Determining a Sabbath Rest
Why does scripture say to not go out of our place on the Sabbath?
See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”
Some have interpreted this particular scripture to mean that one is not to leave their dwelling place on the Sabbath.
The important word here in English is “place.”
In Hebrew, the word for “place” is “maœqom.” This word is used at least 400 times in the TANAKH.
Its usage ranges anywhere from the place you are standing, to a city, or even a country.
Of course, that is not too helpful in figuring out what it means when it says 'do not leave your place'.
In Acts 1:12, we learn that it was well accepted that you could leave your place on Shabbat from the phrase, “A Sabbath days journey.”
In today’s world, that translated to about a mile.
But, that was their understanding. The question is really this, what does the Torah really mean in saying that we are to stay in our place? As already mentioned, the word “place” has a rather broad meaning in the Hebrew.
As with most things, the answer is in the context.
It should go without saying, but the whole purpose of the Sabbath is to set it apart by means of resting.
That is it. No more, no less. We rest...our employees rest...our animals rest.
There is no commandment anywhere in the Torah that states that the Sabbath is more than resting. That is not to say that we cannot do more than rest, such as assembling together and studying the Word...but that is not a commandment. For example, if Yeshua is our example of the Torah, we find that He was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. He certainly did not assemble with anyone in the desert.
Thus, not going out of our place must have something to do with resting.
Meaning this, wherever you are located on Shabbat, do not travel so much that it feels contrary to resting. This is different for everyone.
An 80 year old man with lung cancer is going to feel like it is more work to walk a mile than a 12 year old boy.
That is understandable, right?
There is a little bit of wiggle room among people in their understanding on what constitutes as being restful or when something begins to feel like work, which of course, is contrary to resting.
So, all that being said...driving an hour or two might not be contrary to rest for you. For some, leaving the house is just too much of a chore. Determine these things for you and your house, but the important thing to realize is that “not going out of our place” must be compared to resting or not resting.
How do we REALLY know that is what Exodus 16:29 is about? How do we REALLY know it is about rest like all of the other Sabbath commandments since the beginning of creation and not something new?
Well, remember, context is everything.
The very next verse, verse 30:
So the people rested on the seventh day.
To attach such strict parameters in defining “place” is sadly, adding to the Torah (Deut. 4:2).
There are understood strict and individually defined loose definitions of what constitutes or does not constitute as work.
We have to be mature as a body of believers in recognizing and accepting that reality, just like our Creator did in intentionally using words with such general meanings.
He could have said, “stay in your house” or “stay in your city” but He didn’t. The question is “why?"
Why did he simply use the word “place” which could be interpreted with such a lack of clarity or specifics?
The Pharisees answered such questions for us, and decided to make their own specifics and blanket commands for all. Yeshua gives his response to that in Mark 7 and Matthew 23.
We suggest simply resting on Shabbat, but we are not going to tell you what degree of travel breaches the definition of rest.
My personal answer to that question will be different today, than 80 years from now, providing I am still alive. Walking from the bedroom to the kitchen today is easy and not work. 80 years from now, staying in bed might be my definition of rest.
If Yah did not give us specifics on travel, then we have no right to either.
However, that is not a license to ignore Exodus 16:29, but a directive to limit personal activity within the threshold of still being restful.
Some might be uncomfortable with the idea that a commandment might be able to be applied a little differently for one person verses the next person. The Pharisees were uncomfortable with that as well, and took matters into their own hands by building fences around the Torah.
We have to use wisdom and maturity. If Yah Himself used generalities in a commandment, by its very own definition, it will be generally applied in ways of obedience.
We hope that this teaching blessed you, and remember, continue to test everything.
Shalom & Blessings