It seems like a fair question, "Why would an omnipotent God need to rest after creating the universe?" Elsewhere, the Bible says that our Creator God does not get weary or tired.1 It turns out that the question is the direct result of a bad rendering of the Hebrew by the King James translation:
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. (Genesis 2:3)
The original language
The Hebrew word, shabath, translated "rest" does not really refer to a requirement to sleep or take a break due to weariness. In the vast majority of verses the NASB translates the word as some form of stopping or ceasing. In only 7 out of 68 instances is the word translated "rest" or "rested." (see also the Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions2)
H7673a. shabath, [991d]; a prim. root; to cease, desist, rest:-- brought to an end (1), cease (21), ceased (7), ceases (3), did away (2), disappear (1), do away (1), eliminate (3), gone (1), hear no more (1), lacking (1), left without (1), made an end (1), make an end (1), observe (2), put a stop (3), put an end (3), puts an end (1), remove (2), removed (1), rest (4), rested (3), silence (1), stop (2), stopped (1).
Other Bible translations render the Hebrew correctly:
- Young's Literal Translation - And God blesseth the seventh day, and sanctifieth it, for in it He hath ceased from all His work which God had prepared for making.
- God's Word - Then God blessed the seventh day and set it apart as holy, because on that day he stopped all his work of creation.
- Good News Bible - He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day, because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working.
Other verses in the Old Testament separate shabath from the usual Hebrew words used to denote rest. For example, Exodus 23:12 uses the word shabath as ceasing or stopping from labor, but uses the Hebrew word nuach and naphash to indicate resting.
"Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease [shabath] from labor in order that your ox and your donkey may rest [nuach], and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh [naphash] themselves. (Exodus 23:12)
Purpose of the creation
Atheists tend to have the idea that if a god had created the world, he would have done so just to give human beings a good place to live. However, the Bible says that the day of rest (Sabbath) is one of the main purposes of creation - so God's people can break from the routine of work to contemplate God. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). So, the Sabbath does not celebrate God's creation, but celebrates God Himself. The Sabbath is a preview of heaven, when we will forever enter into God's rest. So, the author of Hebrews encourages us to enter into God's rest rather than falling into disobedience.
So, what Genesis 2:3 is saying is that God stopped creating after the sixth day - not that God needed to take a break. The Bible indicates that the seventh day is not closed. In all other days the text says, "there is the evening and the morning, the n day." There is no such closing for the seventh day. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author tells us to labor to enter into God's seventh day of rest (which is continuing).
For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"... Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:4-11)
These verses indicate that we are currently in God's seventh day of "rest." However, according to the Bible, God has been very busy during this "rest" - forming the nation of Israel, sending the Messiah, and building His Church. During this time, God has ceased His creative work. At the end of the seventh day, Christ will return to judge the earth.3 At that time God will create again - making a new heaven and new earth4 that will have completely different physical laws. For more information, see What Will Heaven be Like?
- If God is Omnipotent (All Powerful) Why Did He Need to Take Six Days to Create the Universe?
- If God Created Everything, Who Created God?
- What Will Heaven be Like?
- Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. (Isaiah 40:28)
- Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
shabath (Strong's H7673)
- to cease, desist, rest
- to cease
- to rest, desist (from labour)
- to cause to cease, put an end to
- to exterminate, destroy
- to cause to desist from
- to remove
- to cause to fail
- (Qal) to keep or observe the sabbath
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
Same Word by TWOT Number: 2323, 2323c
- to cease, desist, rest
- And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds... And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
- For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former
things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
Last updated May 22, 2007