THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES סֻכּוֹת
by Avram Yehoshua
The Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths), commemorates the time that Israel was in the Wilderness and Yahveh provided for her. It’s known by a number of different names in Scripture. Another name for it is the Feast of Ingathering. This refers to it’s agricultural aspect. It’s the last of the three harvests: spring, summer and autumn. And it’s the greatest harvest.
It’s also called the Festival of Yahveh or just, the Feast (or the Festival).1 We read of this designation in a number of places in the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible without the New Covenant, i.e., the Old Testament):
1 Kin. 8:2: ‘All the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the Feast, in the month Aetanim, which is the seventh month.’ (It’s in the 7th Hebrew month that the Feast of Tabernacles occurs, corresponding to early October.)
2 Chr. 5:3: ‘All the men of Israel assembled themselves to the King at the Feast that is in the seventh month’ (See also 1st Kings 8:65; 2nd Chron. 7:8).
So it’s not surprising that it’s called the Feast by John:
‘Now the Feast of the Jews was near, the Feast of Tabernacles’ (Jn. 7:2).
It wasn’t just any feast that John was speaking of, but the Feast (of Tabernacles). This is brought out in the Greek with the article for ‘the’ in front of Feast.
Yeshua would use two traditional ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles to reveal His deity, and His desire to sustain and nurture Israel. These are the Water Ceremony and the nightly lighting of the large Lampstands.
The three main holy times of Yahveh are Pesach, Shavuote and Sukote (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles):
Pesach is the death of the lamb that God used to free Israel from Egyptian slavery, and the death of Yeshua, the Lamb of Yahveh, that freed Israel from sin and eternal death. The barley harvest is associated with this holy time.
Shavuote pictures Yahveh giving the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai, and on the same day, 1,450 years later, the Holy Spirit to Israel (Acts 2:1). The wheat harvest is associated with this holy time.
Sukote commemorates the 40 years in the Wilderness that Yahveh fed, clothed and was a shelter for Israel. Sukote is the final and greatest harvest of the year. It speaks of Yahveh’s provision and shelter for us in the Wilderness of this world, and of us being the Harvest of the Lord at the End of Time (Rev. 14:15-19).
The Hebrew Sukote סֻכּוֹת (plural for suka סֻכָּה ), signifies dwellings, booths or huts made by interweaving branches and leaves together. Every year Yahveh commanded Israel to dwell in these make-shift ‘tents’ to remember that He was their Provider and Shelter in the Wilderness, and that our life in this world is only temporary. They were to exchange the security of their permanent homes for the frailty of a suka. The picture or concept that Yahveh was conveying to Israel was that they shouldn’t put their trust in material possessions that offer no real security. Only by allowing God to be our suka or protective covering is one really secure.
In 2nd Peter 1:13-14, the chief Apostle tells us that he regards our existence now as a type of temporary tent. When we are glorified, we’ll exchange our transient existence here (the Wilderness of this world), for the permanence of our glorified bodies:
‘Yes, I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle (tent), to stir you up by putting you in remembrance, knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle (tent), even as our Lord Yeshua haMashiah has showed me.’
The Feast of Tabernacles has two distinct themes: the historical-theological, which means that it really happened: the Sons of Israel dwelt in suka’s in the Wilderness for 40 years (and that there is a theological meaning for us today). And the agricultural, commemorating the final harvest of the season and it’s prophetic significance.
The Feast’s special features are italicized in Lev. 23:33-36; 39-43:
‘Again Yahveh spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Tabernacles (Tents; Booths; Huts; Sukote), for seven days to Yahveh. On the first day is a holy assembly; you shall do no labor of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to Yahveh. On the eighth day you shall have a holy assembly and present an offering by fire to Yahveh. It is a Sabbath assembly. You shall do no labor’ (vv. 33-36).
‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the Land, you must celebrate the Feast of Yahveh for seven days, with a Sabbath rest on the first day and a Sabbath rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you must rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days. You must celebrate it as a Feast to Yahveh for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. You must celebrate it in the seventh month’ (vv. 39-41).
‘You must live in booths for seven days. All the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the Sons of Israel to live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am Yahveh your God’ (vv. 42-43).
The Feast of Tabernacles, like all the Feasts of Yahveh, were not vacations or holidays in the secular sense. The three major ones were noted, as this one is, as a feast to Yahveh (Lev. 23: 34, 39 41, also 23:6; Num 28:17; Dt. 16:10, etc.).
