Feasts of Tabernacles
Brian Clatworthy, Newton Abbot, Devon, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Suggested readings. Lev. 23.33-43; Num. 29.12-40; Deut. 16. 13-15; Ezek. 45. 25; Zech. 14. 16-19; John 7. 2, 39; Rev. 14.10,18,19; 20. 4-6. This feast is also known as the feast of "ingathering" or "booths", and later called "the feast", John 7-37-
Leviticus 23.33-43. The last feast in the religious year was the feast of tabernacles which commenced on the fifteenth day of the seven month, lasted for seven days, and had a special eighth day added. This feast was a most joyful occasion to the participants for it was celebrated at the time of vintage, and for those who had laboured throughout the year it brought the knowledge that they could now rest from their labours. The increase of the land had been gathered in, and it was therefore the time to rejoice and give thanks to God for His faithfulness to the nation. The feast also reminded the people of the time when the nation of Israel had dwelt in booths after the exodus from Egypt. The Hebrew word for booth is succoth, and it was at Succoth that Israel first rested after the flight from Egypt. What a marked contrast between the barrenness of a howling wilderness and the land of fulness of plenty, yet in both scenes the nation could attest the faithfulness of God. The first day of this feast was a day of public worship on which there was a complete rest from work. We observe from the account of this feast found in Numbers 29 that there were special sacrifices offered on each of the seven days cuhninating with a further rest day, or day of restraint, on the eighth day. As well as sacrifices being made on the first day, the people of Israel took branches and boughs of certain trees (for the kind of trees, see Nehemiah 8.15-16), and fashioned them into booths. They then spent the complete seven days of the feast living in these crudely constructed dwellings.
The careful reader of Numbers 29 will notice that there was a reduction of one bullock on each successive day until the seventh day of the festival, but the other daily sacrifices remained at a constant number. There were thirteen bullocks sacrificed on the first day of the feast but on the seventh day only seven bullocks were offered. Altogether there were to be seventy bullocks offered in the week. The feast of tabernacles was one of the feasts which our Lord Jesus Christ attended. We learn from John 7.2, however, that this feast was no longer regarded as a feast of Jehovah, but had degenerated and was known as the Jews' feast of tabernacles. How sad was Israel's state in the days of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would seem that His invitation given on the last day of the feast exposed the emptiness of Jewish ritualism, John 7. 37. The Saviour invited men to find satisfaction in Him as He stood outside the camp of Israel. The act of drawing water from the well of Siloam, and the use of this water as a libation on the altar, were ceremonies which, added later by the Jews themselves, had no scriptural authority. This obviously was the sight which the Saviour observed prior to His proclamation in John 7. 37.
To what period of time does this last feast refer? We believe that this feast points to the millennial reign of Christ. We have seen that the day of atonement refers to the time when Israel will be purged and restored, but Israel will only become important again during the millennial reign of Christ. The vine of religious apostasy on earth will be cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God. Then Satan will be bound for a thousand years, and the millennial reign of Christ will be ushered in. The whole earth will rejoice during the raillennium, for it will be the time spoken of in Scripture as "the times of restitution of all things", Acts 3. 21. A groaning creation will at last be emancipated from the awful curse pronounced on it because of sin, Rom. 8. 19-23. Some of the other blessings to be received during the millennial reign of Christ can be found enumerated in such passages as Isaiah 11. 1-10 and Psalm 72. Ezekiel gives us details concerning the pattern of the temple which will be erected on the mountain of Jehovah's house during the millennium, Ezek. 43; cf. Isa. 2. 2-3. Jerusalem will then be the metropolis of the earth, and all nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship, and to keep the feast of tabernacles j see Zech. 14. 16-19; Ezek. 45. 25. There is a curse which will be pronounced on all those who do not come up to worship.
The seven days of the feast of tabernacles are typical of the complete manifestation of joy which will be exhibited in the millennium. The eighth day however suggests that the eternal sabbath of God will be reached when the millennial reign of Christ has been ended. God's dealings will then be complete.
AUTHOR PROFILE: He is an elder and active member of a pioneer assembly work in Newton Abbott. For many years he has been welcomed as a ministering brother in the south of England and has written a number of articles for the magazine. He is married and has two children.