Mark 2:27: Was the Sabbath
made for Adam and Eve?
Our opponents often challenge us by saying that there is no command anywhere in the book of Genesis where the Sabbath was given to Adam and Eve. “The one who rested on the seventh day,” they say, “was God, and not man.” Then, when we bring up what Jesus said in Mark 2:27, that the Sabbath was made for man, we’re accused of not reading in context, and that the word “man” here does not mean “all of mankind.” So let’s begin by tackling each one of these, beginning with…
The context of Mark 2:27.
(23) And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
(24) And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
(25) And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
(26) How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
(27) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
(28) Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
It’s clear that the Sabbath here is not the sabbath feasts, but the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. In the immediate context, the disciples begin picking corn on the Sabbath day, and the Pharisees are the first to accuse them of breaking it. How does Jesus defend their act? He reminds them of David and how he went into the temple and ate that which only the priests could eat. But why was David justified in this? Notice carefully:
(25) And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
It was because he was in “need.” Jesus is teaching that to do things on the Sabbath which are needed is permitted. Although preparation day had passed, the disciples were following Jesus as he walked and preached through the streets for days. This preaching was a work that needed to get done, and they needed energy to continue doing it. It was a “need” for them to eat. All such work was permitted on the Sabbath. The fourth commandment did not prohibit works of necessity; it rather prohibited secular work:
(8) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
(9) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
(10) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
The Hebrew word translated “work” in verse 10 literally means “employment, labor.” The act of picking corn to eat for to continue in the work of the Lord was hardly secular.
Although the Jews made the Sabbath to be such a burden, it was always meant to be the very opposite:
(13) If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
(14) Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The Sabbath was to be a “delight” (literally a luxury) unto the people of God.
In Matthew’s gospel, Matthew recounts this story as well, but he adds an extra detail; something Jesus said which helps us understand his point a bit more:
(12) How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
Notice the definition of the word “well” that Strong’s Greek Definitions gives us:
Adverb from G2570; well (usually morally): - (in a) good (place), honestly, + recover, (full) well.
In other words, Jesus was saying that it was lawful (right, or permitted) to do that which is morally well (or good) upon the Sabbath day. Was saving the life of a man morally good? Yes. Was feeding yourself when in need morally good? Absolutely. Remember, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and whoever defiles this body… “him shall God destroy” -1 Corinthians 3:17. They did not need to mistreat their bodies in this way when the corn was readily available for them to eat (it did not even need cooking).
To further drive this point, Jesus then makes the following remark:
(27) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.
Indeed the Sabbath was made “for” (or in favor of) man, for it was made for his benefit, not the other way around. If it was that man was made for the Sabbath, then those Pharisees would have had a point. But the Sabbath is to be a delight, not a burden. We were not made to serve it; it was made to serve us. Since it was made “for” us, it is obviously lawful to do good things on the Sabbath, and things which are needed.
Now that we have examined the context, and learned that the Sabbath was made for us, we will now exegete closely verse 27 to find out…
What is meant by “man?”
Let’s break verse 27 apart. Note first that when it says “sabbath” it is speaking of the Sabbath of creation week. This is important because it directs his audience’s attention back to creation week. But because many argue that the first mention of the Sabbath is not in Genesis 1, but rather in the book of Exodus, we include in our examination the next two words… “was made.” These words are translated from one Greek word which literally means “to come, or cause into being.” When was the Sabbath made? Well, in Exodus it was not made, for look at this verse:
(29) See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
Some would point to Mount Sinai as to when it was “made,” but this is impossible when before
In both Exodus 16 and Exodus 20 the Sabbath was not “made” but was instead “given.” When, then, was it made?
(1) Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
(2) 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.
(3) And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Remember that the Lord also created the “days” along with everything else. The seventh “day” was made in creation week, and it was here at this time when it was set aside as “blessed and sanctified.” In fact, the word “sanctified” in the Hebrew literally means:
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): - appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.
Here we learn that the seventh day was “made” (or make) or pronounced, or observed as clean. The word “clean” holds a figurative meaning of holiness throughout the scriptures. It was in creation week when the seventh day was set aside as holy. Upon this day, God “rested” (verses 2-3) or as the Hebrew word for “rested” means “to cause to, make to, keep Sabbath.” The Sabbath was “made” during creation week!
So Jesus, by saying that the Sabbath was “made” directs the listing people to creation week. Then he says that the Sabbath was made… “for man.” Well, since he is talking about creation week, who was the “man” alive during that time? That’s right, it was Adam and Eve! Jesus is saying that the Sabbath was made for mankind, because he is here speaking of our first parent.
Obviously, Adam and Eve, being our first parents, represent "mankind." When Adam and Eve were made, God called both of them by one name: Adam. Notice:
(1) This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
(2) Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Notice, he called their name Adam. Now take a look at how Strong’s Hebrew Definition explains this word:
The same as H120; Adam, the name of the first man, also of a place in
It says that this Hebrew word is the same as another Hebrew word which is designated by Strong’s number H120 (sort of like how car is the same as vehicle). Let’s look that one up:
From H119; ruddy, that is, a human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.): - X another, + hypocrite, + common sort, X low, man (mean, of low degree), person.
Of course the meaning of this word is far deeper, but embedded in its meaning is the word “mankind.” And although it also says “an individual,” remember that in the context of Genesis 5:2 he is speaking to more then one individual, both Adam and Eve. In other words, they, Adam and Eve, represent “mankind.”
This is further seen by Jesus’ use of the Greek word anthropos translated “man” in Mark 2:27. It literally means “man-faced” and, according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, it is a word whose primery definition is, "a human being, whether male or female, generically, to include all human beings."
The Greek word anthropos is the root for "anthropology" which means "The study/science of human beings, humanity." see Merrian-Webster, Dictionary.com.
