Sukkot - The Feast of Tabernacles

 

 

Celebration Dates:

October 5-11, 2017

September 24-30, 2018

 

 

Feast of Tabernacles Temporary Booths are constructed to remind Israel of the Wilderness wandering for forty years. A Lulav of Palm Branches are waved ushering the Kingdom--Leviticus 23:33-44.

Sukkot is observed seven days from the fifteenth day of Tishri to the twenty-first day.  This places the annual festival in the months of September or October, which comes just five days after Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement.  Unlike the Days of Awe with its mood of repentance and judgment between Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a time of festivity and celebration.

Sukkot was the third pilgrimage feast in which all men were to appear before the Lord at the Temple (Passover and Pentecost being the other two).  As conditions permitted, pilgrims would travel from all over Israel to Jerusalem to celebrate colorful and elaborate Temple rites, which included a large number of sacrifices each day (Numbers 29).

To appreciate the past and future meaning of Sukkot, Jewry was commanded by God to build a hut (sukkah; plural sukkot) and to dwell in these temporary structures.  "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.  Celebrate a festival to the Lord for seven days . . . on the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work," Numbers 29:12, 35.  "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 [for forty years] when I brought them out of Egypt," Leviticus 23:42-43.

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Rabbinical laws govern Judaism concerning the booth to be built during the celebration of Tabernacles

  • The sukkah must be temporary, not a permanent one.  This is to remind them that for forty years Israel wandered about, until they reached Canaan.
  • Jews must treat the sukkah as their home, bringing in personal belongings--furnishings, in order to eat and to recline in leisure and study.
  • The roof is the key element of the sukkah--it must be grown and detached from the ground.  Branches, lathing and bamboo poles are most often used.  Enough for shade, but not too much to prevent them for seeing the heavens.
  • The holiday of Sukkot is associated with beauty, therefore Jews are told to put creative effort into decorating the hut.

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The sukkah is a temporary and humble dwelling that Jewish families create to which they move from an otherwise solid, permanent home.  In a home one surrounds himself with mementos and acquisitions of trinkets and sometimes elaborate collections of worldly success.  Through windows he peers out into a troublesome world, but locked panes and secure locks keep him from most dangers.  The home is his refuge from the chaotic events outside that are beyond his control.

Nonetheless, the Feast of Tabernacles (Temporary Tents/Huts) helps one realize that the best shelter is still only momentary.  Over the centuries, winds, waves and terrible storms have stripped away millions of homes in only seconds, bringing to reality how vulnerable life truly is.  Wood, walls and roofs are not where lasting security is found; rather, in the shelter of the Everlasting Arms.  The lesson to be learned from Sukkot is that earthly homes are but temporary dwellings--mere tabernacles in the wilderness.  One must not be rooted or attached to this world, to the things that will soon pass away.  

As Paul said, the Abraham "lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob . . . for he was looking forward to the city with foundations [New Jerusalem], whose architect and builder is God."  The saints of God are "aliens and strangers on earth . . . they [are] longing for a better country--a heavenly one . . . for He has prepared a [new] city for them," Hebrews 11:9, 13, 16.

Sukkot is also the festival of the future reign of Messiah in the new earth.  All the nations will gather to the New Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles each year (Zechariah 14:16).  In a symbolic manner, Sukkot concludes the story of the Israelites journey which began with the Exodus from Egypt at Passover and the giving of the Law of God at Mount Sinai on Shavuot fifty days later.  Sukkot is connected closely to the other fall feasts of Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur which just precede it.  However, Sukkot is even more a part of the yearly cycle of the major pilgrimage feasts which include Passover and Pentecost.

