Does God Need to Rest?
by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
In many verses of the Bible, God is described as omnipotent or all-powerful. 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). From such verses, we get the idea that God can do anything that can be accomplished with power. We also get the idea that God’s power never runs out, and He does not get tired. As 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).
But, if God does not get tired, why does the Genesis account of Creation say that “on the seventh day God ended His work, which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:2, emp. added)? What does the Bible mean when it says that God rested? Were the rigors of creating the Universe so difficult for God that He needed a break? Did His creative power need to be rejuvenated? And, does this “resting” not militate against the idea that God does not “faint nor is weary?” The answers to these questions are really very simple.
When we hear the English verb “rest” most of us immediately think of being tired or needing to recuperate drained energy, but the Hebrew translated “rest” in Genesis 2:2 does not always carry that same idea. In fact, the first two definitions given for the Hebrew word translated “rest” (shābat or shābath) are to “cease, 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 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states: “The translation ‘to cease, desist’ can be illustrated in the following verses: ‘Day and night shall not cease’ (Genesis 8:22)….” (Harris, et al., p. 902).
A brief look at the original word translated “rest” or “rested” shows that God did not get tired, nor did He need a day to convalesce or build up His strength. He simply stopped creating the Universe. He finished in six days and stopped on the seventh day to set a pattern for a seven-day week. God does not need to rest or relax, because He “neither faints nor is weary.” In dealing with questions like this, sometimes a brief look at the original language can go a long way.
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
“Shābath” (1995), Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Electronic Database: Logos).