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Cooking On The Sabbath

Cooking On The Sabbath
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I want to say right from the very beginning of this message that I am not putting this study together for the purpose of convincing anyone to give up a personal conviction one way or another on the matter to be addressed. I am writing this because the topic of cooking on The Sabbath is a matter of debate, sometimes heated, among those who otherwise agree with the core issue—that being that The Sabbath is to be kept. My intent is to evaluate everything Scripture says related to the matter—not just the sole ‘proof-text’ used by those who will dogmatically hold that cooking food is prohibited on The Sabbath—and use the accepted rules of hermeneutics to more properly evaluate this matter.

The word hermeneutics is a fancy theology term that most define as: “how we interpret Scripture.” However, I feel that this is not the best way to define it, as we really are not supposed to interpret Scripture at all. Rather, The Bible is first to be read, second to be believed, and third to be obeyed. For this reason I think a better definition for hermeneutics would be: “how we understand The Bible.” It is important to a proper understanding of The Bible that we follow the four rules of hermeneutics, and these are:

  1. Scripture Tells Us What Scripture Is Saying: I often say that The Bible cannot contradict itself, so when people think that something one part of The Bible says conflicts with something else The Bible says chances are that they’re misunderstanding something or reading at least one of the passages wrong. A whole Bible theology considers everything Scripture says about a matter to determine what a single verse is saying about the matter.

  2. Context Tells Is What Scripture Is Saying: It is very important that we consider first the verses immediately before and after the text we are using, the entire chapter the text is taken from, the overall theme in the biblical book it is taken from, what is said in any other books that particular Bible author wrote, and finally the overall context of The Bible as a whole to ensure we do not misunderstand a single statement and subsequently create a wrong doctrine or theology from that one “proof-text” verse.

  3. Intent Tells Us What Scripture Is Saying: It is critically important to proper understanding of a passage that we consider what the author of that statement meant by what he said, or if quoting someone else (as The Gospels so often do with the sayings of Yeshua) what that person meant when they made their original statements as quoted. For example, every single person who wrote any part of The Bible believed in following The Torah, so it would be in complete error to think that anything written in The Bible is against following The Torah or says we no longer have to follow The Torah because part of the intent of everything written in every book of The Bible is to teach us to follow The Torah.

  4. Clear Statements Are Superior To Obscure/Vague Passages: Something I often warn against is using vague statements from post-Torah biblical writings to override the clear commandments of the Torah itself. People do this quite often, and it is a dangerous practice. When you have a clear statement in Scripture that drives doctrine it always governs the understanding of statements that are more vague or potentially open to misunderstanding, not the other way around. Using vague statements to establish doctrines and theology is a quick path to heresy.

Exodus 16:23 (TLV) says, “This is what Adonai has said. Tomorrow is a Shabbat rest, a holy Shabbat to Adonai. Bake whatever you would bake, and boil what you would boil. Store up for yourselves everything that remains, to be kept until the morning.” I will examine this in more detail later in this message, to include looking at other translations. But for now I want to point out that this is the lone statement in all of Scripture, the “proof-text”, that is used to support the idea that cooking on The Sabbath is prohibited.

To some this passage is perfectly clear—all of the manna gathered on the sixth day was cooked on the sixth day, the day of preparation. But if that’s the case, if it’s that clear, then why are there others who feel that there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits cooking on The Sabbath?

Now, I am not talking about “Christians” who reject The Sabbath and through their traditions built on “not under the law” theology wouldn’t particularly care whether or not there ever was a prohibition against cooking food on The Sabbath. There are a good number of people within Messianic Jewish, Hebrew Roots Movement, and otherwise Torah-positive “Christian” groups who do not see Exodus 16:23 or anything else in Scripture as prohibiting the cooking of food on The Sabbath.

This begs the question: Is the prohibition against cooking on The Sabbath based in The Torah or is it a tradition of men? This is what I want to examine. After all, we have as much of an obligation to reject the heretical “Christian” beliefs that Torah is abolished as we do to reject the added takkanot of Rabbinic Judaism. This would mean that if this belief against cooking on The Sabbath is among these traditions of men we have an obligation to treat it as such and at the very least not enforce it like a commandment, if we don’t see reason to reject it outright.

One thing we have to remember when we are dealing with the intricacies and details of some of the things instructed in The Torah is that some things were written in a context of ancient peoples living in a nomadic community. Take, for example, the command in Leviticus 11:35 that if part of the carcass of an unclean animal falls onto a stove then the stove is to be smashed to pieces and discarded. There are well-meaning people today who don’t know what a stove was at that time in history who would conclude that if you buy a home or rent an apartment you need to replace the stove “just in case” the previous occupants cooked pork or shellfish on or in it. But the stove referred to in that passage was something made of porous stone or ceramic.

Leviticus 6:21 gives us more clarity on the matter. While dealing with a specific about sin offerings, it tells us that earthen vessels (stoves) are to be broken while a bronze pot may be scoured and rinsed. This gives us the basis for what to do with modern metal stoves, ovens, pots, and pans that may have been used for cooking unclean things. We simply need to give them a good washing with soap and a scouring pad and they are once again acceptable for the covenant Believer to use in food preparation of biblically clean foods. Also, most people in developed societies use pots and pans and the food does not actually touch the oven or stove, and while it may depend on one’s financial situation most people also do not buy used pots and pans.

Through this example, and certainly many others in Scripture, we can see that cultural context is critical to our understanding of what we are being told to do or not do throughout The Torah and the rest of the biblical record. It shows that we can easily err in our understanding of things The Bible says if we don’t pause and seek out this context instead of reading the passage as if it were written in modern-day America. With this in mind, before we get back to Exodus 16:23, there are some other things we must review that will help us build a context where Scripture will give us an understanding of Scripture and what is made clear will advise us on what is not so clear.

