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Tabernacles - A Feast of Gladness

There are only two feasts which last for seven days – The Feast of Unleavened Bread at Passover and The Feast of Sukkot. The first and last of the seven appointed feasts of the LORD: these are like two bookends or the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and Tav of the Feasts.

Sukkot is the final of the seven feasts and occurs on the 15th of Tishri which is at the time of the full moon when, as Alfred Edersheim says, ‘is when the sacred month had, so to speak, attained its full strength.’

Celebrating the Feast of Sukkot
Israel_photo_gallery on VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

This is the most extravagant of Feasts, a real celebration, a time of great joy and rejoicing because it is the Feast of Ingathering, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, Booths or Sukkot which is its Hebrew title.

Deuteronomy 16:13-15

'You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.'

It is a harvest celebration – many churches have traditionally celebrated harvest festivals at this time of year and this is also reflected in the American Thanksgiving.

The Feast of Tabernacles was actually considered the most significant feast for Israel. One way we see this is in its name. In the Hebrew Scriptures it was referred to as the “feast of the LORD” (Leviticus 23:39) and it became common to refer to it simply as “the feast” (1 Kings. 8:2, 65; 2 Chronicles 5:3; 7:8; Nehemiah 8:14; Ezekiel 45:25). In these passages, there are other textual clues that make it clear that “the feast” refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. For instance, Ezekiel tells us “the feast” is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month, which parallels Leviticus 23:34. You can understand the importance of this feast also in terms of the sacrifices which are made, as listed in Numbers 29:12-34.

Each day the burnt offerings would include a descending number of bulls starting on the first day with 13, second day with 12, third day with 11 and so on to the seventh day with 7. Also offered each day were 2 rams, 14 male lambs and one goat. Compared with other feasts the number of rams and lambs is twice as much as for the Feast of Unleavened Bread whilst the number of bulls is fivefold (There were 14 during Passover week). The total then for the week for Sukkot was 70 bulls, 14 rams, 98 lambs and 7 goats = 189 sacrifices. You may have noticed the significance of the number 7 in the Feast – lasted 7 days in the seventh month and all the resultant number of sacrifices were divisible by 7.

Regarding the number of bulls which was 70 – this number was thought to be highly significant by the Rabbis. ‘There were 70 bullocks, to correspond to the number of the 70 nations in the world.’ (Genesis 10 – descendants of Noah).

They saw the conversion of the nations, Gentiles, to the God of Israel!

Well of course we also see the Prophetic aspect of this feast in that it is the ingathering of souls and one in which Gentiles are specifically mentioned. In Zechariah 14:16-18

'Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.'

I love the inference in Exodus 23:16 'You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labour.'

I had this lovely thought that at the time of the final ingathering of the harvest you will see the fruit of your labour. It will of course be what God has done, but through you that you may know what was the outcome of your prayers, your encouraging or challenging word given to others.

For Christians here are some relevant verses from the New Testament.

John 15:16 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.'

Matthew 6:19, 20 'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.'

1 Corinthians 3:7-9 'So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labour. For we are God's fellow workers.'

James 5:7 'Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.'

1 Corinthians 15:58 'Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.'

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