Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Festivals of God - Pt. 8 Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Sukkot) is the final festival God gave the Israelites. Lev.23:33-36, 39-43. In Bible times this was the final fall harvest festival, a time of ingathering at Jerusalem. The Jewish people built booth-like structures and lived in them for seven days during this feast as a reminder of the temporary dwellings they had lived in, in the wilderness. The first and eighth days (even though this is considered a seven day festival, the eighth day is a Sabbath day) were to be days of rest, however this was not as restrictive as the Day of Atonement or normal Sabbaths. This was simply no laborious labor, such as their occupation would demand. The rest of the week was to be a celebratory atmosphere. Since this was a time of thanksgiving, there were more sacrifices offered in relation to this feast than any other. The book of Numbers tells how many sacrifices there were to be. 70 bullocks (which some believe were to be for the 70 nations), 14 rams, 98 lambs, which adds up to 182 sacrifices. Each of them individually divisible by the number 7. Added to that was 336 tenths of ephahs of flour (also divisible by 7) for a meal offering. As compared to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of rams and lambs was doubled, as compared to the bullocks of Passover, it was five times as much. It was a seven day holiday in the seventh month with sacrifices numbering many times seven. They were to take four different types of tree branches into the Sukkah (booth) with them: boughs of goodly trees, palm trees, thick trees, and willow trees. Rabbis have decided that goodly trees are citron (specifically the yellow citron known as etrog), and thick trees are myrtle. Palm and willow are recognizable by their name. I don’t know that there is any way for us to now know what these other two trees really represent, although myrtle has associations with weddings. It was used in bridal processions and as wreaths for the heads of bridegrooms (not brides as we would use it). For Jews, it has connection with the messianic theme of Sukkot in that it describes the return to Zion - Is. 55:12-13.

Today Jewish people build open-roofed, three-sided huts for this festival. Tradition has decided that it is important that they be associated with beauty, so they decorate them with tree boughs and autumn fruits to remind them of the harvest, as well as beautiful tapestries, carpets, vines, wreaths, etc. (Sort of like what we do at Christmas, in fact in the city it is not unusual to see the booths decorated with Christmas lights). The hallel (Psalm 113-118) is read every day during the festival just as it is read at Passover. (It might be beneficial to read these chapters if you haven‘t already, to see what they are about. 118 is especially significant). On the Sabbath (8th day) Ez. 31:18-39:16 is read. These passages are about God’s judgment on some of the nations and the final war of Gog and Magog. Considering this is the time that God’s wrath will be poured out on the nations at the end and Armageddon will occur, it seems appropriate for them to be reading this. The seventh day of the week long festival is known as Hoshana Rabbah. It is known as the final day of judgment. We will have to see later on if this tradition that it is the final day of judgment fits with what we learn from Revelation and Daniel.

Sukkot also touches on several other subjects: the building of the Tabernacle in which God dwelt in the wilderness, the final rest from agricultural work for the year, as well as the final harvest of the year. This would correspond to the final harvest of Christians at the end and the rest that we will enter into when Christ reigns during His kingdom. For Jews who accept Christ once they see Him at His coming (but miss being among the Bride of Christ) God will be their shelter (both physical and spiritual) when He is pouring out His wrath, another connection to booths.

The temple worship for the holiday included the ritual pouring of the water from the Pool of Siloam. It was at this time that Jesus cried out, “if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” John 7:37-38. It also included an illumination ceremony where the priests erected four enormous candelabra with four bowls each in the courtyards. To get the relative size of these, each bowl contained 10 gallons of oil. These would light up all the courtyards, the light was so great. It was during this setting and ceremony that Jesus spoke of being the light of the world. It was after this that he healed the blind man by putting clay on his eyes and sending him to the Pool of Siloam. The healing of the man brought the two declarations Christ had made come together.

As before mentioned, there are several names for this holiday. The Feast of Booths reflects the commandment in Lev. 23:42-43, “You shall live in booths for seven days so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” These booths were called Sukkah. It is also the Feast of Ingathering, because it coincides with the final harvest. The main crop being harvested at this time was grapes. This is significant given what the angel cries in Revelation as God’s wrath is poured out. Rev. 14:18 “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.” The harvest is then thrown into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Another name was “The Season of Our Joy.” As it was a joyous, rejoicing time after the harvest was brought in, God gave them seven days of feasting and celebration to thank Him for His abundance. This celebration was so important, that it was also known as the Feast of the Lord, which was shortened to simply “The Feast” or “The Festival”. Whenever anyone would be talking and refer to “the Feast” (Festival), everyone knew that the feast that was meant was this feast. It was also called the Feast of Sukkot, which simply means the Feast of Booths in Hebrew or the Feast of Tabernacles, which refers to a temporary shelter. Sukkot is also the festival of the millennium when all nations are commanded to come to Jerusalem and celebrate - Zech. 14:16. As the holiday of biblical times, it was chosen for the consecration of the temple by Solomon - 1 King 8. It was also the occasion every seven years when there was a public reading of the Torah before all the people - Deut. 31:10-13.

So, the fall festivals talk about the crowning of the kings, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of mankind, the final ingathering, the final rest, and a huge feast that is so big and so associated with the Lord that it is just referred to as “The Feast”. In Biblical times a wedding feast lasted a week, as does this feast. This feast starts five days after Yom Kippur, which is by Jewish tradition, the coming of the Messiah, and the closing of the gates of heaven to those not sealed. This festival easily represents the wedding feast of the Church and Christ. All of these are associated with the Second Coming of the Lord. This would seem to indicate that as Christ fulfilled the spring festivals at the time they occurred, he will fulfill the fall festivals by coming at the time these festivals take place.

As a side note, it is this festival that the Pilgrims were seeking to copy when they decided to have the first Thanksgiving in America. They had removed all holidays that they thought were a result of the compromise Constantine had made with paganism when he declared Christianity the state religion. They refused to celebrate Christmas and were searching the Scriptures to try to get back to the Biblical holidays that God had instituted. As the Feast of Ingathering was tied to the fall harvest, they decided to celebrate it when they harvested their first real harvest here in America. (Obviously they didn’t celebrate it at the end of November).

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