Like the other pilgrimage feasts, Sukkot has an agricultural element. The feast marks the time of harvest--of the final ingathering of produce before the oncoming winter.  Hence, the day is called "hag-ha-asif"--the festival of ingathering (Exodus 23:16).  The three pilgrimages foreshadow the choosing, maturing and ingathering of the 144,000 "firstfruits" to God (Revelation 14:4).  First the choosing of the grain at Passover and Day of Firstfruits, then the pouring out of the spring rain that brings the grain to maturity at Pentecost, and finally, the ingathering beginning at the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Liberation of Water

In Biblical times during the week of the Feast of Tabernacles, there was a ritual performed daily connected with the sacrificial ceremony which was called nisukh ha-mayim--the liberation of water.  The celebration itself was called simhat beit ha-sho'eivah--"the rejoicing at the place of the water-drawing."

In ancient times King David organized the Levitical choirs into singers and musicians. The full choir consisted of 4,000, including 288 Levites who were skilful players on wind, string, and percussion instruments. ( 1 Chronicles 23:5-6; 25:1-7).  They were divided into 24 Orders. They took their turns in the musical ministry of the Temple. Their songs were the Psalms - "T'hillim".

During the seven day Festival, each morning a procession of pilgrims and citizens followed a white-robed Levitical priest, who was carrying a golden pitcher. He led the people through the "Water-Gate" to the Pool of Siloam where he filled the pitcher.  The procession then followed him back to the Temple all the way singing, waving their palm branches, and dancing in the streets.

A most impressive ritual - the "Water-Pouring" ceremony! It was the highlight of the Festival. The water symbolized the rain. Now was the time to thank God, and to pray for the "latter rain" for the next Spring harvest.

Earlier that morning of the seventh and last day, the sacrifices had already been laid upon the "bronze grating" of the great altar (Exodus 38:30).  The blood of the sacrifices had also been poured out at the base of the altar, to fulfill the law of atonement: "It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul," (Leviticus 17:11).

Now the white robed priest bearing the golden pitcher with water from the Pool of Siloam, approached the altar.  Another priest met him, bearing a golden pitcher of wine for the "drink offering," also prescribed in the Torah (Leviticus 23:13).  Together they mounted the ramp to the altar of burnt offering. Simultaneously, they poured the water and the wine down the silver funnels, emptying at the base of the altar.

The Levitical choirs burst into song - the messianic and prophetic words of Isaiah:

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For GOD the LORD is my strength and song;
And He is become my salvation.
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water
out of the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:2-3 JPSA)

And God's invitation announced by Isaiah:

Ho! everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat ... without money and without price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Hear and your soul shall live. (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Thus said the LORD:

I will pour water upon the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring. (Isaiah 44:3; 58:11 JPSA)

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make strong thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring whose waters never fail.

The Prophet Joel had foretold:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions ...

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance (or, salvation), as the LORD has said, and among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28-32)

The Hebrew prophets had foretold a day when the thirsting soul would be satisfied; when sinful human nature would be "reborn" or "regenerated." This would be the work of the Holy Spirit. And so the Holy Spirit is pictured in the language of the Hebrew Scriptures as being "poured out" into the human vessel.

God would "take away the stony heart" and give sinners a "new heart and a new spirit," (Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31-32; 36:25-28). God would become a reality to believers (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

But, before the "regeneration" of sinful human nature, Messiah must come to perform His redemptive work (Isaiah 53; John 3:1-7; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

John wrote, "the Word became flesh and lived ["tabernacled--sukkot"] ... among us," John 1:14.  Jesus may have been baptized on the Feast of Tabernacles and then immediately went into the wilderness for forty days, lacking food and water, and there was tempted of the Devil.  The watery immersion at Sukkot gave birth to Christ's earthly ministry which would eventually lead to Calvary exactly three and one-half years later at Passover.

Yeshua often used the feast days to reveal His Messianic role and to teach spiritual lessons during His ministry. He is the eternal Ben-Elohim, Son of God - HaDavar - the Logos; the Living Word that became flesh, Who spoke the Torah at Mount Sinai for the observance of the Festival. Now, He stands in person to view His own ordained Feast of Tabernacles!

His voice burst forth in a compassionate cry: "If a man 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.  By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive," John 7:37-39.

