Lessons from Sukkot in Biblical history

JeffThere are conjunctions in Israel’s history between the days of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths) and key events, from the Flood to the time of David and Solomon to Yeshua (Jesus) mission on Earth to the coming Day of the LORD. Rather than coincidences, these intersections teach us about God and His Messiah.

How is the timing of Sukkot — the 15th day to the 21st day of the seventh month of God’s calendar, or roughly September–October — related to significant events in Israel’s history? Why do these conjunctions happen? When dates are mentioned in Scripture, those dates are important.

Noah’s ark

Noah’s ark was the home of all humanity during the Flood. As the waters were receding, it came to rest in the seventh month on the 17th day (Gen. 8:4), which is near the middle of Sukkot.

Dedication of the first Temple

1Kings 8 and 2Chronicles 5-7 both chronicle another significant event in Israel’s history that occur during Sukkot and that was King Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple. A significant portion of his prayer was a prayer for rain during a drought. For those of us who live in California, this is part of our Sukkot prayer in 2014 as well. 

As we look at Solomon’s prayer, it can be divided into several segments. There are prayers about judgement and many “if, then” statements. With prayers of about judgement, there’s also prayer for mercy. Drought is a good symbol of what happened in Israel’s history, a drought of the word of God. Even in Judah, the drought of God’s word was so bad that when they found a Torah scroll, the priests of God didn’t even recognize it to the point that God had to send a prophetess to reveal it to them. In many ways, they were meeting God for the first time. 

Drought is as much of a challenge now as it was then. 

Another theme is the restoration from captivity. In Deuteronomy, there was a promise of exile but a promise of return. Solomon reigned over Israel at the pinnacle of its territorial power, so the prophesy in this prayer seemed to be an impossibility. 

Many people in this time believed that gods were regional powers and the belief in one God over all was an atypical belief. God called Himself the King of kings and Lord of lords. That was an important statement. The prayer that God would be with them in exile yet still be the dominant God of all the word seemed to be contradictory. 

Solomon’s prayer that the Temple would be a house of prayer for all nations, not just Israel was also unusual. Solomon asks God to listen to the people when they pray with their whole heart. That is what kept Israel intact and a beacon for God throughout all the generations, even until today.

Rebellion of Ishmael ben-Nataniah

One of the other historical events that happened during Sukkot is recorded in 2Kings 25, which occurred at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. The reason this exile happened is because the hearts of the people had turned away from God. We read about a rebellion that was sparked by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, against Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar over Israel.

Just as the people of Israel tried to rebel against God’s ruling that the first generation of the Exodus would not enter the land by trying to fight without God’s help, this rebellion against the Babylonians also ended in failure, when the people who started the rebellion fled to Egypt.

Hezekiah calls for tithe for the temple

In 2Chron. 31:2-10, king Hezekiah, as Sennacherib was preparing to invade, called for the people to bring tithes to the temple, and what they brought was more than enough. This is more like the contributions from the people for the first Tabernacle after the Exodus than the later-Israel condition of tithe-taking priests, decried by the prophet Malachi.

Wives for Ben-Yamin

Judges 21 mentions another event many think occurred during Sukkot, because of the mention of a “yearly feast of the LORD” (Judges 21:19) and mention of vineyards and marriage (Judges 21:21-23). The young virgins of Jabesh-gilead and Shiloh were kidnapped and forced to marry the surviving men of the tribe of Ben-Yamin (Benjamin) so the tribe would survive. The people of Shiloh made a huge sacrifice because of Benjamin’s depravity.

Some might think that it would have been better if Benjamin had just been allowed to wither away. After all, the line of Judah was more important because it was Judah that the Messiah. But if Benjamin’s line had not been preserved, then important people like King Saul, Queen Esther and the apostle Paul would not have been born and history would have been totally different.

Samuel and John the baptizer

1Sam. 1:3 and 1Sam. 2:19 tells us that Khannah (Hannah) and her husband, Elkanah, would go to Shiloh every year during Sukkot for the “annual sacrifice.” 

Sukkot was a time for people to pray for the fertility of the land but Khannah was praying for her own fertility (1Sam. 1:11-12). She prayed for Shmuel (Samuel) after his birth, dedicating him as a Nazir (one who takes a Nazarite vow) to the temple.

John 1:14 uses Sukkot imagery to describe Messiah Yeshua. 

Khannah and Elisheva (Elizabeth), the mother of Yokhanan (John the baptizer), have a lot in common. Both were infertile yet given a son. Elisheva also had dedicated her son as a Nazir, on the instruction of angels. Heaven commissioned both to recognize and dedicate a king of Israel. Shmuel anointed David; Yokhanan, Yeshua the Messiah.  

God was working in both Khannah and Elisheva. They were both maidservants of God’s purpose. Their sons were also bondservants to God’s purpose. 

We see that God continues to have a touchpoint in history. Even in the Day of the LORD prophecy in Zechariah 14, God will continue to intervene in human history during Sukkot. God wants His dwelling place with mankind (Lev 26:11f; Ezek. 37:27; Rev. 21:1-4). He wanted a physical dwelling place, as it was in the Temple but He wants also wants to live in our hearts. 

This leaves us with a great lesson: Are we willing to dedicate ourselves as the house of God, being mobile Temples of God (1Cor. 3:16; 6:19; cp. 2Cor. 5:20)? Are we willing to give everything to God, like Khannah did?

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. Recorded on day 6 of Sukkot 2014 in Occidental, Calif. The production crew apologizes for the lower quality of this recording, because of a technical problem.

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