31:15 Six days 1 work may be done, 2 but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, 3 holy to the Lord; anyone who does work on the Sabbath day must surely be put to death. 31:16 The Israelites must keep the Sabbath by observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 31:17 It is a sign between me and the Israelites forever; for in six days 4 the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” 5
1 tn This is an adverbial accusative of time, indicating that work may be done for six days out of the week.
2 tn The form is a Niphal imperfect; it has the nuance of permission in this sentence, for the sentence is simply saying that the six days are work days – that is when work may be done.
3 tn The expression is שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (shabbat shabbaton), “a Sabbath of entire rest,” or better, “a sabbath of complete desisting” (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 404). The second noun, the modifying genitive, is an abstract noun. The repetition provides the superlative idea that complete rest is the order of the day.
4 tn The expression again forms an adverbial accusative of time.
5 sn The word “rest” essentially means “to cease, stop.” So describing God as “resting” on the seventh day does not indicate that he was tired – he simply finished creation and then ceased or stopped. But in this verse is a very bold anthropomorphism in the form of the verb וַיִּנָּפַשׁ (vayyinnafash), a Niphal preterite from the root נָפַשׁ (nafash), the word that is related to “life, soul” or more specifically “breath, throat.” The verb is usually translated here as “he was refreshed,” offering a very human picture. It could also be rendered “he took breath” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 345). Elsewhere the verb is used of people and animals. The anthropomorphism is clearly intended to teach people to stop and refresh themselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally on this day of rest.