"Anthropology (pronounced /ænθrɵˈpɒlədʒi/, from the Greek ἄνθρωπος, anthrōpos, "human", and -λογία, -logia, "discourse", first use in English: 1593) is the study of human beings, everywhere and throughout time." -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Now some scholars teach that at times anthropos must only mean males (see 1 Corinthians 7:1 for example). But the context of Mark 2:27 says otherwise. If in Mark 2:27 it is only referring to males, then Jesus would have been saying that the Sabbath was made only for males! Of course this is untrue, as we then find God later on in history giving it to Israel in Exodus 16 and 20, which was composed of both male and females.
The fact of the matter is that the Sabbath was "made" for all of mankind at the time of creation, when both male and female was present. Include in this understanding our text in Genesis 5:2 and our explanation of the word “made” and we quickly realize that Jesus is in Mark 2:27 saying that it was for all of mankind for which the Sabbath was made.
But the question may be asked…
Why doesn’t Genesis say that Adam and Eve rested?
The answer to this question is very simple. In the context of the description of creation (Genesis 1, 2:1-3) the focus is on God, and not man. He is the main character. “God made… and God created… God said… God created… etc” Now the Sabbath commandment specifically says that the person is to first work six days, and then rest the seventh day (see Exodus 20:9-10). How can Adam keep the seventh day as a Sabbath (or, how can he rest) when he did not work the first six days? He was created on day six!
On the other hand, God worked the first six days. He created all things; he worked, therefore he rests. That’s why it does not have to say that Adam kept the first Sabbath of that first week, because the first Sabbath was for God to rest. The focus is on God.
Now, after God rested, he gave Adam work to be performed in the Garden:
(15) And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress (literally work, till, enslave) it and to keep (literally to hedge it about) it.
That the days of creation week were 24 hour periods, and that therefore there was a weekly cycle, is made obvious by the context of Genesis 1 and 2 and has been proven elsewhere at this website (click here). First of all, if the week did not start all over after the first Sabbath, how could Adam have understood God when he gave him the following warning:
(17) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Here God mentions the word “day.” Adam could not have understood this, unless he had experienced more then one consecutive day, or better, a weekly cycle.
Furthermore, God made the “lights of heaven,” the Sun, Moon and Stars to be able to tell time:
(14) And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
Notice it says they were made to be able to read “days.” These heavenly elements did not cease to exist after God finished creating everything (as is evidenced today), therefore they continued to serve their purpose of helping to tell “days” (plural) even while Adam and Eve abode in the Garden.
The point is that Adam and Eve had to experience the weekly cycle, and since God had given them work to perform (remember, the Sabbath was made for him as proven already) they could therefore do as the commandment says, work six, and rest the seventh day. What do you suppose they did with the many Sabbaths which followed there after? They followed after the example of their creator and rested!
Hence we summarize with…
-First, the context of Mark 2:27 is on the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment.
-Second, Jesus directs us through his use of the word “made” to creation week, and thereby tells us that it was then made for “man.”
-Third, the only “man” at the time of creation week was Adam and Eve. Therefore it was made for Adam and Eve.
-Fourth, it’s obvious that since it was then given to the nation of Israel (Exodus 20:16, 20), and offered also to Gentiles (Isaiah 56), that God’s intent was for the Sabbath to be made for all of mankind. Adam and Eve represent all of mankind, as is seen in Genesis 5:1-2 and in the use of the word “anthropos.”
-Finally, although Genesis 2:1-3 says that it was God who rested, this was because the context is about God and his work, and not man who was created on day six. It is nevertheless true that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath, the following Sabbath (and beyond) because Jesus still said that the Sabbath was made “for man…”
So next time you’re asked for proof as to where it says that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath, direct your critic to Mark 2:27. Oh, and don’t let him confine your response to the book of Genesis alone, for…
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” -2 Timothy 3:16.
Your Thought Questions Answered
Question 1: It might be true that there was a consecutive flow of “days” after the first created week, but why does it have to be a cycle? Couldn’t it have simply been a flow of days without it returning to a “weekly” seven day cycle? As in, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5, day 6, day 7, and then day 8, day 9, day 10, and so on?
Answer: Nope, because it still reads that it was made “for” man. It does not make sense for it to have been made “for” Adam and Eve and yet Adam and Eve did not experience it. There must have been a weekly cycle so that the seventh day Sabbath could come around again for them to experience it.
Question 2: But wasn’t the rest that they experienced a spiritual rest?
Answer: In a sense, they did experience a type of spiritual rest, for they were perfect and were in need of nothing. But this is not the same rest which Jesus gives us under the New Covenant, for he bids us rest from sin:
(34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
(35) And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
(36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
(21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Adam and Eve could not, before sin, say that they have been freed from sin, when they did not as of yet even understand what sin was.
Also, the Hebrew word “yom” is used for each day of the first week to mean a 24 hour period. It does not mean an “eternal day” for the seventh day as much as it does not mean an “eternal day” for the first day yoms (days). Therefore, the seventh day was a 24 hour period. When Adam and Eve kept a Sabbath, they kept a 24 hour period (that it’s a 24 period, and not an eternal day, was also proven above). Therefore they experienced both an eternal spiritual rest, and also the seventh day Sabbath.
Question 3: How do explain verse 28, which says that Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath?
Answer: Simple. In context the accused was Jesus. How does he prove he has authority to defend himself the way he did in verses 25 and 26? And to teach true proper Sabbath keeping (Matthew 12:12)? And to claim that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (verse 27)? By claiming to have authority to do so. He made this claim of authority by saying that he is “Lord even of (does not say over) the Sabbath” -verse 26.
For further study, see: