Did the people of ancient Israel cook on the Sabbath day? During the course of the last several decades, more and more of the end-times remnant has begun to arise and return to the ancient path. Along with this personal and collective journey, the saints have very quickly realized that there is still much to study, interpret, and decipher - as so much of the truth of Torah has been tainted by the doctrines of men through the years.
This being the case; however, should never alleviate the responsibility we have to keep the fear of YAHUAH at the forefront of our minds and heart as we seek His path. Yes, there are "man-made" doctrines that have complicated the path, "leaven" as called by our Messiah YAHUSHA, and we must be careful not to let the teachings of men cause the truth of the Torah to be pushed aside - which is exactly why we are studying this important topic.
With many questions often come many distractions, such as arguments to the effect of "if we can't make fire then we can't drive on Shabbat either," or "if we can't make fire then everyone would have to freeze to death on Shabbat in cold areas around the world" and others. However, if we are to apply logic and reason to this study, we have to first let go of the "implications" of how this might impact each of us in the present, and instead, first focus on what was relevant and true to Yashar'el (Israel) during their time in the land. Once we know what they were commanded to do, and how it was implemented, then we can start to ask Yah to show us how we can follow the Spirit and letter of the Torah in keeping with His heart in these commands in the modern day.
Let us now examine whether or not the congregation of Yashar'el (Israel) would have been cooking in their homes on the Shabbat (Sabbath), then, we can each begin to determine how this understanding should be applied to our own lives during the 7th day of the week.
Let's start in Jeremiah, where we are told not to bear a burden on the Sabbath day, and what that burden means...
Thus says YAHUAH: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.
And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. - Jeremiah 17:21-22
*Burden - Strong's 4583. massa' - a load, lifting, bearing, tribute. Used all through scripture to denote lifting loads or carrying items.
According to the Torah (not men), it was unlawful to carry items, or burdens, in and out of your house on Shabbat. This included not burdening animals, servants, or others in any way to carry a load. Why is this relevant? We'll find out shortly...
Next, we have the holy convocation of Exodus 12:14-16:
14 This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you.
Assembly / Convocation - Strong's 4744. miqra - a convocation, a sacred assembly, usually explicitly technical term for religious gathering on Sabbath and certain sacred days. A reading.
So here’s the dilemma, how is everyone going to travel to the synagogue or temple for an all-hands religious gathering (sacred assembly) and still manage to feed themselves without working (carrying a burden out of their houses) on the Shabbat? The second half of verse 16 tells us the answer. Although no work may be conducted on Shabbat, each person may prepare for themselves what is needed to take with them for the day. Therefore, although they may not carry any loads on their shoulders, in their bags, etc. on the Shabbat, here we have an exception for food. Each person may prepare what is needed for themselves, to bring to the holy convocations. This is the only burden, essentially, they are allowed to carry out of their houses on Shabbat.
They were not; however, allowed to kindle any fire AT THEIR PERSONAL DWELLING PLACES throughout all the land on the Sabbath, as is demonstrated here:
“Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to YAHUAH. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” -Exodus 35:2-3
Kindle - Strong’s 1197. Ba’ar - to burn, consume. To be kindled.
Fire - Strong’s 784. Esh - A fire. Blazing, burned, burning, burning coals, fiery, fire, flame
Very simply, this means no fire in dwelling places at all. It does NOT say "no fire for business only," it simply says, in full context, not to make a fire at all, in your dwelling places, on the Sabbath day. In fact, there are even connotations of not kindling hot coals. We see the seriousness of how literally Yah means this when we then look at Numbers 15:32-36:
32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And YAHUAH said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as YAHUAH commanded Moses.
Simply put, a man was put to death for simply picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Although we can’t prove expressly that he was planning on building a fire with the sticks, we do know that he broke the commandment to not carry out any burden in or out of his house on the Sabbath, and that it certainly looks bad concerning the possibility that he was planning to build a fire. Regardless, the Sabbath was broken and Yahuah made an example out of the man.
No fire = no cooking.
At that time, no man or woman could cook without a fire - there’s no real way around this.
The Priests; however, were able to make fires and use them for sacrifices and offerings on the Sabbath, but no one else could, “in all dwelling places” of those who were called Yashar’el (Israel) (Exodus 35:2-3). A person could even bring their own food preparations to the Priest for sacrifice and offerings on a holy day, and in many cases are instructed to; however, the individual members were not to build fires at home or carry any other burden with them to the holy assembly except their own food.
It is my conviction, that regardless of the intent, Yashar'el was forbidden to make fires within their own homes on the Sabbath. Were they dealing with blizzards? No, not in that land at that time. Did they ever have an emergency that required them to build a fire at home anyway? I don't know. All I know for sure is that YAHUAH told them very clearly not to make fires on the Sabbath in their homes.
Some have even gone so far as to say that the Sabbath would have been "not very good" if the nation of Yashar'el had to eat "cold leftovers" on their rest day.
To that I say two things:
First, these are the type of complaints that caused YAHUAH to burn with anger against His people as they complained to Him incessantly, not trusting His process of refinement and training for them.
Second, if they wanted a "hot meal" on the Shabbat, they need only to carry their meat to the priests to have it cooked as an offering, and they would receive their hot portion. What a great excuse to go make an offering to the Most High and dine with Him that day!
Next, let's address the Exodus 16 Argument...
Did it Melt or Grow Worms?
4 Then YAHUAH said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am YAHUAH your Elohiym.’”
13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp.
14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.
15 When the people of Yashar'el saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that YAHUAH has given you to eat.
18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.”
20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.
21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
Melted - Strong’s 4549. Masas - to dissolve, melt. Melt away, melting, melts, wastes away, worthless.
So far, here’s what we see - Quail is the evening meal each day and manna is collected in the morning for breakfast, lunch and otherwise. In one case, we’re told that if left over until morning, the food would grow worms and stink, and in another verse, we’re told that the morning mana specifically would melt away once the sun grew hot. So which is it? Can both be true at the same time? Of course they can, verses 22-25 clears it up.
22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses,
23 he said to them, “This is what YAHUAH has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”
Now, it seems pretty clear that they were baking the manna and boiling the quail. This makes everything flow together with much less confusion. Simply, the manna, if not baked before it got hot outside, would melt. Once baked, it would only last a single day (along with the boiled quail) before it would go bad with worms and stench. However, the Sabbath held a special exception to this rule - it wouldn’t go bad with worms and stench even though it was prepared the day before!
24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it.
25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.
26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”
Simply put, they were not “baking and boiling” anything on the Shabbat in this instance either. In fact, if they didn’t bake the manna before the sun got too hot, it would dissolve and become completely worthless, proving that it must have been baked quickly once collected in the mornings.
Second, we see that each day’s portion was designed to only last that single day, and that they were not allowed to keep “leftovers” - with the exception of the Shabbat, the seventh day, in which they are commanded to bake and boil whatever is necessary ON THE SIXTH DAY and are promised that it would not be spoiled for them on Shabbat.
In no case are we told that the food baked and boiled would spoil IN THE SAME DAY, quite the contrary, we are told that the baked and boiled foods would spoil if held-over until the next day. This also proves, that the miracle of non-spoiled food on Shabbat was only a miracle if it was collected and prepared the day before.
the only way to make sense of all these scriptures (it seems to me), without ignoring or removing any of them from the conversation, is to understand that there was no cooking, boiling, baking or fire-making on the Shabbat among the camps of Yashar'el, in their personal dwelling places. The only exception for carrying a burden was made for food specifically, on the days in which there was a holy convocation and personal eating items needed to be brought with them. In this case, they were considered a “load” to be carried, which would normally break the ordinances of Shabbat (as seen in the stick collecting scenario of Numbers 15:32-26).