Jesus also compared the tribulations that His followers would face in the future to that of drink and watery baptism in Matthew 20:22-23 (K.J.V.).  "Are ye able to drink of the cup [persecution] that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism [death and burial] that I am baptized with?  They say unto him, We are able.  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with."  His disciples would give their lives for the cause of Christ in the years that followed.

After Christ's baptism at Sukkot, He entered the wilderness where He fasted without food or water for forty days, being tempted of the Devil.  In contrast, the 144,000 elect will also experience the baptism of tribulation that Jesus endured.  As a woman in great travail with child ready to be delivered, the elect will enter the time of Jacob's trouble that will also last forty days (The Kingdom Calendar  Pt.19).

Watery Birth of a Nation

Jeremiah 30:4-7 speaks of Israel's coming forth in the imagery of pregnant men with hands on their stomachs experiencing severe pains, ready to give birth. "How awful that Day [of the Lord] will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob [or, time of Jacob's trouble], but he [the nation] will be saved out of it.  On the Mount of Olives Jesus offered detailed signs about the end of the age as recorded in Matthew 24.  When we see a staggering increase in demonic phenomenon, wars and natural disasters around the globe we are told that "all these things are the beginning of birth pains," Matthew 24:8.   What birth do we await?

Isaiah adds insight into the imagery of childbirth: "Hear that uproar from the city [Jerusalem], hear that noise from the [rebuilt] Temple!  It is the sound of the Lord [who has come down] repaying His enemies all they deserve [for allowing Antichrist and his abomination to be set up in the Temple]. Before she [Jerusalem] goes into labor [of great tribulation], she gives birth [to a Son]; before the pains come upon her [time of Jacob's trouble], she delivers a Son [Messiah]. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country [nation of twelve tribes] be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion [Jerusalem] in labor than she gives [watery] birth to her children [at the Feast of Tabernacles]. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not [break the water and] give delivery [to the 144,000]? says the Lord.  Do I close up the womb when I bring to deliver? says your God. Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her [delivery of a nation], all you who mourn over her [Jerusalem's destruction]," Isaiah 66:6-10.

The Feast of Tabernacles marked the birth of the Christ child when He was delivered from Mary's water-filled womb.  Sukkot also featured the moment of His watery baptism.  Likewise, Sukkot will mark the moment at the end of the age when the righteous nation of Israel will be brought forth from Jerusalem's womb. Paul noted this moment in time when he wrote, "Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel [of all twelve tribes] will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer [One who delivers the children at birth] will come from Zion [after He has cleansed His Temple of the abomination]; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob [the 144,000 during the 40 days that follow--the time of Jacob's trouble]. And this is the covenant with them when I take away their sins," Romans 11:25-27.  

Revelation 12:1-6 identifies a pregnant woman [Israel/Jerusalem] which gives birth to the Messiah.  Afterwards, she "fled into the desert [a safe haven] to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of [protected by the two witnesses] for 1,260 days."  Unable to reach the woman, "the Dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's [Ten] Commandments and hold to [grasp tightly, never giving up] the testimony of Jesus [as revealed in the Apocalypse]," (12:17). 

The holy days, instituted by the design of Almighty God over 3,000 years ago, would connect Israel's conception, her maturing, and her ultimate birth as a righteous nation. Israel/Jerusalem, the pregnant woman of Revelation 12 clothed with the "sun, with the moon under her feet"--the solar and lunar cycles of time by which the Maker established His feast days--will be brought full term at Sukkot in the imagery of watery childbirth.  Out of the excruciating pains of the great tribulation, the children (144,000, sealed for protection--Revelation 6:3-8) will be pushed through the channel of trouble to be delivered healthy, pure and white into the arms of the Living God.

See The Kingdom Calendar Pt. 20 for the Sukkot connection to the Time of Jacob's Trouble and the end-times.

More About Sukkot on Wikipedia.

End Times Expert: This Sukkot is Transition Period Before Messianic Era