Yahveh brought Israel out of Egypt and made them to dwell in booths (Lev. 23:42-43). It was cause for holy celebration. The reenactment of the booths was meant to drive that point home. It was ‘a holy vacation’ which meant worshipping and rejoicing before God (Lev. 23:40).
One of the strange things about the Feast is that although it’s only for seven days, the day after it ends is called the eighth day, and it’s a Sabbath. More on this in the prophetic picture. In Dt. 16:14, Yahveh says, ‘we must rejoice’ or literally, that, ‘you will be filled with joy,’ as you celebrate Sukote. The reasons for both the seven day feast of Pesach and Sukote is to express the Joy that Yahveh has given us for what He has done. He’s freed us from slavery. Every six months we are to disengage and rejoice for seven days before Yahveh, and with others who have been freed. This is part of the Joy of understanding and walking in the Law of Moses. As a side point, it’s often heard that ‘no one can keep the Law!’ So this is their reason for not keeping any of it. But to celebrate this wonderful time that was given to us by God is to see that there are many things about God’s Law that most believers don’t know.
The Feast begins on the 15th of the 7th month. This day is also a Sabbath. No work is to be done of any kind, except food preparation for the day. It’s a day to fully rejoice before Yahveh. Israel had gathered its crops and was now able to rest after her labor. The use of the foliage and palms branches, etc., speaks of the kind of tents that they would be dwelling in.
These booths or huts were to be a living picture to their sons and daughters that Yahveh had caused them to live that way after their freedom from slavery. In other words, He was their true Shelter and their Provision in the Wilderness, and He would be their Shelter and Provision in the Land that He had given to them.
The Wilderness is a picture of this life that we are currently going through. And the fact that Israel refused to believe Yahveh, that He would defeat the giants in the Land (Num. 14), is a picture of us coming to Yeshua, being delivered out of Satan’s Kingdom but still needing to learn the lesson of death to self in the Wilderness of this world.
All Israel, over 20, fit for war, died in the Wilderness because of unbelief. All except Joshua and Caleb (and possibly some Levites who weren’t numbered with Israel). So why the Wilderness experience for us? That we, like Israel, would be humbled and learn that Man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of Yahveh (Dt. 8:1-3).
It would be the children of the ones brought out from Egypt who believed God and entered into the Promised Land. Not for a vacation but to fight for every city in the Land and totally destroy the inhabitants. Each pagan people in the land of Canaan (the Amorites, Canaanites, etc.), represent a carnal reality (i.e., each tribe’s name reveals a fallen, dominant, Adamic trait, like pride or human compassion, etc.). When we have died to self and become alive unto Messiah Yeshua, we’re able to conquer those spiritual strongholds within us.2
The fire sacrifices for the Feast (Lev. 23:36; Num. 29:12-38), symbolize our dealing with sin in our life, rededicating and re-consecrating ourselves to the King of Kings.
The Pool of Messiah
The ancient Rabbis said, ‘If you hadn’t seen Jerusalem at Sukote, you don’t know what joy is.’ In Yeshua’s time, a million Jews would come to Jerusalem and dwell in tents. They would come from all of Israel (Judah and Galilee at that time), and from all the nations where we had been dispersed to (Acts 2:5-11). It must have been quite a sight. The Temple of Yahveh was the central Reality.
At the Temple there were two ceremonies for the Feast of Tabernacles that Yeshua alluded to. They were the Water and Lampstand ceremonies. The Water Ceremony was done for 7 days (not 8). The 7th day was known as the Great Hosana (Lord! Save us!). These shouts of Hoshiana (Hebrew), was Israel crying out to Yahveh to save them. It was specifically a cry for the Messiah to come.
The Bronze Altar of Sacrifice in the Temple was over-shadowed by a canopy of branches. A priest would take a gold pitcher and go to the Pool of Siloam to get water. Siloam means, ‘sent one’ and refers to the Messiah as the Sent One of Yahveh. The pool was named for the Messiah. From Greek the word is ‘apostle.’ It means, ‘sent one.’ When Yeshua sent the blind man to wash in the waters of Siloam (Jn. 9:7, 11), he washed in the waters of the Sent One. The Hebrew for the pool is Hah-Shi-lo-ach הַשִּׁלּוֹחַ which literally means, ‘the Sent One.’ This is a biblical title for the Messiah and one that Yeshua used about 40 times in relation to Himself in the Book of John. Some examples of this are:
‘For He whom God has sent speaks the Words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure.’ (John 3:34)
‘Yeshua said to them, ‘My food is to do the Will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His Work.’ (Jn. 4:34)
‘so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.’ Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word, and believes Him who sent Me, has Eternal Life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.’ (Jn. 5:23-24)
‘I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’ (Jn. 5:30)
‘But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John. For the Works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.’ (Jn. 5:36)
‘Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the Works themselves.’ (Jn. 14:11)
The last two refer back to Num. 14:11:
‘Yahveh said to Moses, ‘How long will this People despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?!’
