MBS120 THE FEAST OF SUCCOTH (TABERNACLES)
By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
And Jehovah spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto Jehovah.Leviticus 23:33
The Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles is the seventh and final feast spoken of in Leviticus 23 will be subdivided into six major areas: the introduction, the Feast of Tabernacles in the Law of Moses, the Feast of Tabernacles in the Prophets, the Feast of Tabernacles in the Writings, the Feast of Tabernacles in the New Testament, and the messianic implications of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The introduction will be covered in three sections: the names, the biblical celebration, and modern Jewish practice.
A. The Names
1. Hag Hasuccot
The first name is Hag Hasuccot, which means the “Feast of Tabernacles” or the “Feast of Booths.” This biblical name is found in Leviticus 23:34.
2. Hag Adonai
The second name is Hag Adonai, which means the “Feast of Jehovah” or the “Feast of the Lord.” This biblical name is found in Leviticus 23:39.
3. Hag Haasiph
The third name is Hag Haasiph, which means the “Feast of the Ingathering.” This biblical name is found in Exodus 23:16. It is called the “Feast of the Ingathering” because it marks the end of the summer harvest and comes shortly before the rainy season begins.
The fourth name is Hag, which simply means “Feast.” When Jews spoke of the Feast without giving any other name, it generally referred to the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kg. 8:2). This was a Jewish Talmudic name because of the unusual pomp and ceremony connected with this feast.
5. Zman Simchateinu
The fifth name is Zman Simchateinu, which means “the season of our rejoicing.” This is a rabbinic name.
6. Yom Hashvii Shel Aravah
The sixth name is Yom Hashvii Shel Aravah, which means “the seventh day of the willow,” so named for the seventh day of this feast. It is a day when there are special prayers for rain.
7. Hoshana Rabba
The seventh name is Hoshana Rabba, which means “save us in the highest.” This, too, is a name for the seventh day of the feast, because special prayers are recited concerning Israel’s future and final redemption on this day.
8. Shmini Atzeret
The eighth name is Shmini Atzeret, which means “the eighth day of the assembly.” It refers to the added eighth day (Lev. 23:36). Technically, it is considered an independent holiday from the Feast of Tabernacles, but it comes immediately afterward and is thus always connected with the Feast. It is this eighth day that marks the end of all the festivities and observances of the Feast of Tabernacles, although the laws of the Feast of Tabernacles do not apply to it.
9. Simchat Torah
The ninth name is Simchat Torah, which means “the rejoicing of the Law.” This is a rabbinic term for the eighth day based on Numbers 29:35–38. It is called Simchat Torah because the cycle of the reading of the Law both ends and begins again in the synagogue on this occasion.
In the synagogue service, there is a recitation from the Mosaic Law on a regular basis: every Sabbath and also on special holy days. The Mosaic Law has been divided into fifty-two parts so that the entire Mosaic Law is read within one year’s time. On this occasion, the eighth day of the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles, they finish reading Deuteronomy and immediately begin to read the first several verses of Genesis.
B. The Biblical Practice
Insofar as the biblical practice is concerned, a basic introduction will be given in this section and will be dealt with in greater detail later. First, the feast itself was seven days long. Secondly, it was celebrated by the building of booths or tabernacles to commemorate the forty years of Wilderness Wanderings. Thirdly, the feast was to be celebrated with four species: the ethrog, which is the citron, a citrus-type of fruit; the lulav, which is a branch of the palm tree; the hadas, which is a branch of the myrtle tree; and the aravah, which is a branch of the willow. Fourthly, the Feast of Tabernacles follows the Day of Atonement and is considered to be a time of rejoicing following the affliction of the Day of Atonement. Fifth, it marked the first-fruits of the fall harvest. And sixth, there was an additional eighth day of solemn assembly immediately following the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, but this was not technically part of the Feast of Tabernacles. As a result, Jews speak of the “eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles.” For seven days they were to live in booths, sleep in booths, and eat in booths in order to remember the Wilderness Wanderings. Then an eighth day was added that was a day of solemn assembly, but one did not have to eat, sleep, and live in the booth on this eighth day.
C. The Modern Jewish Observance
The third section by way of introduction is to discuss the modern Jewish observance. This will be discussed in fourteen facets.
1. The Booth
The main thing involved in the Feast of Tabernacles is the booth itself, known as the succah.
a. A Double Symbol
In Jewish thinking, the booth has become a double symbol. On one hand, it was the symbol of a wasted national hope because it was a flimsy thing. On the other hand, the booth provided hope for a future restoration based on Amos 9:11.
b. The Construction of the Booth
The rabbis spelled out ten specific rules and regulations concerning the building of the booth. First, there must be the feeling of a temporary abode; it should not be looked upon as being a permanent dwelling, so it must be built in a somewhat flimsy way to emphasize the Wilderness Wanderings. The temporariness of the booth is not in the walls as such, but in the ceiling or roof.
The second rule is that the material for the covering of the roof must possess three specific characteristics: it must come from the earth, which excludes it’s being made of animal skins, metal, or cloth; it must be cut down and no longer connected to the ground, which excludes using branches that are still attached to the tree; and it must not be subject to ritual impurity, which excludes the use of fruits and food that will spoil.
The third rule is that the roof must always be put on after the walls are completed so that, with the putting on of the roof, the tabernacle or booth is completed.
The fourth rule is that the roof must be sufficiently thick to allow for more shade than sun. No opening can be more that eleven inches and the stars should be visible at night. Nevertheless, it should not be so thick as to keep out rain.
The fifth rule is that a booth that was built inside or under the overhanging of a porch, balcony, or tree is not valid. The shade inside the booth must come only from the booth and no other source.
The sixth rule is that there are no restrictions on the material for the walls; for example, the walls could be made of metal, wood, canvas, brick, or stone.
The seventh rule is that it must have at least two complete walls, but it may have three and as many as four. The fourth wall may be left completely open. When it is built outside against a house, one or more walls of the house may be used as walls of the booth as well.
The eighth rule concerns the size of the booth. There is no maximum size, but there is a minimum size: it must be big enough to hold one person and one table. Therefore, the minimum size was decreed by the rabbis to be twenty-six inches by twenty-six inches.
