In Genesis 2:2 we read, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” If God is omnipotent—if He has all power—it doesn’t make much sense that He would need to “rest.” After we’ve had a busy week, we take a nap—but God?
First, we should quote the verse correctly. It doesn’t say God “needed” to rest; it simply says that He did rest. Also, it is clear from Scripture that God did not rest because He was tired. Genesis 17:1 calls God the “Almighty God.” Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” God is all-powerful; He never tires and never needs to rest. As Isaiah 40:28 says, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” God is the sum of perfection; He is never diminished in any way, and that includes being diminished in power.
When God said, “Let there be light,” the light appeared. He simply spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1:1-3). Later, we read that Jesus Christ “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Forget the image of Atlas straining under the weight of the world on his shoulders. It’s not like that. The entire universe is held together by Jesus’ word. The creation and maintenance of the universe is not difficult for God. A mere word will suffice. As Psalm 33:9 declares, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
The Hebrew word translated “rested” in Genesis 2:2 includes other ideas than that of being tired. In fact, one of the main definitions of the Hebrew word shabat is “to cease or stop.” In Genesis 2:2 the understanding is that God “stopped” His work; He “ceased” creating on the seventh day. All that He had created was good, and His work was finished.
The context of Genesis 1–2 strongly affirms the idea of God’s “rest” being a cessation of work, not a reinvigoration after work. The narrative tells us which things God created in each of the first six days. His power is displayed through the creation of light, mountains, seas, the sun, moon and stars, plant and animal life, and, finally, humanity. There are many parallels between the first three days of creation and the second three days. However, the seventh day is a sharp contrast. Instead of more creating, there is shabat. Instead of God “doing” more, He “ceased” from doing.
God did not merely “rest” on the seventh day; He “stopped creating.” It was a purposeful stop. Everything He desired to create had been made. He looked at His creation, declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and ceased from His activity. In the Jewish tradition, the concept of shabat has been carried over as the “Sabbath.” The Law of Moses taught there was to be no work at all on the seventh day (Saturday). Because God ceased from work that day, the Israelites were to cease from their work on the Sabbath. Thus, the days of creation are the basis of our universal observance of a seven-day week.
Simply put, God’s “rest” was not due to His being tired but to His being completely finished with His creative work.