they suffer in the afterlife.

However, the general trend of early Judaism is in the opposite direction, as exemplified in the

way the Babylonian talmud tractate Sanhedrin 58b and Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:21 forbids non-

Jews from observing the Sabbath under pain of death. See also Exodus Rabbab 25:11. Jubilees

has the seeds of universalism inherent in its claim that the Sabbath is first observed by God and

the angels at Creation, but immediately restricts its observance on earth to Israel (Jub 2:16-22,

30-33). This apocalyptic tradition is continued in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 18-20; Pesikta Rabbati

26.3, 9. For more information see Robert M. Johnston, "Patriarchs, Rabbis, and Sabbath," AUSS

12 (1974): 98-101.

     3 E.g., Mekilta Exodus 20:10 and Pesikta Rabbati 23.4. See also George Foot Moore,

Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University

Press, 1962), 1:339, 340.


224                 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)


conversion. The rabbinic distinction between the circumcised and the

uncircumcised alien may at first sight seem to be an artificial contrivance

to reconcile the apparently conflicting commands of Lev 17:15, 16 and

Deut 14:21. For the historical critic, it would normally be enough to

develop a theology of the alien and the law for just one of the supposed

sources, rather than attempting to identify a coherent pattern across the

board.4 However, the distinction cannot be dismissed out of hand, for

while the word rg sometimes does refer to the alien in general,5 at other

times it seems to refer exclusively to the alien who has been circumcised.6

The question here is whether it is an appropriate distinction to draw in

the context of the three Pentateuchal texts where the rg is discussed in

relationship to the weekly Sabbath.

John Calvin accepted that the rg in these passages includes


     4 Jacob Milgrom argues that in the priestly laws, the alien is required to observe the

prohibitive but not the performative commandments (Jacob Milgrom, Numbers, JPS Torah

Commentary [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990], 399-400). The fact that Deut

14:21 exempts the alien from a prohibitive commandment is a clear barrier to extending this

maxim to the Pentateuch as a whole.

Lev 16:29 is a key peg in Milgrom's argument, since he accepts Ibn Ezra's contention

that the phrase, "either the nativeborn or the alien who sojourns among you" qualifies the

prohibition against working on the Day of Atonement, but not the immediately preceding

performative command to afflict one's soul on this day. See Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16:

A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB, vol. 3 (New York: Doubleday,

1991), 1055. However, Ezra's distinction itself seems to be contrived. The grammatical

pattern of a performative commandment followed by a prohibition of work then a list of

who is included is also found in Exod 20:9-10 and Deut 5:13-14. However, no one claims that

the dependents listed are prohibited from working on the seventh day, but are not included

in the earlier permission to work the other six days.

     5 Lev 18:26-27 forbids the nativeborn and the alien alike from committing the sexual

practices listed in the chapter, because the people already in the land have done these

things and the land has become defiled. The fact that the present occupants of the land are

not a part of Israel has not prevented their actions from defiling the land. Accordingly,

the preservation of the land from the defilement under Israelite occupation must

presuppose that the Israelites ensure that none of its inhabitants commit these acts,

uncircumcised aliens included.

      6 Exod 12:19 states that anyone who eats leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread

will be cut off "from the congregation of Israel" (lxWy tr-fm) whether alien or nativeborn.

According to Milgrom's maxim, this command applies to aliens (whether circumcised or not)

because it is prohibitive rather than performative. However, in Exod 12:47-48 uncircumcised

aliens are not counted as part of the congregation of Israel, for in Exod 12:47-48 they are

specifically prohibited from taking part in Passover in the same breath as all the congregation

of Israel is commanded to observe it.

It is also possible that in Lev 16:29, the rg includes only the circumcised alien, since in

vs. 33 the priest is said to make for "all the people of the assembly" (lhqh Mf-lk), an

expression that includes only Israelites and assimilated aliens in Deut 23:3-8 (vss. 4-9, Heb.),

just as (lxWy tr-fm) does not include uncircumcised aliens in Exod 12:48.


