Sukkot: An Introduction to the Festival of Tabernacles

Feast of Tabernacles — Day 3

Jeff provides an overview of the Festival of Tabernacles, which is outlined in the Bible in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29. It is an important appointment with God, what He calls “feasts of the LORD,” because He is teaching what it means to “dwell” with God. This is also a celebration of God’s Messiah coming to dwell with mankind as God’s Salvation (John 1:14) and His promise that He will return to live here permanently (Revelation 21).

Leviticus 23:33-44 gives an overview of the festival.

The command to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) on the 15th day of the seventh month comes from the LORD (v. 33) and celebration is to be to Him (v. 34). It’s a “perpetual” (v. 41) appointment with Him (v. 37). The festival follows a call to repentance (Feast of Trumpets, or Day of Blowing) and a removal of the sins, willful disobedience and outright rebellion from God’s assembly of believers (Day of Atonement). No “laborious work of any kind” is to be conducted on the first day and on the eighth day for holy assemblies (vv. 35–36). Offerings of grain, wine and burned animals to be presented to God each day, beyond the freewill and weekly Shabbat offerings and gifts (vv. 37–38).

Numbers 29 (v. 13 and on) defines what offerings are to be presented to the LORD and when.

  • Day 1
    • Burnt offerings without defect.
      • 13 bulls with three-10ths an ephah each of fine flour and oil
      • 2 rams with two-10ths
      • 14 male yearling lambs with a 10th
    • Sin offering: 1 male goat.
  • Days 2–7
    • Number of bulls decreases by one per day, same number of rams, lambs & goats.
  • Day 8
    • 1 bull (only one Sacrifice)
    • 1 ram (only one Substitute for the LORD’s people — YHWH Yireh, or “YHWH Will Be Seen”)
    • 7 lambs (completeness)1 goat (only one Sacrifice that can take away sin)
  • Totals
    • 70 bulls during the 7 days plus one on the 8th: 70 (nations?) + 1 (God)
    • 14 rams, one on the 8th: 14 + 1 = 15 (full moon, fullness, harvest done)
    • 98 lambs, 7 on the 8th: 98 + 7 = 105 (divisible by 7 (completeness) and 15 (fullness))
    • 8 goats (new beginning, harkening back to Yom Kippurim?)

The feast follows the harvests (v. 39) of the second barley crop, olives and grapes.

Each of the first seven days you rejoice before the LORD with “foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook” (v. 40).

The lulav reveals the story of redemption

(“Sheepfold Gleanings,” contributed to Your Arms to Israel <www.yourarmstoisrael.org> by Carl and Julie Parker)

