Share

The Feast of Tabernacles

What is the significance of the Biblical feast of Succot?

There is one more Biblical feast in the Jewish calendar, perhaps, in the context of this book, the most relevant one of all. It is the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. It is the seventh and last of the biblical feasts and it is celebrated between the 15th and 22nd of Tishri, just a few days after Yom Kippur.

" 'So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.' " (Leviticus 23:39-43)

As with the other agricultural festivals (Passover and Shavuot), it can be looked at in a few different ways. Originally, it was the Feast of Ingathering, as instructed to Moses on Sinai.

"Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field." (Exodus 23:16)

Then, as the Leviticus passage shows us, it is a memorial to the Children of Israel, wandering through the desert for forty years. It is called the Feast of Booths because the people lived in booths, temporary shelters, as they meandered on their journeys.

Then there is the Jesus connection, both looking back and looking forwards, which is what makes this feast most interesting. Looking back, here are three episodes in the life of Jesus that illustrate this.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Many Bible scholars have looked at this passage and realised that the Greek words translated as "made his dwelling" also take the meaning "tabernacled". So Jesus was born on this Earth and tabernacled with us. They investigated further and began gathering Biblical evidence, particularly from the account of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, ministering in the Temple (Luke 1:5). It says that he belonged to the priestly division of Abijah and research indicates that this would have been during the period from Sivan 12th to 18th. Knowing that John the Baptist was conceived at that time and adding on nine months, we arrive at John's birth around Passover time. Knowing that Jesus was conceived six months after John's conception, we get the birth of Jesus, six months after Passover ... around the Feast of Tabernacles! Suddenly John 1:14 makes sense and the Christmas industry start gunning for Hebrew scholars!

Sacred cows sacrificed at the altar of truth! Who said Jesus was born on December 25th anyway? It was a date of convenience, manufactured by the early Roman Church to cause minimum disruption to the pagan society that had suddenly become a "Christian" one! Of course any proposal to change this date to a more meaningful one is not going to be met with meekness, but I will make a suggestion on this a little later on.

Jesus made a trip to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'" (John 7:37-38)

This last and greatest day is Hoshana Rabbah. When you consider that this is translated as "the Great Salvation" and that the people in Jesus's day would circle the altar seven times, declaring "Save now!", you see the significance of Jesus's utterance. He was referring specifically to the water drawing ceremony but speaking of the living water of the Holy Spirit, soon to be poured out for all mankind.

Moving to the beginning of Jesus's final week on Earth we come to the curious event of his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Why curious? Well, you'll have to wait until the next article later this week ...

Steve Maltz
October 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)

You may also like...

Which festivals actually appear in the Bible?  More

Which festivals don’t actually appear in the Bible?  More

When home life was very different More

The purpose of the Church in a nutshell …  More