Church of God, New World Ministries

How Israel Changed God’s Sabbaths

History proves that the Gentiles lost the knowledge of the Sabbath shortly after the flood. That’s why God had to reveal His Sabbaths to Israel. Now read how Israel changed His Sabbaths, how the Jews invented their own traditions, which Jesus condemned!

God chose Israel for a special mission which they have failed to perform. He revealed to them His Sabbath as a sign so they would never forget that He is the creator. He also gave Israel seven annual Holy Days, memorials, to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, a picture for His church of the plan of God in delivering the world from sin. (Send for your FREE copy of God’s Master Plan of Salvation).

But did Israel remain faithful to these God-given Festivals? Did they invent days of their own? Did God ever say He would abolish the days that He ordained?

Hundreds of pamphlets have been written in an attempt to explain that God abolished His Sabbath and feasts in ancient Israel. Yet many of these same tracts attempt to prove that God cruelly punished Israel for breaking these days.

Stop and think! Here is an obvious contradiction. Both ideas can’t be right. Why would God punish a nation for refusing to observe days that supposedly had already ceased to exist? That just doesn’t make sense, does it?

Let’s examine the historical evidence of the Bible instead of assuming fables. Did God hate the days He ordained or did He punish Israel for breaking them?

Several chapters are devoted by the prophet Ezekiel to a condemnation of Israel for breaking the Sabbaths God had given. This is historical proof that those days were then in existence and that God greatly disapproved their transgression. Take special note of Ezk. 20:12-26 and 22:26. The punishment inflicted upon the House of Israel was for desecrating the Sabbaths with idolatrous practices sanctioned by their own human laws that were not good.

What was the extreme evil of this sin? By breaking the Sabbath, Israel was rejecting the only sign between them and God whereby they might know that He was indeed the Lord of all. With the desecration of the Sabbaths, idolatry was a natural consequence, as centuries of Israel’s history demonstrated.

Ezekiel wrote under the inspiration of God. Therefore it couldn’t be, as is often falsely preached, that other inspired prophets before him such as Isaiah wrote that God hated His Sabbaths. Then whose feasts did God hate?

There is no verse or verses in all of the Old Testament wherein the Lord says “my” Sabbaths and festivals “I hate.” Critical commentators overlook the plain statement of Biblical history. The Eternal said: “I hate, I despise your feasts days, and your solemn assemblies.” Notice it. “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: for they are a trouble unto me” (Amos 5:21; 8:10; Isa. 1:10-15; Hosea 2:11).

These were not divine institutions, but man-appointed days observed in Israel. These days God despised. Ancient Israel did not continue to observe the holy days of God. They refused His judgments and statutes (Ezk. 20:18). They copied the heathen idolatrous feasts of surrounding nations. History proves this fact!

The chronicle of ancient Israel preserved a record of just such a change in the laws of God, when the House of Israel separated from Judah. “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the 15th day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar sacrificing unto the calves that he had made, the 15th day of the 8th month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart” (I Kings 12:32-33). God’s feast of tabernacles is in the 7th month on the 15th day, not the 8th.

This was the initial step by which the House of Israel departed from God’s laws. To keep his people from returning to Judah where the Sabbaths and festivals of God were still observed on the correct days, the king of the House of Israel sustained feasts of his own devising in place of keeping holy the days that God made holy.

Thereafter Israel altered the new moons, and changed the Sabbaths into idolatrous days for sun-worship. One special feature should be noticed. Israel partially retained a perverted form of the original days. The heathen nations did not keep their festivals as complete rest days, but Israel, taking over the feasts of the heathen Baal –sun-worship -- turned them into idolatrous rest days according to the statues of the kings of Israel (II Kings 17:8).

When the House of Israel is next found in history, as the nations of Northwestern Europe, they are keeping the day of the sun! So the Ever-Living God never hated nor abolished His feasts. But He did hate the different days which Israel invented!

The House of Israel changed the days God instituted. The House of Judah says the Lord also “changed my judgment into wickedness and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them” (Ezk. 5:6).

