REST מְנוּחָה, H4957, (נָוָה, H5657, rest, cessation, peace, quiet; ἀνάπαυσις, κατάπαυσις, rest, cessation from labor, refreshment). Rest is frequently referred to in the Bible. God first set the example, and then offered it as a blessing to man. When God finished His work of creation, “he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Gen 2:2, 3). As with God, rest is a reward to man for his work. It is a tonic for the tired, and a release from labor. Rest restores and relieves body, mind, and soul overwrought from various burdens.
Rest is a divine institution, a natural law and a human necessity.
Rest from labors
As God ordained work for man (Gen 2:15), He also ordained rest, patterned after the creation-sabbath. He created the day cycle for man to work during the day and rest during the night. Moreover, he commanded man to rest one day in seven. “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest” (Exod 23:12); “the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord” (31:15). This rest included the beasts of burden, bondservants, and aliens that all might be refreshed. This idea was extended to include the seventh or sabbatical year, in which the land also was to have rest. Both field and vineyard were to lie fallow, and their voluntary crops were to feed the poor and the wild beasts (23:10f.; Lev 25:1-7).
A community, tribe, or nation sometimes needs rest from a common pursuit, internal turmoil, or an enemy. The Israelites anticipated rest in the Promised Land after long years of wandering and conflict with enemies (Deut 12:9f.). Rest from enemies meant peace, freedom from war. At times in the period of the judges, “the land had rest for forty years” or “for eighty years” (Judg 3:11, 30). Though David was a man of war, he attained peace, i.e. rest from his enemies, before his death, and received promise from God that his son would reign in peace (1 Chron 22:8f., 18). Solomon later was able to say, “The Lord my God has given me rest on every hand” (1 Kings 5:4). During the reign of Asa “the land had rest for ten years” (2 Chron 14:1).
Natural rest is a shadow of the ultimate state of blessedness, a taste of which is experienced here. Rest is sometimes equivalent to trust, reliance (2Ch 14:11, the Revised Version (British and American) "rely"). Hence, rest in Yahweh (Ps 37:7, etc.); "rest" in the spiritual sense is not, however, prominent in the Old Testament.
Rest from Worry and Trouble
It begins with Jesus’ offer, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28f.). Long ago God had said, “In returning and rest you shall be saved” (Isa 30:15). Rest is the tonic most sought after when sin, sickness, or separation causes frustration of the mind and anguish of the soul.
Paul said, “When I came to Troas...my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there” (2 Cor 2:12f.). Out of mortal illness David cried, “O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by by night, but find no rest” (Ps 22:2). But healing and rest evoke thanksgiving. “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Ps 116:7). Similarly, Job cried out of his misery, “I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest” (Job 3:26). Certainly alienation from God deprives one of rest, as with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-5), and the unclean spirit (Luke 11:24).
Bibliography and Further Reading
May and Metzger, Oxford Annotated Bible—Notes (1962), 2f, 734, 1456.
E. W. K. Mould, Essentials of Bible History (1966), 144, 360, 437, 444, 610, 625.