The ninth rule concerns the height of the booth; it must be no lower than thirty-seven inches and no higher than thirty-six and one-half feet, which is twenty cubits. Because one must be aware that he is sitting in a booth, the rabbis felt that if the roof were higher, he would no be longer aware of being in a booth.
The tenth rule concerns the decorations of the booth and here the emphasis is on the esthetics. The walls may be decorated with pictures, tapestries, or flowers. The roof may be decorated with, but not composed of: fruits, nuts, apples, grapes, and pomegranates, but these are not to be eaten for the entire week.
c. The Rabbinical Concerns Regarding the Booth
The rabbis had eight areas of concern when they discussed the issue of the booth. The first area of concern was the roof or the covering because, in rabbinical thinking, this was the essence of the booth itself. Consequently, all of the laws concerning the booth actually refer to the roof. The height had to be a maximum of twenty cubits and it must provide more shade than sun.
The second concern had to do with the walls; there had to be a minimum of two walls and there may be three or four. Four was always preferred.
The third concern was with the dimensions; the minimum side was seven hand’s-breadths by seven hand’s-breadths. This is enough to contain a man’s head, most of his body, and a table. There was no maximum size. The minimum height was no lower that ten hand’s-breadths; the maximum height no more that twenty cubits.
The fourth concern had to do with the construction; one had to make it himself. The walls must be made before the roof, and the intention must be to provide shade. The actual command, according to the rabbis, was not so much the building but the dwelling in the booth, which meant both eating and sleeping.
The fifth concern of the rabbis had to do with the ownership of the booth; because the Hebrew literally reads “make to yourself,” the implication is that the booth must be one’s own. The person must own at least a part of the booth; it is not necessary that he own the entire booth outright. A booth that was stolen or borrowed was invalid. A community booth was allowed in order for the entire congregation to live in one booth, if it were large enough.
The sixth rabbinic concern had to do with deriving benefit from the booth; one was forbidden to derive any practical benefit from it except when it rained. Once a booth was designated as in keeping with the commandment and the feast had arrived, even the fruits and nuts used for decorations must be left for the entire duration of the feast; they were not to be eaten during those seven days.
The seventh rabbinic concern had to do with the dwelling in the booth; one must look upon that booth as his permanent home during this feast. For those seven days, the rabbis taught, he was to eat all his meals there and spend all his nights there.
And the eighth rabbinic concern had to do with the blessing. The official blessing is: “Blessed are you O Lord our God, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and has commanded us to dwell in the booth.”
d. Other Rules and Customs Concerning the Tabernacle
In Jewish thinking, there are special guests who arrive on each day of the feast. Each of the two main groups of Jews, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic, have a different order of arrival.
According to Ashkenazi tradition, Abraham came on the first day; Isaac came on the second day; Jacob came on the third day; Joseph came on the fourth day; Moses came on the fifth day; Aaron came on the sixth day; and David came on the seventh day.
The Sephardic order is much the same, with a few variations: Abraham came on the first day; Isaac came on the second day; Jacob came on the third day; Moses came on the fourth day; Aaron came on the fifth day; Joseph came on the sixth day; and David came on the seventh day.
2. The Four Species
The second facet of the modern Jewish practice deals with the four species. Whereas this feast was to be observed biblically with the four species, rabbinic tradition has added a great deal to this issue. Seven things will be mentioned concerning the four species and the modern Jewish practices.
a. The Introduction
The rabbis developed a total of three hundred twenty-six rules and regulations concerning these four species, which were to be the symbol of the final harvest in thanksgiving. According to the rabbis, the reason God chose these four things is because all four retain moisture for all seven days and because all four are easily found in the Land of Israel.
b. The General Laws
Two main general laws are true of everything involved in the Feast of Tabernacles: first, they could not be stolen; and secondly, they must be owned and not borrowed.
c. The Shared Laws
Twelve shared laws are true of all four species. First, all four species must be taken together in hand.
Secondly, the actual commandment is the taking up of the four species. The question which the rabbis debated was whether it was the act of grasping or the act of holding after grasping that fulfilled the commandment. In the end, they decided upon the latter.
The third shared law is that it must be lifted up from its place. The branches are lifted with the right hand and the fruit or citron is taken with the left hand.
The fourth law is that the three species of branches must be bound together.
The fifth law concerns the duration of the commandment; within the Temple Precinct, it must be done for seven days; outside of the Temple Precint, for one day.
Sixth, as far as the manner of holding, they must be held up the way they grow, with the base down and the top up.
The seventh law concerns the blessing. Normally in Jewish practice, it is customary to recite the blessing before fulfilling the commandment, but here they recite the blessing only after the four species are held.
The eighth law concerns the shaking of the branches. While the scriptural commandment is only to hold, there is a rabbinic command to shake it in every direction, because God is everywhere. It is waved to and fro three times in the following order: east, south, west, north, upward toward Heaven, downward toward earth. It is also waved during the recitation of Psalms 113–118. Waving is a way of beseeching God for rain, hence they wave it to pray for rain. It is waved to and fro to hold back bad wind. It is waved up and down to hold back bad rain. It is waved to remind God of His promise that, when the Kingdom is established, the trees of the field will clap their hands (Is. 55:12).
The ninth law is the rule of ownership; it must be owned; it cannot be borrowed or stolen. If it is co-owned, the other owners must give their portion as a gift to the one presently holding the four species to fulfill the commandment.
The tenth law is that it must be beautiful; these branches and fruit cannot be dried up and there must not be any severed tips.
The eleventh law concerns the binding of the three branches. The binding is known as lulav, though this word specifically refers to the palm branch. The lulav consists of one palm branch, two willow branches, and three myrtle branches. These are all bound together as a unit.
And the twelfth law is that the four species are all to be taken up at a specific point in the service and waved accordingly.
d. The Specific Laws
Specific laws are laws that are not true of all four species. First, concerning the palm branch; it must come from the date palm and no other palm and it must be in good condition. If the leaves are spread out, if the leaf is split open, if it is cracked, if it appears as two rather than one, if it has thorns on the spine, if it curves forward, if the top is bent, if it is dry, if the top is cut off, if the palm leaves are not attached to the spine, or if most of the leaves are cut off, it is invalidated and cannot be used.
