Last week I substituted for the regular teacher in the early Wednesday night Bible class at Sunset Church of Christ. My topic was one in the series concerning Jewish feasts and holy days. It was on The Day of Atonement, a copy of which is available just before this current lesson.
Here now is the second lesson which was taught tonight on the Feast of Booths. I have included my handout here, followed by a link to listen to the audio of the lecture.
Feast of Booths – Sukkot
“Shadows of Good Things to Come”
- The Feast of Booths was the final God appointed annual holy convocation given in Leviticus 23. Over time the Jewish people added several other celebrations in addition to these six.
- The Feast of Booths was to take place over eight days from the 15th – 22nd of Tishri. It began on the fifth day after the Day of Atonement. On our calendar this would be in September to early October.
- It was one of the three feasts that all adult men were to attend annually – Exodus 23:14-17.
- Here are the chief the Old Testament passages describing this feast: Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; 31:10-13.
UNIQUE THINGS ABOUT THE FEAST OF BOOTHS
- Was the most joyous and celebratory gathering of all their “feasts.” And it really was a feast in our way of using the word; they ate together with friends and neighbors every day. The 8 days were also filled with singing, dancing, and listening to the reading of the Law – Leviticus 23:33-44. “You shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (23:40)
- Was the longest of the official feasts. It was eight days in length (and later nine days after the first century) while the Feast of Unleavened Bread was seven days; the others were just one day each in length.
- The first and last days were sacred assemblies and no work could be done, making them similar to Sabbaths – Leviticus 23:35-36.
- This feast was the third feast directly connected to the land and agriculture:
- The Feast of First Fruits celebrated the beginning of the grain harvests in the Spring.
- The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) celebrated the end of the grain harvests 50 days later.
- The Feast of Booths celebrated the abundance of summer fruits, vegetables, olives and grapes which the people enjoyed all Summer.
- The LORD’s instructions to celebrate it were given at Mt. Sinai, but it would 40+ years later before they would actually have crops in the land for the celebration.
- The feast is called by several different names:
- Booths or Tabernacles – meaning temporary shelters, as opposed to the fixed structures they would enjoy after conquering Canaan.
- Ingathering or Harvest – Exodus 23:16
- Sukkot – the Hebrew word for “temporary dwellings,” and the common name for the feast used by Jewish people today
- As the name implies, the people built and stayed in temporary booths or tabernacles throughout the feast. A tabernacle might be a tent, lean-to, brush arbor, or similar structure. This is the only feast where this was required.
- Each celebrant carried a palm frond plus a fruit tree branch with them (Leviticus 23:40) through the eight days of celebration. This possibly was a reminder that their ancestors carried their temporary tabernacle materials with them for shelter for forty years in the wilderness.
- The number of burnt offerings made during these eight days far exceeded those required at any other of the feasts – Numbers 29:12-39.
- Even widows, the fatherless, strangers, travelers, servants, slaves and non-Jews were to be included in the celebration – Deuteronomy 16:14.
- At least once every seven years during the feast, the entire Book of Deuteronomy was to be read to the people as a perpetual reminder of the LORD’s Law, His covenant, promises, and warnings about living in the land – Deuteronomy 31:10-13.
- The Psalms 113 thru 119 were sung throughout the eight days.
- In later times, but before the first century, a water ceremony was added. Each day a priest would go down to the Pool of Siloam and bring back a pitcher of water. It along with the sacrifice of wine would be poured out at the Great Altar. This reminded them that the LORD gave them water while in the Wilderness, and that the LORD was their “well of salvation” (Isaiah 12:1-6).
- Solomon dedicated the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (I Kings 8:2,65).
- Though not specifically mentioned in Scripture, four large lampstands stood in the Temple courts (Court of the Women in Herod’s Temple). Each evening of the feast as dark fell, the large basins or lamps were lit, and light filled the entire Temple area until dawn. Many would sing and dance in the Temple courts all night. This light was a reminder that God’s people were to be His light to the whole world – Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:3.
WHY WAS THE FEAST OF BOOTHS CELEBRATED?
- To remind them that their fathers had lived in temporary structures as God delivered them from Egypt and led them for 40 years in the Wilderness – Leviticus 23:41-43.
- To remind them that the Promised Land and all its blessings were from the LORD, and not by their own efforts – Deuteronomy 16:15.
- Especially after Solomon constructed the Temple and dedicated it with a double celebration of this feast ( I Kings 8), they were reminded each year that the LORD God had dwelt among them in the Tabernacle while they lived in booths in the Wilderness. He was still with them in the Temple as they dwelt in the land. It was a celebration of the LORD God’s presence with them.
- Just five days earlier they had all their sins taken away on the Day of Atonement. Now they could rejoice and celebrate as the people of YAHWEH.
- After the addition of the daily water ceremony (see earlier) and lighting of the great lamps, they were reminded that the LORD God is the only source of living water and of true light. This thought of light was even reinforced by the daily reading of the Law as “a lamp to their feet and a light for their path.” – Psalm 119:105.
LATER CELEBRATIONS OF FEAST OF BOOTHS IN SCRIPTURE:
- Double celebration of 14 days during dedication of the new Temple by King Solomon – I Kings 8.
- After the Kingdom of Israel divided, King Jeroboam of Israel started a competing annual feast so people would not go down to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths – I Kings 12:32-33, 15-22.
- Hosea prophesied that when Israel returned from captivity, they would celebrate the feast again – Hosea 12:9.
- After Jewish exiles returned and rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple (515 BC), Ezra (458 BC) a generation later led them in celebrating the feast – Ezra 3:1-6.
- When Nehemiah helped rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (444 BC), he afterwards had the people listen to the reading of the Law and celebrate the feast – Nehemiah 8:1-15.
- Jesus, who kept the Jewish laws including attending the designated feasts, healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda probably during the Feast of Booths (John 5:1-15). He attended the same feast one year later, both teaching and declaring Himself the source of living water – John 7:1-44.
THE FEAST OF BOOTHS: SHADOWS OF GOOD THINGS TO COME:
- The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus brought is described as a feast for all peoples and nations to perpetually enjoy – Matthew 8:11; Isaiah 25:6-9.
- As the high priest poured out the water on the Altar on the last day of the Feast of Booths, people were reminded that the LORD was their “well of salvation” (Isaiah 12:6). During that ceremony Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “If a man is thirsty. let him to come me and drink” – John 7:37-38.
- Either on the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles or immediately afterward, while standing in the shadow of of the great lampstands of the Temple, He declared himself the true light of the world – John 8:12.
- When Jesus came, He was announced as “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:22-23) This fulfilled prophecy – Isaiah 7:14.
- John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Greek word is skenoo, which means “to dwell in a tent or tabernacle.” In effect John is saying that, when the Son of God came, He lived among us in the way God’s Tabernacle was with Israel in the wilderness! While the LORD figuratively lived in a tent (the Tabernacle) with them, He chose to live in a far more personal way among His people now by sending His own Son. Jesus identified Himself as the real Temple, the place where God dwelled – John 2:19!
- The Father, and Son and Spirit all now indwell the Church – Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:16-21; Colossians 1:27.
- After Christ’s Coming and the Judgement, we are told that the New Jerusalem, God’s Holy City will come down from Heaven. And “Now the dwelling (skenoo) of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” – Revelation 21:3-4.
If you would like to hear the audio of this class, you can click here to listen.
Our image is from the Wikipedia article on Sukkah, and is covered by the Creative Commons license. It is a photo of a sukkah, the Hebrew word for a temporary shelter constructed for use during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths.
Richard Cravy, © Copyright 2020