  • Boughs: Hebrew word periy (Strong’s #06529), from the root parah meaning: fruit, produce (of the ground); offspring, children; to cause to bear fruit, to make fruitful, to show fruitfulness, bear fruit. Thought: Abraham’s offspring, his children who walk in YHVH’s ways bear much fruit.
  • ‘Of goodly’: Hebrew word hadar (Strong’s #01926/ TWOT #477b), meaning: ornament, splendor, honor, majesty, glory, the glory of nature as it reflects the goodness of YHVH (Leviticus 23:40, Psalm 111:3, Isaiah 35:2); man (Isaiah 53:2, the suffering servant, comeliness); man as he is created by YHVH. Thought: Yeshua is the “flesh” of YHVH and man is created in His Image.
  • Trees: Hebrew word ets (Strong’s # 6086), meaning: trees, wood, gallows, cedar-wood, woody flax. Thought: Trees in Scripture often represent people and people groups. The two olive trees of Zechariah 4 are the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-4. The Two Houses of Israel, House of Judah and House of Israel are the two witnesses of YHVH. The “trees” that know and walk in the ways of the Word of YHVH, the Torah, will bear fruit and the “leaves” will be for healing of the nations. The pages of a Torah scroll are called leaves. These leaves have YHVH’s Words written on them and it is the people who know the Word of YHVH who will bring healing to the Nations. Healing comes from obeying YHVH’s Word and walking in it (Ezekiel 47:12).
  • Branches: Hebrew word kaph (Strong’s # 3709/ TWOT 1022a), meaning: palm, hollow or flat of the hand, power, sole (of the foot), hand-shaped branches or fronds (of palm trees), to bow oneself down. Thought: Yeshua bears the marks on His palms and on the souls of His feet of the death and the offering He suffered on our behalf. He humbled Himself. May we be a people who bow before our Redeemer and praise Him for our life in Him. House of Israel and House of Judah are both grafted into the natural olive tree of Yeshua (Romans 11:11-27).
  • Palm trees: Hebrew word tamar (Strong’s #8558), meaning: palm tree. Thought: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of YHVH, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).
  • ‘And the boughs’: Hebrew word anaph (Strong’s #6057/TWOT 1408a), meaning: bough or branch. Thought: Yeshua is the messianic hope of Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (John 15:1-8).
  • ‘Of thick’: Hebrew word aboth (Strong’s #05687), from the root word abath meaning: having interwoven foliage, leafy, dense with foliage. Thought: Our hearts are interwoven with Yeshua, as He is an indwelling Living God for those who walk in His ways.
  • Willows: Hebrew root word arab (Strong’s #6148), meaning: to take a pledge, give in pledge, exchange, to have fellowship with, share. Thought: YHVH is a covenant making Elohim who is our guarantor. He pledged Himself to us and gave us a ketubah (marriage covenant, the Torah), the proof of His love for us. He paid our debt so we may enter into life in Him.His gift to us.
  • Of the brook: Hebrew word nachal (Strong’s #5158/TWOT 1343 a,b), meaning: torrent valley, palm trees. Thought: Reference to the Kidron brook Yeshua passed over to become the red heifer sacrifice. [See Numbers 19 and listen to this Hallel Fellowship discussion on the Messianic significance of the object lesson.] The brook carried the offenses and uncleanness of the Israelites that flowed from the Temple down through the valley below. Yeshua is also the living waters that supply streams of living waters in the desert bringing life and deliverance to all that call on Him. (See ref. to palm above). There’s reference to property, to take possession, give as a possession, inherit, give as an inheritance, property, divide the land for a possession, acquire, be allotted, be made to possess.
  • Rejoice: Hebrew word samach (Strong’s #8055), meaning: to cause to rejoice, gladden, make glad. Thought: The offerings of thankfulness given to YHVH in this Season of our Joy and for the return and ingathering of all the nations who will come and worship the Lamb at the Feast of Sukkot/Tabernacles will be our perpetual response.
  • Before: Hebrew word paniym (Strong’s #6440), from the root word panah meaning: face, presence, person, to turn toward, from or away. Thought: This speaks of intimacy in meeting presence-to-presence with the King of Kings, Yeshua!
  • Seven: Hebrew word sheba (Strong’s #7651), from the root word shaba meaning: seven, to swear, take oath, to adjure. Thought: We made the vow “We will do and we will obey” YHVH’s Word to us and walk in His ways because He alone is worthy!

Native-born Israelites “live in booths” to remember Israelites live in them after the Exodus (vv. 42–43).

1st Kings 8:41-43

  • King Solomon, at the Sukkot dedication of the temple, prays for it to be for all people.
    • Foreigners will hear of the LORD’s great Name from believers.
    • Foreigners will learn to respect the LORD.
    • The LORD’s spirit will lead foreigners to travel long distances to His temple.

Zechariah 14:1-21

  • The LORD shakes the faith of His people.
    • Bizarre contrast of past suffering being compensated then plundered (vv. 1–2).
    • The LORD doesn’t step in until after this holocaust (v. 3).
  • He sets up His rule over the world.
    • He forces the remnant of the attacking nations to come to His city for Sukkot each year.
    • He punishes those nations that don’t. Tough God or tough love?

Matthew 6:1-34

  • No reward before the LORD for self-seeking righteous behavior.
    • Give to the poor without seeking recognition.
    • Pray with your heart, not your ego.
      • Without fanfare or to attract attention.
      • For the coming of the LORD’s kingdom. Do our lives show that we are?
    • Fast (especially on Yom Kippurim) inconspicuously.
  • Reward before the LORD, which isn’t fleeting, for inwardly driven righteousness.
    • Money, health, acclaim is temporary.
    • Food, water and clothing are necessary for keeping our temporary bodies alive, but we are to remember who gives us each day to live. Our bodies are “tents,” sukkot.
    • Seek the kingdom of the LORD — pray for it, learn how His kingdom works, deny desires/impulses that are contrary it — to have freedom from anxiety about the temporal.

