Hebrew Roots/Holy Days/Tabernacles/Tabernacles/Overview
THE FEAST OF SUKKOT
Sukkot is the last of the seven feasts in the religious year falling on the 15th to the 22nd of Tishri (seventh month).
Seven is the number of completion as seen in Genesis 2: 2 when God’s work was completed in seven days. The number seven plays special significance in this, the final feast, and we are commanded to observe it seven days.
It is also interesting to note how many times the number seven is used - seven days, seventy bullocks, fourteen rams, ninety-eight lambs; they are all divisible by seven. Altogether, there were 182 animals mentioned (which is 26 x 7). Added to this was the 336 tenths ephahs of flour for the meal offering (48 x 7). The number seven, symbolizing completion, is imprinted on this, the seventh feast in the seventh month. Numbers 29:12-39
In Hebrew this feast is called "Chag HaSukkot" - the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:24) or "Chag Ha’Asif" i.e. the Festival of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16) Sukkot is often referred to as the “Feast of Yahweh”. Other names for it are - "Zeman Simchateinu” or “season of our joy" (Deuteronomy 16:14). The "Chag" - "The Feast" (Leviticus 23:39-41) The seventh, and last day is called "Hoshanah Rabbah": The Great Hoshanah.
In Hebrew, the word feast is “Chag” and its root means to “to dance” or “to be joyous” before Yahweh, and comes from a root meaning "to dance in a circle, i.e., to march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival, by implication, to be giddy: celebrate, dance . . . reel to and fro" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #2287). This "Chag" (feast) really fulfils its meaning and was the biggest, most joyful ceremony in Bible times.
The word "sukkot" actually means "woven". These 'sukkot' were originally shelters that were woven together from branches and leaves to protect animals from the sun, so sukkot later came to mean the hut or booth with a "woven" roof. Since the commandment was to build a hut or booth on this holiday as a reminder of Yahweh's sheltering care, this feast is called "Sukkot". (One booth is a "sukkoh" (feminine noun), in Hebrew the plural becomes "sukkot")
The other name “The Feast of the Ingathering.” has dual meanings. As the final agricultural harvest of the year, the crops were gathered in. While the idea of “ingathering” signifies the gathering in and presentation of crops before Yahweh and the gathering of His people to Jerusalem, believer’s can also see it to mean the “ingathering” of the final harvest of the world, the completion of all things. See Leviticus 23:39-43; Deuteronomy 16:16
For seven days the people of Israel moved out of their houses and lived, day and night, in small arbors, which could also be called huts, or booths, or tabernacles. These were to be temporary shelters made of a few upright posts or poles, with a few rods across the top on which branches of thick trees were laid, to form a 'brush arbor" roof. The sukkahs were made of four main types of branches, the palm as a symbol of victory. the willow for weeping, the myrtle for joy and the olive to represent the anointing. (Nehemiah 8:15; Psalm 137: 1-5)
They were to bless their families, their servants as well as the Levites and the strangers, the fatherless and the widows within their gates and to rejoice before Yahweh. Deuteronomy 16: 9-12, 13-16; Joel 2:21
“Seven days you are to keep the festival for Yahweh your God in the place Yahweh your God will choose, because Yahweh your God will bless you in all your crops and in all your work, so you are to be full of joy!” Deuteronomy 16:15
The fifteenth day of the seventh month is a full moon and being the seventh festivals of the year, it can be called the "Sabbath" (seventh) of all the Festivals.
This Festival was celebrated as a 'harvest home' celebration, for the fruits of the ground had all been successfully harvested by this time in the month of Tishri (Lev 23:39) and they could rejoice in all Yahweh's blessing for the bountiful provision over the year. For this reason the hearts of the people were naturally thankful for the abundance of His provision in their harvests and with the season's work complete, they were in a festive mood. All that remained was for them to look to Yahweh for the provision of the rains for the new season's cycle of crops.
The city of Jerusalem itself was in festive array and bathed in brilliant light every night for the feast and the people celebrated in the many processions and ceremonies at the temple, listened to the levitical choir and orchestra performing in the temple courts, as well as joining in the public prayers, the inspired singing of hymns and many festive performances which were part of the ongoing celebrations of the feast every day of the festival week.
DWELLING IN TABERNACLES
The temporary hut or shelter in which the people dwell for the festival is called a "sukkah".