THE SABBATH AND THE ALIEN                         225


uncircumcised aliens, but denied any universal dimensions to the Sabbath

by adding that aliens and domestic animals are included

not for their sakes, but lest anything opposed to the Sabbath

should happen beneath the eyes of the Israelites.... Besides, if

the very least liberty had been conceded to them [the Israelites],

they would have done many things to evade the Law in their

days of rest, by employing strangers and the cattle in their work.7


There seems to be no evidence in Exod 20:10 to establish whether the

term rg is being used in a restricted or a broad sense, or to indicate

whether the alien's rest is merely incidental to that of the Israelite.

However, there is evidence on both these points in Exod 23:12 and Deut

5:14. The purpose of this article is to explore the place of the alien in these

two texts and to use the evidence as it arises to test the traditional rabbinic

interpretation and the explanation given by Calvin.


The Alien in Exod 23:12

On the basis of the "catchword" principle, the scheme of six years

followed by a seventh year in Exod 23:10-11 naturally lends itself as an

introduction to the scheme of six days followed by a seventh day in v.


jrmHv jrvw Hvny Nfml tbwt yfybwh Mvybv jyWfm hWft Mymy tWW

rghv jtmx-Nb wpnyv

Six days you must do your work, but on the seventh day you must stop,

so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female

servant and the stranger may be refreshed.


The inclusion of the rg in the Sabbath rest is clearly not incidental to the

rest of the Israelites in this text. Indeed, the verse does not even mention the

benefits of the Sabbath rest for "the addressee and his family.”9  Instead, the


     7 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a

Harmony, trans. Charles William Bingham, vol. 2 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950], 439). See

also Daniel Augsburger, "Calvin and the Mosaic Law," 2 vols. (DSR thesis, Universite des

sciences humaines de Strasbourg: Faculte de theologie protestante, 1976), 1:280.

     8 See C. W. Kiker, "The Sabbath in the Old Testament Cult" (Th.D. dissertation,

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1968), 90.

     9 Dale Patrick, Old Testament Law (Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1985), 92. This fact does not

mean that no benefit for the addressee of the command is envisaged at all, nor that the worship

value of the Sabbath is being denied. Instead, it simply suggests that the Sabbath is here presented

as having a distinctly humanitarian purpose. Exod 23:1-12 is a list of judgments outlining

humanitarian obligations and Exod 23:14-19 contains a list of judgments outlining Israel's festal

obligations, with v. 13 forming a boundary between the two. This structure may explain why in


226                 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)


addressee is to rest expressly "so that" (Nfml) his animals may rest and the son

of his female servant and the alien may be refreshed.10

The inclusion of the uncircumcised alien in the statement of Exod

23:12 is confirmed by the fact that nearby in Exod 23:9, the term rg clearly

includes all aliens, circumcised and uncircumcised alike:

Myrfm Crxb Mtyyh Myrg-yk rgh wpn-tx Mtfdy Mtxv CHlt xl rgv

You must not oppress the alien. You know the life of the alien, for you

were aliens in the land of Egypt.


The allusion to the Israelites as aliens in Egypt is suggestive of their

erstwhile vulnerability as a dependent minority in a foreign land. It has

nothing to say about their adoption of Egyptian religious practice.11

Conversely, the command not to oppress the rg must also have all aliens

in view, not just those who adopt the Israelite covenant by being



The Alien in Deut 5:14


The Sabbath commandment in Deut 5:12-15 stands at the heart of the

Deuteronomic account of the Decalogue. Verse 14 lists those included in the

prohibition against working on the Sabbath and concludes with a purpose


jtbv-jnbv htx hkxlm-lk hWft xl jyhlx hvhyl tbw yfybwh Mvyv


jtmxv jdbf Hvny Nfml jyrfwb rwx jrgv jtmhb-lkv jrmHv jrvwv



Exod 23:10-12 "there is no allusion to the keeping of a sabbath unto the Lord ... in connection

with either the seventh year or seventh day," such as is found in Exod 20:10 and Lev 23:3 (C. F.

Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, 2 vols., Biblical Commentary, trans. James Martin,

Clark's Foreign Theological Library, 4th series, vol. 3 [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1872],146). It

would also explain the absence of any mention of benefits for the addressee of the command.

      10 It has been argued that the welfare of animals, slaves, and aliens is not primarily in focus in

Exod 23:12. Instead, a sacral "’return to the original state,’ a restitutio in integrum," is in view,

and they are to rest simply because "they are an integral part of the creation which ... is to return

to its ‘rest"' (Martin Noth, Exodus: A Commentary, trans. J. S. Bowden, Old Testament Library

[Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1962],190). However, such a conclusion is not drawn from

evidence in the passage itself. See Niels-Erik Andreasen, The Old Testament Sabbath: A Tradition-

Historical Investigation, SBLDS, no. 7 (Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1972), 135; Jay

W. Marshall, Israel and the Book of the Covenant: An Anthropological Approach to Biblical Law,

SBLDS, no. 140 (Atlanta, GA; Scholars Press, 1993), 159.

"In view of the scattering of the Jewish exiles, it is understandable that the LXX

translators would interpret the rg primarily as a newcomer to the Jewish religion, whenever

possible. Nevertheless, their translation of Myrg in the last clause of Exod 23:9 as prosh<lutoi

("proselytes") is clearly anachronistic. It would have been more appropriate if the terms

Myrg/rg had been translated as pa<roikoj/pa<roikoi ("so)ourner/sojourners") in both verses.

THE SABBATH AND THE ALIEN                         227


However, the seventh day [is] a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must

not do any work: [not] you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male

servant, or your female servant, or your ox, or your donkey, or any of

your cattle, or your alien who [is] within your gates, so that your male

servant and female servant may rest like you.


"Although only the male and female slave are mentioned in the clause

stating the rationale, it seems clear that they represent the entire list of

dependents mentioned earlier in the command."12 Accordingly, the extension

of rest to the household, the alien, and the livestock is not incidental to the

rest of the Israelite householder. Instead, it is placed on a par.

The inclusion of the uncircumcised alien in the command of Deut

5:14 is confirmed by the fact that it is reinforced in v. 15 with an appeal

to the Israelite experience of slavery in Egypt.


hqzH dyb Mwm jyhlx hvhy jxcyv Myrfm Crxb tyyh dbf-yk trkzv

Nk-lf hyvFn frzbv

tbwh Mvy-tx tvWfl jyhlx hvhy jvc

And you must remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and

Yahweh your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and with

a stretched-out arm. Therefore Yahweh your God commanded you to

observe the Sabbath day.13


The fact that the Israelites were aliens in Egypt is not explicitly stated

in this verse, but it is implied, in the same way that the inclusion of the

alien in the rationale of v. 14 is implied. Accordingly, the issue of the

alien's vulnerability is what is in view, not the question of his inclusion

in the Israelite covenant through circumcision, just as in Exod 23:9.


Conclusion and Implications

A universal dimension to the weekly Sabbath is implied by the

presence of three commands in the Pentateuch that specifically include the


    12 Christiana van Houten, The Alien in Israelite Law, JSOT Supplement Series, no. 107

(Sheffield: JSOT Press, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 92.

     13 The conclusion of this verse may seem to suggest that the deliverance from Egyptian

slavery is being advanced as the reason for Sabbath observance itself, rather than as reason for

extending its privileges to one's dependents. However, while Exod 20:11 has an introductory

"for" (yk), the reference to Israel's redemption in Deut 5:15b begins with the "conjunction ‘and’

and simply enlarges the command" in v. 15a "to include remembrance of the Exodus on the

sabbath" (Niels-Erik Andreasen, "Festival and Freedom: A Study of an Old Testament Theme,"

Int 28 [1974]: 284). The "therefore" (Nk-lf) of Deut 5:15b may thus simply be by "analogy of [sic]

Exodus 20:8-11, for ... no reason for the sabbath per se is really provided here" (ibid). On the

other hand, even if Israel's deliverance from slavery did constitute one reason for

Sabbathkeeping, there is no reason to deny that contextually it also serves as a prod to show

kindness toward one's dependents (see Martin Rose, 5. Mose, 2 vols., Zurcher Bibelkommentare,

Altes Testament, no. 5.2 [Zurich: Theologischer Verlag, 1994], 431).