Now notice the first chapter of Isaiah. It is addressed in particular to Judah. In this chapter it is especially mentioned that the Jews instituted their own appointed feasts and probably added another day to the new moon period. “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates,” said the word of the Lord (Isa. 1:1; 1:14). This was the beginning of what is customarily called “Jewish Feasts.” Being instituted by the Jews they were naturally “Jewish.”

But nothing is said about the Jews instituting their own Sabbath. It is not surprising, then, that the Jews have preserved the right Sabbath of God to our generation. The House of Israel (the Democratic nations of the Western World) which did not keep the 7th day as the Sabbath has never observed it since.

Another point to note in Israel’s account is this. The Jews not only added their own appointed feasts and new moons, but also retained the Biblical ones, “the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies.” These they turned into abominations and profaned by idolatry and labor. No wonder God abhorred the manner in which the Jews treated His holy time (Isa. 1:13).

Whereas Israel changed every single day, Judah, under the guidance of a few kings who kept the correct festivals (II Chron. 30 and 35), was religiously divided. Some Jews remained true to the annual festivals, others kept them in vain because their hearts were not right, while yet other Jews invented their own annual occasions. The Jews never changed the Sabbath, although they deliberately profaned it by work (Jer. 17:21-27).

For that sin, especially, they were driven out of Judea and deprived of one of the blessings of God, the opportunity of keeping His day. They became the property of their enemies and “the Lord caused the solemn feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion” (Lamentations 2:6).Jeremiah does not joy over the abolition of the festivals, but laments over their being forgotten.

Even after having to suffer the privations of war for rejecting the ways of God, the Jews did not fully learn their lesson. Those who returned to Jerusalem made a covenant not to buy on the Sabbath or holy days (Neh. 10:31). Yet they continued profaning these hallowed days. Here is what Nehemiah writes in his historical account.

“In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses: as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, what evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your father’s thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath” (Neh. 13:15-18).

This stern rebuke of Nehemiah has a serious reaction on the carnal minded Jews after the time of Nehemiah. Instead of turning to keep the Sabbath in the spirit as God intended, the Jews soon began to formulate scores of rules of their own for its observance. This was the tradition of the elders against which Jesus spoke (Matt. 15:3).

The beginning of this tradition is clothed in obscurity because of “the long blank in the history of the Jews which follows the time of Nehemiah” (Ency. Bib., p. 24525). When the observance of the Sabbath comes to light somewhat before the time of Christ, it was a radically different observance than that of which Nehemiah spoke in the 5th century B .C.

From the gospel accounts, and other historical evidences, the Jews held the following traditions, let’s enumerate a few: no one could carry water to a thirsty animal, that would be a burden, but he could lead the animal to drink; one could relieve the distress of the ill, but not heal; one could not break or divide anything that was previously united, as that was a form of grinding; neither could one eat grain from the field as that was a form of threshing.

But the Jews didn’t stop with this introduction of human traditions. After the death of Nehemiah, they began to alter the days when the annual festivals were to be held. By the time of Jesus the sects of Judaism were in great confusion over the Pentecost.

The Jews were divided over the exact date for the celebration of Pentecost, the feast of firstfruits (Jewish Encyclopedia, article, “Pentecost”). The Jews feast of firstfruits or Pentecost was celebrated by the Pharisees on a specified day of the month. The Sadducees maintained that Pentecost was on a particular day of the week, since it had to be counted (Lev. 23:15).This perversion of God’s festivals deserved the name given by the gospel writers: “Jewish feasts” (John 6:4; 5:1)

How did Jesus regard these regulations? Did the teaching of Jesus indicate that he abolished these man-made regulations and freed the Sabbath from the bondage of traditions? Or did he abolish the Sabbath and the festivals? The answer is found in the words of Jesus Christ himself. Read Mark 7: 1-9. “…Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.” (Vs. 7-8). When Jesus Christ wrote the 4th commandment with His own fingers, he meant for us to “remember it” forever. When will man learn that they must worship God in spirit and truth? God tells us HOW to worship Him. He does not give man that prerogative! God only gives man the prerogative as whether they will worship or not! Do you worship God as He commands or pursuant to the traditions of men?

(Enroll today in our new series “Traditional Christian Doctrines”. It is FREE, as always).

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