Secondly, concerning the myrtle branch; it must appear braided, the leaves must be wide and similar to the shape of an eye, and all three branches must be of equal size. However, if the leaves are dried up or cut off, if it shows more wood than leaves, if it has more berries than leaves, it is invalid and cannot be used.
Thirdly, concerning the willow; it must be the willow of the brook, its leaves are to be elongated like a river, the edge of the leaf must be smooth, the stem should be red, and two branches are to be used. However, if the top is cut off, if most of the leaves are dried up, have fallen off, if the edges of the leaves are jagged, it cannot be used.
Fourthly, concerning the citron, which is the symbol of the Promised Land, it must be one’s own and the minimum size is no smaller than an egg, although there is no maximum size. During the blessing, it is held in the left hand with the point on top. If it is punctured or if a part of it is missing, if it is cracked or has a hole or is perforated through, if a large part of it is scarred or dried up, split, peeled, or round like a ball, it cannot be used.
e. The Holder
One palm branch, two willows, and three myrtle branches are bound together in each holder, and the ethrog is separate.
f. The Symbolism
The palm is used because it symbolizes something that has fruit, but no fragrance. The myrtle has fragrance, but no fruit. The willow has neither fragrance nor fruit, but the ethrog has both fragrance and fruit.
The species symbolize the human body: the palm tree symbolizes the spine; the myrtle tree symbolizes the eye; the willow branch symbolizes the mouth; and the ethrog symbolizes the heart.
The four species also symbolize four types of Jews. The ethrog, because it has both fruit and fragrance, symbolizes Jews who are righteous and who have both knowledge of the Law and good deeds. The palm branch, which has fruit but no fragrance, symbolizes those Jews who have a knowledge of the Law of Moses, but no good deeds. The myrtle, which has fragrance but no fruit, symbolizes those Jews who have good deeds, but no knowledge of the Law. The willow branch has neither fruit nor fragrance, therefore, it represents those Jews who have neither a knowledge of the Law nor good deeds.
g. The Unity
The fact that these four species are put together teaches that the Jews comprise a united ethic in which the failings of some Jews are compensated by the virtues of others. The point is that there is Jewish unity in spite of diversity.
3. Yom Hashvii Shel Aravah
The third facet by way of modern Jewish observance has to do with Yom Hashvii Shel Aravah, which means “the seventh day of the willow.” It is the name given to the seventh day of the feast. It is on this day that there are prayers emphasizing water, because it is a day of praying for rain. The ritual of the willow is practiced on this occasion: an extra willow branch is carried and held high in the procession and there are seven circuits made instead of one. During the Temple Period, they circled around the Altar seven times, whereas on the first six days they circled it only once. As they circled the Altar, they said, “Thine O Altar is the beauty. Thine O Altar is the beauty.” Since the Temple no longer stands, they follow this procedure around the bema in the front of the synagogue.
In Jewish thinking, the seventh day is considered a day of judgment for rain and God decides on that day whether it is going to be a good rainy season or not. On this day, the four species face upward after the special offering.
In the Talmud, the question is asked, “How was the commandment of the willow fulfilled?” From a place called Motza, which is located below Jerusalem, the people went to gather branches of the willow. They stood these branches straight at the sides of the Altar, with the tops of the branches arching over it, and then they sounded the tekiah, truah, tekiah blasts of the shofar. Every day they would circle the Altar once saying, “Ana Adonai Hoshiah na. Ana Adonai hatzlichah na,” which means “Please Lord, save now. Please Lord, make us prosper now.” On the seventh day, they circled the Altar seven times. On their departure, they said, “Beauty is yours, O Altar.”
4. Hoshana Rabba
The fourth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is Hoshana Rabba, which is also a name given to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This name means “Save us in the highest” and emphasizes prayers regarding Israel’s future and final redemption. There was a procession with the species on this occasion. As they proceeded, they sang Psalm 118:25, “Please Lord save now. Please Lord make us prosper.”
This name is also referred to as “the day of the great sealing.” In Judaism, this is the last day that God’s decree on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, can be reversed, especially if it concerns the issue of rain.
Because it was a day of judgment for rain, the willow branches are beaten on the floor or the seats of the synagogue. On this day, whatever kind of rainy season the year is going to produce is sealed forever.
On this day, Psalm 27 is read and a number of special prayers are recited that speak about the merits of the Patriarchs, because the people feel they do not deserve good rain themselves. Therefore, they ask God for rain on the basis of the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
On this day, special foods are eaten: the citron, honey, and kreplach, which is like a Jewish ravioli filled with beaten meat and onions and represents the beating of the willows.
It was customary to stay up all night on this day and spend the time in prayer, study, and the reading of the Book of Deuteronomy.
The fifth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is Hakkafot, which refers to processional circuits. In the Temple Period, the circuit was around the Altar; in modern days, it is around the bema in the synagogue. For the first six days, there was one circuit; on the seventh day, they circled it seven times.
The seven Hakkafot recall the seven attributes that were represented by seven Patriarchs. The first circuit represents the loving-kindness of Abraham. The second circuit represents the power of Isaac. The third circuit represents the glory of Jacob. The fourth circuit represents the eternality of Moses. The fifth circuit represents the splendor of Aaron. The sixth circuit represents the foundation of Joseph. And the seventh circuit represents the kingship of David.
6. The Drawing and the Pouring Out of the Water
The sixth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is the ceremony of the drawing and the pouring out of the water; this was the first of two key ceremonies during the Temple Period. This drawing of the water was given two specific Hebrew names; the first one means “the house of water-drawing” and the second name means “the pouring out of the water.”
The source of this tradition is not in Scripture, although in rabbinic oral tradition, they tried to base it on Numbers 29:17–19 and Isaiah 12:3, which says, “ye shall draw forth water with gladness.”
The water was poured out on the southwest corner of the Altar of Sacrifice because the grooves which drew the blood away were located there.
