Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles!

 

 

The 7-day Festival of Sukkot pictures the 1000-year Messianic kingdom, the time when Yeshua will officially fulfill the role of His father, King David (Luke 1:31-33).  

 

 Sukkot coincides with the fall harvest in Israel.  It pictures the general harvest, when all kinds of fruits and vegetables are harvested together.  In that day, God's spirit will be poured out on all the earth (Joel 2:28-29) and His word will be preached throughout all the nations (Isaiah 55:11-12).

 

The Kingdom of Israel under kings David and Solomon was a picture of God's millennial kingdom. Under Solomon, Israel enjoyed the benefits of his tremendous wisdom, great riches, peace with all her neighbors, God dwelling in the Temple, and the re-establishment of righteous judges.

 

Scriptural observance of Sukkot . . .

 

The scripture provides a number of instructions pertaining to how we are to observe the festival.  We are to gather our tithes, first fruits, and free-will offerings and bring them to Jerusalem; we are to rejoice before YHVH using specific plant species; we are to take part of our tithes and feast on food and strong drink for seven days; we are to build a sukkah, and we are to have nothing but joy!

In addition to what is prescribed in scripture, over the years, God's people have developed various traditions that enhance the observance of the festival.

 

The Water Libation Ceremony . . .

 

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a] John 7:37-38 

 

 

 

 

 

Festival of Lights . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after sundown on the first day of Sukkot the priests would light four huge lamps in the Court of the Women, each with four huge bowls which held 7 – 8 gallons of oil and had wicks made from "swaddling clothes" - the used undergarments of the priests.

When the lamps were all lit, it was said that they illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem. All the men would then begin dancing and singing in a great celebration.

This rejoicing would last late into the night every night to the feast.

Why a Sukkah

Sukkot is the plural form of the Hebrew word 'sukkah'. The first place we find a sukkah mentioned in the scripture is where Jacob built them for his livestock while on his journey back to Canaan Genesis 33:17. Thus a sukkah is a hastily built temporary shelter that a herdsman would  construct using available materials while on a journey.

When God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, He intended for their journey to be brief as they learned of God's ways and made their way to the Promised Land.  While on that journey, and having no tents to stay in, the people apparently built temporary shelters as they camped along the way. Those shelters were all they needed since God provided for their every need - He was right there in their midst providing a covering of shade by day and the warmth of fire by night.  Along the way, He fed them daily with bread from Heaven and kept their clothes from wearing out. This time in the wilderness gave Israel a glimpse of what was awaiting them in the Promised land.

 

Nearly a thousand years later, Ezra restored the understanding of the Sukkah to the Jewish people as is recorded in the book of Nehemiah.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God's people are to build these temporary shelters (Leviticus 23:42-43). They are to remind us that we are merely sojourners, living in temporary mortal bodies as we continue our walk toward the Promised Land - the Kingdom of God.

 

The Jewish Talmud indicates that during Sukkot in first century Jerusalem, a special ceremony was conducted on each day of the festival. This ceremony was conducted in addition to the various sacrifices and libation offerings commanded in the Torah (Numbers 29:12-17). Each day a group of priests would wave long willow branches back and forth making a 'swooshing' sound as they made their way towards the Temple. At the same time, another group of priests would gather a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam and bring it to the Temple as well. When the two groups converged at the altar, the priests with willows would circle the altar one time while the priests with the pitchers would ascend the altar and pour the water and wine into special ports located on the southwest corner of the altar.

 

On the 7th, or 'Last Great Day' of the festival, the priests would circle the altar seven times instead of once. This ceremony had many purposes including the request for rain for the upcoming growing season; but the primary purpose was to illustrate the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was prophesied in Joel 2.

It is quite likely that Yeshua revealed Himself to be source of living water as this ceremony was commencing.