The idea of salvation in the Jewish mind — as written in Isa. 12:2 for example — 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).
Everyone can see Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles by noting the Messianic symbols God gave us — and Jesus fulfilled — in the feast, most notably:
1. The tabernacle.
2. The water.
3. The light.
4. The harvest.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Tabernacles||Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, 31:10-13||15th – 21st of Tishri, with an 8th day added as a climax to all the feasts (September/October).||To commemorate God’s protection during the wilderness wanderings and to rejoice in the harvest.||Restoration: The peace and prosperity of God’s Kingdom on earth.|
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, 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.
The Biblical Observance
Four passages of scripture outline the observance of Tabernacles: Lev. 23:33-43; Num. 29:12-39; Deut. 16:13-17, and Deut. 31:10-13. A great number of sacrifices are required each day: one goat, 14 lambs, two rams, and a number of bulls – 13 on the first day, then decreasing by one each day. In addition, the accompanying meal offerings and drink offerings are presented. The work is so intense that all 24 divisions of priests help carry out the sacrificial duties.
It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that Solomon dedicated Israel’s first Temple. The Shekinah glory of God descended from heaven to light the fire on the altar and to fill the Holy of Holies (2 Chron. 5:3; 7:1-4).
Jewish pilgrims from around the world travel to Jerusalem for this feast. They build booths, or huts, in which they live for one week – all carefully located within a Sabbath day’s journey (a little more than half a mile) of the Temple. At sundown, the ram’s horn (shofar) blasts and the celebration begins as fires from thousands of Jewish camps blaze in a half-mile radius around the Temple.
Water-libation ceremony. Israel’s rainy season is from November through March. Tabernacles gratefully acknowledges the harvest and, at least in part, beseeches God for the coming moisture necessary for future harvests. So each morning of the feast, the high priest pours a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam into a special basin in the inner court of the Temple as a visual prayer for rain. At the same time, a drink offering of wine is poured into another basin. Three blasts of a silver trumpet follow, and the people listen as the Levites sing the Hallel (Ps. 113-118). The congregation waves palm branches toward the altar and join in singing Psalm 118:25: “Lord, save us! Lord, please grant us success!”
Psalm 118 is a messianic psalm and gives the feast a messianic focus. Centuries after this Psalm was penned, the crowds in Jerusalem greet Jesus with shouts of Hosanna (“save now”) and wave palm branches as He enters the city triumphantly (Matt. 21:8-9; Luke 19:37-38; John 12:12-13). This imagery continues in heaven where the saints worship around the throne with palm branches in hand (Rev. 7:9-10).
Temple-lighting ceremony. On the second night of Tabernacles, the people gather in the spacious outer court of the Temple known as the Court of the Women. Four towering lamp stands are in the center of the court, each with four branches of oil lamps. The wicks are made from the worn-out linen garments of the priests, who ascend tall ladders to keep the lamps filled with olive oil. The elders of the Sanhedrin perform torch dances all night long. Levites stand at the top of the 15 steps leading down to the Court of Women. As flutes, trumpets, harps, and other stringed instruments accompany them, they sing the “Fifteen Psalms of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134). With each psalm, they descend one step.
This celebration is repeated every night from the second night to the final night of Tabernacles. The brilliant lights, bathing the Temple and flooding the streets of Jerusalem, remind the Jews of the descent of the Shekinah glory in King Solomon’s day as the people look forward to the return of the Shekinah in the days of the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5).
It is the day after Tabernacles that Jesus proclaims in the Temple, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Later that day, He heals a blind man and declares, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). The Pharisees bristle at both statements. The best they can do is to accuse Him of healing a man on the Sabbath. Incidentally, there are no Mosaic laws against healing on the Sabbath; the tradition of the Pharisees is the only thing Jesus violated.
Hoshana-Rabbah ceremony. On the seventh day of the feast, the Temple water-pouring ceremony, which is performed each morning throughout the week, takes on great importance. Jewish tradition holds that it is on this day that God decides whether there will be rain for the next year’s crops. Instead of three silver-trumpet blasts, there are seven sets of three blasts. Rather than one circuit around the altar, the priests make seven circuits. The day is known as the Hoshana Rabbah, or “Great Hosanna.”
It is during this ceremony that Jesus stands up and shouts, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within” (John 7:37-38). The Jewish leaders are infuriated; some want to seize Him, but no one lays a hand on Him A debate ensues among the people, many of whom do not realize, or will not believe, He is the Son of David, born in Bethlehem, the Messiah (John 7:40-44). The chief priests and the Pharisees rebuke the Temple officers, who had the authority to arrest Jesus for disturbing the ceremony, but the officers reply, “No man ever spoke like this” (John 7:46).