This ceremony was conducted on all seven days. The water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam, although other sources of water were permissible. The custom was to draw the water in golden flasks, each containing about three pints of water. A procession of priests went down from the Temple Mount with the golden flasks to the Pool of Siloam and filled them with water. The procession ascended from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount and, as they went up, they sang the Psalms of the Ascents (Ps. 120–134). There were fifteen steps leading from the Court of Israel to the Court of the Women. On the first step, they sang Psalm 120; on the second step, they sang Psalm 121, until on the fifteenth step, they sang Psalm 134. Then they entered the Temple Courtyard and poured out the water by the Altar. This was followed by great rejoicing. The rejoicing was so great that the saying of the rabbis was, “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the pouring out of the water has not seen rejoicing in all of his life.”
In Judaism, the pouring out of the water was a symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The rabbis taught that, in the last days, there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel before the Messiah comes. This is also taught by the Scriptures. The pouring of the water was followed by a total of twelve trumpet blasts.
7. The Kindling of the Lights
The seventh facet by way of modern Jewish observance is the second key ceremony, the kindling of the lights. There were huge lampstands set up all over the Temple Compound, each lampstand with four golden cups. These lamps would then be lit toward sundown. The saying of the rabbis regarding this ceremony was, “There was not a courtyard in all Jerusalem that was not lit by the lights emanating from the Temple Compound.”
The kindling of the lights was followed by dancing and juggling with fire torches. In Judaism, this was a symbol of the Shechinah Glory.
8. The Scripture Readings
The eighth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is the reading of the Scriptures. Three passages are read on the first day of the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles: Leviticus 22:26–23:44, which contains a review of all seven of the holy seasons of Israel; Numbers 29:12–16, which deals with the special offerings to be offered on this occasion; and Zechariah 14, which mentions the observance of this feast during the Messianic Kingdom.
On the second day, 1 Kings 8:2–21 is read, which speaks of the dedication of the First Temple that occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. While the dates of the dedication of the Temple and the Feast of Tabernacles coincided, they did not actually observe the feast, only the dedication of the Temple.
On the Sabbath that falls during this feast, the intermediate Sabbath, there are several other passages read, including some repetition. Numbers 29:12–16, which deals with the offerings of the Feast of Tabernacles, is re-read, but new passages are added: Exodus 33:12–34:26 speaks of the thirteen attributes of God and the pilgrimage festivals, including the Feast of Tabernacles; Ezekiel 38 describes the Gog and Magog War, which is to precede the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom; and the pessimistic Book of Ecclesiastes describes the mood of the people who have just experienced a long holiday season beginning with the Feast of Trumpets, including the Day of Atonement, and concluding with the eight days of the Feast of Tabernacles.
9. The Liturgy
The ninth facet by way of modern Jewish observance includes three special liturgies for the Feast of Tabernacles. The first liturgy is known as the Hoshanot, which refers to general requests. It refers to prayers for good rain, good harvest, for salvation from the Exile, and for that final messianic redemption and Kingdom.
The second liturgy is the Hallel, which is the recitation of Psalms 113–118. The Hallel is recited while one holds the four species, except on the Sabbath day, when it is forbidden.
The third liturgy is known as Yaalah Veyavo, which means “ascend and come.” This is a request for God to receive Israel’s prayers and restore the Temple at Jerusalem.
The tenth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is the Hachel, which is a special assembly held on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles during the Sabbatical Year. The purpose of this assembly is to hear the public reading of the Law. The entire Law is read on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles on this occasion every seven years.
11. The Spiritual Motifs
The eleventh facet by way of modern Jewish observance are the four spiritual motifs that are related to the Feast of Tabernacles. First, it is a period of judgment because God passes judgment on rain on this day; either it will be a good season or a bad season. The Feast of Passover is the judgment for grain; the Feast of Pentecost or Weeks is the judgment for fruit; Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is the judgment for sin; and the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles is the judgment for rain.
The second spiritual motif of the Feast of Tabernacles is its messianic aspirations. In Amos 9:11, the booth symbolizes the national messianic hope; Zechariah 14:16–21 speaks of the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Messianic Kingdom. Thus the Feast of Tabernacles has specific messianic implications in Judaism.
The third spiritual motif is that of universalism in that the Feast of Tabernacles will somehow effect both the Jews and Gentiles. In Zechariah 14, the Feast of Tabernacles is not being observed by Jews, but by Gentiles. Furthermore, the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles required the sacrifice of seventy bulls which, in Judaism, represented the seventy Gentile nations of Genesis 10.
The fourth spiritual motif is the destruction of Leviathan, because it is believed that that Leviathan is going to be defeated on this occasion.
The twelfth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is Channukah or the Feast of Lights. In the year 165 b.c., the Maccabees celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at the time of the rededication of the Temple, and they observed it with the citron and the other three species. The Book of 2 Maccabees states that the observance of Channukah was patterned after the Feast of Tabernacles. There are three similarities between the Feast of Tabernacles and Channukah: first, both Channukah and the Feast of Tabernacles are eight days long; secondly, the full Hallel, Psalms 113–118, are recited every day; and thirdly, there are parallel readings from the Law.
13. Shmini Atzeret
The thirteenth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is Shmini Atzeret, which means the “eighth day of assembly.” This is the name given to the added eighth day, based on Leviticus 23:36. It was observed in Israel for only one day, but in the Diaspora it was observed two days.
It is distinctive in that it is commonly regarded as the concluding day of the Feast of Tabernacles. In reality, it is a separate and independent holy day, so the special rituals of the Feast of Tabernacles are not observed on this particular day. The Bible itself commands it, but does not give a reason for it. However, the reason the rabbis gave is that it allows for one more joyous day, one more day of happiness, after the Feast of Tabernacles. This day is the official day of the cessation of living in booths.
There are similarities to the Feast of Tabernacles, such as the recitation of the Hallel, Psalms 113–118. This is also a day of joy. It is a day of praying for rain and a day of giving to charity.
The Scriptures read on this day include: Deuteronomy 14:22–16:17, which speaks of the tithes of Israel, the sabbatical year, alms for the poor, and the pilgrimage festivals; Numbers 29:35–30:1, which speaks of the daily offerings; 1 Kings 8:54–66, which speaks of Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple; and the Book of Ecclesiastes.
