Two Kinds of Work - 7th Day Rest E3

Episode Summary

In Genesis 1 and 2, humanity is created and placed in a garden full of potential and abundance. Their job is to act as God’s image and to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth. But in Genesis 3, humanity chose to defy God and fell from their original destiny. As a result, the nature of their work, which was originally to be pleasurable and fulfilling, has now been cursed. The ground is cursed and work is now “toil,” a desperate struggle to survive in the very place they were supposed to rest.

Episode Notes


“So once [the fall] happened, we go to Genesis 3, and all of a sudden the ground that was the source of humanity’s life as a gift from God—‘cursed is the ground because of you.’ So all of a sudden, we’ve lost the seventh-day ideal and not attained it.”



Welcome to episode three in our series on the theme of the seventh-day rest in the Bible.

In part 1 (0-21:45), Tim comments on Genesis 2:15.

Genesis 2:15

Then the Lord God took the human and ‘rested him’ (וינחהו / nuakh) into the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God “rests” the human in the garden so that he can “work” it. Tim notes that this is the first appearance of the Hebrew word nuakh in the Bible. This becomes an important word in the theme of seventh-day rest. Tim says that this word can be understood as “to dwell,” or “to abide and rest in.” Humanity is to be fully present in the garden (Heb. nuakh = “to take up residence”).

Tim also says that this abiding rest is conditional. Will humans obey God and not take of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad? Answer: no. So what happens? Humanity rebels and is exiled from the heaven and earth Eden mountain, sent to “work/labor” the ground.

Genesis 3:17-19

Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat food from it

all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.

Tim says that this is a change in the nature of our work. The work is no longer enjoyable by default; instead, work becomes a task done for survival.

In part 2 (21:45-33:20), Jon asks how this idea fits with God’s call for humanity to tend and maintain the garden. Wouldn’t ruling and subduing creation take work?

Tim responds by talking about two different types of work. Humanity was created to work, but the original work they were destined for was fundamentally different from the post-fall, post-eden work. Tim quotes from Abraham Joshua Heschel, a famous 20th century Jewish rabbi and his book The Sabbath.

“We are all infatuated with the splendor of space and the grandeur of the things of space. Thing is a category that lays heavy on our mind, tyrannizing all our thoughts. In our daily lives we attend primarily to that which are senses are spelling out for us. Reality to us is thinghood, consisting of substances that occupy space. Even God is perceived by most of us as a thing. The result of our thinginess is a blindness to all realities that fail to identify itself as a thing. This is obvious in our understanding of time, which being thingless and unsubstantial appears to us as having no reality. Indeed we know what to do with space but do not know what to do with time, except to make it subservient to space. Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space. As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face. Time to us is sarcasm. A slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives. Shrinking therefore from facing time, we escape for shelter to things of space.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, prologue)

In part 3 (33:20-40:45), Tim focuses on Psalm 90.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust

and say, “Return, O children of man!”

For a thousand years in your sight

are but as yesterday when it is past,

or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,

like grass that is renewed in the morning:

in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;

in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;

by your wrath we are dismayed.

You have set our iniquities before you,

our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The years of our life are seventy,

or even by reason of strength eighty;

yet their span is but toil and trouble;

they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Who considers the power of your anger,

and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days

that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Lord! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

and for as many years as we have seen evil.

Let your work be shown to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and establish the work of our hands upon us;

yes, establish the work of our hands!

Tim notes that in verse 14, the English word “satisfy” is the Hebrew word for seven. So the writer is asking God for a completeness that only he can give.

In part 4 (40:45-49:30), Tim looks at the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12. Tim says that this is a seven-lined poem, and there are five promises of blessing which match the five curses earlier in Genesis 3-11. Jon notes that the conversation is actually looking at new creation through the lens of the sabbath and seventh-day rest.

In part 5 (49:30-55:45), Tim dives into a story about Abraham in Genesis 21.

Genesis 21:22-34

Now it came about at that time that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do; now therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but according to the kindness that I have shown to you, you shall show to me and to the land in which you have sojourned.” Abraham said, “I swear it.”

But Abraham complained to Abimelech because of the well of water which the servants of Abimelech had seized. And Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor did I hear of it until today.” Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant. Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Abimelech said to Abraham, “What do these seven ewe lambs mean, which you have set by themselves?” He said, “You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness to me, that I dug this well.” Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath. So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days.

Tim notes that this story is symbolic on many levels. Tim notes that the Hebrew word sheba can be translated as both “seven” and “oath.” So the story represents Abraham making a “seven” oath with Abimelech, who symbolically represents the nations. This oath results in peace and abundance for all people involved. Tim and Jon both agree that once you start to look for it, the themes of seven, completeness, and seventh-day rest are all over the Bible.

In part 6 (44:45-end), Tim and Jon recap the episode and preview the next part of the story, which is Israel’s enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus story.

Show Music:

Show Produced by:

Dan Gummel

Show Resources:

Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

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