228                 SEMINARY STUDIES 38 (AUTUMN 2000)


alien in the Sabbath rest (Exod 20:10; 23:12; and Deut 5:14). Traditional

rabbinic interpretation has resisted this implication by claiming that the

rg or alien in these verses is the ger saddiq, the circummcised "righteous

alien," rather than with the ger toshab, the uncircumcised "sojourning

alien," who is a newcomer to Jewish territory, but not to the Jewish

religion. According to John Calvin, the uncircumcised alien is included,

but simply to prevent any stumbling-block to Israelite Sabbathkeeping,

not because of any benefit he himself might gain. There seems to be no

evidence as to the validity or otherwise of these arguments in Exod 20:10.

However, an exegesis of the place of the alien in Exod 23:12 and Deut 5:14

provides strong evidence that these texts do include the uncircumcised

alien in their perspective, and that his rest and refreshment is just as much

apart of the purpose of the Sabbath as the rest and refreshment of the

Israelite householder.

In Christian circles, the continued observance of a weekly Sabbath

has generally received wider support than the continued observance of

other OT sacred times. A number of reasons might be cited, not least of

which is the fact that the Sabbath is the only sacred time that is

specifically included in the Decalogue.14 Rarely has attention been given

to the possible significance of a comparative study of the Pentateuchal

laws governing the relationship of the alien to different sacred times, and

it is beyond the scope of this article to undertake such a study in detail.

nevertheless, on the basis of a preliminary investigation, it would seem

that the Pentateuch itself does give the uncircumcised alien a special status

in relationship to the weekly Sabbath, one that it does not afford to him

in relationship to any other sacred time.15  This distinction may indeed


     14 Because of its position in the substance of the "Ten Commandments," the weekly

Sabbath retains its binding character on the recipient of the new covenant in a manner which

does not apply to the sabbatical year or the year of jubilee" (0. Palmer Robertson, The Christ

of the Covenants [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1980], 74).

     15 The uncircumcised alien is specifically barred from observing the Passover (Exod

12:43-49). The alien is prohibited from eating leavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened

Bread (Exod 12:19), but the examination of context undertaken above (see n. 6) indicates that

the circumcised alien is specifically in view in this verse. The examination of the context of

Lev 16:29 undertaken above (nn. 5-6) suggests the possibility that just the uncircumcised alien

may be specifically in view in commands given with reference to the alien is apparently

permitted and encouraged to observe the Feast of Harvest/Weeks (Deut 16:11, 12; 26:11), but

he does not seem to be required to do so (Deut 16:16). The same situation seems to apply to

alien observance of the Feast of Booths (Lev 22:42, 43; Deut 16:14, 16). In the Sabbatical

Year, provision is made for the sustenance of the uncircumcised alien while the land lies

fallow (Lev 25:6) and the uncircumcised alien attending the Feast of Booths that year is

included in the comprehensive list of people who are to listen to the reading of the law (Deut

31:11, 12). The provision for the sustenance of the alien may be to ensure his survival as a

landless individual during the fallow year. However, his debts are not remitted as the


THE SABBATH AND THE ALIEN                         229


offer one justification for the special place of honor sometimes accorded

the Sabbath in Christian tradition vis-a-vis other OT sacred times.


Israelite's are, nor is the non-Israelite slave released after seven years, as the

Israelite slave is (Deut 15:1-18). Likewise, in the Year of Jubilee, Israelite servants

are to be released, whereas the slaves who are foreigners or the children of aliens

may remain enslaved and be passed on from generation to generation (Lev 25:47-

54). In none of these cases is there a categorical requirement for the uncircumcised

alien to participate fully in the observance of a sacred time, such as we have found

in this article with the weekly Sabbath.






This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Andrews University Seminary Studies

SDA Theological Seminary
Berrien Springs
, MI 49104-1500

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