14. Simchat Torah
And the fourteenth facet by way of modern Jewish observance is Simchat Torah, which means “the rejoicing of the Law.” This is also a name given to the added eighth day. This name is not in Scripture like the previous one, it is a rabbinic name.
Again, the special observance of this day is that the cycle of the reading of the Law both ends and begins again on this day. The Book of Deuteronomy is concluded and the Book of Genesis is started immediately (Deut. 33:27–34:12 and Gen. 1:1–2:3).
II. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE LAW OF MOSES
The second major area in this study concerns the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles in the Law of Moses, the first division of the Old Testament. In the framework of the Torah, the five books of Moses, this feast is probably spoken of more frequently than any other particular feast. There are six specific passages on the Feast of Tabernacles.
A. Leviticus 23:33–36
And Jehovah spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto Jehovah. On the first day shall be a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto Jehovah: on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto Jehovah: it is a solemn assembly; ye shall do no servile work.
In this passage, the Word of God comes to Moses in verse 33, as God tells him what the Jewish people must do on this particular occasion. The specific date is given in verse 34: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, which is Tishrei; the name of this feast is given the feast of tabernacles; it is to be observed for a duration of seven days. Verse 35 states that the first day is a special holy day, a day of holy convocation; there is to be no work done on this day; it is to be treated as a Sabbath day. In verse 36a, they are to offer an offering made by fire unto Jehovah for all seven days. In verse 36b, there is an added day, the eighth day, which is also a holy convocation. On that day they must also offer an offering by fire unto Jehovah. It was to be a day of solemn assembly, and this day is also to be treated as a Sabbath; no work is to be done on this day.
From this first passage, four specific deductions may be drawn. First, it is to be a seven-day festival. Secondly, the first day is to be treated like a Sabbath in that there is to be no work done on this day. Thirdly, there were special sacrifices to be offered throughout the seven days. Every day was a sacrificial day, but only the first day was a day of rest. Fourthly, there was an eighth day added known as the Shmini Atzeret, which was discussed earlier. This, too, was a day of special sacrifice. It marked the closing of the Feast of Tabernacles, and it was to be treated as a Sabbath in that no work was permitted on this day.
B. Leviticus 23:39–43
The second passage begins with a summary of the first passage on the Feast of Tabernacles in verse 39: Howbeit on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruits of the land, ye shall keep the feast of Jehovah seven days: on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.
The date is the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after they have gathered in the fruits of the land, the summer harvest; this is a summer first-fruits observation. The duration is seven days. The first day and the added eighth day are especially holy and are to be days of solemn rest.
Verse 40 emphasizes the assembly: And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before Jehovah your God seven days.
They are to gather the fruit of goodly trees. As the Hebrew text reads, it could be the fruit of any tree, but Jewish tradition has made it the ethrog or the citron. They are to bring three types of branches with the fruit: branches of the palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, which are believed to be the myrtle tree; and willows of the brook. They are to use the fruit and the branches as a means of rejoicing before Jehovah your God seven days.
Verse 41 describes the feast itself: And ye shall keep it a feast unto Jehovah seven days in the year: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; ye shall keep it in the seventh month.
It is to be kept unto Jehovah seven days. It is a mandatory festival, a statute for ever throughout your generations.
Verse 42 gives the means of the observance: Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths.
They were to dwell in booths or tabernacles for seven days. Again, the emphasis is that it is mandatory for all citizens: all that are home-born in Israel.
He then gives the reason for the observance of this festival in verse 43: that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God.
It is therefore a reminder of their Wilderness Wandering experience, when they dwelled in these flimsy booths.
From this passage six specific deductions may be drawn. First, it was a seven-day festival with the addition of a special eighth day. Secondly, the first and the eighth day were to be treated as a Sabbath day in that no work was permitted. Thirdly, it was to come after the summer harvest. Fourthly, it was to be celebrated in two ways: by the gathering of fruits and branches, and by dwelling in booths or tabernacles. Fifth, it was a time of rejoicing following the affliction of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And sixth, it was to be a reminder of the Wilderness Wanderings.
C. Exodus 23:14–17
Three times you shall keep a feast unto me in the year. The feast of unleavened bread shall you keep: seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib (for in it you came out from Egypt); and none shall appear before me empty: and the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you sowed in the field: and the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord Jehovah.
The third passage on the Feast of Tabernacles points out two things. First, in verse 14, this is one of the three pilgrimage festivals along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks in verses 15–16. On this occasion, they were instructed to appear before the Lord Jehovah in verse 17 wherever the Tabernacle or Temple was standing at that point in Jewish history. Secondly, in verse 16, it was also known as the feast of ingathering because it marked the end of the summer harvest.
D. Numbers 29:12–38
1. The Summary of the Passage
The fourth passage emphasizes the various sacrifices or offerings to be made on this occasion. This lengthy passage can be divided into four divisions.
The first division, verse 12, summarizes the laws of the Feast of Tabernacles: it was to be observed on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; the first day was a holy convocation, which was to be treated as a Sabbath day; it was to last for the duration of seven days.
The second division, verses 13–34, specifies the details of the sacrifices day by day: the first day, in verses 13–16; the second day, in verses 17–19; the third day, in verses 20–22; the fourth day, in verses 23–25; the fifth day, in verses 26–28; the sixth day, in verses 29–31; and the seventh day, in verses 32–34.
The third division, verse 35, speaks about the added eighth day, which was to be a solemn assembly. This day was distinct from the Feast of Tabernacles and was to be treated as a Sabbath day, a day of rest.
And the fourth division, verses 36–38, deals with the specific offerings on the added eighth day.
2. The Deductions from the Passage
The deductions from this passage can be divided into two parts: the Feast of Tabernacles and the added eighth day.
a. The Feast of Tabernacles
Concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, four main deductions may be drawn. First, it was a seven-day festival, beginning on the fifteenth day of the month.
Secondly, the first day was a holy day of convocation and it was to be treated as Sabbath day.
