Today marks the first day of the Jewish celebration of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. It is the seventh and final feast God gave Israel. It is the most festive of all the feasts and is mentioned more often in scripture than any of the others. The word sukkot in Hebrew is translated “tabernacles” in English and means booths or huts. Throughout this seven-day feast, the Jews are required to live in temporary shelters to remind them of God’s provision during their 40 years of wilderness wandering. The holiday also is called the Feast of Ingathering (Ex. 23:16; 34:22) because it is observed after all the fall crops are harvested. This happy feast commemorates God’s past provision in the desert and His present goodness in providing the fall harvest.
The feast begins on the 15th day of Tishri (September/October), five days after the Day of Atonement. The first day of Tabernacles and the day after Tabernacles (known as Shemini Atzeret) are sacred assemblies, or Sabbaths. No work is permitted on these days. This is one of three pilgrim feasts, along with Unleavened Bread and Weeks (Pentecost), requiring all Jewish males to appear before the Lord in the Temple.
Learn more about the Feast of Tabernacles:
Download a free study: Jesus in the Feasts of Israel
With Easter approaching, as Christians celebrate the finished work of Christ — His death, burial and resurrection — it may increase our joy to see His earthly ministry in light of the Jewish feasts. In this post, we will complete our three-part look at Jesus in the Passover. For a free download of the complete study of Jesus in the feasts of Israel, click here.
Jesus appeared at Passover during each of the three years of His public ministry. Each time He revealed key truths about Himself and His work as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In each appearance, Jesus illustrated His person and work through confrontations and confirmations.
The Jewish celebration of Passover begins today [April 8] at sundown and is the first of seven major feasts. The feasts of Israel are religious celebrations remembering God’s great acts of salvation in the history of His people. The term “feasts” in Hebrew literally means “appointed times” and in Scripture the feasts often are called “holy convocations.” They are times God has appointed for holy purposes.
While there are many religious celebrations in Jewish history and custom, seven are most significant: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles. God established the timing and sequence of these feasts to reveal to us a special story — the work of the Messiah in the redemption of mankind and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.
Where we are:
Part 1: Judgment
Part 2: Historical Interlude
Part 3: Salvation
When this takes place:
Chapter 12 likely takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king.
Isa. 12:2: Indeed, God is my salvation. I will trust Him and not be afraid. Because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.
Isaiah recites a song of praise that God’s people will sing when the Messiah accomplishes His mission.
Isaiah’s song of praise is similar to the song Moses and the Israelites sang when God delivered them from bondage in Egypt (Ex. 15:1-21).
Thanksgiving to the Lord (Isa. 12:1-3)
Isaiah uses the phrase “on that day” 48 times in his prophetic writings, often to emphasize the certainty of God’s pending judgment. But he uses this common phrase twice in Isaiah 12, in verses 1 and 4, to preview days in which God’s anger is set aside and His compassion is brought to the forefront. These are days in which His people will exalt Him with praise, thanksgiving, and celebration.
The idea of salvation (v. 2) in the Jewish mind is tied to the feast of tabernacles. The reference in verse 3 to joyfully drawing water from the springs of salvation reminds the people of the ceremony practiced each day of the feast in which water is drawn from the Pool of Siloam, and it foreshadows the day when Jesus would stand, on the final day of the feast, and proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). “As the Jew was reminded by the feast of tabernacles of his wanderings in tents in the wilderness, so the Jew-Gentile Church to come shall call to mind, with thanksgiving, the various past ways whereby God has at last brought them to the heavenly ‘city of habitation’ (Ps. 107)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, S. Is 12:2).
Some may wonder how to reconcile the concept of a loving God with Isaiah’s depiction of the Lord as angry. Matthew Henry comments, “Though God may for a time be angry with his people, yet his anger shall at length be turned away; it endures but for a moment, nor will he contend for ever. By Jesus Christ, the root of Jesse, God’s anger against mankind was turned away; for he is our peace…The turning away of God’s anger, and the return of his comforts to us, ought to be the matter of our joyful thankful praises” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 12:1).
Testimony to the world (Isa. 12:4-6)
The saved remnant of Israel will thank the Lord for what He has done and call upon one another to tell the world about His greatness. Isaiah previews several acts of worship that will flow from the hearts of his redeemed Jewish brothers, who will say:
- “Give thanks to the Lord; proclaim His name!”
- “Celebrate His deeds among the peoples.”
- “Declare that His name is exalted.”
- “Sing to the Lord, for He has done great things.”
- “Let this be known throughout the earth.”
- “Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in His greatness.”
“Chapter 12 is a fitting climax to the contrast between the fall of the Assyrian Empire, which was threatening Judah in Isaiah’s day, and the rise of God’s glorious kingdom, which will certainly come. Eventually all the world will know of God’s truth” (John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1058).
Gary V. Smith comments that in this short hymn of praise “worship and evangelism are connected at the hip … For worship to become evangelical it has to be done outside of the four walls of a church, where non-believers can hear God’s praise” (The New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 284).
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Your text on Yom Kippur says the Ark of the Covenant was never recovered after the captivity. Is there any record that it was taken into captivity or destroyed?
