“Then Moses commanded them, saying, ‘At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.’”Deuteronomy 31:10-11
In the Book of Leviticus, Moses gave the children of Israel a land sabbath law. Every seventh year, Israelite land was to lie fallow and rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Failure to keep this law for 890 years determined exactly how long the people would later go into captivity.
There were also concurrent laws with that land sabbath law. The most important provided for reading the entire Pentateuch to all Israel in these seven-year cycles (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
The late great theologian and pastor, Dr. B.H. Carroll, founder of Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, had this to say in his voluminous work, An Interpretation of the English Bible: “It is the most remarkable Sunday School that the earth ever knew.”
“There is nothing like it in history. Notice the true conception of that Sunday School, viz: men, women, and children. Notice the length of that Sunday School; it probably did not last the whole year of the land sabbath, for it commenced with the Feast of Tabernacles. There was no work to do; all agricultural work was suspended, and the nation gathered before God in Sunday Schoolmen, women, and children—and in the hearing of the assembled nation the whole book of the Pentateuch was read and expounded, and so expounded that even a child that had not known anything must know the law of God, and believe and do it.
However, there is only one instance in the Old Testament where the nation actually kept that Sunday School law. It is found in the Book of Nehemiah after the people returned from captivity.
Old Ezra the priest stood upon a pulpit of wood and slowly read the law. The Levites around him explained the law. Every day from an early morning hour until late evening they kept that up until the entire Pentateuch was covered. Today we can barely keep people in a service lasting an hour.
Here, then, was the original Sunday School. It was not just designed for little children, but men and women, as well. They all came together to hear and understand the Word of God.
What effect did it have upon those post-captivity people? It strengthened their joy and fellowship with God. It is still God’s plan that His people enjoy a Sabbath and come together in fellowship around His Word in Sunday School. Don’t miss out on one of God’s greatest blessings for young and old alike!
Forest Smith, formerly an electrical engineer and a pastor, continues working as a forensic electrical engineer. He and his wife, Glenda, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 2020. They have two daughters and two teenage grandchildren and love to watch old classic television shows from the 1950s and 1960s.