Thirdly, there were to be four categories of special offerings for each of the seven days. First, burnt-offerings consisted of two rams each day, for a total of fourteen rams; fourteen he lambs each day, for a total of ninety-eight male lambs; and a total of seventy bullocks. On the first day, thirteen bullocks were sacrificed. The number was decreased by one each day until, after seven days, a total of seventy bulls had been sacrificed. According to Judaism, these seventy bulls represent the seventy Gentile nations listed in Genesis 10. The second category was the meal-offering, consisting of fine flour mingled with oil and measured out according to the number of sacrifices based on the ordinance. The third category was the drink offering, also measured out. The fourth category was the sin offering, consisting of one he goat each day, for a total of seven he goats sacrificed during the seven days.
Fourthly, all of these special sacrifices were not in place of the regular daily burnt, meal, and drink offerings, but in addition to them.
b. The Added Eighth Day
Three deductions may be drawn from the added eighth day, known as Shmini Atzeret. First, this added eighth day is attached to the Feast of Tabernacles, but is technically separate from it.
Secondly, it is a solemn assembly day to be treated as a Sabbath, a day of rest.
And thirdly, this was also a day of special sacrifices. There were four categories of offerings: a burnt offering consisting of one bull, one ram, and seven male lambs; a meal offering; a drink offering; and the sin offering.
E. Deuteronomy 16:13–16
The fifth passage begins by pointing out that the Feast of Tabernacles is a command in verse 13: You shall keep the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your winepress.
Again, it was not an option; it was mandatory. It was a feast to be kept for seven days following the gathering in from the threshing floor and from the winepress, after the summer harvest.
Verse 14 states that this is to be a time of rejoicing; everyone, without exception, was to rejoice on this occasion; they were commanded to be happy: and you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your man-servant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite, and the sojourner, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates.
Verse 15 gives the location and the reason for this feast: Seven days shall you keep a feast unto Jehovah your God in the place which Jehovah shall choose; because Jehovah your God will bless you in all your increase, and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful.
The location is: in the place which Jehovah shall choose, which ultimately was Jerusalem. The reason is: it is to be a time of rejoicing as a result of God’s blessings in the Land and the productivity of the Land in the previous year.
Verse 16 states that this is one of the three pilgrimage festivals: Three times in a year shall all your males appear before Jehovah your God in the place which he shall choose: in the feast of the unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before Jehovah empty.
Three times in a year all your males were to appear before God in a place of God’s choosing in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles. This verse points out that they will not appear before Jehovah empty; they must come with sacrifices.
From this passage, five deductions can be drawn: first, this is a seven-day feast; secondly, it is to be observed after the summer harvest; thirdly, there is a special emphasis on rejoicing; fourthly, it is a time of remembering God’s blessings; and fifth, it is a pilgrimage festival to be observed in the place that God will choose.
F. Deuteronomy 31:9–13
The sixth passage begins by addressing the keepers of the manuscripts in verse 9: And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bare the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, and unto all the elders of Israel.
Moses was the one who wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests. Because they were the keepers of the manuscripts, they were also to make sure that it was obeyed.
Verse 10 gives the command of Moses: And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles.
Among the things they had to obey are the laws of the Feast of Tabernacles. In this case, he is not speaking of the yearly Feast of Tabernacles, but only those of the Sabbatical Year or every seven years. This was the set time of the year of release; at this time, all Jewish slaves were to be released.
Verse 11 gives the instructions for the Sabbatical Year: when all Israel is come to appear before Jehovah your God in the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
The instructions were for all Israel to come together to appear before God as a pilgrimage festival in the place that God chose, Jerusalem. Furthermore, they were to read the entire Mosaic Law before all Israel in their hearing.
The command was given in verse 12: Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and your sojourner that is within your gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear Jehovah your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.
This assembly was to include the men and the women and the little ones, and your sojourner. The purpose of this public reading of the Law every seven years for adults was: that they might hear, learn, and fear Jehovah, and that they might obey all the words of this Law.
Verse 13 gives the purpose for the children: and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear Jehovah your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.
The purpose was so that those who have not known, who have remained ignorant, may hear the details of the Law of Moses in order to learn to fear God.
Three specific deductions may be drawn from this passage. First, the responsibility for seeing that laws were carried out fell on the Levites, the priestly tribe, and the elders of Israel, who were the leaders of the nation.
Secondly, there was to be a special assembling of Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles of the Sabbatical Year for the purpose of reading publicly the entire Law of Moses. This probably meant reading from Exodus 20 to the end of the Book of Deuteronomy.
Thirdly, this was for the benefit of both the adults and the children, that they might hear the reading of the Law and that they might learn to fear God and to keep His commandments.
III. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE PROPHETS
The third major area of study is the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles in the Prophets. This feast is mentioned in two passages in the Prophets, the second main division of the Old Testament.
A. 1 Kings 8:1–66
The first passage records the dedication of Solomon’s Temple or the First Temple. Verses 1–11 describe the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy of Holies on this occasion. The date was at the feast, in the month of Ethanim, which is the seventh month; this is the Feast of Tabernacles. As stated earlier, the dates of the Feast of Tabernacles and the dedication of the Temple coincided, but the feast was not observed.
In verses 12–21, Solomon addressed the people. Verses 22–53 record Solomon’s prayer of dedication; the blessing is in verses 54–61; the sacrifices are in verses 62–64; and how the feast was observed on this occasion is in verse 65. The feast was kept for two seven-day periods, in keeping with the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles and then doubled. There was also the added eighth day on which the people were sent away, and the people blessed the king in verse 66.
B. 1 Kings 12:25–33
The second passage deals with the corruption of the Feast of Tabernacles. Jeroboam, the first king of the new northern Kingdom of Israel, set up a rival Feast of Tabernacles in verses 25–31. It was set up exactly one month later in verses 32–33: on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. It is clearly stated that it was an imitation of the Feast of Tabernacles as observed in Judah.
IV. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE WRITINGS
The fourth major area of this study is the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles in the Writings, which is the third main division of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Feast of Tabernacles is found in three passages.