According to the Jewish Virtual Library (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org), what happened to the ark after the captivity is unknown and has been debated for centuries. It is unlikely the Babylonians took it because the detailed lists of what they took make no mention of the Ark. “According to some sources, Josiah, one of the final kings to reign in the First Temple period, learned of the impending invasion of the Babylonians and hid the Ark. Where he hid it is also questionable – according to one midrash, he dug a hole under the wood storehouse on the Temple Mount and buried it there (Yoma 53b). Another account says that Solomon foresaw the eventual destruction of the Temple, and set aside a cave near the Dead Sea, in which Josiah eventually hid the Ark (Maimonides, Laws of the Temple, 4:1).”
Some Ethiopian Christians claim they have the Ark today. In Axum, Ethiopia, it is widely believed that the Ark is being held in the Church of Saint Mary of Zion, guarded by a monk known as the “Keeper of the Ark.” According to the Axum Christian community, they acquired the Ark during the reign of Solomon, when his son Menelik, whose mother was the Queen of Sheba, stole the Ark after a visit to Jerusalem. The claim has been impossible to verify, for no one but the monk is allowed into his tent.
A more plausible claim is that of archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer, who has conducted research on the Temple Mount and inside the Dome of the Rock. He claims to have found the spot on the Mount where the Holy of Holies was located during the First Temple period. In the center of that spot is a section of bedrock cut out in dimensions that may match those of the Ark as reported in Exodus. Based on his findings, Ritmeyer has postulated that the Ark may be buried deep inside the Temple Mount. However, it is unlikely that excavation will be allowed on the Mount any time soon by the Muslim or Israeli authorities.
All the feasts are mandated in the Pentateuch, supposedly written by Moses. What is your view concerning the historicity of Moses and the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), and more generally the first part of the Old Testament?
While there are some who believe the Bible should be read as literature rather than Scripture, and some scholars who deny the historical truth of Gen. 1-11, it may be best for us to look at how Jesus felt about the Fathers and the Old Testament. For example:
- Jesus referred to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46; 7:19 and others). Also, Moses appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah and Jesus (Matt. 17:3).
- Throughout the Gospels, Jesus quoted richly from the Old Testament, especially in regard to the Messianic prophecies.
- He spoke of Adam and Eve as real persons (Matt. 19:3-6)
- He talked about the worldwide flood in the days of Noah as a historical fact (Matt. 24:37-38).
- He compared His physical resurrection to the reality of Jonah’s three-day experience in the belly of the great fish (Matt. 12:38-40).
- He made numerous references to Abraham as a real person (Matt. 8:11; 22:32; Luke 3:8; 13:28; 16:19-31; John 8:58).
- His disciples staked His claim of being Messiah, in part, to His lineage, which included Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38).
What life application should we take into our lives from the feasts? Understanding that they point to the return of Christ, and that some churches even celebrate these with the Jewish people, how can or do the feasts or the knowledge of them fit into our worship practices today?
It seems to me that the Western church has largely lost the “Jewishness” of the Scriptures. A systematic teaching of the feasts would strengthen the faith of believers as they see God’s hand in human history, and they may serve to convince unbelievers of the amazing prophetic truths of Scripture.
In addition, worship services and sermons devoted to the feasts in the spring and fall may help all of us reconnect with the fact that God’s Anointed One came to us through God’s chosen people, the Jews. One great opportunity that exists now is the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted during the Passover. What a great opportunity to teach Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Also, baptism gives us the opportunity to talk about Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
On a personal level, I know I have become much more aware of the imminent return of Christ in the fall, and I watch with anticipation for Trumpets, when the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
There are other Jewish feasts besides the seven we have studied. What can you tell us about Purim and Hanukkah, for example?
Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination, thanks to the heroic acts of Esther, a Jewish woman chosen as Persia’s queen. Her story is told in the book of Esther. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which usually falls in March. The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that the evil Persian leader Haman used to choose a date for the massacre of all Jews. Haman’s sinister plot against the Jews was thwarted when Queen Esther, at the urging of her cousin Mordecai, risked death by revealing the plot to King Ahasuerus. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was put to death. Purim is a joyous celebration preceded by a fast, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. Observant Jews read the book of Esther, enjoy food and drink, and make gifts to charity.
Hanukkah (also spelled Hanukka, Chanuka and Chanukah) is one of the most joyous times of the Jewish year. The people remember the miraculous military victory of the small, ill-equipped Jewish army over the ruling Greek Syrians, who had banned the Jewish religion and desecrated the Temple. In addition, they celebrate the miracle of the small cruse of consecrated oil that burned for eight days in the Temple’s menorah. As a result, Hanukkah is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th day of Kislev, which normally falls in December. It also is known as the festival of lights. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting a menorah for eight nights; eating foods fried in oil, especially potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts; and playing with a dreidel, a four-sided top. Many non-Jews – and even some Jews – equate this holiday with Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs such as gift-giving and adorning the house in festive decorations.
Neither Purim nor Hanukkah are “appointed times” or “holy convocations” in Scripture. Nevertheless, they play important roles in Jewish history and modern custom.