Commanded To Cook On Feast Days

The first day is to be a holy assembly for you as well as the seventh day. No manner of work is to be done on those days, except what is to be eaten by every person—that alone may be prepared by you.

—Exodus 12:16 (TLV)

I know people who teach that the only difference between The Weekly Sabbath and The High Sabbaths (Feast Days) is that you can cook on The High Sabbaths. In actuality, cooking on Feast Days is not even really optional, when you get right down to it we are being commanded to cook the meal on the Feast Day.

If we turn our attention to Leviticus 23, every one of the seven Torah Feast Days instructs us to bring an offering made by fire. This is a reference to the meal we are to prepare and cook on The Feast Day. Contrary to a lot of opinions today, this includes the day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), as outlined in Leviticus 23:27. I spoke about this in greater detail in an article titled Yom Kippur: Fast Or Feast where much like this message I examine where the idea of fasting on this day comes from since it too requires an offering made by fire according to The Torah.

Again, we have to keep in mind that some things in The Torah may not be saying what thousands of years of traditions of men cause the majority to think they mean today. I will reiterate that I am not telling anyone not to fast for The Day of Atonement nor am I telling anyone to cook on The Weekly Sabbath. I am simply examining these matters with an open mind and what The Bible tells us. It is perfectly clear that The Feast Days, which are also called Sabbaths, require us to prepare and cook food on them.

Now, what about when a Feast Day coincides with The Weekly Sabbath? This does happen periodically, and if there is truly a prohibition against cooking on The Weekly Sabbath then it becomes a matter of which takes priority.

Some would say that The Weekly Sabbath takes priority, and therefore if this happens all food for The Feast Day must be prepared before sunset on what we today would call “Friday evening”. Others would say that the Feast Day takes priority as it is a High Sabbath with a clear commandment to prepare and cook food on The Feast Day itself. Of course, this problem would go away if those who contend that there is no prohibition against cooking food on The Weekly Sabbath are correct.

Cooking The Temple Showbread

Also you are to take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes of it, with two tenths of an ephah in each cake. Then you are to set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before Adonai. Set pure frankincense on each row, as a memorial portion for the bread, an offering by fire to Adonai. Every Yom Shabbat he is to set it in order before Adonai continually. It is an everlasting covenant on behalf of Bnei-Yisrael.

—Leviticus 24:5-8 (TLV)

This is a much more interesting passage for the matter at hand than cooking for The Feast Days because this is undeniably taking place on The Weekly Sabbath. This is literally telling the priests to cook the cakes for the Table of Showbread on The Sabbath Day.

One of the arguments I have heard people make for not cooking on The Sabbath is that when you cook food it changes the food. This is clearly illustrated with baking bread as you take raw flour, water, and oil, mix it all together, and then bake it so that it becomes bread. Yet right here we have the priests going through this entire process on The Sabbbath Day.

We see this in practice in 1 Samuel 21 and 1 Chronicles 9. When David needed sustenance for him and his men they were able to obtain consecrated bread as they were in the process of replacing it with hot bread that had just been prepared, as described in 1 Samuel 21:1-7. This tells us that the bread was cooked on the day that it was set out—The Sabbath Day. 1 Chronicles 9:32 also states that the bread was prepared every Sabbath Day.

This provides us undeniable testimony that the Temple bread was prepared and baked on The Sabbath. Some may argue that what was commanded for the priests to do in The Temple is exclusive to what was to be done by people in their homes. While that may be true, what we are seeing is a pattern of clear examples of food items being cooked or prepared for eating on a Sabbath Day, whether that be a High Sabbath or a Weekly Sabbath, and the lone “proof-text” used against cooking on The Sabbath is not so clear on the matter.

Plucking Grain On The Sabbath

Now during Shabbat, Yeshua was passing through grain fields; and His disciples were picking and eating heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not permitted on Shabbat?”

—Luke 6:1-2 (TLV)

This is a peculiar passage, as there is a clear permission given in The Torah to pluck grain, fruit, or anything else from a plant or tree, even on The Sabbath, while passing by if you are simply taking that which you will eat in the moment. This is all described in Deuteronomy 23:25-26 where it draws a clear distinction between taking what you will eat in the moment and filling a basket or swinging a sickle. In other words, it was not considered “work” to harvest enough food in passing to eat in the moment.

I have often wondered why Yeshua didn’t just look at the Pharisees making their accusation against His disciples and say: “What are you guys talking about? You know good and well The Torah allows for this.” But then notice that Luke gives a detail not mentioned in Matthew’s and Mark’s telling of the story—they were rubbing the grain in their hands. This would have separated the chaff which some have argued is what the Pharisees saw as “working on The Sabbath” through the act of food preparation. In other words, they weren’t just picking the grain and eating it, but added an element of prepping the food.

Regardless of whether or not that was the detail in the story that the Pharisees had an issue with, if you get right down to it technically speaking that was still an act of food preparation. That’s right, it was every bit as much an action related to cooking as would be actual cooking. It might be minimal, it might seem a stretch to some, but it was still an act that is in the same category as cooking on The Sabbath would be.

We could also consider the scenario described in Luke 13:14-15. Here it was being discussed about healing on The Sabbath, with some saying that Yeshua had six other days in the week to perform healing. His reply was to call them hypocrites and point out that on The Sabbath everyone leads their animals to a to water. This would indicate that Yeshua did not view it as “work” to feed for your animals on The Sabbath, even when you had to physically take them to the place of provision.

Luke 14:1 tells us of a Sabbath Day meal Yeshua partook of in the home of a Pharisee. This too stands out as a point of interest. While it doesn’t say the food was prepared or cooked on The Sabbath, it also doesn’t say it was prepared or cooked prior to The Sabbath.

What many “Christians” don’t know is that there were two primary groups of Pharisees—those of the House of Shammai and those of the House of Hillel. The apostle Paul, for example, was of the House of Hillel. These two groups differed in their conclusions on many points of Torah. It would not be unreasonable to say that there were at least some among the Pharisees who believed it was permitted to cook on The Sabbath.

While not canonical, pseudepigrapha writings like the book of Jubilees do offer some insights into the beliefs of Second Temple Judaism, which were beliefs held in the time of Yeshua. Jubilees 50:9 says not to do any work on The Sabbath aside from that which was prepared ahead of time on the sixth day so that we can eat, drink, and rest. The passage reads much like Exodus 12:16, indicating that the belief at the time Jubilees was written would have been that the preparation is to set apart uncooked food that will be cooked on The Sabbath.

For these reasons I feel that the meal that Yeshua partook of at this Pharisee’s house on the Sabbath Day mentioned in Luke 14 may have been cooked that day. While this may not be something that can be proven, it seems to be a likely conclusion. This is, if we are being honest, no more a stretch of the imagination as saying Exodus 16:23 establishes a prohibition against cooking on The Sabbath, as we will soon see.

Something else to consider about this passage is that it shows Yeshua “dining out” on The Sabbath. Now, I know many people, especially those who dogmatically insist that the alternate views of these matters I am presenting in this message are wrong, would consider it a huge stretch to connect this event with something like eating at a restaurant or even ordering a pizza on The Sabbath. I have a friend who chose to stop attending a particular Messianic congregation and one of the reasons they told me was that the ministry catered in food for their after-service fellowship. However, if cooking on The Sabbath is acceptable then the only other part of these scenarios to be considered is the exchange of money for the food.

It comes as a shock to some, but there is nothing in The Torah that directly addresses the exchange of money for a product or service on The Sabbath. The whole idea of it, along with the associated prohibition, comes solely from statements made in the Book of Nehemiah. Along with a declaration against buying on The Sabbath, Nehemiah 10:31-32 also speaks about forgiving debts of all people on the seventh year and giving a third of a shekel for The Temple. But these two things are off. The debts were forgiven on the fiftieth year, the year of jubilee, and the requirement for The Temple was a half shekel.

The events described in Nehemiah seem to show the beginnings of Pharisaism. Everything in The Bible following The Torah is a testimony of what happened when people either followed or didn’t follow The Torah, as well as constant calls of prophets and apostles for the people to return to a Torah-positive lifestyle. We need to be particularly careful about establishing doctrines, dogmas, theologies, and beliefs based on these testimonies, particularly when we see that there are clear conflicts with what is actually in The Torah.

It could be just as wrong to say that there is a prohibition against buying and selling on The Sabbath because some Israelites in the time of Nehemiah thought that as to say that we should offer our children on the lap of Molech because there were Israelites who practiced that. Think about it. There is no actual Torah prohibition against buying and selling on The Sabbath, but because people in the time of Nehemiah established this prohibition it is now to be upheld as Torah? There is a prohibition in Torah against Molech worship, but with this same logic we should say that because the Israelites eventually did worship Molech that overrides Torah and we can do that now. This is why we always need to consult Torah, which was given by The Father directly, and what it says or doesn’t say when evaluating whether or not something found later in the biblical narrative is a commandment or a man-made tradition.

People say that we aren’t supposed to buy or sell on The Sabbath because we’re not supposed to make people work on The Sabbath. But let me run a scenario that should give us pause to think if some of these beliefs are realistic.

Let’s say that you order an item from a retailer’s catalog or website. Someone at the company has to process the transaction, what happens if they did that on The Sabbath? Did you buy the product on The Sabbath because the transaction was processed on The Sabbath or make that person work on The Sabbath through placing your order? Someone has to locate your product and package it for shipping. If that person did that on The Sabbath, did you make them work on The Sabbath because you placed your order? Then there is the delivery service. Did you make the people in any part of the shipping and delivery process work on The Sabbath if any part of that were to take place on The Sabbath? After all, everyone receives mail on The Sabbath. Are we making postal workers work on The Sabbath because we have a mailbox in front of our home?

What if we flipped the scenario and you could know that placing your order through an Internet catalog while at home on The Sabbath would ensure that nobody from that company involved in any part of the processing and delivery of your order would work on The Sabbath, but if you ordered at any other time it may cause someone to work on The Sabbath? Would you order your item on The Sabbath? I know this is much more unrealistic than the previous scenario and it’s not likely you could know ordering something on The Sabbath would prevent anyone from working on The Sabbath, but this is not about how realistic the scenario is. It’s about showing that religious takkanot tends to always be flawed.

Most of us today live in a world where people are free to work or not work on The Sabbath. They all have that choice. Nobody working in a retail store, restaurant, or anyplace where money would be exchanged for products or services is being made to work by you and they are not your servants in the context used within The Torah. I am not at all saying that you should or should not pay for products or services on The Sabbath or that you should or should not eat at a restaurant or order a pizza on The Sabbath. I am simply saying that there is a way to look at these things biblically that would favor these practices, and perhaps those arguments are more logical when considering the whole counsel of Scripture than those promoting prohibitions based on a single verse that is either too vague to draw an absolute conclusion or that conflicts with or even adds to The Torah.

Again, I want to emphasize that my goal in this message is not so much to draw an absolute and dogmatic conclusion one way or another. What I am seeking to do is show that when it comes to things that are not as clear as we may like them to be we all must evaluate both sides of the matter and decide what we individually believe the weight of evidence points toward. All true covenant-keeping followers of Yeshua agree that The Sabbath is to be kept. Beyond that, whatever a person believes can or cannot be done on The Sabbath based on their own study and convictions should be honored and respected.

I once saw a rabbinic three-volume set of books about what those involved in writing them felt can and cannot be done on The Sabbath. More recently I saw a particular Torah-positive Bible teacher I have a lot of respect for share a belief that it is a commandment to recite the scripted blessing at the beginning of The Sabbath, not a rabbinic man-made tradition, based on Exodus 20:8 as some translate it to say we are to remember The Sabbath Day and sanctify it. The problem was that his support for this position that this is not a rabbinic man-made tradition came from a rabbinic commentary about the matter. That would be like a “Christian” saying that The Sabbath was changed to “Sunday” because of the first day of the week gathering in Acts 20, that’s it’s not a Roman Catholic change to Scripture, and then using The Creed Of Constantinople as the supporting evidence.

Whether some people like it or not, the commandment as stated in Exodus 20 is to do no work on The Sabbath, and the word used—the Hebrew melakah (מְלָאכָה)—refers specifically to your occupation, servile work, what you do to earn your living. Personally, I do think it is warranted to extend physical labor, such as yard work or heavy cleaning, to the commandment to do no work on The Sabbath. But, from what I have presented so far in this message, cooking a simple meal or making a sandwich on The Sabbath probably does not fall into the category of physical labor or occupational work—unless maybe you are spending the whole day in the kitchen like what some people do for the American Thanksgiving holiday. But again, if you are convinced that it is prohibited to cook on The Sabbath, then don’t. If, however, you feel the evidence leans toward permitting or even commanding us to cook or prepare a meal on The Sabbath, then feel free to do so without condemnation. As long as you have studied the matter and come to a conclusion through good research, then I can respect your position either way—which is how it should be.

Fire On The Sabbath

Another issue, which is certainly important to this discussion and that people get hung up on, is the commandment to not kindle a fire on The Sabbath. This has led to all sorts of debate to the point where many do not believe it is permissible to light Shabbat and Hanukkah candles after sunset on the evening of The Sabbath (“Friday” night)—they will say that you have to light these candles within a couple of minutes of the sunset.

But what if this is another example of a commandment that is much more simple and people have read entirely too many prohibitions into it? What if this is a situation where, as the popular cultural slang goes, sincere Torah-positive Believers have made a mountain out of a molehill? I have heard some people say that there is a difference between cooking food, which changes the food, and heating something up. But both of these actions would require a fire, on The Sabbath. So let’s evaluate this a little deeper.

Exodus 35:2-3 (TLV) says: “Work is to be done for six days, but the seventh day is a holy day for you, a Shabbat of complete rest to Adonai. Whoever does any work then will die. Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on Yom Shabbat.” Rabbinic Judaism has taken this to mean that you cannot flip a light switch, start a car, or push a button in an elevator because these and many other such acts use a spark of electricity that is viewed as “kindling a fire”. Other Torah-positive Believers look at this passage and conclude that the context clearly tells us that the prohibition is against kindling a fire for the purpose of your occupation, what you earn payment for doing.

The latter certainly seems to make the most logical sense. After all, Leviticus 24:2-4 tells us that the Temple Priests were responsible to kindle the flames of the menorah daily—which would include The Sabbath. To bring the matter into modern times, referencing the Rabbinic prohibition against starting a car, it would seem that the only way this act would be prohibited is if you are driving your car to go to your job that you aren’t supposed to be doing on The Sabbath anyway. However, if you are driving to attend a fellowship (Luke 4:16), go to a prayer meeting by a river (Acts 16:13), spend time in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2), or anything else that would be acceptable on The Sabbath then it would be perfectly OK to start your car if you need to drive to any of these things.

Next we will take a closer look at Exodus 16 and the specifics about the manna, especially what is being said in verse 23. Clearly, if it is required to cook meals for Feast Sabbaths, the Priests were required to bake the showbread on The Sabbath, and the Priests were commanded to kindle fire in the menorah lamps on The Sabbath then if Exodus 16 allows for or even commands cooking on The Sabbath, requiring a fire, it would mean that this too indicates the commandment against kindling a fire is specifically related to occupational work and not other situations like cooking, keeping warm in the winter, lighting candles, turning on the lights in your home, or starting a car. Unless, of course, you are doing any of these things to work at your job on The Sabbath, because then you would be violating the commandment against working at your job on The Sabbath.

Seeing Things From Different Perspectives

We’ve all seen those illusions where some people see two faces staring at each other and others see a single vase or chalice in the middle. That, I think, offers us the perfect illustration for how people have approached Exodus 16:23 and the matter of whether or not there actually is a Torah prohibition against cooking food on The Sabbath.

Before we can look at the passage in question, we must look at what Scripture tells us about the manna itself—it’s physical characteristics. There are actually several things we are told about the manna, giving us a rather detailed description of it.

When the layer of dew was gone, on the surface of the desert was a thin, flake-like frost, as fine as the frost on the ground.

—Exodus 16:14 (TLV)

So they gathered it morning by morning, each man according to his needs, and as the sun became hot it melted.

—Exodus 16:21 (TLV)

Now the manna was similar to coriander seed and had an appearance like gum resin. The people went about, gathered it up, and ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. It had a taste like something made with olive oil.

—Numbers 11:7-8 (TLV)

So, from this we know that the manna covered the ground like frost, it was similar to coriander seeds, looked like resin gum, and if left out in the sun it would melt away. It was something that could be milled into something like flour and made into a kind of bread. These characteristics are all essential to looking at both raw and cooked manna.

But he said to them, “This is what Adonai has said. Tomorrow is a Shabbat rest, a holy Shabbat to Adonai. Bake whatever you would bake, and boil what you would boil. Store up for yourselves everything that remains, to be kept until the morning.”