Yeshua was saying the same thing. With all the miracles that He did, the people as a whole were still fickle concerning Him as Messiah.
‘And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His Voice at any time nor seen His form.’ You do not have His Word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.’ (Jn. 5:37-38)
‘Yeshua answered and said to them, ‘This is the Work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ (Jn. 6:29)
‘For I have come down from the Heavens, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me, I lose nothing, but raise it up on the Last Day.’ (Jn. 6:38-39)
‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.’ (Jn. 6:44)
‘As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.’ (Jn. 6:57)
‘So Yeshua answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ (Jn. 7:16)
‘Then Yeshua cried out in the Temple, teaching and saying, ‘You both know Me and know where I am from, and I have not come of Myself but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.’ I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.’ (Jn. 7:28-29)
‘Therefore Yeshua said, ‘For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.’ (John 7:33)
Another powerful reference that Yeshua was pointing to when He spoke of being sent by the Father was the Messianic passage in Dt. 18:18-19. This speaks of Yahveh sending a Prophet who would be like Moses:
‘I will raise up a prophet from among their brothers like you and I will put My words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’ ‘And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My Name, I Myself will require it of him.’
That Moses was a unique prophet is acknowledged by all Jews. This can be seen from the fact the only Moses spoke ‘face to face’ with Yahveh (Num. 12:6-8). Not Father Abraham, not Isaiah, not Elijah or anyone else. This is also seen from what is written about Moses after his death:
‘Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom Yahveh knew face to face’. (Deut. 34:10)
Yeshua, in using the term ‘sent’ points to the Prophet who would be like Moses:
‘But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me.’ (John 8:16)
‘I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.’ (John 8:18)
‘And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.’ (John 8:29)
‘Yeshua said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God. For I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.’ (John 8:42)
And the Book of Hebrews literally calls Yeshua the Apostle (the Sent One), and High Priest of our faith (Heb. 3:1). The Pool of the Sent One (Siloam), is where the priest with the gold pitcher came on all the days of Sukote to get his water. He was symbolically getting Living Waters from the Messiah. The Pool of Siloam and the concept of the Sent One of Yahveh is conceptually identical. If only they had been open to drawing Living Waters from the One whom they named the pool after. Yeshua told the blind man to wash in the Pool and when he did, the Waters of the Sent One of God healed him.
The Water Ceremony
As the priest with the pitcher of gold, filled with ‘the Waters of Messiah’ approached the Temple steps, another priest with a gold pitcher filled with wine met him and together they went up the Temple steps to the Bronze Altar amid hundreds of thousands of Jews singing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118; psalms of praise to Yahveh). They were waving the branches (palm, myrtle and willow), and the fruit (like an oval lemon called an etrog)3 which pictured Yahveh as both the One who gave them shelter and who provided for them. The joy was undescribable. A million hands and hearts lifted up in praise to Yahveh for what He had done in providing food and protection for Israel, both back in the Wilderness, and ‘now.’
The Levites led the people in singing, playing the musical instruments of King David.4 The shofars blasted along with the trumpets, etc. Sacrifice was offered and the contents of the pitchers poured out, mingling together as they fell into the silver basin pipeline at the base of the Bronze Altar.
This was an expression of thanks for past, present and future rains. No rain, no food. No food, no life. Their prayers that day were for future rain. The wine mingled with the water pictured life with joy. It was a picture of Messianic hope. As Moses supplied water in the Wilderness to Israel, so Messiah would provide Living Waters for Israel. Jeremiah speaks of these Living Waters. Israel had gone after other gods but the water of those gods was foul for Israel. It was an illusion. Worship of another god was a deception:
‘Has a nation changed gods when they were not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, Oh Heavens at this and shudder, be very desolate!’ declares Yahveh. ‘For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water’ (Jer. 2:11-13).
Isaiah also speaks of God’s LivingWaters and His desire that Israel come to Him for heavenly Food. This speaks of the Body and Blood of Messiah Yeshua:
‘Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the Waters. And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you according to the faithful mercies shown to David.’ ‘Seek Yahveh while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near’ (Is. 55:1-3, 6).
Into this Temple setting and understanding comes Yeshua on Sukote and proclaims Himself the Living Waters of God. The Apostle John tells us that it was in the middle of Sukote that Yeshua taught: ‘Now the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was at hand’ (John 7:2). And now, ‘about the middle of the Feast, Yeshua went up into the Temple and taught’ (Jn. 7:14).
