Sabbath symbolism

As mentioned in my previous post of Observing the Sabbath, many traditions that have sprung up over the millennia are rich with symbolism. Since there are only some basic commands in the Bible about Sabbath observance, I believe that how we view or apply this symbolism is a matter of personal preference. However, I also believe there is still a great benefit to be gained by being aware of how connected many of these practices are.


A traditional representative Jewish observance consists of at least two candles, one or two challot (loaves of bread), and some juice/wine. A Hebraic understanding of  these components are as follows:

The two candles are symbolic of two expressions of Sabbath in Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5:12 which are taken as symbols of “remembering” and “keeping/guarding” of Sabbath. The two loaves of bread represent the double-portion of manna that was provided on the day before each Sabbath in the wilderness journeys of Israel. The wine represents the gladness the day brings.

In my own studies in Leviticus, I found some additional symbolism in that the bread, candles, and wine can also be representative of the tabernacle sacrifices.

In Leviticus 23, the moedim (appointed times) are outlined. Eight miqra qodesh (holy convocations or gatherings) are enumerated; seven annual, one weekly (the Sabbath).
At the conclusion of the descriptions of the moedim, the following summary appears:

[Lev 23:37-38 KJV] 37 These are the moedim (appointed times) of Yahweh, which ye shall proclaim to be miqra qodesh (holy gatherings), to present a fire-offering unto Yahweh,
a burnt offering (olah’),
and a (grain) offering (minkhah),
a sacrifice (ze’bakh),
and drink offerings (ne’cek),
every thing upon (its) day:
38 Beside the sabbaths of the LORD, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the LORD.

It occurred to me that this summary appears to have very similar characteristics to the traditional Sabbath observance of two candles (one representing the fire for the olah burnt offering and the other for the fire of the zebakh sin sacrifice), challah bread for the minkhah grain offering, and wine for the necek drink offering. All of these offerings are aligned with the moedim, the set-apart times of Yahweh.

The bread and wine also signifies the unique position of Melchizedek (Malchi-Tzedek, “King of Righteousness”), an ancient king/priest of Jerusalem and fore type of the Messiah Yeshua. This Malchi-Tzedek met with Abraham and blessed him, bringing bread and wine. As Yeshua is said to have a priesthood similar to Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17), the continuation of this symbolism becomes obvious.

Clearly, Yeshua also imbued the bread and wine with another layer of significance at his last meal with his disciples:

[1Co 11:23-26 KJV] 23 That the Anointed Yeshua the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Master’s death till he [may be] come.

All of these symbolic passages have various shades of meaning, and have relevance in many ways as they relate to the Sabbath observance. May our understanding of these symbols guide our practices in meaningful, Biblical ways.

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