—Exodus 16:23 (TLV)

So, does this verse tell us that cooking food on The Sabbath is prohibited? Let’s start with looking at a few other translations of the verse, then looking at a few of the leading Bible commentaries.

Moses told them, “This is what the Lord said would happen. It happened because tomorrow is the Sabbath, the special day of rest to honor the Lord. You can cook all the food you need to cook for today, but save the rest of this food for tomorrow morning.”

—Exodus 16:23 (ERV)

And he answered them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that today which ye will bake, and seethe that which ye will seethe, and all that remaineth, lay it up to be kept till the morning for you.

—Exodus 16:23 (GNV)

And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

—Exodus 16:23 (KJV)

And he told them, “Because the Lord has appointed tomorrow as a day of seriousness and rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord when we must refrain from doing our daily tasks. So cook as much as you want to today, and keep what is left for tomorrow.”

—Exodus 16:23 (TLB)

He told them, “This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.”

—Exodus 16:23 (NLT)

And he said unto them, This is that which Hashem hath said, Tomorrow is a Shabbaton (day of rest), Shabbos Kodesh unto Hashem; bake that which ye will bake today, and boil that ye will boil; and that which remaineth over lay up for you for mishmeret (for keeping) until boker.

—Exodus 16:23 (OJB)

Do you notice anything about these translations, including the Orthodox Jewish Bible? They all read in such a way that indicates one is to cook, bake, or boil the portion that they would use that day and set aside the uncooked portion of raw manna until the next day—The Sabbath Day. In addition, there is no translation I have looked at that would definitively indicate it was cooked manna that was stored for The Sabbath, having been cooked, baked, or boiled on “the preparation day”—and I reviewed several other translations including other Messianic versions like The Complete Jewish Bible and The Scriptures (2009). Now let’s look at what some of the big theology commentaries have to say.

They were to bake and boil as much as was needed for the day, and keep what was over for the morrow, for on the Sabbath they would find none in the field.

Bake and seethe: the manna was dressed these two ways, Numbers 11:8. The words to-day are not in the original, and possibly are better left out than taken in; or if they be taken in, they do not seem to me, as they do to many others, to prove that they were commanded to bake or seethe on the sixth day all that they were to eat both that day and upon the following sabbath, or that they were forbidden to bake or seethe it upon the sabbath day; for there is not a word here to that purpose; and it is apparent from the whole context, that the rest of the sabbath is not opposed to their baking or seething of it, but to their going out into the field to gather it. Nay, the contrary is here implied, because after they had baken and sodden what they intended to bake or seethe, part of the manna did, as is here expressly added, remain over, and was reserved for the sabbath day’s provision, and that unbaken and unsodden, otherwise it would not have been noted as a miraculous thing, that it did not stink nor breed worms, Exodus 16:24.

…bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; the phrase "today" is not in the text, and not necessarily supplied; the sense being plainly this, that they might take and boil what they would, and dress as much of the manna as they pleased, and eat what they would, but not that they were to bake and boil for the next day; for it is clear, by what follows, that the manna of the next day was not dressed either way, for then it would be no wonder that it did not stink; and as yet the law for not kindling a fire on the sabbath day was not given; and therefore, for aught to the contrary, they might roast or seethe on that day, or eat it as it was, as they themselves thought fit: and that which remaineth over; what they did not bake, nor seethe, nor eat: lay up for you to be kept until the morning whereas on other days they were to leave nothing of it till the morning, but destroy it or cast it away, whatever was left uneaten.

These statements highlight a belief that the manna to be set aside for The Sabbath was to be kept in its raw form, perhaps stored in a container and certainly placed in a cooler and shaded part of the home as we know the heat of the sun caused it to melt away. I’m not saying the scholars who wrote these commentaries are right or wrong, and certainly some of Gill’s explanation in particular contains some reasoning I am not sold on, but these are highly academic resources from people who gave their life to study the intricacies of Scripture and their conclusion is that the manna for The Sabbath was cooked on The Sabbath and that there is no biblical prohibition against cooking food on The Sabbath. So this begs the question: If the idea that cooking on The Sabbath is prohibited does not originate from Exodus 16:23, where does it come from?

It seems that the idea traces back not to The Torah and not even to Scripture at all, but to the 39 Rabbinic “prohibited acts” related to The Sabbath. Called the 39 Melachot, they are split into four categories with the first dealing with the making of bread. In this category the following acts are considered to be prohibited on The Sabbath Day: plowing, planting, harvesting, gathering, threshing, winnowing, separating, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking/cooking.

There is no shortage of statements against cooking on The Sabbath in ancient Rabbinic writings like the Mishnah and the Talmud. But notice among the Sabbath prohibitions in the “making bread” category of the 39 Melachot are threshing, winnowing, and separating. Recall when we saw the disciples in Luke 6 plucking grain and rubbing it in their hands, an act that would be related to these three prohibited acts. The act of plucking what they were going to eat in the moment was permitted by Torah and not considered harvesting or gathering. But, having plucked the grain, it seems the disciples may have then violated this man-made prohibition and that could be the very thing the Pharisees took exception with.

What it all comes down to is that the claim that cooking food on The Sabbath is prohibited is based on a single verse that is particularly vague on the matter and a plethora of later beliefs that fall into the category of the traditions of men or man-made religious rules. But that sole Bible verse has been viewed by many as saying that the Sabbath portion of manna was to be cooked on The Sabbath Day—which could be taken not as mere permission to cook but even a commandment to cook on The Sabbath, the exact opposite of the modern belief against cooking on The Sabbath.

Exodus 16:29 says nobody should leave their place on The Sabbath. The Hebrew word here is “maqom” (מָקוֹם) and it can refer to something as narrow and restrictive as sitting in a chair in one place for the appointed duration of time or as broad as staying within the borders of your nation. So, does keeping The Sabbath require us to sit in a chair for 24 hours, not even getting up for food or to relieve yourself, or are we allowed to get on an airplane and fly from New York City to Los Angeles?