Yeshua was teaching in the Temple during Sukote. With the background of the water ceremony for the Temple, on the 7th day, Yeshua proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah of Israel, the Fountain of Living Waters:
“On the last and greatest day of the Festival, Yeshua stood there and cried out: ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me! Let the man keep coming and keep drinking who believes in Me! As Scripture says, ‘From his innermost being shall flow Fountains of Living Waters!’’” (Jn. 7:37-39)
We know that it was the 7th day, and not the 8th day, as the 8th day had no water ceremony. The 8th day wasn’t part of Sukote proper.
A land without water pictures a people in rebellion to Yahveh (Ps. 63:1). A people who have not the water or food of Yahveh. God has given us of His Spirit that we might be used as a vessel that contains the Waters of Life, for us as well as for others who are thirsting for True knowledge of the God of Israel. And one day, the greater fulfillment of Sukote will come, as Rev. 22:1, 6 speak of:
‘Then he showed me a River of the Waters of Life, clear as crystal, coming from the Throne of God and of the Lamb,’
‘Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the one who thirsts from the Spring’ (Fountain) ‘of the Waters of Life without cost.’
This is a direct reference to the food and wine of Isaiah 55:1 and the Fountains of Living Waters in John 7:37-39. Red wine has a double symbol: joy and sacrifice. Psalm 104:15 speaks of this joy:
‘And wine which makes man’s heart glad and olive oil to make his face glisten and bread which strengthens man’s heart.’
The color of the red wine also pictured the blood of the sacrifice. Water is equal to life. Perhaps it was this ceremony of drawing water on Sukote that John was alluding to when he wrote about Yeshua’s side being pierced and water coming out:
‘But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified and his testimony is true. And he knows that he is telling the truth so that you also may believe.’ (Jn. 19:34-35)
The Blood and Waters of Yeshua, falling upon the Earth meant that the Earth would produce a great Harvest of Joy. It’s symbolic of believers in Yeshua, for we are made of the dust of the Earth. And so when the Blood and Waters of Yeshua are in us, the Lord will have a harvest of people who have been fed and nurtured on the very Food and Drink of Heaven (Jn. 6:55).
This is the Drawing of the Water ceremony at Sukote and how Yeshua revealed Himself to be not only Messiah, but God in the Flesh. He used the very words that Yahveh used in Jeremiah (Living Waters) to reveal His deity. Being Messiah, He is the Son (Ps. 2:2, 6-7). As Son of Yahveh, we know Him as deity in flesh. As such, He is able to give us the Living Waters of Joy, or as Yahveh spoke through Isaiah, ‘Therefore you will joyously draw waters from the Springs of Salvation’ (12:3).
Israel is a dry and thirsty land (Wilderness) without the Waters of Heaven today. But that will soon change as the Rain from Heaven will descend upon her who has paid double for all her sins (Is. 40:1-2).
The world is a wilderness but Yahveh has been providing Living Waters with Joy (Messiah Yeshua) for both Jew and Gentile, for 2,000 years.
In the evenings during Sukote, there was a ceremony involving the lighting of the Lampstands in the Temple. In the days of Yeshua, 1,400 years after the Cloud in the Wilderness, the Lampstand ceremony pictured the Fire in the Cloud by night. In the Courtyard of the Temple, high on the Temple Mount platform, four huge lampstands were placed. These were shaped in the form of a menorah (the seven branched Lampstand in the Holy Place). These four lampstands were high enough that ladders were needed to climb to the top of them. And the pants of the Levitical priests served as wicks for the olive oil. All of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside would be lit up for miles around.
This fire and light were also symbolic of Creation Light and of the Light of Salvation or Freedom. Israel was saved from the darkness of Egyptian slavery. This was literally pictured in the Ninth Plague. There was thick darkness in Egypt but light in Goshen for the Hebrews. Darkness of course, also symbolizes evil.
The Fire of God was especially seen in the Light of the Shekinat Yahveh, the Shekinah Glory Cloud (Pillar of Cloud with Fire in it). This was the Holy Spirit and the visible Presence of the Invisible God. This Cloud with Fire of God guided Israel in the Wilderness for 40 years, and what Sukote harkened back to. And the lampstands symbolized this:
‘Then the Cloud covered the Tabernacle and the Glory of Yahveh filled the Tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the Tabernacle because the Cloud had settled on it and the Glory of Yahveh filled the Tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the Cloud was taken up from over the Tabernacle, the Sons of Israel would set out but if the Cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys the Cloud of Yahveh was on the Tabernacle by day and there was Fire in it by night in the sight of all the House of Israel.’ (Ex. 40:34-38)
The light from the Lampstands was a Picture of God’s Light of Creation, Salvation, freedom, provision, shelter and guidance, going forth from Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah 2:3 proclaims:
‘And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Yahveh, to the House of the God of Jacob. That He may teach us concerning His Ways and that we may walk in His Paths. For the Torah will go forth from Zion, the Word of Yahveh from Jerusalem.’