A. 2 Chronicles 7:8–10
The first passage is a repetition of 1 Kings 8:1–66. Verse 8 states that the Feast of Tabernacles was observed at the time of the dedication of the Solomonic Temple. Again, they did not actually observe the Feast of Tabernacles, only the dedication of the Temple. In verse 9, it was a feast that lasted seven days in accordance with the Feast of Tabernacles, as well as the added eighth day of solemn assembly, which was the closing festival after the Feast of Tabernacles. According to verse 10, the dedication of the Temple was kept for another seven days; there was a total of fourteen days, which was something unique to this occasion only.
B. Ezra 3:4
The second passage points out that the Feast of Tabernacles was not observed during the Babylonian captivity and was resumed only after the return from Babylon.
C. Nehemiah 8:13–18
The third passage makes seven points. The first point is the occasion in verse 13: And on the second day were gathered together the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to give attention to the words of the law.
The second point was the reading of the Law of Moses in verse 14: And they found written in the law, how that Jehovah had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month.
The people learned how Moses had clearly commanded the keeping of the feast; they shall dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month.
The third point was the proclamation to gather branches for the building of booths in verse 15: and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
One thing to observe is that three of the four species are mentioned. The willow branch is not mentioned, though that is what is used in modern Jewish observance. In place of the willow are olive branches and branches of the wild olive tree. The purpose was to make booths.
The fourth point is their obedience in verse 16: So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim.
The fifth point is that Israel failed to observe this feast throughout the centuries between Joshua and Nehemiah in verse 17: And all the assembly of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.
Not only was this the first time this feast was observed since the Babylonian captivity, but it was also the first time that this feast was observed since the days of Joshua. In the history of the Old Testament, it is only recorded as being observed during the Solomonic dedication, but obviously the emphasis then was more on dedicating the Temple than on building booths, and it appears that no booths were built. It is very clear that this was the first observance of the Feast of Tabernacles with the building of booths since the days of Joshua.
The sixth point is that the observance itself is emphasized in verse 18a: Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God.
The Law of Moses was read on a daily basis in keeping with the requirements for when the Feast of Tabernacles fell on a Sabbatical Year.
And the seventh point is the added eighth day in verse 18b: And on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the ordinance.
Two deductions can be made from this passage: first, the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles was resumed after the Babylon captivity; and secondly, this was the first resumption and observance since the days of Joshua.
V. THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The fifth major area of study deals with the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles in the New Testament and is found only in John 7:1–10:21. This lengthy passage, which records the Messiah’s observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, can be divided into seven sections.
A. The Challenge by His Brothers—John 7:1–9
The first section records the challenge by the brothers of Yeshua (Jesus), who were not believers. In verses 1–2, the occasion was the approaching Feast of Tabernacles. In verses 3–4, the brothers of Yeshua challenged Him to make Himself king in Jerusalem. This was logical from their perspective, since the Kingdom was to be the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. But it is pointed out in verse 5 that this was a challenge arising out of their unbelief. The Messiah’s answer, in verses 6–9, was that He would not go up to the Feast of Tabernacles. He did go up, of course, but not in response to their challenge; rather, He went up for His own reasons.
B. The Conflicts at the Feast—John 7:10–52
Seven points are made in the second section, which speaks of the conflict at the Feast of Tabernacles between Jesus and the Pharisees. First, the Messiah’s authority was questioned in verses 10–15. The question they asked was, “Where did He receive His learning?”
Secondly, the Messiah’s explanation is given in verses 16–24. He made a twofold claim during the Feast of Tabernacles in verses 16–18: first, that His teaching was God-received; and secondly, that He was sent by God to teach it. In verses 19–20, the problem was their own failure to keep the Law, and this is evidenced by their desire to kill Him. Another major problem was that they had badly misinterpreted the meaning of the Sabbath. Therefore, in verses 21–24, they felt that He had violated the Sabbath and, for that reason, they wanted to kill Him.
Thirdly, the Messiah’s person was questioned in verses 25–27.
Fourthly, the Messiah’s explanation is given in verses 28–30. The problem was that they did not know His divine origin. Yet it was because of His divine origin that all attempts at premature death were going to fail.
The fifth point, in verses 31–36, is that there were three responses: there was faith by some individuals; there was the further antagonism by the Pharisees; and there was a declaration of His coming departure.
The sixth point, in verses 37–44, is that there was the Messiah’s invitation to believe in His messianic claims.
And the seventh point, in verses 45–52, is that the pharisaic response was rejection and unbelief.
C. The Conflict over the Law of Moses—John 7:53–8:11
The third section deals with the conflict over the Law of Moses. In the case of the adulterous woman, there was a Pharisaic attempt to get the Messiah to speak against the Law of Moses. But His insistence on observing the Law in its entirety caused the plot to fail.
D. The Conflict over Light—John 8:12–20
The fourth section deals with the conflict over the light. The Messiah proclaimed Himself to be the light of the world; those accepting Him will be “walking in the light,” but those who reject Him will be walking in darkness.
E. The Conflict over His Person—John 8:21–59
The fifth section describes the conflict over the person of the Messiah, and two major points are made here. First, in verses 21–30, the Messiah is the true object of faith. Secondly, in verses 31–59, the Messiah is the true deliverer from three things that cause bondage: sin in verses 31–40, Satan in verses 41–48, and death in verses 49–59.
F. The Conflict over His Miracle of Healing—John 9:1–41
The sixth section describes the conflict over the healing of the man born blind. There are five points made in this passage. First, the man’s physical healing is in verses 1–12. This man was born blind. The rabbis taught that the healing of one who was born blind was a messianic miracle. Thus, when the Messiah healed this man—by that very act—He claimed to be the Messiah.
The second point is that this experience led to the first interrogation of the man in verses 13–17. Many people were saying that Yeshua must be at least a prophet. Because the Pharisees were not willing to accept that a miracle had actually occurred, they interrogated the man. During the interrogation, someone suggested that perhaps the man was a phony and was not really born blind.
The third point is the interrogation of the blind man’s parents in verses 18–22. The parents affirmed two things: that this was their son, and that he was really born blind. Therefore, the Pharisees had no way out.
