Why Does God Rest On The Seventh Day?

“On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.” (Genesis 2:2)

God is All-Powerful.

An All-Powerful Being should never get tired.

So why does an All-Powerful Being need to rest on the 7th day?

This is a very basic question that is often asked by modern people who read the Biblical story of creation. If this Creator gets tired, then the God being described here is not the True God. Otherwise there must be an alternative explanation.

It should be remembered that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not written like modern historical or scientific textbooks. Many Bible scholars note that these chapters are written in mythological language. The modern ear hears the word “myth” and thinks that it means “a story that isn’t true” like Hercules or the Loch Ness Monster. But that isn’t what is traditionally meant by “myth.” The richer context of the word means that it is a story meant to get across a deep and abiding truth in a way that we can understand. A story can be mythical and literal, but let us leave that question aside for now. As a myth, let us focus on the meaning the story tries to give.

First of all, it should be noted that it takes God six days to create the world. The first question I would have is “What took Him so long?” Couldn’t God snap his fingers and pull a reverse-Thanos and bring the entire universe in being in an instant?

Of course He could.

The fact that He orders creation in this very specific structure tells us that there is meaning behind His method.

The second thing to grasp is the way the ancient peoples used number symbolism. Modern people don’t carry number symbolism as deeply in our culture as the ancients did. The closest way I can relate what numbers meant to them is this:

Imagine you won a free ticket to Hawaii. But then the ticket arrives and you leave on Friday the 13th at gate 13, flight 1313 in seat 13. Would you be at all hesitant? If you answered yes, it is because in our culture, 13 is considered bad luck.

In ancient Jewish culture, many numbers had deep significance. Below are some examples:

1 = The number of God and unity.

The Hebrew people were one of the first monotheistic religions. Their oneness and the oneness of God set them apart from all the other nations of the world.

3 = The highest, the superlative

The Hebrew language does not have suffixes. If I wanted to say that someone in my class was the tallest in Hebrew, I could not add a suffix to the root word tall. Instead, I would have to repeat the word three times to indicate the superlative trait; I would say the person is “tall, tall, tall.” We see this play out at Mass when we say of God that He is the holiest when we say “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.”

4 = Perfection of the world.

The ancient people saw the world balanced by the number four. In nature they kept seeing a balance of four things
-The Four Seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)
-The Four Winds
-The Four Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, water)
-The Four Corners of the World
-The Four Humors (Phlegm, Blood, Bile, Black Bile)
Four was therefore thought to bring a kind of perfection.

This brings us to the number 7

7 = 3+4. This means that it is the “highest perfection.” Therefore, 7 is the holy number. This significance also gives meaning to the number 6.

6 = 7-1. This show a falling short of perfection. That is why the number six can mean incompleteness, imperfection, sin, or evil.

It is important to note that God finishes making the world after 6 days. The number six would set off alarm bells in the heads of the original listeners. It is like our modern understanding of 13, but worse.

Now, we know from context the 6 does not mean that creation is evil. Every time God makes something, He passes judgment on it and says that it is “good.”

So what does it mean that the world is made in 6 days?

It means that it is incomplete. The created world is good and wonderful, but it lacks a fulfillment. If this material world is all that exists, then this world falls short. To paraphrase the great atheist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, if you experienced every beauty and pleasure that this universe has to offer, at some point you would end up saying, “Is that all there is?” This world cannot fully satisfy the longing for infinite goodness and beauty that resides in our hearts.

That is why God adds a 7th day. If the world was completed on the 7th, rather than the 6th day, we may mistakenly believe that we can find complete fulfillment in this world. By resting on the 7th Day, God makes Himself a part of our world in a special way. The world is incomplete without God. God will enter into our world and our history so that we can encounter Him. He blesses the world by making it holy with a 7th day, God brings His holiness to His creation and opens the door to the great goodness and beauty that is beyond the world.

So God does not add a seventh day because He needs to rest.

God adds a seventh day so we can find our rest in Him.

Copyright 2021, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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