Fires were very clearly condemned on the Shabbat in Exodus 35:2-3 and the scriptural context is very specifically dealing with not working on Shabbat while simultaneously outlawing fire of any kind in dwelling places. It does NOT say no fire for work, the context is more likely conveying that making fire itself IS work.
Therefore, since no scriptures exist that condone the act of cooking or any serious food preparation (outside of what’s needed to travel) on the Shabbat, and we are specifically told not to make fire in our homes on Shabbat - which was the only means by which they would have been able to cook, I can only conclude that there is no justification for any serious food preparation and cooking on the Sabbath day in the modern age. In fact, Biblically, historically and culturally we see that this was the very point of the preparation day (the sixth day) of the week, to ensure all things were in order to allow for complete rest and focus on honoring YAHUAH the next day for Shabbat.
#1 "But I enjoy cooking!"
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy days of Yahuah honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in YAHUAH, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of YAHUAH has spoken it.”
Often, ministries will quote the above verse and state that the “pleasure” this verse is referring to is only directly speaking about work. “Work was their pleasure back then” they’ll say. If you prefer that interpretation that’s fine; however, we see clearly that just because we enjoy something, doesn’t mean it’s ok on Shabbat. Right? Food prep was directly instructed for the sixth day.
#2 “No fire? So you’re saying people should freeze to death in winter on the Shabbat if they live in the north?”
No. That’s between each person and Yah. I’m only demonstrating that they were not able to build fires or cook on Shabbat while in the land of Israel keeping His Torah, unless they were a priest conducting sacrifices and offerings. Even if building a fire for survival was something that is an “exception to the rule” it would be a separate issue from meal preparation altogether. Simply, even if Yah gives a family permission in Alaska to stay warm it doesn’t automatically mean they can start cooking on Shabbat.
The question was, could Yashar'el cook at their homes on the Sabbath? The answer is still "no."
#3 “No fire? Then you can’t use any electricity or your car on the Shabbat either.”
Simply put, that’s not in the Word. Each person may draw whatever conclusions he/she may like with the prayerful help of the Ruach Ha’Kodesh, but arguing semantics doesn’t change the Biblical statements presented here.
Personally, I don’t see how electric current flowing through the house has anything to do with the principle matter under investigation, namely, whether or not we should be preparing meals on the Sabbath. Last, I believe we must all consider when and why we would drive a car on Shabbat as well. Again, even if a person drives to synagogue on the Sabbath, they didn’t take on the work of building a fire and cooking a meal - which is explicitly demonstrated to be against Yah’s purpose for His Shabbat.
#4 “Yah knows my heart.”
Yes He does. Does He see a heart seeking more ways to do anything and everything He desires for us or does He see something else? We strive to conform to His ways, even when we don’t immediately understand them.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” - Jeremiah 17:9
We must make all the scriptures true, without removing or ignoring any of them whenever possible. Personally, I cannot ignore the direct command to not make fire on the Sabbath in dwelling places, and the simple fact that this would have made it impossible to cook for the Israelites.
Last, we have an additional witness here:
“Declare and say to the children of Yashar'el the law of this day both that they should keep the Sabbath thereon, and that they should not forsake it in the error of their hearts; and that it is not lawful to do any work thereon which is unseemly, to do thereon their own pleasure, and that they should not prepare thereon anything to be eaten or drunk, and (that it is not lawful) to draw water, or bring in or take out thereon through their gates any burden, which they had not prepared for themselves on the sixth day in their dwellings.”
Shalom Shalom family. I pray that this study benefits you and your household as we continue to strive for the ancient path of YAHUAH's called out people. The implications and applications of this study are for each family to determine in prayer and submission before YAH! Blessings!
*No quotes or texts were taken from rabbinical literature, oral talmud, or other doctrines of men. All scriptures used in this study are found within the 66 book canon, with the only exception being the last verse from Jubilees. These are not doctrines of men, but of the Most High YAHUAH.