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Who Invented the Week?

Who Invented the Week?
With a touch of humor, columnist James Dempsey writes at about the creation of the two-day weekend in Great Britain. When workers during the Industrial Revolution put in six days a week, their only time off for “enjoyment”—meaning drinking alcohol—was on Sunday. Apparently, factory employers got tired of high numbers of absenteeism on Monday and so, through legislation, created the two-day weekend to give employees time to recover from their hangovers.

However, going deeper into the question of the origins of the seven day week, the site highlights a clip from Discovery Digital Networks explaining how “the days come down to astronomy where the formation of the week came down to how the planets and the sun mixed with religion and God and Sabbath.” This popular view has been pitched around for years, but lacks convincing evidence.

While it is true that the names for the days of the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.) come from the names of the classical planets in Hellenistic astrology (first recognized by the Babylonians), the unit of time equal to seven days does not come from the movements of the sun, moon, or stars. It is entirely independent of the month and cannot be related to any event in nature. In all of pre-Hellenistic and ancient Oriental history, the seven-day week can only be found among the Hebrews.

Some believe “the Hebrew seven-day week is based on the Babylonian tradition.” One author speculates that “the seven-day creation account of Genesis is connected to the Babylonian creation” story of Enuma Elish. But this conclusion is founded on the idea that the book of Genesis was written late in Jewish history and the Babylonian captivity heavily influenced the biblical creation story.

Scholars who follow a literary method called “higher criticism” suggest that Genesis—in fact, all the first five books of the Bible—were written by at least four different authors between the tenth and fifth centuries BC. Yet, evidence within these books themselves points to Moses as the author sometime in the fifteenth century BC.

Long before the times of the Jews, sacred history tells us that at the very beginning of our world, at the creation, God established the seven-day week. It was not the invention of astronomers, astrologers, or philosophers. This almost universally observed cycle has no time markers in astronomical or terrestrial constants. The Bible explains the basis of the seven-day week:

“Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And 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. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1–3).

How was the seven-day week established? If you study the superficial explanations of skeptics, you might conclude it grew from the theories of mankind. But if you trust the inspired Word of God, you may know that in six days the Lord created the heavens and the earth and then rested on the seventh day. It was a perfect ending to the first week.