39 rules of the sabbath

39 Rules of the Sabbath | What is Forbidden?

What are the 39 rules of the Sabbath? Are they to be found in the Bible?

In this post, we’ll delve into the famous 39 rules of the Sabbath, and explore where they came from.

In short, we do not find these rules in the Bible, in such detail. 

Instead, the Bible shows us the principle of keeping the Sabbath, where we are told to do no work on the holy day of God. (Exodus 20:8-11)

We do have though some more detailed examples in the Bible of what we cannot do on the Sabbath such as labouring the field, treading in a winepress and loading animals, doing business and carrying, traveling, and kindling fire. 

But God did not intend for us on the Sabbath day to take our do and don’t lists with us, and constantly be stressed to fit that rule box.

Instead, He told us to not work on that day and to not do our own pleasure. We are to keep holy the Sabbath day by going to Church, worshipping, studying the Bible, singing hymns to God, sharing meals with family, and helping those in need.

What are the 39 rules of the Sabbath?

The 39 rules of the Sabbath or the 39 categories in which people supposedly should not engage on the Sabbath day are:


These are the 39 major categories, however, these expand into subcategories, and so on.

Where do the 39 rules of the Sabbath come from?

These rules come from the Jewish laws, from Rabbis, and not from the Bible. Few of them may be found in the Scriptures. 

What rules are found in the Bible about the Sabbath?

In the Scriptures, we do have some examples of what is considered work and should be prohibited on the holy day of God, the Sabbath.

Before we go into more detail about which of the above 39 rules are found in the Bible and which are not, we are going to first set a foundation for what God expects us to do and not do on the Sabbath!

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 

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: 

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 

Exodus 20:8-11  KJV

In essence, we are to stop doing any kind of work on this holy day, whether is a job, cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc., or even our own pleasures (see Isaiah 58:13).

What type of work is forbidden on the Sabbath in the Bible?

Laboring the Field

Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. 

Exodus 34:21 KJV

The Bible is clear that laboring in the field is not appropriate on the holy day of God. This is a work that demands from us all our mental and physical capacities, and thus we cannot keep the Sabbath holy by doing this activity.

Treading in a Winepress and Loading Animals

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 

There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 

Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. 

Nehemiah 13:15-18 KJV

This type of activity is shown clearly in the Bible which is forbidden on the Sabbath, and it is a sin to do so.

Thus, it is not appropriate to tread wine, load animals, or buy and sell on the holy day of God.

Gathering Sticks on the Sabbath Day

And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 

And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 

And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 

And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 

And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. 

Numbers 15:32-36 KJV 

God does not want us to die due to low temperatures, however, this activity must be prepared before the Sabbath. There is plenty of time to gather wood for fire on the other six days. 

Doing Our Own Pleasure on the Sabbath

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: 

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. 

Isaiah 58:13-14 KJV 

Doing our own pleasure and activities on the Sabbath is again forbidden in the Bible! Stuff that can be done on the other days of the week, must be arranged in such a way that we are not doing it on the Sabbath!

Doing commerce and business on the Sabbath

Amos 8:5  Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? 

Nehemiah 10:31  And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt. 

It is forbidden to buy and sell on the Sabbath day! 

Traveling on the Sabbath Day

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. 

So the people rested on the seventh day. 

Exodus 16:29-30 KJV

Traveling is not suitable for the Sabbath day! We need to make sure we arrive at the intended place before the Sabbath! 

Kindling Fire on the Sabbath Day

Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. 

Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day. 

Exodus 35:2-3 KJV 

Kindling fire is forbidden on the Sabbath day because it involves gathering wood and thus work.

However, in this modern day and age, when we have cooker stoves and we need to heat our food, that would be ok, so we can have a warm meal. 

Conclusion for 39 rules of the Sabbath

In conclusion, the 39 rules of the Sabbath are much more detailed of what people can do and cannot do.

However, it is important to know that such type of rules are not easy to follow. And God did not intend the Sabbath to be a burden. 

I cannot imagine how people can be able to constantly check their list of do’s and don’ts and constantly be in fear of not breaking any of them.

This is a major burden and does not adhere to the spirit of the Sabbath. 

Instead, why not simplify things and make sure we do no work on the holy day of God or our own pleasure?

Everyone can comprehend what work means and therefore stop it on the Sabbath.

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