Rabbinic traditions prohibit the mixing of meat and dairy in a meal together. This is taken from the commandment to not boil a goat in its mother’s milk. Rabbinic traditions say that everyone has to write their own Torah scroll. This is taken from Deuteronomy 31:19, which has to do with the song of Moses. There is no shortage of man-made traditions that have been handed down through Rabbinic Judaism that trace back to a single statement in The Torah, but when you look at that statement it’s not saying what the tradition claims.

If the view that it was the uncooked manna set aside and subsequently cooked on The Sabbath is correct, harmonizing it with the commandment to cook on Feast Sabbaths and the commandment that the showbread be baked on The Sabbath, then that would also mean that Exodus 16:23 is potentially commanding the Israelites to set aside raw manna and then further commanding that it be cooked on The Sabbath. This presents a real problem, seeing as one point of view says that the passage commands us not to cook on The Sabbath and the other point of view says it commands us to cook on The Sabbath.

There is, however, a simple way to deal with this matter. When it’s all said and done, whichever way this passage is viewed it is contextually about when the manna was to be cooked, baked, or boiled. Because this passage can and probably should be considered specific toward the manna and not extended to all food—because there can be no conclusion to which view about when the manna was actually cooked—then this passage should probably be excluded from the broader discussion and therefore leaving us only with examples that more clearly indicate that food was and is to be cooked on The Sabbath.

Ultimately, however, the three other passages we have looked at—cooking on Feast Sabbaths, cooking showbread for The Temple, and rubbing grains in one’s hand—also do not actually directly address the matter of cooking on The Weekly Sabbath in general. The closest would be the disciples with the grain, but most would see that as a stretch to say that was an act of “cooking”. The Feasts are not The Weekly Sabbath, but they are considered Sabbaths. And the showbread was a specific Temple requirement. Together they can add up to a logical conclusion, but not a definitive one.

So this really leads us to the only real solution to the conflicting views: Those who feel strongly that cooking on The Weekly Sabbath is prohibited should not cook on The Sabbath, but also should not teach that it’s absolutely prohibited, and those who feel that the weight of evidence allows for or even commands cooking on The Weekly Sabbath should feel free to cook. Because, if we are being honest, while not totally clear the weight of the evidence does seem to indicate that cooking on The Weekly Sabbath is allowed and potentially even a commandment.

We Must Stop Dividing!

You would think that the masses coming out of the lawless religious system of modern Americanized “Christianity”—with an estimated 44,000 denominations and antinomian theology—and embracing the message of The Torah would seek unity among each other. But there seems to be more division among Messianic and Hebrew Roots Movement people than there is in all the denominations of “Christianity”. Divisions in “Christianity” tend to be at the denominational level, while Messianic and Hebrew Roots Movement divisions seem to often be on an individual level, especially with Hebrew Roots ministries as that movement tends to be made up of a lot of rogue self-appointed Bible teaches with little or no formal education on how to study The Bible.

The problem always seems to stem from people who take a rigid and dogmatic view of a single passage of Scripture without real consideration of a Whole Bible Theology regarding what are often petty topics. Like the matter of cooking on The Sabbath, this trend also happens with things like beards for men, alternative views about calendar dates for the Feast Days, the “correct sacred name” of The Father, and many other things.

Some people who have established themselves as teachers take a position regarding Leviticus 19:27, which says, “You are not to round off the hair on the sides of your heads, nor are you to mar the edge of your beard,” to where they think it’s a sin if you even keep a neatly groomed beard, let alone are clean shaven. To do this they must ignore all of the passages where it gives parameters to shave for certain reasons and the fact that the Hebrew word used in this verse, shachath (שָׁחַת), is a totally different word than that used of general shaving and grooming in other parts of The Torah, galach (גָּלַח).

This same verse, Leviticus 19:27, is where some Orthodox Jews have developed the tradition called peyots, which are those curly side locks you may have seen on those who observe this practice. There is a popular Messianic Jewish Rabbi with a television program who started wearing his hair with these peyots who now teaches that Yeshua would have had them. But this is not true.

This tradition of long and curly side locks called peyots was started in the 1600s by a Kabbalist Rabbi named Isaac Luria who felt that the Jewish people under his leadership needed to “be different” from the world around them. So, he looked at the passage in Leviticus 19:27 and came up with these peyots, and that’s where it started. It’s of kabbalist origin, not something Yeshua did. There is Jewish artwork you can look up from ancient times, including very early depictions of Yeshua and the apostles, who were all Jews, in catacombs and none of them show Jewish people, including Yeshua and the apostles, with long curly side locks.

Thankfully, I have also heard the popular Messianic Rabbi teach that he does not believe every follower of Yeshua needs to have peyots and he is doing it as a personal choice based on his erroneous belief that Yeshua had them, which is more than I can say for some Hebrew Roots Movement teachers who act like it gross sin if you don’t have a long and disheveled beard. Also, Rabbi Luria is said to have kept his peyots trimmed short and it was later that the tradition evolved into them being longer as observed today—something that reminds me of that statement in Matthew 23:5 where Yeshua points out that some Pharisees wore long tzitzit (the fringes on their garments as instructed in Numbers 15:38-39) to be seen by others and make themselves look “more holy” than everyone else.

If people want to grow long and unkempt looking beards or curly peyots because of their misunderstanding of a single verse of Scripture and a lack of knowledge about actual history, they probably are not hurting anyone. If they left it at that, the worst thing that might happen is possibly limiting their audience. But often times these types of actions have a more concerning basis, which is bad theology that breeds bad doctrines and practices, like promoting the idea that it’s a “sin” or that you are “mutilating God’s Creation” if you trim or shave your beard.

