In I Kings 12:26-33 we read the story of Jeroboam changing the holy festivals of the seventh month to the eighth month, but there is not one iota of evidence that states Jeroboam changed the 7th day Sabbath to Sunday. In Chapter 5 of Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong stated that, “there is a strong indication” that this happened. He does not state this as a definite fact. But in The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy1, 1967, p. 166, he said:
King Jeroboam had changed their day of worship from the seventh to the first day of the week—the day of the SUN—Sunday! All succeeding kings followed this practice, as well as idolatry!
We see HWA emphatically stating this as absolute fact, while avoiding any scriptural references. It’s obvious that if there had been any Scriptures to back up his claims, he would have UPPERCASED, BOLDED, AND EMPHASIZED IT!! HWA wanted to poison his readers against Sunday observance, so he made sure he inserted this comment along side the abominable sins of Jeroboam. He knew he could find Scriptures proving God was displeased with Jeroboam, but he let “the power of suggestion” lead members’ minds to believe in something that wasn’t there–a technique skillfully employed by magicians and salesmen alike.
The northern kingdom, house of Israel, was guilty of breaking the Sabbath throughout most of its history. They were guilty of Sabbath breaking by not resting and sanctifying it (Ex. 23:12), kindling a fire (Ex. 35:2-3), or making others work (Deut. 5:14). It is easy to see that the northern kingdom of Israel could be guilty of breaking the Sabbath without changing the 7th day observance to the 1st day of the week–a fact that HWA never mentions! HWA performed a sleight of hand trick by tossing in Sunday-keeping, hoping the reader wouldn’t notice. By not making this distinction, he lets the reader assume that breaking the Sabbath always means, “keeping Sunday.”
Let’s examine the words “first day” in the Bible to see whether any of the kings of Israel was guilty for keeping the “first day of the week” as a weekly observance. When we look up the word “first” in the Strong’s Concordance, we can quickly jump to I Kings to check for the combination of the words “first day.” There are five scriptural references under the book of I Kings using the word “first day” but none of them refer to “first day of the week.” This is important since the story of Jeroboam is recorded in I Kings. If Jeroboam changed the seventh day to the first day as HWA said, then we should be able to find this phrase, but we don’t. In 2 Chron. 29:17, we see the term “first day of the first month”–this is speaking of the temple being sanctified during the reign of Hezekiah, and nothing about Sunday worship. Next, under Ezra 3:6 we read, “From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord.” The remaining verses (Ezra 7:9, Ezra 10:16-17) also use the term “first day” but none of them refer to Sunday keeping. In Nehemiah, there are only two references (8:2, 18), neither concerning Sunday worship. The phrase occurs five times in the book of Ezekiel, once in the book of Daniel, and only once in Haggai–and none of them refer to any kind of weekly Sunday observance. This is the end of all references to the “first day” in the Old Testament from I Kings to Malachi. Every one of these referred to the “first day” of a particular month, but not the first day of the week. (All the references to the “first day” from Genesis to I Kings still refer to the day of the month, except in Genesis 1:5 “the evening and the morning were the first day.”) It would be reasonable that if all the kings of Israel from Jeroboam onward observed the pagan day of the sun, or Sunday, we should see something specific in Scripture concerning this, but we don’t.
Surprisingly, we do find the entire phrase “first day of the week” used eight times in the New Testament. Let’s examine each one:
- Matt. 28:1: In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
- Mark 16:2: And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.
- Mark 16:9: Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had casts seven devils.
- Luke 24:1: Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
- John 20:1: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
- John 20:29: Then the same day at evening, begin the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, “Peace be unto you.”
- Acts 20:7: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
- I Cor. 16:2: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.
The first six verses clearly refer to the day that Jesus was resurrected. We don’t need “booklets” to explain away simple scriptures.
Acts 20 is speaking of Paul preaching to the disciples while they gathered together and broke bread. Although HWA made his followers believe that these early Christians were doing nothing more than “eating a meal together,” he failed to point out that Paul had no problem preaching on the first day of the week. Paul shows by example that there is nothing wrong with preaching on Sunday, the “pagan day of the Sun,” or he would not have done it.
In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul is instructing converts to set aside a collection for him to pick up for distribution to the needy saints. He tells them to do this on the first day of the week “when I come.” Compare this with Justin Martyr’s “Weekly Worship of the Christians” below. Notice the harmony of the eight scriptures given above in comparison to what was practiced by the early church:
The First Apology of Justin
Chapter LXVII.-Weekly Worship of the Christians.
And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I)
The New Testament shows us that great things can happen on “the first day of the week.”
Because one chooses to worship on the first day of the week does not mean one is worshipping a pagan deity. In fact, every day of the week is named after a pagan god. If worshipping on Sunday means one is guilty of worshipping the pagan sun god, then HWA is guilty of worshipping “Saturn,” since he chooses to worship on Saturday. Israel worshipped the pagan gods that the nations around them worshipped. Idolatry makes God angry any day of the week. The truth is that since there were so many pagan deities, worship of them was never strictly reserved for “Sunday” as HWA would have us believe. This is why the names of the weekdays were designated for specific gods. Israel engaged in worshipping the gods that the pagan nations around them did. The Bible does not give specific details as far as the day this worship occurred, so this must not have been “Sunday-specific.” What was significant is that Israel engaged in idolatry and broke God’s commandment.
HWA must make it a high priority for his converts to believe that anything to do with religion on a Sunday is vile in God’s eyes. Once this is accomplished, he can offer the Sabbath as an alternative. So set in HWA’s mind that keeping any religious observance on a Sunday was the equivalent of pagan worship, he refused to believe that Pentecost could fall on a Sunday. He had the membership keeping the wrong day for 40 years! How could God reveal wrong information to his apostle, especially concerning a Holy Day observance?? If Jesus personally taught HWA “truths” back in 1927, why didn’t he get it right back then? Maybe because he wasn’t “personally taught by Jesus,” as he claimed.
[Note by ESN: Read: How is the Day of Pentecost Figured? (furnishes the correct calendation)]
In brief, we have seen that there are no scriptures proving Jeroboam changed the Sabbath. The nation of Israel worshipped other gods, but Scripture does not state that Baal worship (or worship of the other pagan gods) was a Sunday-specific event. If an “apostle of God” plainly states that Jeroboam changed their day of worship from the seventh day to the first, then he needs to give appropriate scriptures and/or historical evidence. God would expect no less from one who claims to represent Him. Once again, HWA stoops to distortion to mislead people.
By Kelly Marshall
Exit & Support Network™
They Changed the Sabbath to Sunday (is it true?) [offsite article]
1 One of earliest editions of this book was published in 1945 and was entitled, The United States in Prophecy. Later edition (i.e., 1980) were re-entitled, The United States and Britain in Prophecy.
Back to Grace & Law (many articles)