As a Seventh Day-Adventist I was taught that one of the reasons that the Sabbath must be observed today is because it is a “creation ordinance”. The argument is this; since the Sabbath was observed by God and Adam in the Garden every Saturday, man today must do so as well. Though there are many sources to demonstrate this claim in SDA teaching, one simply need search the writings of Ellen White for a clear example.
“In Eden, God set up the memorial of His work of creation, in placing His blessing upon the seventh day. The Sabbath was committed to Adam, the father and representative of the whole human family. Its observance was to be an act of grateful acknowledgment, on the part of all who should dwell upon the earth, that God was their Creator and their rightful Sovereign; that they were the work of His hands and the subjects of His authority. Thus the institution was wholly commemorative, and given to all mankind.” – Patriarchs and Prophets, Pg 48, Ellen White
“Adam kept the Sabbath in his innocence in Eden; he still kept it when, fallen yet repentant, he was driven from the Garden. All the patriarchs from Abel to Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob kept the Sabbath. When the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt, He proclaimed His law to the emerging nation.” – Love Under Fire, Pg 188, Ellen White
Look carefully at the claims that Ellen White puts forward in her writings above. Specifically, notice that she states that the Sabbath was committed to Adam, was observed in the Garden, and that it is given to all mankind. She doubles down on this and then claims that all of the Patriarchs in Genesis prior to Moses also kept the Sabbath.
In the Bible however we see that man sinned before the law was even given, meaning that there is no requirement for Adam and Eve to have even heard of or seen any law to have sinned in the first place.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Romans 5:12-14 ESV
Also, we can see no record of the Ten Commandments or the Sabbath being given to Adam.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Genesis 2:1-4 ESV
Read the above passage again if you have to, there is no mention of the Sabbath at all. It says Seventh Day, but it doesn’t associate it with Evening and Morning so we don’t even know if it’s a 24 hour day like the others. Also, we only see God keeping it, no mention of Adam and Eve receiving or keeping the Sabbath at all. The only laws given to them in this narrative are Marriage and the forbidden fruit. Read the rest of the story in Chapters 2 & 3 if you don’t believe me and see for yourself.
Since the concepts Ellen White conveys are foreign to the text it is fair to say she is not making a Biblical claim at all. Thus when SDA say the sabbath is in Genesis, they are not making a Biblical claim either. The story of a Sabbath in Eden is simply Bible Fan-fiction.
One should not be willing to just assume something into scripture between the lines. But for the sake of the argument let us run with this for a little bit. What if the ten commandments were given prior to the fall. Would that even make any sense according to the story in the Bible?
Below is a funny narrative that a friend of mine put together to illustrate this point. This is purely for entertainment purposes only, try not to read too much into it. But the point it does convey is the anachronism one must impose upon scripture to eisegete the Decalogue into Eden.
An Imaginary and Highly Improbably Eden Conversation – By Dave Melton
God: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Adam: “Um, LORD? Where is Egypt?”
God: “Well, Adam, it is a far-off land to the west that you have never seen.”
Adam: [Confused.] “Oh.”
Adam: “LORD, what is slavery.”
God: “That is where people own other people and make them labor for them, usually unwillingly.”
Adam: “ . . . other people . . .What other people? . . . Was I a slave?”
God: “Nevermind. I’m on a roll here . . .You shall have no other gods before me.”
Adam: “ . . . other gods . . .?”
God: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Adam: “ . . . iniquity . . .? What are iniquities? Fathers? Children? Generations? . . . thousands of those who love you . . .? But LORD, it is just Eve and I here. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
God: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
Adam: “ . . . take you name in vain? Huh? And this guilt thing. What is that all about?”
God: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Adam: “ . . . labor . . .? . . .son ? . . . daughter? LORD, what is a servant? A sojourner? What exactly is a gate?”
God: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Adam: “LORD, You are my Father. I don’t know what a mother is. I don’t know if I like the idea of long days, though.”
God: “You shall not murder.”
Adam: “ . . . murder . . . What does that mean?”
God: “It means to take another innocent person’s life.”
Adam: “But we can’t die. How . . .? Why . . .? I’m confused.”
God: “You shall not commit adultery.”
Adam: “What is adultery?”
God: “Well, in your case, it would be having sex with someone other than your wife, Eve?”
Adam: “You mean, like the aardvark?”
God: “Not exactly . . . Never mind. Don’t worry about it.”
God: “You shall not steal.”
Adam: “ . . . steal . . .?”
God: “That means don’t take things that don’t belong to you.”
Adam: “But you said all of this belongs to us, except for the fruit of that one tree . . .”
God: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Adam: “I don’t have any neighbors . . .”
God: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Adam: “But I don’t have any neighbors, right? What is a house? How could I covet my neighbor’s wife, servant or animals, if I don’t have a neighbor?”
God: “Adam, have you got all that?”
Adam: “Um. Yeah. I guess so. Don’t eat from that tree. And don’t have sex with the aardvark. Got it.”
Adam: “But LORD?”
Adam: “You have really given me a lot of things to think about. I never even thought about doing any of the those things until you brought them up . . .”
Through the use of humor Dave Melton brings up some very good points in his above illustration. The fundamental principles and purpose of the Ten Commandments simply have no meaning in the Garden. To assert that they existed before the Garden and were given to man in the Garden is a grotesque abuse of scripture that inadvertently places sin before the fall, as the chief purpose of the law is to reveal sin.
There simply is no Sabbath in Genesis. No Sabbaths of any kind are given to man until Exodus 16.
What are we left with when the concept of a creation sabbath ordinance is removed? Putting it simply, we have a law just like many others given in the old covenant. The Sabbath day had a specific purpose for a specific period of time that was fulfilled in Christ. If you would like a comprehensive Biblical breakdown of this theme I recommend that you check out an older blog post on the Sabbath which you can find HERE.
In the mean time though simply know that if someone is claiming the Sabbath was given to man in Genesis, then the burden of proof is on them. To fulfill that burden they must demonstrate a prescriptive command to man, or a descriptive example of man keeping it in Genesis.