Adding to this night time scene of Lampstands is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jewish people were on the Temple Mount holding lit torches. It must have been an incredible setting. The torches were seen to be a reflection of the Temple light which was God’s Light being reflected through His people. Into all this Yeshua shouts,
‘I am the Light of the World! He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the Light of Life!’ (Or the ‘Light which gives Life’ John 8:12).
Yeshua is not only proclaiming His Messiahship but again, that He is God the Son. No prophet of God before Him ever said anything like that. No one could claim that they were the Light of the World. Here we see Yeshua telling us the He and the Father are one in nature (i.e., deity). For we know that Yahveh is the Light of the world also:
‘Yahveh is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear? Yahveh is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Ps. 27:1).5
I remember a time when I had been asked to speak at a church camp-out. At the campfire, when it was dark, we could all see one another when we were around the fire. We could see where to walk to get to the tents that were near. But when I left the campfire and went to the outskirts, to a trail that I knew was there from the afternoon, I was quite surprised. In the dark, I couldn’t tell a tree from the trail. It was then that the point came home to me of just how important it is to walk in the Light of Messiah in this world of darkness. If I had tried to go down that trail, a branch could have poked out my eye. I couldn’t see. Or a wild animal might attack me without me even being aware that it was there. And all because there was no light. I saw that it was very dangerous to go anywhere in this world, without His Light shining on our path.
Yeshua sheds His Light on the Way or Path to the Father, in this world now. In Yeshua we come to know the Father. He is real, compassionate and self sacrificing. Our journey to Him is lit up by Yeshua, the Light of the world. We don’t have to stumble along the Path or the Way. We can see clearly where we are going and are able to confront anything on our Path. Of course, the Scriptures speak of this: ‘Your Word is a Lamp to my feet and a Light to my path’ (Ps. 119:105). In Revelation we see both the Father and the Son as the True Light:
‘I saw no Temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple. And the City has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it for the Glory of God has illumined it and its Lamp is the Lamb.’ (Rev. 21:22-23)
In Rev. 7:9-17, a multitude of Gentiles are waving palm branches. This is a picture of the Commandment to take branches, found in the Feast of Tabernacles, the End-Time Feast of Israel:
‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you must rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days.’ (Lev. 23:40)
The taking and the waving of the branches thanked God for giving them homes in the Wilderness, and watching over them, etc. And now they are in the Heavens with God. Hallelu-Yah!
Psalm 27:5 says, ‘For in the day of evil, He will keep me safe in His Suca (dwelling). In the Shelter of His Tent, He will hide me.’ The ‘day of evil’ is the Day of Judgment. If we are ‘in Yeshua’, we’ll be safe on that Day. The suka of God (Messiah Yeshua), is also the Secret Place of the Most High, as Psalm 91:1 relates.
With the knowledge of the ceremonies of Sukote, the Feast of Tabernacles comes alive for us today and we begin to understand the profound significance of Yeshua’s words in John. We also see how the meaning of Sukote has been interwoven throughout the Scriptures, for us to see Yeshua as our Messiah. Who would dare say that the celebrating of Sukote is not pleasing to God?
The Prophetic Picture
Sukote is Yahveh’s Feast of Thanksgiving. It commemorates both the final agricultural harvest of Israel and the Final End Time Harvest of Yahveh on Earth, as well as the current ingathering (harvest) of Jews from all over the Earth today, to Israel. Jews from more than 100 different countries have now ‘come home’ to Israel (Ezk. 36:22f.).
The Final End Time Harvest for all believers will come after the Tribulation and after the Thousand Year reign of Messiah (Feast of Trumpets) in Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4-6; Ezk. 40-48), and after the Day of Judgment (Yom Kipor, Rev. 20:11ff). Yeshua will be with His followers at the Sukote Table with His Bride, called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).
Sukote lasts for seven days and so did ancient Jewish weddings. The Marriage Supper will also last ‘seven days’, symbolic of the seven days of Sukote. It’s a wedding and believers are His Bride!
