While Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were solemn feasts, this one was a time of celebration. The first day and seventh day were treated as Sabbaths – no work was done on these days. The Israelites were to live in temporary booths for seven days, and this was to be an everlasting ordinance.
The Talmud teaches this was the day that the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day rested over the tabernacle. This was likely the “tent of meeting” (Ex 33:7-11) and not the official tabernacle, as the official tabernacle’s construction did not occur until the 1st day of 1st month (1 year after leaving Egypt; Ex 40:17). Why the fire by night and cloud by day? God was symbolically dwelling with His people.
After entering Promised Land, the Israelites were to dwell in booths to remind them of their journey through the wilderness to their Promised Land, as well as to remind them of God’s protection for them through this journey. Materials were from fruit trees and palm trees – elements not part of the wilderness, but part of their new home. On the 8th day after the solemn assembly, the booths were burned.
During the time of Christ, additional traditions were incorporated into this feast. Priests would go down to the pool of Siloam and gather water in golden pictures. This was symbolic of Isaiah 12:3 which stated, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” This whole process was symbolic of the gift of the Holy Spirit which was to be given to all Israel when the Messiah would rule. This pool was created by Hezekiah by redirecting the waters from the Gihon spring so the water would be inside city walls rather than outside. He buried the beginning of the spring Gihon so the Assyrians could not gain access to their water supply (2Ch 32:30). As the priests passed back by way of what became known as the Siloam Road, they passed through the Water Gate, at which time other priests would blow trumpets.
The priests next traveled back to the temple and went to the altar. There, they entered the temple with much fanfare. They stood before and above the altar to pour the water and wine down the side of the ramp onto the altar. The silver basins had holes of two different sizes as water was less viscous than the wine so that the flow of both would be comparable and reach the altar at the same time and with the same rate of flow. The water symbolized the Holy Spirit.
On the last day of the feast during the time of Christ, he stood and stated very loudly, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn 7:37-38). He was proclaiming himself publicly as the Messiah to which the feast was proclaiming.
It was a very festive occasion and many participants carried torches. Some of the priests would even juggle torches as a method of entertainment. There was a balcony around the court of women where Jewish women were allowed to view the festivities below. This was also one of the few times that Gentiles could participate by observing from the balcony. They were not allowed below.
There were chandeliers with four oil lamps hoisted high on a pole. The young priests would climb up the poles periodically to refill the oil lamps. The priests played their trumpets on the Nicanor Gate steps and sang the Hallel Psalms (Ps 113-118).
During the illumination ceremony on the night before the 8th day of the feast, Christ proclaimed: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Jesus was again proclaiming himself publicly as the Messiah to which the feast was proclaiming. Jesus also proclaimed Himself equal to God as the illumination ceremony represented the Shekinah glory of God who had filled the original temple.
What is the future fulfillment of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)? It is the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. He will tabernacle with His people, reign from Jerusalem, and be king over the entire earth. There will be peace on earth for 1,000 years.
How do we know this is true? Christ needs to take back the theocratic kingdom Adam lost. This act fulfills many prophecies without the need for allegorical interpretation. The prophecies of this were given as a message of hope to the people. Allegorical meanings are not true hope.
These feasts fulfilled the needs of the people in their day: they were memorial to help them remember who God is and that he wanted a relationship with them. They were memorial to help them realize that God was real in their day and age just as he was in their past. And, they were memorial to help them realize these were just a foretaste of better things to come – all at the hand of their God.
These feasts are memorial for us today as well. We have seen some of them have been fulfilled; some have not. Those which are fulfilled help us to know the others are also prophetic and will also be fulfilled. We need to be ready for them. Many people during the time of Christ believed in the Scriptures. They just didn’t believe, or were unwilling to admit, the scriptures were being fulfilled in their own day and age. Will you be the same way? Will you be ready if those not yet fulfilled will be fulfilled in your lifetime? I pray you will.
Are these providing you hope just as it did to those waiting for the fulfillment of each of these feasts? Let’s look up to him from whom our hope comes.
Fall Jewish Holidays - Part 3: Sukkot
Fall Jewish Holidays - Part 6: Between Sukkot and Jubilee - Not an easy transition
Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah