The High Holy Days have passed. They began with Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets. The new year was ushered in with the blast of the trumpet. Next, came Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. This day began with fasting and repentance, but ended with feasting. The last of the High Holy Days is the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast is full of food, joy, love and great expectations.
While Rosh Hashahah and Yom Kippur are all about turning from sin and true repentance, the Feast of Tabernacles is all about happiness and hope that come from being forgiven. This is the one feast where God commands his followers to be joyful. It is the 7th feast on God’s calendar and referred to as “the season of our joy.” This is a time to celebrate all the Lord has done for his people. He has atoned for their sins, and now it is time for the blessing to come. There is great joy in knowing you have been forgiven and you no longer carry the burden of the sins you’ve committed.
It was also a time of celebrating the harvest. The harvest was ripe. Even though the fruit crops were planted in the Spring, you could now see the end result of that planting. A great sense of joy would come when the Feast of Tabernacles finally arrived. Now you could gather and harvest the fruit of your labor. This is why the festival is also called the Feast of Ingathering.
Leviticus 23, 33-36 says this about the Feast of Tabernacles. “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days, The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to the Lord by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the Lord by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.”
This feast always begins on the 15th of Tishrei. On the Gregorian calendar this will occur in September or October, depending on the year. This year, the Feast of Tabernacles began on September 23, and ended on September 30.
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates life with God, and the promise of dwelling with our creator. It’s a feast that has been celebrated for thousands of years by the Jewish people- since their exodus from Egypt. A tabernacle is a dwelling, or place to live. The word simply means booth, shed or dwelling. Back then, they would dwell in simple tabernacles made of tree branches. These tabernacles were by no means fancy. They were designed so they could be hastily built- without frills. The roof was made with branches and leaves, and there were to be spaces between the branches/leaves to allow the people inside to see the stars that God made. They could look through these spaces and see the sky above them, which pointed them straight to God.
This design lent to the idea that God was their actual dwelling place. He was all the provision they needed. Throughout their journey, he would be the one to sustain them.
Leviticus 23:39 says, “So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a sabbath rest, and the eighth day is also a day of sabbath rest. On the first day you are to take branches from the luxuriant trees- from palms, willows and other leafy trees-and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. THIS IS TO BE A LASTING ORDINANCE FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME.”
In these verses we see the Lord telling his people to rejoice. What I find interesting is the use of the branches on top of the dwellings ( also known as a sukkah or tabernacle). These branches were to be taken from palms, willows or other leafy trees. Jesus actually called himself the Branch. Not only that, his hometown was Nazareth, which means town of the Branch.
“And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.'” Matthew 2:23
“A shoot will spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1 . The prophet Isaiah was describing the future birth of Jesus- the Branch who would descend from the line of King David. The verse below illustrates a future prophecy where Jesus would come from the line (branch) of David and reign as King over all the Earth.
“Behold the days are coming”, declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and he will reign as King and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah 23:5
Isaiah 11 goes on to say that, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him (Jesus), the spirit of wisdom and understanding………with righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with fairness the afflicted of the Earth; and he will strike the Earth with the rod of his mouth………..”
Zechariah 6 says, “Thus, says the Lord of Hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is the Branch, for he will branch out from where He is; it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne, Thus he will be a priest on the throne.”
These verses are prophesying what the Messiah would do and what he would be. They prophesied Jesus. And guess what? Jesus came as the Branch, just as prophesied. But he has more work to do. He will come back again and be the Branch that unites all nations. The leafy branches placed on top of dwellings during the Feast of Tabernacles are a reminder that Jesus the Branch is our dwelling here on Earth, but he will also literally dwell on Earth when he returns. Palm branches were a popular choice to use on the roof of tabernacles during Jesus’ time. They are associated with Kings. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey the week before his crucifixion, palm branches were waved before him. “They took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel.'” John 12:13
When Jesus came he wasn’t received by everyone. Not everyone recognized he was the Son of God. Not everyone realized God dwelt within Jesus. But, He was God incarnate, standing in front of their very eyes! Nonetheless, “the word who became flesh and dwelt among us” died on the cross for the sins of the world.
At one point Jesus told the Pharisees (Jewish Teachers of the Law), “You will not see me again until you say ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Though many rejected the idea the God came and dwelt among mankind, Jesus was saying he would come back again one day and dwell on the Earth as King. Many could not see how God came to dwell as a servant first. They wanted a King to take over the governments of the world. Instead, Jesus first came to bring the Holy Spirit. This spirit would dwell in their hearts if they received him. Later, as the Feast of Tabernacles shows, Jesus will come back as the King with the rod of iron, and he will rule with justice and perfect power. He will dwell on Earth and bring literal world peace. We are still waiting for that spectacular moment!
The sukkah, or tabernacle (dwelling) was also a representation of the Tabernacle the Israelites built in the wilderness. When God set them free from slavery, they traveled in the wilderness. God went with them, and his presence dwelt in the Tabernacle. Every aspect and piece of the Tabernacle pointed to God (and Jesus) in a symbolic way. Later on, the Temple would replace the Tabernacle as God’s dwelling place.
This feast is also one of the Pilgrimage feasts mentioned in the Bible. God commanded it be observed yearly. Feast pilgrims would travel to Jerusalem from all over Israel to celebrate this feast. They would often travel in groups as they made their journey to Jerusalem each year. It was a feast to look forward to with much anticipation. The city of Jerusalem would be full of people and it was truly a sight to behold. Everyone was there to praise the Lord. There was singing, dancing and rejoicing in the city. At that time God dwelt in the Temple, which is in Jerusalem. During this special time all of God’s people would travel to the city of his dwelling and celebrate with him- their Provider and Redeemer.
Once the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the people could no longer celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. At that point, some already knew the Temple was no longer needed anyway. The real Temple came to Earth and dwelt among them. He became the living Temple and the chief cornerstone. Jesus, the Tabernacle and the Temple, had come! He became the perfect Temple sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit dwelt (tabernacled) within believers.
The Jewish people continue to celebrate this feast today. Even though the Temple no longer stands, the feast is still recognized and celebrated. Some traditions have been added or changed. But, one tradition that continues is the building of the Sukkah, or tabernacle.
During the eight day festival, all meals are eaten inside the Sukkah/tabernacle. Families eat together at a table placed inside. It is a time of communion, where people rejoice and give thanks.
Speaking of giving thanks, very soon here in the United States, it will be Thanksgiving. Here in the U.S. we are very familiar with the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. They were giving thanks to God for the plentiful harvest. This occurred in Autumn, as does the Feast of Tabernacles. The Pilgrims were very familiar with the Old Testament and considered themselves similar to the Israelites. They left the bondage of England and were essentially leaving the wilderness. When they reached new land (the U.S.) they believed they had entered their Promised Land, where they could worship God freely. The observance of Thanksgiving has similarities to Sukkoth/Tabernacles because it was a time to bring in the crops, gather with the family, give thanks to God and celebrate a season of agricultural blessing. It is interesting to note that Sukkoth or Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of Ingathering. We also know that the Indians were at the Thanksgiving Feast. This is worthy of noting because the Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Nations because it pictures a time when all the nations of the Earth will celebrate with Jesus, who is King of the Earth. The Indians and the Pilgrims sat down together in peace, and joined in a meal where they thanked the King of the Universe for his blessings. One day, during the Millennial Reign of Jesus, all nations will sit down together in peace. No more wars or famine. The prince of Peace will unite all nations and bless the Earth. Truly, this is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. It is a prophetic feast that shows God’s people that HE IS COMING BACK AND HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM ON EARTH AS THEIR KING.
Jesus is seen attending the Feast of Tabernacles in the book of John. This occurred about six months before his crucifixion. In John 7:14 it says Jesus went to the Temple courts to preach. On the seventh day of the Feast, Jesus interrupted the water libation ceremony. During this ceremony, pitchers of water and wine are poured while standing over the altar. Many biblical texts would have been chanted during this time, including Isaiah 12:3 which says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” We don’t know the exact time Jesus interrupted the ceremony, but we know this is what he said:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
The living waters Jesus was referring to alluded to the Holy Spirit, which would come to believers who received salvation through the blood he would shed on the cross. He declared this at a feast that prophetically pointed to him. This Feast features an elaborate water ceremony with water and wine. He is the cleansing water, and his blood is the wine. Interestingly enough, when Jesus made his “living water” statement, he would have made it on the 7th day of the ceremony, also known as Hoshana Rabbah. This means The Great Hosanna. On the 7th day of the feast, the priests would have circled the altar seven times while they cried “Hosheanah”, which is translated as “SAVE NOW.” We can clearly see Jesus was revealing to all who would hear that he is the Messiah! The name Jesus (Yeshua) literally means salvation! He is the living water that saves. In Israel, water was a precious commodity, as it supports life and helps crops grow. In the desert it literally meant life! But Jesus was saying that dwelling with him (receiving him) was the same as receiving life. Look here at the words of Jesus where he said to Nicodemus, “Truly I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” John 3:5.
The words Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles angered and divided many. Some wanted to seize him. Later in the day others wanted to stone him.
Jesus did something else at this feast. He made another declaration about himself. He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
What’s amazing about this statement is that it points to the Menorah. In the holy place of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, there was no window to let in light. The only light came from the golden lamp stand, or Menorah. It has seven branches, all of which shine light. It was a reminder that God himself is light. When Jesus said he was the light of the world, he was saying he is God. He is the only one who can bring light to the dark.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, light was an integral part of the daily ceremonies. This part of the ceremony was known as the Illumination of the Temple. Four enormous golden candlesticks would be set up in the court, with four golden bowls. Each bowl would hold pure olive oil. The worn out robes of priests and Levites were used as wicks. The light from the candlesticks was so bright that it is documented that “there was no courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit up with the light.” Isn’t it amazing that Jesus made this statement amidst the dramatic light of the giant candlesticks? Though I must say, those candlesticks could not hold a candle to Jesus.
By coming to this feast Jesus was saying so much. He was revealing himself as God’s son. He was letting it be known, plain as day, that he was God.
The awesome thing to consider is that there is still more to come. Tabernacles is a Fall Feast and has not been fully fulfilled. It will find its full fulfillment someday in the future, when Christ reigns during the Millennial Kingdom.
The prophetic aspect of this feast is seen in Zechariah 14:16-19
“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any people of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain…..the Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.”
This is saying the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated during the Millennial Reign of Christ. Nations who do not participate will be punished. Every single year, for one thousand years, ALL THE NATIONS will come and worship the King with JOY and THANKSGIVING. Also note that this feast will be celebrated by GENTILES, not just the Jewish nation. The two groups will celebrate together!
Notice it also says that if the nations do not come celebrate, they will have no rain. This has a two fold meaning- the first being those nations will have no life giving source for their crops or bodies. Secondly, they will not have the life giving source himself- Jesus.
It is interesting to note that when Christ returns, things will come full circle for Israel. Once again, she will be the light to the nations. Christ will rule from Jerusalem, Israel. Thousands of years ago, the nation of Israel was chosen and called out to be a light to the nations. But over time disobedience set in. King David ushered in times of greatness, but many of the Kings that followed soiled the throne. The people of Israel were conquered and dispersed. When the Messiah was rejected, they were scattered further from their land, and they became a people without a home. History moved forward and there was a time when the Jewish people were almost wiped out. Then God did a miracle. He brought his people back into their land again. Now they were dwelling in the land, but they still weren’t dwelling with the Savior. Yet, God had a plan. This plan included Gentiles, who would spread the gospel throughout the world. On board would be large numbers of Messianic Jews (Jewish believers in Jesus). Once the full number of Gentiles had come in, things would change dramatically. God’s people would soon be a light to the nations once again. After tribulation, pain but also great joy, God’s covenant people would finally know his son’s name. And they would say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Then, they, along with the nations, would rule with Christ from Jerusalem.
You see, this was the promise God gave to Abraham. And God said “through you all the nations of the Earth shall be blessed.”
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors and he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery….know therefore that the Lord you God is God; he is a faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:6-9
God didn’t choose Israel because of their merit. God chose them because he wanted to do it. He also swore an oath. He chose this one nation TO BLESS ALL OF MANKIND. We must always put this into perspective when we think about the nation of Israel. God would not leave his people in the desert and in bondage no more than he would leave the Gentiles in bondage. His plan is to save us all. Both Jews and Gentiles are the branches of the olive tree. Christ is that tree. He made the two groups one. He came to Earth and dwelt with us. He will come and dwell again. The circle will be complete someday in the future, and believers in Christ will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles together. Are you ready for that?
Back in 2014 and 2015 there was a tetrad of four blood moons (total lunar eclipses) that occurred on Feasts of the Lord. Two of them occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles. October 8, 2014 and September 28, 2015 were the dates. The other blood moons occurred on Passover. I find it fascinating because I know the Feast of Tabernacles points to Christ dwelling with us on Earth. This same tetrad pattern occurred in 1967, 1968. In 1967, Israel reclaimed the rest of Jerusalem during the Six Days War. Jerusalem was once again in the hands of God’s ancient people, the Jews. The blood moons in those years also occurred on Passover and Tabernacles. We will not see a pattern of these tetrads again for 400 years. I personally think God is trying to get our attention. He is reminding us that this Earth as it is, will not last forever. We will not stay in bondage to this fallen world forever. Christ will come back. He will tabernacle with us and the fallen world will be made new. And finally, the wolf will dwell with the lamb.
Dates for the Feast of Tabernacles for the next three years (on the Gregorian calendar)
2019: Begins eve of October 13 and ends eve of October 20
2020: Begins eve of October 2 and ends eve of October 9
2021: Begins the eve of September 21 and will end the eve of September 27
Resources for more information:
The Fall Feasts by Mitch and Zhava Glaser
Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts by Richard Booker
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible: NIV version