Reflections of Eden in Deuteronomy’s fourth commandment
This study argues that, just as in Exodus 20, the Sabbath commandment articulated in Deuteronomy 5 is grounded in creation. In doing so it also attempts to bring further insight into the overall purpose for which the Sabbath commandment was given to Israel. The study begins by discussing the ways in which authors use text–knowledge (or cognitive) frames to signal meaning to an audience—both in terms of the subject under discussion and the shared presuppositions concerning the norms of that subject. It then discusses the manner in which readers analyse complex texts by binding various pieces of information gleaned from the text into a pre-existing conceptual model. Next, it articulates a methodology for addressing hortatory texts that combines discourse analysis with various tools from literary study. This methodology recognises the text–knowledge frames used by authors and the manner in which readers go about deciphering challenging texts. The study then traces the structure of the Sabbath commandment and places it within the context of the Decalogue and Deuteronomy as a whole. The use of discourse analysis clarifies that the Sabbath day requires two things of Israel: (1) a cessation from the labour of one’s normal occupation and (2) remembering what YHWH had done in redeeming them from Egypt. Both are required to properly sanctify the day. Additionally, the Sabbath commandment is the rhetorical high point of the Decalogue; it is the only one which has commandments directly relating to self, God, and neighbour. The study suggests that the various additions and changes that are made within the Decalogue are due to the changed circumstances since the laws were given at Sinai and the wilderness generation’s passing. Moses goes to great lengths to affirm that he is still covenant mediator and that these words are every bit as binding as the first words given at Sinai. The study argues that the Decalogue forms the starting point from which the stipulations of Deuteronomy begin. Each of the commandments is expanded upon in one way or another. Five Sabbath expansions are noted in laws relating to tithing, the Sabbatical Year, the Sabbatical release of the debt-servant, the law of the firstborn male, and the festival calendar. Each of these takes the notion of rest articulated in the Sabbath commandment and applies it to Israel in various ways beyond the seventh day of the week. Next, Deuteronomy is set within the context of the Pentateuch as a whole. It is argued that the text–knowledge frames that Deuteronomy uses presuppose familiarity with the other books of the Pentateuch and the laws described therein. The themes of rest, Israel as a reflection of the garden of Eden, and the Sabbath idea are traced throughout the Pentateuch. It is argued that Adam and Eve’s labour in the garden of Eden was a “restful” labour that was subsequently destroyed by their disobedience in Genesis 3. Since that time, humanity has longed for rest, and, in various ways, the Pentateuch describes how God is intent on bringing humanity back to rest. This is done primarily through Israel, whose life in the promised land was intended to reflect life in the garden of Eden. The Sabbath day is thus to be enjoyed by them as a taste of what life was intended to be in the garden.
- Theology