The purpose of living in the sukkah is to recall the lesson of the wilderness journey, that in this life we have no permanent dwelling place, but are pilgrims on a journey to the promised land under the greater canopy of Yahweh God's sheltering Presence who protects us and provides for our every need. The sukkah reminds us of our total and complete dependence on Him throughout our lives to reach the intended destination, and our need for His divine Presence on a continual basis. (Hebrews 11:13-16; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Peter 2:11) Yahweh is our true eternal shelter. His protection and providence is a daily need for each one of us. He is the canopy over our heads, not only from the natural elements but also our protection from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13; Psalm 91)
True security comes only by faith in Yahweh as our shield, guardian, protector, sustainer, and provider! He is the One who both sees and comprehends our situation, our needs, our utter and complete dependence upon Him! Our security and trust needs to be in His protection of us. Psalm 27:5; 91:1,9; Isaiah 4:5-6
Therefore, the sukkah built during the Feast of Tabernacles has spiritual meaning for believers to remind us of the spiritual "sukkah", the Cloud of His Presence over us and our reliance upon Him in every area of our lives. The sukkah therefore is referred to as the "shelter of faith" in the Ohel Torah. Finkel quotes the Kotzker rabbi: "The sukkah is called tzila dimehemenuta, the shelter of faith. It teaches you to leave behind all your worldly concerns and to dedicate yourself to Yahweh with total self-effacing faith in His mercy and compassion." (p.83)
Our earthly body is but a tabernacle in which He dwells through His Spirit for this present life (John 14: 2-3,15-18,23). “For in your presence we are temporary residents, just passing through, as all our ancestors were our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” I Chronicles 29:15
In seeing our bodies as a tabernacle in which He may dwell, we are reminded of the Almighty's astonishing condescension to come down to earth to tabernacle or pitch His tent with humanity in the person of His Son. For Y'shua Messiah is Immanu'el, Yahweh with us, incarnate, taking up his abode in the tabernacle of a human body, in order to redeem and enable mankind to obey His eternal law and lead us back to our heavenly Father.
In the promised kingdom age when there will be a fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, Yahweh promised that His presence would again dwell with Israel as it had in the past but that the latter "House" would be greater than the former. Prophetically, the sukkah points toward the future to the Messianic Kingdom Age - the period of one thousand years, when Messiah will return with the glorified saints to rule and reign, inaugurating the age of His glory when His people will truly rejoice in His goodness and His provision for them. The cloud of His glory will overshadow them to shelter, protect and comfort them on their spiritual journey into the new era. (Haggai 2: 5-9; Isaiah 2: 1-3; Zech,8: 3; Ezekiel 37:26-28)
INGATHERING THE HARVEST
The inclusion of the nations is anticipated in the alternate name of this feast, "the Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 23:15-16) and was typified in the Temple ritual of the seventy sacrifices that were offered in atonement for the sins of the nations.
This concept of ingathering, is expressed in the order of sacrifices enjoined during this festival period. On the first day of the Feast, 13 bulls were offered, and each successive day the number offered was decreased by one. During the seven days of the Feast, there were seventy offered -- 13 + 12 + 11 + 10 + 9 + 8 + 7 = 70 (Numbers 29:12-34). The seventy bulls correspond to the seventy original nations that were descended from Noah and his sons and who were the ancestors of all the nations of the world (Talmud BT Sukkah 55:B). Therefore, the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of celebration and rejoicing in Yahweh God for all the nations to whom salvation would be extended.
As the last harvest of the land was gathered in for the feast, so that last harvest of the earth will be gathered in which this feast in all it's joy and festivities, symbolises. During Sukkot the people pray for the nations, in anticipation of the day when all nations will join them in Jerusalem to worship Yahweh God.
"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, Yahweh Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16)
Zechariah states that "many nations will join themselves to Yahweh in that day and will become My people" (Zechariah 2:11), while Isaiah describes the Millennial Temple as “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), to which all of the nations of the earth will come to learn the ways of Yahweh (Isaiah 2:2-3; 60:3; 62:2; Jeremiah 3:17), to behold the glory of Yahweh (Isaiah 60: 3; 62: 2; 66:18), to offer sacrifices (Isaiah 56: 6; 66:20) and to pay material tribute (Isaiah 60: 5; Haggai 2:7-8; Zechariah 8:22; Revelation 21:24).
Being the final harvest period of the year for Israel and the focal point being the seasonal rains needed to mature the harvest, the significance of the Water-Pouring ceremony in the feast was both symbolic and prophetic of the "latter rain" at the end of the age to reap and bring in the harvest of the earth. (Joel 2:23-24; Revelation 14:14-16) The prophetic purpose of the water-drawing ceremony was messianic, looking forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel and the nations under the New Covenant in the Kingdom Age. (Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 2:28-29).
This prayer for rain demonstrated Israel's dependence upon Yahweh, an act of faith that will be required of all nations in connection with this ceremony in the Millennial Temple for them to receive rain. Those who do not come up to the feast will be judged by plagues and receive no rain for the sustenance of their land. (Zechariah 14:16-19)
The Word and the Spirit are both likened to rain and the 'former' rain, or the teaching anointing, was poured out "moderately" in the early harvest, but in the prophetic seventh month, the former and the latter rain would be poured out together. Yahweh God is waiting for this final harvest which will come as a result of the last outpouring of His Spirit on the earth during the millennium (James 5: 7-8). The final harvest in Israel was the fruit harvest, i.e. the oil and the wine, which represents the anointing and the fruit of the Spirit, symbolically. (Deuteronomy 11:14; 12:17; 14:23)
The obedient nations will receive a double portion of this spiritual rain of the Spirit to bring them to maturity during the millennial age. (Zechariah 10: 1; Hosea 6: 3; 10:12; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23-24; Hosea 6: 3 )
OBSERVING THE FEAST TODAY
As joy comes after sorrow, so the construction of the sukkah commences as soon as Yom Kippur is over, so as to have it completed in the intervening five days before the commencement of Sukkot. The atmosphere of excitement fills the cities as the families construct their temporary dwellings from branches on their balconies or in their gardens. They are decorated with fruits and nuts and flowers and the children make drawings to hang on the walls. During the feast the family eats their meals in them, study the Word and fellowship with friends in them, sukkah to sukkah, and today may still sleep in them during the last of the mild nights in Israel.
We celebrate that we are pilgrims in this world and our destiny is the kingdom of God by living in temporary shelters.
The feast is a symbol of us coming out of the world systems and into the kingdom of God. The sukkah experience gives a foretaste of the overshadowing Presence of the Almighty and the spiritual blessing of the age to come. It affords an opportunity to withdraw from the activities of this life and while we sit in His Presence, to enjoy the special time of communion with Him while we focus on the realities of His eternal kingdom.
While this feast was to be celebrated in Jerusalem, the city of the King, the place where He has chosen to place His Name is now wherever two or three are gathered to worship Him in spirit and in truth. (Matthew 18:20; John 4:24)
In Israel today little stalls line the streets selling the "lulav" bunches of branches which are waved before Yahweh during the feast. These are made of four types of plants common in Israel -
- the 'etrog' - a tiny citrus fruit which tastes and smells sweet and represents those who know the truth and do it.
- the palm - which has sweet fruit but no perfume and represents those who know the truth and don't do it.
- the myrtle - that smells beautiful but has no taste representing those who do good deeds without knowing the truth.
- the willow - with no taste and no smell and represents those who don't have the truth or any good deeds in their life.
These four types of trees represent the four types of believers in His assembly bound together in unity for mutual profit, being waved before Yahweh for His consideration. It is a prophetic prayer that His Body - His Tabernacle, even though diverse and of various types, be without divisions and that we be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). It is a demonstration of the unity that results from the days of repentance, and the bonding and resultant blessing that can therefore be expected as the stronger assist the weak and each be joined one to another (1 Peter 4: 8; Colossians 3:14). There He commands the blessing, even life for evermore! (Psalm 133: 1-3)
A form of the temple ceremonies has been adopted into the messianic services for these days to maintain the prophetic proclamations of the feast and herald in the outpouring of His Spirit in the age to come. This rejoicing before Yahweh God in heralding in the nations, is considered by religious Jews today to be an expression of spiritual warfare. There is probably nothing that stirs the enemy so much as when we rejoice before Yahweh in His promises and enter into prophetic proclamation of His Word, as Psalm 149 so well describes.
When the celebration is made in the messianic congregations today, the etrog (citron) is taken to represent the nations and is held in the left hand. This is symbolic of the great congregation of non-Jewish believers in the Messiah Y'shua.
The other three are held in the right hand and a joyous celebration is made in a circuit around the meeting-place ending in a finale of the etrog and the lulav being joined together - the two becoming one.
This is a symbolic enactment of the House of Ephraim and the House of Judah becoming one in the Master's hand. (Ezekiel 37:15-20; Ephesians 2:11-13)
The Millennial realization in this feast should prompt us to gratefully acknowledge God's gift of Messiah to us today and His constant "tabernacling" with us through His indwelling Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 2:22) We are called to demonstrate that unity now that shall be manifest when the whole House of Israel is united in worshipping Y'shua as Messiah and Lord (John 17:20-21; Ephesians 2:14-18).
As we do these things in the present age, we honor the Lord of the feast who will one day tabernacle with us forever "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them" Revelation 21: 3
“After this, I looked; and there before me was a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe and language. They were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands; and they shouted, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7: 9-10
Will you "wave the lulav" in joyous celebration of the ultimate victory of the kingdom of God out from Jerusalem, and herald the King of Kings in anticipation of His coming to establish His kingdom upon the earth in all its fullness?