John 1:1; John 1:14

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [Greek: skeenoo: “tabernacled,” “pitched a tent”] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

This glory could be what John saw on the mountain with Peter and Ya’akov (James) when the Shekinah of God came out of the tent. Recall that the account recorded in the gospels talks about a cloud enveloping them on the mountain, masking this glory from the outside world. The curtains of the tabernacle shielded the outside world from the Shekinah, the presence of God above the mercy seat of the ark of the testimony, and a cloud of incense shielded the high priest from the glory of God.

The Greek word skeenoo is also translated “shadow” because of the meanings of

  1. a booth, tent, hut or temporary dwelling
  2. a hut used for welcoming guests during festivals.

This is the same Greek word used in Colossians 2:17 and Hebrews 10:1 referring to the “feasts of the LORD” and the law of God being a “shadow” of something substantial and lasting, which is Messiah Yeshua.

Many consider these two verses to be dismissive of the current relevance of the festivals and the Torah. The human body of Messiah was nothing special without the Shekinah (Hebrew for “dwelling presence”) of God. The Torah is nothing but a quaint book of tales and morality from antiquity without the Shekinah of God. The human body of Messiah allowed God to personally eat, drink, teach and act out God’s power.

So, too, the Torah provides the framework of a relationship with God but is not the relationship itself. In a similar manner, July 4 is a day for remembering America’s declaration of independence and creation of a new system of freedoms, but the day is not that declaration nor freedom itself.

John 7

John started his account of Yeshua by stating that God’s Word came to earth as a human named Yeshua. In this chapter, Yeshua brings themes of the Feast of Tabernacles into sharp focus.

  • How would God send the Messiah?
  • Do we really want God to dwell among us, amidst our hypocrisy?
  • Do we want a “dwelling” that won’t “blow over” by seeking to be in God’s presence?
  • Would we rather seek power, something that seems like a permanent fix for our temporary structures?
  • Do we know God enough to know when He is speaking? Would we have heard His voice on Yom Teruah?
  • Are we seeking “living water” from God?

In the first century, the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated this way:

  • Processions went around the altar waving the palm branches and singing “Hoshea na!” Hebrew for “Save us, please!”
  • On the eighth day, the priest drew water from the Pool of Shiloam and poured it with wine on the sacrifice.
  • The procession went around the altar seven times singing Isaiah 12:6: “You’ll draw water joyfully from the wells of salvation.”

Yeshua identifies Himself as that living water (John 7:37).

Sukkot and Chanukah, the Festival of Dedication of the Temple, are linked.

  • Chanukah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, refers to the rededication of God’s temple in Jerusalem after Antiochus IV abolished the worship of God and defiled the temple with pagan sacrifices and idols. (See Daniel 8 for a prophecy of this event.)
  • Chanukah and Sukkot are celebrated over eight days.
    • Jewish tradition says the eight days of Chanukah refer to one day’s worth of sanctified oil for the temple’s seven-branch candelabra, menorah in Hebrew, lasting for eight days.
    • The historical record is quite different, linking the eight days of Chanukah to the eight days of Sukkot, which couldn’t be celebrated properly two months earlier. 
      • 2nd Maccabees 10:1-8 — “Now Maccabeus and his company, the Lord guiding them, recovered the temple and the city: But the altars that the heathen had built in the open street, and also the chapels, they pulled down. And having cleansed the temple they made another altar, and striking stones they took fire out of them, and offered a sacrifice after two years, and set forth incense, and lights, and shewbread. When that was done, they fell flat down, and besought the Lord that they might come no more into such troubles; but if they sinned any more against him, that he himself would chasten them with mercy, and that they might not be delivered unto the blasphemous and barbarous nations. Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the 25th of the same month, which is Kislev. And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. They ordained also by a common statute and decree, That every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews.” (Referenced in “When Festivals Collide,” Christian Witness to Israel Herald, March–May 2007, <www.cwi.org.uk>.)
  • There also is a connection among the “triumphant entry” of Messiah Yeshua into Jerusalem for the last time on Passover and the celebrations of Sukkot and Chanukah. [Details on this connection.]
  • Additionally, there seems to be curious timing of Chanukah and Sukkot in the coming of Yeshua into the body of His earthly mother Miriam and in the birth of Yeshua. [For details, listen to the audio message from Sukkot 2007 “The Timing of the Birth of Messiah.”]

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