The verse in Exodus 31:17 refers to the original verse in Genesis 2:2 which states: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Genesis 2:2).
When we read the English verb “rest” most of us think of being tired or needing to have physical rest, but the Hebrew translated “rest” in Genesis 2:2 does not always carry that meaning. In fact, the first two definitions given for the Hebrew word translated “rest” (shābat or shābath) are to “cease or desist.” The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon documents that, of the 71 times it is used, 47 of those times it is simply translated “cease,” and only 11 of those times is it translated “rest” (“Shabath,” 1995).
The Bible declares that God is all powerful and does not need physical rest. In Genesis 17:1, God describes Himself to Abraham by saying, “I am Almighty God.” Abraham’s son, Isaac, in blessing his son Jacob, said: “May God Almighty bless you….” The omnipotent nature of God can be seen throughout the Bible. The psalmist wrote: “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). Also, Isaiah wrote: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary” (40:28). Therefore, it is clear that the word ‘rested’ in Genesis 2:2 does not mean God needed to have physical rest.
As a human artist completes his work when he has brought it up to his ideal, and thus ceases to work upon it, so in an infinitely higher sense God completed the creation of the world by ceasing to produce anything new. God did not rest because He needed it but simply because He accomplished His work, so He ceased. Therefore, the phrase God rested does not mean exhaustion nor fatigue, but a cessation from previous task.
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