The Modern Observance
The sukkah, or tabernacle, is the primary symbol of the feast today. As soon as Yom Kippur is past, observant Jews build rough booths in their yards or on their patios. The booths are three-sided and covered with branches. The roofs are thatched so that there is partial shade in the daytime, and so the stars can be seen through it at night. Throughout the feast, Jewish families eat their meals in the booths, and some even sleep there. These booths remind the Jews of their hastily built housing in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:40 instructs the Jews to take fruit, palm branches, the boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook and rejoice for seven days. Observant Jews may build their booths with these items, or carry them in their hands as they rejoice, or both.
At the synagogue, congregants circle the building and sing Psalm 118. The Torah scroll, rather than the ancient altar, is the center of the ceremony. Since the destruction of the Temple, the feast is more closely connected to Yom Kippur. Hashanah Rabbah, the last day of the feast, is seen as the last day on which the judgments God declared on Yom Kippur could be reversed, so observant Jews ceremonially beat willow branches on the synagogue pews to remove the leafs, symbolizing repentance and the removal of sin.
The Bible often compares the harvest with God’s judgment (Hos. 6:11; Joel 3:13; Matt. 13:39; Rev. 14:14-20). In keeping with this imagery, God designed the Feast of Tabernacles to foreshadow the day in which He will gather His people to Himself and send away the wicked (Mal. 4:1-3). When the Messiah returns and sets up His earthly kingdom, He will bring together Jew and Gentile to worship Him in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16-17).
Further, the Lord Himself will tabernacle, or pitch His tent, with the redeemed (Ez. 37:27-28; Rev. 21:3). The Shekinah glory will be seen again (Isa. 60:1, 19; Zech. 2:5), covering Mount Zion with a cloud by day and a fire by night (Isa. 4:5-6). God’s people will enjoy intimate, face-to-face fellowship with their Savior.
An interesting observation: Some believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, based on scriptural information regarding the timing of John the Baptist’s birth. If that’s true, it more fully illustrates the truth that Jesus is the Tabernacle of God. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and took up residence (lit. and tabernacled or and dwelt in a tent) with us.” Col. 2:9 states, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily.” Jesus will again tabernacle with us when He returns in power and great glory.
In another way, the shelters that are built represent the physical bodies in which we temporarily live today – bodies that eagerly await their glorification at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:1-4).
The Old Testament visions of the coming of all nations to worship at Jerusalem refer to the Feast of Tabernacles on the occasion of their pilgrimage (Zech. 14:16-21). This feast speaks of Christ’s millennial reign – a new beginning without the ravages of sin. The earth gives bountifully, all animals are docile (Isa. 65:25), armies no long march against each other, every man sits under his own fig tree (Micah 4:4), and righteousness becomes a lasting reality on the earth. As the Apostle John wrote in Rev. 22:20b: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
This concludes our study of the Jesus in the Feasts of Israel.
This is the fifth in a series of articles on Jesus in the feasts of Israel.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Trumpets||Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 10:10, 29:1-6||1st day of Tishri (September/October)||To usher in the seventh month and begin “The Days of Awe.”||The rapture of the church(1 Cor. 15:51-2; 1 Thess. 4:16-17)|
In Scripture, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Zikhron Teruah (“Memorial of Blowing [of trumpets],” Lev. 23:24) and Yom Teruah (“Day of Blowing [of trumpets],” Num. 29:1). Because of these biblical descriptions, Rosh Hashanah is often referred to as “the Feast of Trumpets.” It is a day of sounding trumpets in the Temple and throughout Israel. Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.” This holiday marks the first day of the Jewish civil New Year. However, this designation only came to be after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Since there was no longer a central place of worship and an altar of sacrifice – the Temple in Jerusalem – the observance necessarily had to change. Today, the emphasis is on the Jewish New Year rather than the blowing of trumpets.
The Biblical Observance
The Scripture references to the Feast of Trumpets are simple and straightforward:
- Israel is commanded to memorialize the day by blowing trumpets and by keeping the day as a Sabbath of rest (Lev. 23:23-25; Num. 29:1).
- A special burnt offering, consisting of a young bull, a ram, and seven lambs, is offered. A kid goat also is sacrificed as a sin offering. These offerings are in addition to the required daily sacrifices (Num. 28:1-8), and those for the new moon, which also are offered on that day (Num. 28:11-15).
Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish holiday occurring on the first day of the month, when the moon appears as a thin crescent. Just as the seventh day and the seventh year are holy according to Mosaic law (Ex. 20:8-10; Lev. 25:4), so is the seventh month, Tishri, the Sabbath of months. Jews in ancient Israel announced the new moon with short blasts of a trumpet, but the new moon of Tishri was announced with long blasts, setting it apart.
The type of horn used for the Feast of Trumpets is the shofar, a curved trumpet made from a ram’s horn. This is different from the hatzotzerah, the silver trumpets priests blew to announce the beginning and ending of the Sabbath, and with the sacrifices. During the Feast of Trumpets, a priest is chosen to sound the shofar. He stands in a row of priests with silver trumpets facing the altar. The shofar sounds long blasts while the silver trumpets sound short blasts over the sacrifices of the day.