The Eighth Day, a holy Sabbath, is the ‘conclusion’ to the honeymoon of Sukote. It’s the end of the Wedding Week and the Beginning of Eternity as the Wife of Messiah (Eph. 5:22-32; Rev. 21:9).
Yahveh desires all His people Israel (both Jew and Gentile who believe in Messiah Yeshua), to celebrate Sukote today. The Prophet Zechariah speaks of this, and also gives a warning to those who refuse to celebrate it (note vv. 17-19):
Zechariah 14:16: ‘Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, Yahveh of Hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.’
Zech. 14:17-19: ‘And it will be that whichever of the families of the Earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahveh of Hosts, there will be no rain on them.’ ‘If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them. It will be the plague with which Yahveh smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.’ ‘This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.’
At a time that hasn’t yet come to pass, most everyone on Earth will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. And if some people won’t, great will be their punishment. If rain doesn’t fall, it means there won’t be any crops. It’s called a famine and many people die due to the lack of food from the harvest.
JEWISH OBSERVANCE OF SUKOTE
The special event that separates this Feast from all the others is the building of the suka (the makeshift, hut-like structure), and the waving of branches and fruit, symbolizing how Israel lived in theWilderness and God’s provision for them both there and in Israel.
Sukas can be seen all over Israel, but today they’re prefab, made of metal poles. They’re next tohomes, on top of roofs, alongside restaurants, and wherever else people can put them up. Most Israeliswill eat in them, although most don’t obey the commandment to sleep in them (Lev. 23:42) becauseof perverse rabbinic interpretation that says that one doesn’t have to sleep in them. Of course, ancientIsrael in the Wilderness not only ate in them, but also slept in them.
Different kinds of branches are commanded to be woven together to make the suka and the rabbinic lulav:
‘Now on the ﬁrst day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palmbranches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and you must rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days’ (Lev. 23:40).
The branches used by the Rabbis are the palm, myrtle and willow.6They bind them together, calling it a lulav (after their palm branch designation7and wave it, along with the etrog, during a ceremony inthe synagogue symbolizing God’s mastery over the universe. The synagogues will have special services dedicated to Sukote and the protection and guidance that God gave, and still gives, to Israel.
As the Eighth Day fades into history the Rabbis have devised a ‘Ninth Day’ called Simchat Torah. It literally means, ‘Joy of the Torah’ and celebrates the end of the traditional Torah readings inDeuteronomy and begins the readings all over again in Genesis. This is rabbinic, that the Torah readings end and begin on this day8but it’s the reason for Simchat Torah, even though the Rabbis rightly believe that the Torah was given to Israel on Shavu’ot, the Feast of Weeks in the summer, around early June, which means that their readings should either begin then, or in the ﬁrst Hebrew month, whenMoses led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-2). Wikipedia writes that,
“Simchat Torah…is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle…In the morning, the last parasha9of Deuteronomy and the ﬁrst parashah of Genesis are read in the synagogue.On each occasion, when the ark is opened, all the worshippers leave their seats todance and sing with all the Torah scrolls in a joyous celebration…In Orthodox andConservative communities outside Israel, Shemini Atzeret10is a two-day holiday and the Simchat Torah festivities are observed on the second day’ (i.e. the ninth day).‘The ﬁrst day is referred to as Shemini Atzeret and the second day as Simchat Torah,although both days are ofﬁcially Shemini Atzeret according to Halakha, and this is reﬂected in the liturgy. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day. Reform congregations, even not in Israel, may do likewise.11
WHY CELEBRATE SUKOTE?
The celebration of Sukote, as well as all the Feasts, not only honor Yahveh and Messiah for what They have done and Who They are, it’s commanded. It’s a matter of obedience to the Scriptures, the Word of God, that Sukote be observed. Satan’s lie is that ‘the Feasts and the Law were only for the Jews.’ But Gentile believers are grafted into Israel (Rom. 11), and her rules become theirs.
Sukote was an ancient and present reality in the life of Israel. It also speaks of the ongoing reality of the Son of Man and how the Feasts experientially make us knowledgeable about our God and King. Yahveh placed within each Feast a prophetic picture that still points to the future. We’re also created ‘to celebrate’ things, and God has given us much to celebrate about. It’s interesting to note that Col. 2:17 speaks of the Feasts as signs or pictures of the future, what is still to come:
‘Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a Feast or a new moon or a Sabbath day, things which are a shadow of things to come but the substance belongs to Messiah’.
Paul speaks of the Feasts, etc., in the present tense with the Greek verb estin (‘estin’ is/are). The Greek literally states that the Sabbath and Feasts ‘are a shadow of the coming things’12 (events). When we know and walk in the Feasts of Israel, we not only know more about our Father and His Son, but also about things to come.
