What does Exodus 31:16-17 really mean?

Exodus 31:16-17 is about God emphasizing the importance of observing the Sabbath as a special sign of the covenant between Him and His people, highlighting the significance of rest and reflection on the creation and sanctity of the day.

16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.
17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.


Setting the Scene for Exodus 31:16-17

In Exodus 31:16-17, the scene is set in the wilderness at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Israelites, led by Moses, have been wandering in the desert after their escape from Egypt. The Israelites have been instructed by God to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship. Moses has just received the tablets of the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai and is now descending to deliver these commandments to the people.

As Moses approaches the camp, he is surrounded by a crowd of Israelites eagerly awaiting his return. The people have been anxiously anticipating his descent from the mountain, curious to hear the message that God has given him. The atmosphere is charged with anticipation and reverence as Moses prepares to share the divine instructions with the community. The camp is bustling with activity as families gather together, children play, and the elders prepare to receive the word of God through Moses.

In this pivotal moment, the Israelites are about to receive the laws and commandments that will guide their lives and shape their relationship with God. The scene is filled with a sense of awe and wonder as the people prepare to hear the words that will define their faith and set them apart as a chosen people. The setting of the wilderness, with its vast expanse and towering mountains, serves as a powerful backdrop to this momentous occasion in the history of the Israelites.

What is Exodus 31:16-17 about?

This verse highlights the significance of the Sabbath as a fundamental covenant between God and His people. The Sabbath is not merely a day of rest; it is a sacred agreement that has been established for eternity. We honor and uphold our relationship with God by observing the Sabbath. This covenant serves as a reminder of our dependence on God and our commitment to living in accordance with His will.

Have you ever considered the profound implications of the Sabbath as a perpetual covenant? It is a continuous and unchanging promise that symbolizes the enduring nature of our relationship with God. We demonstrate our faithfulness and obedience to God by observing the Sabbath, acknowledging His role as the ultimate authority in our lives. This verse encourages us to cherish and uphold the Sabbath as a foundational aspect of our spiritual journey, recognizing its importance in our walk with God.

Understanding what Exodus 31:16-17 really means

These verses from Exodus 31:16-17 form a crucial part of God’s instructions to the Israelites concerning the observance of the Sabbath. They highlight the significance of the Sabbath as a perpetual covenant and a distinguishing mark of the relationship between God and His people. The command for the Israelites to observe the Sabbath underscores the importance of setting aside a day for rest and worship, following God’s example of resting on the seventh day after creating the world. This command is not a fleeting directive but a lasting covenant, emphasizing the enduring nature of the Sabbath as a sacred agreement between God and His chosen people. Furthermore, the Sabbath is described as a sign of the everlasting bond between God and the Israelites, serving as a continual reminder of their special relationship.

In exploring the key phrases of these verses, we uncover deeper meanings that resonate with the essence of the Sabbath observance. The concept of a lasting covenant signifies a commitment that transcends time, highlighting the timeless nature of the Sabbath commandment. It is not merely a ritualistic practice but a profound agreement between God and His people, rooted in the foundation of their faith and obedience. The Sabbath being described as a sign between God and the Israelites forever reinforces the symbolic nature of this day of rest, symbolizing the ongoing connection and mutual devotion between the Creator and His chosen nation.

Drawing connections to other biblical passages such as Genesis 2:2-3, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, and Mark 2:27, we see a consistent thread of the Sabbath’s importance throughout Scripture. From the establishment of the Sabbath at the dawn of creation to Jesus’ teachings on its purpose for humanity, the Sabbath remains a vital aspect of God’s design for His people. The relevance of the Sabbath extends beyond ancient traditions and cultural practices; it speaks to a universal need for rest, reflection, and spiritual rejuvenation in our modern lives.

Imagine a scenario where a busy professional decides to incorporate a day of rest into their hectic schedule, dedicating that time to family, worship, and personal introspection. Over time, they experience a remarkable transformation in their mental well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. This anecdote illustrates the enduring relevance and tangible benefits of observing the Sabbath principle in today’s fast-paced world. By embracing the practice of setting aside a day for rest and spiritual nourishment, we honor God’s wisdom in instituting the Sabbath, acknowledge our need for holistic renewal, and cultivate a sense of harmony and equilibrium in our lives.

In conclusion, the Sabbath is not merely a day off work but a divine ordinance designed to deepen our connection with God, foster spiritual growth, and promote holistic well-being. By embracing the sacred rhythm of rest and reflection, we align ourselves with God’s intended purpose for our lives, finding fulfillment in honoring His commandments and experiencing the profound blessings of Sabbath observance.

How can we honor the Sabbath and keep it holy?

To honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, we should set aside this day as a time of rest and reflection. This includes refraining from work and dedicating the day to worship, prayer, and spending time with loved ones. We acknowledge the significance of the Sabbath as a sacred and special time set apart for spiritual growth and renewal by ceasing our usual activities.

Additionally, honoring the Sabbath involves recognizing and appreciating God’s command to observe this day. It is a way for us to honor the Creator and remember His rest after completing the work of creation. We demonstrate our obedience and faithfulness to God by following this commandment, acknowledging His sovereignty over our lives and taking a deliberate step to align ourselves with His will and rhythm for our lives. Ultimately, prioritizing our spiritual and relational well-being over worldly concerns is what keeping the Sabbath holy is about. We create space in our lives to deepen our relationship with God, nurture our souls, and connect with others in a meaningful way by setting aside this day for rest, reflection, and worship. It is a deliberate choice to honor God and honor the gift of rest He has given us.


Pause your busy rhythm, and recharge your soul like a battery. Just as you wouldn’t neglect deadlines at work or stop caring for your family, so too should you prioritize honoring the Sabbath. Use this time to connect with the divine, reflect on your blessings, and find peace in a hectic world. How will you choose to honor the sacred gift of rest?