I was wondering if when God finished creating in Gen 2:2-3 he rested because he was actually tired. At first I thought that was absurd (and I still do to a degree). Maybe another reason for the rest was to establish the Sabbath, but then I saw the passage from Exodus 31:17 where it says “and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Is this figurative or was God actually tired and then refreshed? I look forward to your answer as your answers in the past has really been a help!
No, God does not get tired and he does not need literal “refreshing.” This is not what Exodus 31:17 is talking about. Authors in the Bible often use anthropomorphisms in their writings. These are non-literal descriptions of God using human terms in order to make it understandable to humans. The Bible often talks about things like God looking down, or God’s hand reached out, or God has his eye on us and the like. Obviously, God who is spirit (John 4:24) is not a physical being. He does not have hands or eyes. He is not “above” the earth so that he would have to look “down.” He is not even male. These anthropomorphisms help us to understand God, but should not be taken literally. The Bible makes it clear that God is always working (John 5:17), so even when it says in Genesis 2:3 that God “rested” this is an anthropomorphism. Basically, it means that at that time God’s creation was complete and he stopped his “work” of creating the universe. God did not stop working, but he stopped creating.
God wants us to rest, content in him. God wants us to be satisfied in our work for him. He wants us to “rest” in him and be refreshed in him. Moses uses an anthropomorphism in Exodus 31:17 so that we, as humans, can understand God and his will for our lives. We need to understand that, at least in a sense, God’s work is complete and that we can fully rely on him. That is why we need, at times, to stop working and simply rely on God and be refreshed by Him. That is the message of Exodus 31:17.