What were some of the man-made laws that the Jewish rabbis imposed on the Sabbath?

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Christ was in constant conflict with the Jewish rabbis over the legitimacy of their man-made laws and traditions (Mark 7:2, 3, 8). He rejected that salvation was to be obtained through the observance of these laws. This system of righteousness by works was in clear conflict with righteousness by faith that is taught in the Scriptures (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

The Mishnah lists 39 major types of labors forbidden on the Sabbath day (Shabbath 7. 2, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, pp. 348, 349). The first 11 of these were steps in the preparation of bread: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking. The next 12 apply to the preparation of clothing, from the shearing of sheep to sewing of cloth. These are followed by 7 steps in preparing the corpse of a deer for use as food or for leather. The remaining items deal with writing, building, kindling and putting out of fires, and carriage of things from one location to another.

In addition to these major regulations, there were countless other provisions concerning the observance of the Sabbath. The most known is the “sabbath day’s journey” of 2,000 cu.— somewhat less than 2/3 mi. It was also counted as Sabbath breaking to look in a mirror fixed to the wall (Shabbath 149a, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 759), or even to light a candle.

Yet, these same man-made laws allowed an egg laid on the Sabbath to be sold to a Gentile, and a Gentile to be paid to light a candle or built a fire. Also, it was not permissible to carry a handkerchief on the Sabbath, unless one end of it be sewed to one’s garment.

The Pharisees were continually employing the letter of man-made laws to destroy the spirit of God’s law. They even regarded their laws more important than the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) and the law of Moses.  So, Jesus rebuked them saying that they made “the word of God of no effect” through their tradition (Mark 7:13). And He added, “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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