I have a good friend in ministry who has taken to growing his beard long, but I have never heard him teach that it’s some kind of a Bible commandment to do so or that you are “mutilating God’s Creation” if you trim or shave your beard. I have grown my beard long in the past, but I kept it neat and presentable. However, I see nothing in The Torah or anywhere else in The Bible that, in context, would indicate you are violating a commandment by trimming or shaving your beard.

Calendars are another issue that people cause a lot of confusion and division over. One of the biggest ways this is done is through what many call “sighted moon”, which comes from the belief that you cannot begin a new biblical month until someone physically sees the sliver of the new moon in Israel and reports it to the world. If it’s overcast or something prevents a physical sighting of the sliver of the new moon then the beginning of the new month is delayed a day. There are, however, numerous problems with this.

In 1 Samuel 20:5 David says to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon…” While most Bibles translate this as moon, it is the Hebrew word chodesh (חֹדֶשׁ) that is used interchangeably for both moon and month. The question is this: If it were required to physically sight the sliver of the moon, how could David know a whole day ahead of time that the next day would be the new moon (or month)?

There’s actually not one statement in The Bible that clearly indicates a sighted moon calendar. There are statements in ancient Jewish literature like The Talmud. There are statements in modern Jewish resources like the Encyclopaedia Judaica. It seems Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jewish writer, made statements regarding a sighted moon calendar. But there is nothing definitive in The Bible, and there are also indications of first century Jewish sects like the Qumran community of the Essenes having a fixed calendar.

There are indications from some scholarly articles I have reviewed that Yeshua and His disciples followed a fixed calendar, as opposed to relying on the sighted moon. There is some debate about exactly what this calendar looked like, some lean toward the records found from the Qumran community in The Dead Sea Scrolls, others look elsewhere. But if this is correct, then it means that He and His followers did not look for the sliver of the moon before starting a new month or to determine the date of a Feast.

One Messianic Jewish scholar I have had some communication with has looked at some of the indications coming from resources like The Dead Sea Scrolls and after some thirty years of following a sighted moon calendar has chosen to renounce the practice in favor of a fixed calendar. Now, look, a serious researcher does not just give up something as big as following the sighted moon calendar, especially after doing it that way for most of their life, unless they have found something they feel to be extremely persuasive.

The standard Hillel II calendar was established under the Sanhedrin authority in 359 A.D. as one of its last major acts before they disbanded in 425 A.D. This group operated under the authority of Torah and it is argued that the setting of this calendar falls under the commandment in Deuteronomy 18:8-11. Per The Torah, no rogue or self-professed Bible teacher, scholar, prophet, priest, or anything else has the authority to overturn such a ruling. The only legitimate way, then, that the Hillel II calendar can be overturned is through a reestablished legitimate Torah court system like the Sanhedrin or by the returning Messiah. Some who have the best intentions but don’t know this think they are “being more biblical” by exploring controversial calendars and dating systems—such as sighted moon, Zadok calendar, Enoch calendar, etc.—tend to just cause a lot of division and confusion.

We have indications through Scripture that the “sighted moon” belief may be just another man-made tradition, we have scholars who contend that Yeshua and His disciples followed a fixed calendar and did not rely on an alleged “sighted moon” system, and we have a fixed calendar established by an action under Torah-established authority and that per The Torah cannot be overturned as it stands today. Those promoting other calendars are almost always causing unnecessary division and confusion among Torah-positive Believers, and many “Christians” who begin opening up to the truth of following Torah see these kinds of things and are turned away from that truth because of it. It’s not that different from when a “Christian” is introduced to celebrating The Feast of Tabernacles with a group that thinks it is appropriate to celebrate The Feast by sitting around a campfire getting drunk on whiskey. Instead of keeping Torah biblically, people add things that are an immediate turn-off to “Christians” who genuinely want to follow The Bible and realize something is off about what they are taught in their churches.

Those who would promote things like the “sighted moon” calendars have to resort to making stuff up to get around passages like 1 Samuel 20:5. They would have to say, “Well, maybe the new moon was supposed to happen and it was overcast and so the next day was automatically the new moon because you can only delay by a day, so David would have known it was going to be the new moon festival.” Of course, there is not a single thing in Scripture that supports that, but when you are determined to justify traditions you will reach for the stars to find a way to twist and manipulate Scripture to justify it. “Christianity” may be very good at this, but some Messianic and Hebrew Roots Movement groups are just as guilty.

People who promote these alternate calendars have everyone celebrating Feasts on different dates. I have seen calendars as much as a whole month separated from when others are keeping Biblical Feast Days. Even “sighted moon” people are sometimes different from each other. This is why the Hillel II calendar was made, to keep everyone in unity until Messiah comes.

I am not at all saying that the Hillel II calendar is correct, that men shouldn’t grow their beards out, or that we should or should not cook food on The Sabbath. What I am saying with this message is that we need to really evaluate the things we are fighting over. The Hillel II calendar is not against Torah and establishes the best way for all Torah-positive followers of Yeshua to keep The Feasts in unison until Messiah returns. If we have “the wrong dates”, He will fix it in The Millennium. If sincere Torah-keeping Believers who trim their beards or shave are “wrong”, He will inform us. Whether we can cook, cannot cook, or are commanded to cook on The Sabbath—He will resolve it. What I can tell you is that it is a matter of whether or not we are keeping The Sabbath and keeping The Feasts and keeping the commandments, as we understand them, that He will look at. If we are wrong about some of the not-so-clear details of how to keep a particular commandment are things He will sort out.

Another area of contention is with names and titles for The Father and The Son. I’m not just talking about the Yahweh, Yehovah, Yahuah, and so on “sacred name” of God debates either. I once shared a quote from a good ministry friend that used “The Most High” and someone got upset about that and tried “correcting me”. My friend who used “The Most High” in that quote takes exception with the title Adonai even to the point that he dislikes the Tree Of Life Version of The Bible that I prefer. He likes to use the title Elohim, but I know people who are against that. I know people who take the more Orthodox Jewish position against using vowels in any reference to God that instead of God they will write G-d.

CAN WE JUST STOP IT!!! Apart from some of the more bizarre “sacred names” people have come up with—including Yahuah that seems to primarily be used by the racist Black Hebrew Israelite cult, those who believe the earth is flat, and those who promote the Eth Cepher “Bible”—I have never seen a truly valid reason to be contentious over saying God, Elohim, The Most High, Abba, The Almighty, Adonai or any other title. The debate about whether God’s personal name is Yahweh or Yehovah is easily resolved by the shortened form of Yah—which is not disputed and used many times in Scripture. The name of Messiah is Yeshua, as many legitimate scholars point out that there has never in the history of Hebrew been such a name as YAHshua.

I have had people tell me they enjoy my writings and find them to be full of truth, but they cannot share them and must disassociate from me for one reason—I use the symbol known today as the Star of David or Magen David as part of my ministry badging. These misguided and misinformed people believe that this symbol is the star of Remphan mentioned in The Bible (Amos 5:26, Acts 7:43) or the pentagram symbol that represents the occult. The Star of Remphan is an eight-pointed star that resembles a compass and a pentagram is an inverted five-point star displayed inside of a circle.

What many know today as the Star of David is actually taken from the pomegranate fruit. Where the flower falls from the developing fruit this star forms naturally. Archaeological finds verify this symbol in Israelite use as early as the seventh century B.C., but the biblical record would indicate its use much earlier. In The Torah there are instructions for the garments of the High Priest, one of them being that pomegranates are embroidered on them (Exodus 28:33-34). Later in the historical records of Jerusalem it says that pomegranates were carved into the walls of the city (1 Kings 7:18, 20, 42, 2 Kings 25:17, Jeremiah 52:22-23). It is very possible that in both of these things are references to what people today call the Star of David. There are reliefs from synagogues depicting this symbol that date back to at least the second century A.D., and probably earlier in some cases. One of these ancient synagogues depicts various stages of the pomegranate in development, and the Star of David symbol is included in these wall carvings. The Magdala Stone, found in the remains of a first century synagogue in the town of Magdala, depicts a six-petal flower in a circle that is often found together with the Star of David symbol in other wall stone carvings from this time period. Some of these synagogues are places Yeshua very likely taught at. Today this is one of the most recognized symbols of Israel. It’s not the star of Remphan. It’s not a pentagram. It’s not pagan. It’s a longstanding symbol of biblical Israel inspired by the pomegranate fruit, which was an important part of ancient Israelite worship.

Deuteronomy 29:28 (TLV) says, “The secret things belong to Adonai our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever—in order to do all the words of this Torah.” If something is not-so-clear in The Torah about how we are to keep a commandment, that is for God to worry about and for Messiah to correct upon His return when He rules in The Millennium. We should be more focused on the plain and clear commandments. We should be concerned with keeping The Sabbath according to the commandment to cease from our occupational, servile labor, and maybe not so much on obscure details of how we keep The Sabbath beyond the basic commandment. We should be concentrating on commemorating The Feast Days, and maybe not so worried about how or when we keep them—particularly when we have an accepted fixed calendar established by an act authorized in The Torah and nobody in the present age with the proper Torah-based authority to overturn that ruling.

Some things in The Torah are perfectly clear. When it says “Don’t eat the flesh of pigs” it means “Don’t eat the flesh of pigs”. There is no alternate way to understand that. The same with the rest of the Leviticus 11 food laws where it says not to eat things like shellfish, rodents, birds of prey, and numerous other creatures deemed unclean. It’s perfectly clear. When it says to remember The Sabbath Day and do no occupational work on it, that’s what is clear (Exodus 20:8-11). When we are told to keep the biblical Feasts, it’s made clear (Leviticus 23). When we are told to shema (hear, listen to, follow, obey) the prophet like Moses, which is Yeshua, that is a clear commandment with no other way to see it (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Some things in The Torah are not that clear. As we have seen, cooking on The Sabbath, men growing long beards, men growing peyots, and dating new months and Feast Days are among these not-so-clear aspects of Torah. Another good example is how there is some debate about whether or not Believers who live outside of the land of Israel need to build a traditional sukkah in celebrating The Feast of Tabernacles, and even whether or not these traditional sukkahs are actually what is described in Leviticus 23:42 or if those in the time of Moses would have understood this differently. And there are many other things we can look at in the realm of what is debated regarding the lesser details pertaining to how we keep certain primary commandments—the primary commandments being those like keeping The Sabbath and celebrating The Feasts in the first place.

I know this has been a bit of a different kind of message. Some will likely be inclined to say that I am “compromising” by suggesting that we can cook food on The Sabbath or that we use “that Jewish calendar” to determine when the biblical Feasts should be celebrated. But I have come to realize that you can’t reason with the dogmatic views of those who are stubborn as a donkey. My hope, however, is that some will read this and have their mind set at ease knowing that what matters is that they follow Torah in its simplicity, not bound by the heavy burdens of modern-day Pharisees adding rules and regulations to commandments that are otherwise as simple as don’t do your occupational job, what you do to make a living, servile work, on The Sabbath—something that does not include cooking so you can eat a good, hot meal on The Sabbath. So, I would say you get to decide whether or not you feel it’s acceptable to cook on The Sabbath, and let everyone else make their own decision on the matter based on the evidence.

~Blessings and Shalom~

©2022 Truth Ignited Ministry

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