It is hard to imagine a more auspicious beginning for the seventh day than the one put forward in the first book of the Bible. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because in it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3). In this passage, the seventh day makes a spectacular entry. But, once we look more closely at text and context, will our first impressions be sustained concerning the creation account of the seventh day.
First of all, the writer does not hang the seventh day upon nothing. Nor is the written content merely to anchor the seventh day to a great occasion in the maze of human history. Instead, Genesis inseparably ties the seventh day to the foundation event in human and creaturely existence, creation. The seventh day is a feature of creation, and it serves as the capstone of creation. It comes forth at the dawn of history as the first signifier of the character and meaning of creation.
Second, this creation must be understood as an achievement that is the exclusive prerogative of God. It features God’s sovereign action, engaged in a pursuit for which there is no corresponding human activity.
Third, the seventh day is not introduced accidentally or haphazardly. Instead, the seventh day is an immediate fact of creation, belonging to it and completing it, a day without which creation remains in limbo.
Notice Genesis 2:2 deliberately states its purpose and describes it in two pairs or sets of carefully worded pairs. First, it declares, “On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day.” The statement “finished the work he had done” serves as a report on the fact that God had now completed the work of creation.
In the second pair, Genesis announces that “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Genesis 2:3). This reports a specific act concerning the seventh day. Here God marks out the occasion’s significance to take the matter of its interpretation into God’s own hands. If the first of these pairs is retrospective, the second looks forward as an indicator of its permanence. By the act of hallowing the seventh day, God drives the stake of His divine presence into the soil of human time.
Therefore being part of creation, God gave the seventh-day immense prestige from the very beginning. Both divine purpose and action are involved in a way that gives the seventh-day significance far beyond anything situational or temporary. The Creator’s action in the Genesis account brings a degree of distinction to the seventh day that presents a formidable deterrent to degrading it.