The fourth point is the interrogation of the man for the second time in verses 23–34. They claimed that they did not know who Jesus was, but they were certain that He could not be the Messiah, as He claimed to be. Yet Yeshua had done what they taught only the Messiah was supposed to be able to do! The man now challenged the Pharisaic conclusion: that Jesus was a sinner. This challenged their authority and he was cast out of the synagogue.
And the fifth point is that the spiritual healing of the man takes place in verses 35–41. At this point, he saw Yeshua for the first time; believed on Yeshua; and worshipped Yeshua. Whereas the chapter began with his physical healing, it concludes with his spiritual healing.
G. The Conflict over the Shepherd—John 10:1–21
The seventh section deals with the conflict over the shepherd, and four points are made. First, in verses 1–6, the Messiah is the true shepherd; all other shepherds are false shepherds.
The second point, in verses 7–10, is that the Messiah is the door and all must enter by Him.
The third point, in verses 11–18, is that the Messiah is not only the true shepherd, He is also the good shepherd. A good shepherd is one who will willingly lay down his life for the sheep. Jesus did this and united into one flock both Jewish and Gentile “sheep.”
And the fourth point, in verses 19–21, is that all this caused a division in the Jewish world, when some Jewish people believed but others did not. A division that has continued to this day.
VI. THE MESSIANIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
The sixth major division of this study concerns the messianic implications of the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles and will be dealt with in three areas.
A. The Misapplications of the Feast of Tabernacles
During the period of the life of the Messiah, there were two misapplications of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The first misapplication was at the Transfiguration (Mat. 17:1–8; Mk. 9:2–8; Lk. 9:28–36). When Yeshua was transfigured, Peter suggested that he be allowed to build three tabernacles: one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus (Mat. 17:4). When Yeshua was transfigured, Peter saw the glory that the Messiah will have in the Kingdom and assumed that the Kingdom was about to be set up. Peter knew that the Kingdom was the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the fact that he wanted to build three tabernacles shows that he thought that the Kingdom was going to be set up immediately. However, he did not yet realize that the Feast of Passover must be fulfilled before the Feast of Tabernacles could be fulfilled. While the Feast of Tabernacles will indeed be fulfilled by the Kingdom, the Feast of Passover was to be fulfilled by the death of the Messiah.
The second misapplication of the Feast of Tabernacles was during the Triumphal Entry (Mat. 21:1–11, 14–17; Mk. 11:1–11; Lk. 19:29–44; Jn. 12:12–19). The actions of the people, both by what they said and by what they did, showed that they also expected the Kingdom to be established then in fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. According to John 12:12–13, they broke off palm branches in keeping with the Feast of Tabernacles, but not in keeping with the Feast of Passover, which was then occurring. Furthermore, according to Matthew 21:8–9 and Mark 11:8–10, it was then that they cried out: Hoshana in the highest, the Hoshana Rabba of the Feast of Tabernacles. Like Peter, they did not yet understand that Passover had to be fulfilled by the death of the Messiah before the Feast of Tabernacles could be fulfilled.
B. The Proper Application in this Age
Previously discussed under the section on the modern Jewish practice was the fact that there were two main ceremonies during the Temple period: the drawing and pouring out of the water and the kindling of the lights. Also previously discussed was the Messiah’s observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, recorded in John 7–10. On this occasion, Jesus responded to both of these special ceremonies.
1. The Response to the Drawing and Pouring Out of the Water—John 7:37–39
Yeshua’s response to the ceremony is recorded in verse 37a: Now on the last day, the great day of the feast.
The last day, the great day of the feast, the seventh day was known as Yom Hashvii Shel Aravah.
Yeshua’s statement on this day is recorded in verses 37b–38: Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.
The terminology that He used related to the outpouring of water in the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles.
John then gave the interpretation in verse 39a: But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive.
This water represents the Holy Spirit promised to those who believe on the Messiah. Just as the water from the Pool of Siloam flowed from within, the Holy Spirit will indwell believers permanently. The rabbis interpreted the outpouring of water as referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel. Yeshua interpreted the ceremony as symbolizing the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
He was not dealing with the Old Testament ministry of the Holy Spirit, but with the New Testament ministry that began in Acts 2. The text states in verse 39b: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit began in Acts 2, only after the Messiah’s Ascension. Therefore, one proper application for the Church Age is that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer is an individual fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, not the national one.
2. The Response to the Kindling of the Lampstands—John 8:12
The second main ceremony of the Feast of Tabernacles was the kindling of the lampstands. The Messiah’s response to this event is in John 8:12: I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.
This is also related individually to the believer. After being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer is now able to “walk in the light” because he has the light of life.
The statement of John 8:12 is illustrated by the story of the man born blind in John 9:1–41. The story takes place at the Pool of Siloam, which was the most important water source for this feast because the first ceremony began at this pool. Here the golden flasks were filled with water and taken up to the Temple Mount where they were poured out. For the second time Yeshua declared that He was the light of the world in verses 1–5. This is first illustrated physically in that the man born blind moved from the darkness of physical blindness to the light of physical sight in verses 6–7. Later, it is illustrated spiritually in that the man moved from the darkness of sin and spiritual blindness, to the light of salvation and spiritual light in verses 35–41.
This is the second proper application of the Feast of Tabernacles in this age. Walking in the light is fulfillment for the individual, but not the fulfillment for the nation of Israel.
C. The National Fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles—Zechariah 14:16–19
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso of all the families of the earth goes not up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, neither shall it be upon them; there shall be the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
Because the Messianic Kingdom, the Millennium, will be the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, verse 16 states that it will be obligatory on all the nations that came against Jerusalem to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. Every year each nation in the Kingdom will have to send a delegation to Jerusalem. Under the Law of Moses it was obligatory for Jews only, but under Millennial Law, it will be obligatory for all the nations. Verses 17–19 state that there will be punishment for those who disobey. If a nation fails to send a delegation to Jerusalem to observe this feast, they will be punished by a drought.
Just as the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of rejoicing following the affliction of the Day of Atonement, even so the Kingdom is to be a time of rejoicing following the afflictions of the Great Tribulation.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS: