Why would God decide to kill someone for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Number 15:32-36) but then Jesus, who “being the very nature, God ” allow his disciples to pick grain during the Sabbath? In the first example, the Israelites themselves had no idea what to do when someone picked up sticks during the Sabbath so this man picking up the sticks, may not even have consciously done wrong. Jesus does mention David who was on the run and needed consecrated bread to sustain himself and his men. However this case may be understandably an exception because David life was in danger. But by the time of Jesus, the common thought was already known to prepare for the Sabbath before hand by storing extra food the day earlier. Thus the disciples, who were not on the run, must have known and more “willfully” ate on the Sabbath. Jesus also mentions that Man was not created for Sabbath but Sabbath was for man. However that does not seem to be apparent with the man who was picking up sticks. Is there something I am missing or did Jesus allow the Sabbath to be broken when God would not?


I will have to say that Numbers 15:32-36 is a rather intense passage. We do not know the context or the details. I assume that the man was blatantly disobeying the Sabbath. Perhaps he had broken the Sabbath repeatedly, despite many warnings. We simply do not know the details. I assume that he was willfully out working and making money on the Sabbath. I do not know the details, but what I do know is that God is fair–that he is not arbitrary.

Jesus respected and obeyed the Sabbath. What he did not do was he did not support the legalistic hair-splitting application by the Pharisees of the Sabbath law to situations which did not break the spirit of the Sabbath law. Was it OK to cook on the Sabbath? The Pharisees may say no, but it was not outlawed to cook dinner. Was it unlawful to pick an apple off a tree on the Sabbath? What the scriptures say is that we should not work on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded the Pharisees that even they would lift a cow out of a ditch on the Sabbath to save it. God did not invent the Sabbath simply to create arbitrary rules. God wanted his people to rest and worship on the Sabbath. The apostles did not break the Sabbath. Is it “work” to pick some grains on the Sabbath? No it is not. They only broke the legalistic pharisaic extension of the Sabbath law to include things which are not the kind of work God commanded his people to avoid on the Sabbath.

John Oakes

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