Paul is warning us that we shouldn’t let others judge us, to condemn us, as is the theme of Colossians, when we observe which foods to eat and how to celebrate Passover, etc. It doesn’t say anything about Sunday, Easter or Christmas, as they weren’t observed by Christians in Paul’s day. They only came into the Church later, and that through the Roman Catholic Church, not the Apostles. But the point here is that the Christians were observing the Feasts, Sabbath and new moons and Paul is wanting the Colossians to know that others (most likely new converts to Christianity from Gnosticism), shouldn’t judge them as to how they observed the Feasts, not that they shouldn’t observe them.
Here are some reasons why we should celebrate the Feasts of Israel:
1 To obey Yahveh (which is always a blessing; Lv. 23; Num. 9:9-14; Dt. 16:13-15).
2 To follow in the footsteps of Yeshua. Yeshua observed the holy days every year of His adult Life. Also, all the Apostles and believers continued to observe Sukote and all the Feasts, after the resurrection (Acts 21:20, 1st Cor. 5:6-8; Col. 2:16).
3 To enter into the rest and ‘holy celebrations’ that God gives us every six months (Passover coming six months before and after Sukote. It’s God’s way of disengaging us from the world for times of joy and refreshment in Him.) Of course, there’s the one day of Shavuote (Pentecost), in the summer and also the Feast of Trumpets in the autumn.
4 To spend quality time with the Lord, family and friends, sanctioned by God for His people. Many are still trapped in Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving Day. These are pagan feasts. They don’t realize that Satan is not only a counterfeiter but a poor one at that. These pagan feasts are only one day. Passover and Sukote are seven days. (If Sukote thanks God for the fall harvest, what are Christians doing thanking God for the harvest on ‘Thanksgiving Day’? It’s not authorized by God in the Bible but it is found among the ancient pagans as a feast to their gods.13 (No, the Pilgrims weren’t the first to celebrate it.)
These four points are godly reasons for celebrating God’s holy time of Sukote and all His Feasts. As we enter into the reality of this Feast, we find Him and ourselves in a way that no other Feast can bring to us. For in this Feast we come to sense the Lord dwelling or tabernacling (suka) with us. Our sense of His protection and provision is made evident in our time with Him and what He has created this Feast for; His people Israel. He is our God and isn’t He Wonder-Full?!
Sukote is a living reminder of God’s gracious deliverance from Egypt and provision in the Wilderness for Israel in spite of their carnal and repugnant attitude toward Him. As we enter the suka, we too are reminded and realize God’s gracious deliverance and provision for us as we wander in the wilderness of this world.
Israel rebelled against Yahveh. His ways weren’t enough for Israel back then, and it’s not enough for our carnal nature either. Both they and us have to die in the Wilderness that ‘a new generation’ can be raised up that will believe God and His word of bringing us into the Promised Land (of making us like Yeshua). And this means death to self, that He would increase in us as we decrease. It involves total consecration to our Lord and Savior, as seen in the daily sacrifices for the Feast (Num. 29:12-38).
Is God really our dwelling place in this world (Ps. 90:1)? Is He really enough for us or do we curse Him and crave the garlic, leeks and onions of our slavery to Satan? Is He really enough or do we cringe in fear and refuse to believe because of the giants who inhabit the Land of blessing that God wants to give us? As you lie down in the suka and become one with ancient Israel in the Wilderness, may you come to see your cravings and fears that would block you from going on with God. Confess your sins and determine with His Spirit, to follow the Master in all things.
Praise God for His Spirit of tenderness and power that enables us to be born again and become one with Messiah. He has overcome all our obstinate nature, that we might marry Him and live with Him in His Suka for eternity.
HOW TO CELEBRATE SUKOTE
It’s great to have a congregation of people celebrating it with you, camping out. With at least eight days, there’d be special times for meetings and rejoicing before Him. Feasting would be a big part of this as well as the study of His Word with praise and worship. Waving the branches and the fruit (any good fall fruit will do), before Yeshua, as a reminder to us of life in the Wilderness suka, and all He did, as well as what He will do, is also part of His commandment to rejoice.
If you only have yourself and possibly some family members or friends, you might consider going to a place where you can have some relative privacy; a state park, or your backyard, and build a suka there. Praise and worship the Lord. Feast and invite your neighbors and tell them what God has done for you, the least of which is that He gives you an eight day holy vacation because of what He did for ancient Israel, what He has done in Messiah for us (He dwells within), and what He intends to do for us forever dwelling with Him in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21).