Besides the sacrificial ceremony, the trumpet had many uses for Israel:
- To gather an assembly before the Lord (Num. 10:2-4).
- To sound a battle alarm (Num. 10:9).
- To announce the coronation of a new king in the cases of Solomon (1 Kings 1:34, 39), Jehu (2 Kings 9:13), Joash (2 Kings 11:12-14), and Absalom (2 Sam. 15:10).
The Modern Observance
The observance of Rosh Hashanah today bears little resemblance to the biblical Feast of Trumpets.
The Days of Awe. Jewish tradition holds that the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are the “Days of Awe.” It is believed that God reviews the books of judgment on Rosh Hashanah and delivers final judgment on Yom Kippur. These 10 days are considered the last chance for a person to repent before God’s judgment falls, possibly resulting in the death of the disobedient in the coming year. It is believed that three books are opened and every person’s name is entered into one of the books:
- The Book of Life for the wicked. If a person’s name is entered here, judgment is final and that person’s life will be cut short in the coming year.
- The Book of Life for the righteous. Those whose names are entered here are granted another year of life and prosperity.
- The Book of Life for the in-between. Those whose names are written here have their lives hanging in the balance. If they sincerely repent during the Days of Awe, tradition holds that God will grant them life until the following Yom Kippur.
There is a Biblical origin of this tradition (Ex. 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28), but Jewish tradition has greatly embellished it. The Days of Awe are so solemn, weddings and other festive occasions are postponed until after Yom Kippur.
Prayers of repentance. Faithful Jews recite penitent prayers called selihot (“forgiveness”) throughout the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah.
The casting ceremony. On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, observant Jews gather near a body of water to recite the Tashlikh (“cast off”) prayer. In Israel, this may take place on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea or at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. Several Hebrew Scriptures make up the prayer – Micah 7:18-20; Psalm 118:5-9; Psalm 33; Psalm 130; and often Isaiah 11:9. After the prayer, worshipers may shake their pockets, or throw bread crumbs or stones into the water, symbolically ridding themselves of sins.
The sounding of the shofar. Jewish tradition holds that on Rosh Hashanah, Satan appears before God to accuse Israel as God opens the books for judgment. The Jews blast the shofar on this day to confuse Satan, so he might believe Messiah has come and ended Satan’s reign on earth. It is customary to sound 100 shofar blasts on each day of the Rosh Hashanah synagogue services.
Synagogue services for Rosh Hashanah are lengthy, lasting five or more hours, and are focused on God’s kingship. The prayers and readings emphasize God’s majesty, His remembrance of His everlasting covenant with Israel, and the key role of the shofar in the history of the nation. The benediction speaks of the end of days, in which God will reveal Himself, sounding the shofar and sending the promised Messiah (Zech. 9:14).
The Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah has its festive moments as well. Since it is identified as the start of the civil New Year, Jews often send festive cards to family and friends, wishing them Shanah tovah, “a good year.” They also dress in new clothing and eat special foods, like apples dipped in honey and oval loaves of hallah bread; the round loaves of bread remind them of crowns and God’s kingship.
The Talmud, the ancient rabbinical commentary, suggests the world was created in the month of Tishri. Other rabbinic authorities say Rosh Hashanah was the day on which man was created.
Israel’s four springtime feasts – Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost – were fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah. The three fall festivals – Rosh Hashanah, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles – will be fulfilled at the Messiah’s second coming.
For Israel, the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets will be a dark day. Just as Rosh Hashanah occurs at the new moon, when the sky is darkest, Israel’s prophets warn of a coming day of judgment for the nation. For example, Amos 5:18-20, Zeph. 1:14-16, and Joel 2:31 all speak of the day in which the Lord will turn off the heavenly lights, pour out His wrath on the wicked, and bring Israel to repentance and into the new covenant.
Ancient Jewish tradition held that the resurrection of the dead would occur on Rosh Hashanah. As a result, many Jewish grave markers feature a shofar.
God’s last trump and the resurrection of the dead are tied to the rapture of the church in the New Testament. Consider these key passages:
- 1 Cor. 15:51-52 – “Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.”
- 1 Thess. 4:16-17 – “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Remember the reasons for trumpet blasts in the Old Testament? They will be the same in the days to come:
- To gather an assembly before the Lord (the rapture of the church).
- To sound a battle alarm (God will defeat Satan’s rebellious followers throughout the tribulation and at Christ’s return).
- To announce the coronation of a new king (Jesus the Messiah will sit on the throne of David as King of kings and Lord of lords).
Next: The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
* While several sources were used in preparing these notes, I drew heavily from The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal.