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What is the word for rest in the Bible?

The Bible uses several different words to refer to the concept of rest, depending on the context and meaning. Some of the main Hebrew and Greek words translated as “rest” in English Bible versions include shabath, nuach, shaqat, anapausis, katapausis, and sabbatismos.

Hebrew Words for Rest

In the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, the most common word translated as “rest” is shabath. This word has the meaning of ceasing from labor, stopping, or resting.

Some examples of shabath in the Old Testament include:

  • “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
  • “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Another related Hebrew word is nuach, which has connotations of resting, settling down, or dwelling. Some examples:

  • “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3)
  • “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

The Hebrew shaqat is also sometimes translated as “rest” or “be quiet”, implying resting from action or speech:

  • “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

Greek Words for Rest

In the New Testament, which was written in Greek, two of the primary words translated as “rest” are anapausis and katapausis.

Anapausis has the sense of stopping from labor in order to recover and refresh.

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (Hebrews 4:3)

Katapausis is similar but refers more specifically to resting as relief from toil.

  • “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

Another significant Greek word is sabbatismos, which refers directly to the Jewish Sabbath observance and is translated as “Sabbath rest” in some versions:

  • “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Rest as a Biblical Theme

The idea of rest is an important biblical theme, tracing back to God’s rest after the six days of creation in Genesis. Humanity was also made to rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Rest serves as a reminder of God’s sovereignty and holy presence.

The weekly Sabbath observance was established as a sacred sign of the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 31:12-17). Breaking Sabbath rest by working was punishable by death (Exodus 31:14-15). Keeping the Sabbath holy by resting from labor was a key part of Israel’s identity as God’s chosen people.

Rest also points forward to the future rest and peace promised to God’s people. The prophets spoke of the “rest” God would provide for Israel after their exile (Isaiah 14:3; Jeremiah 31:2). Hebrews 4 applies this idea to Christian believers, who can now find eternal rest in Christ.

Through Christ’s sacrifice, Christians have ceased trying to earn salvation through good works and can rest in God’s grace.

Rest as a Person

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus refers to himself as the source of rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” By faith in Christ, believers find respite from works-based religious burden. His “yoke is easy” and His burden is light.

Rest as a Place

The Promised Land is described as the “place of rest” that God gives His people (Deuteronomy 12:9). After Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, Joshua led them into Canaan, the land of rest after their long wanderings in the wilderness.

The book of Hebrews presents salvation in Christ as entering God’s eternal spiritual rest: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God…for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10). Through Christ, believers find eternal rest from sin, futile works, and spiritual wandering.

Rest as a Time

Rest can also refer to a time of relief from adversity. Deborah sang of Israel’s “rest” under her judging leadership, when the land had peace for 40 years (Judges 5:31). King Asa later gave his subjects “rest” by removing idols and repairing the altar of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:1-7). Nehemiah sought to restore “rest” to Jerusalem through his reforms.

Rest as a State of Being

In addition to physical rest from labor, the Bible also describes an inner state of rest, peace, and stillness before God. Psalms such as Psalm 131 emphasize resting patiently in God’s presence and trusting in Him completely for everything.


The theme of rest runs all throughout Scripture, from the Sabbath rest at creation, to Israel’s Promised Land, to the eternal rest found in Christ. God desires that His people find deep spiritual rest in Him from all anxiety, fear, and fruitless works. While the words used for “rest” vary based on language and context, the biblical concept remains the same: resting and trusting completely in God’s grace, providence, and sovereignty.