When Ruti and I lived in the States, we’d camp out with members of our congregation at a state park. Sometimes we’d try different state parks and sometimes we’d go to the same one year after year. It would get to be that by the time we had to leave the park, we didn’t want to go back to the city! We were so ‘at peace’ and very grateful for the fellowship, the study of His Word, praise and worship times, and times of peace and quiet.
When making a suka, one needs to be aware that the Commandment, ‘to live in it’, applies only to the native born, here in Israel (Lev. 23:42). That doesn’t mean that people in the States and Europe, etc., shouldn’t celebrate the Feast but that they can determine if they should sleep out in their suka’s (or tents) during this time because of weather conditions.
After Ruti and I realized the ‘native born’ aspect of the Feast, and it took many years before we saw this, we’d rent cabins at that same state park instead of sleeping out in tents and bearing the brunt of the inclement weather that would sometimes happen during Sukote.
Israel, on the other hand, with it’s pleasant climate at Sukote, is ideal for sleeping out. Seems like God thinks of everything. As for the suka itself, we always camped out in tents at that time, figuring that was as close as we could get in a state park that wouldn’t allow us to take their trees down to build sukote (many suka’s : )
Why celebrate Sukote? Because Yahveh commands His people Israel to celebrate it. What we eat, when we assemble, what days we celebrate as holy and what attitudes we walk in, etc., should all revolve around the God of Israel, what His Word tells us, and our complete consecration to Him. At least for those who take Him seriously. He’s our God and He determines the Way we should walk, just as a father should determine the way his son goes. With the Blood and Spirit of Messiah Yeshua, we can walk in the Holy Days and all the other Commandments that pertain to us, as Yeshua and all His Apostles did. As we keep His Ways, we are proclaiming to our Father first, that we value Him above everything and everyone else. And then to the world, that we are part of His Chosen people. Sukote is a time where Yahveh commands us to cease from our daily activities and rejoice before Him for seven (eight) days:
‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and you must rejoice before Yahveh your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a Feast to Yahveh for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. You must celebrate it in the seventh month.’ (Lev. 23:40-41)
May You Sense His Dwelling within You this Sukote!
1 Geoffrey Wigoder, Editor in Chief, The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, 7th Edition (New York-Oxford: Facts on File, 1990), p. 893.
2 See The Seven Tribes of Canaan at www.seedofabraham.net/7tribes.html for more on how the different tribes living in Canaan typify the Adamic nature.
3 It’s a ‘medium to large sized bumpy yellow skinned citrus having a very acidic flavor. Primarily the skin is used, and the fruit plays a role in the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles. The origin of the citron is unknown, but it was the first cultivated citrus fruit, with records dating back to 4000 B.C. It was a common fruit in the Mediterranean region, and today is cultivated primarily in Sicily, Corsica, and Crete, Greece, Israel, as well as a number of Central and South American countries.’ (Taken from http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/etrog.htm)
4 1st Chron. 23:5; 2nd Chron. 7:6; 29:26-27. See also, 1st Sam. 18:6; 2nd Sam. 6:5; 1st Chron. 15:16; 16:5, 42; 2nd Chron. 5:13, etc.
5 For more on the deity of Messiah Yeshua, see Yeshua: God the Son at www.seedofabraham.net/yeshua.html.
6Wigoder, The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 893.
7 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lulav states that the lulav is ‘ a ripe, green, closed frond of the date palm tree.’‘To qualify for use as one of the’ three branches of the rabbinical ceremony, ‘the lulav must be ramrod straight, with whole leaves that lay closely together, and not be bent or broken at the top. The term lulav also refers to the lulav in combination with’ the two other branches (from the myrtle and willow tress) ‘that arebound together to perform’ the rabbinical good deed or mitzva ‘of waving the lulav.’
8 In the synagogue every Sabbath, the Torah is read, section by section so that in a year’s time, one cycle iscomplete.
9 Parasha is a section (usually a couple of chapters) of the Torah that is read each Sabbath.
10Shemini Atzeret means the concluding eighth day Sabbath (i.e. the day after the seven day Feast of Tabernacles).
11 From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simchat_Torah.
12 Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort, Translators, J. D. Douglas, Editor, The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990), p. 702. The basis for this interlinear is The United Bible Societies’ Third Corrected Edition of the Greek New Testament. This is the same text as the 26th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece, by Kurt Aland, M. Black, C. Martini, A. Wikgren and Bruce Metzger.
13 See Thanksgiving Day at www.seedofabraham.net/thnksgiv.html to understand how it’s pagan.
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