October 3, 2020

Understanding Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot

It is prophesied when Christ comes again we will gather at the wedding feast of the Lamb celebrating the triumph of the Savior over all things. To be taught of this significant event and other teachings, Israel was given the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Understanding this feast not only teaches us of the last days leading up to the Second Coming, but also of the Savior’s role as the light of the world, the living waters, and the King of Kings. 

In addition to daily, weekly, and monthly worship, Israel was commanded to participate in three major feasts: The Feast of Passover, The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot (Leviticus 23). Occurring during fixed times at the spring, summer, and fall harvests, these feasts were meant to both remind Israel of past events and teach them of future events.

Let’s now look more closely at the third feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, which Josephus called the “most holy and most eminent” of the feasts. [1] 

On the first day of the seventh month, is the Feast of Trumpets also known as Rosh Hashanah (Leviticus 23:23-25) ushering in a period of ten days of penitence for the people to prepare for the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 23:26-32). As the holiest of days, it is the only day when the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, symbolically taking Israel into the presence of the Lord. Israel is now forgiven of their past sins and prepared for the holiest of the feasts, the Feast of Tabernacles which begins five days later (Leviticus 23:33-43). The feast’s connection to the final harvest of the year foreshadows the final harvest of souls at the coming of the Messiah. 

According to the Law, Israel was to build booths or temporary shelters to dwell in for seven days from the 15th through the 21st day. (Leviticus 23:42) These booths, also known as Sukkot in Hebrew, were generally moderate in size with at least three walls and a roof made of branches. [2] This likely was a fun time for children as the families ate and slept in their temporary tabernacle or sukkah, almost like “camping” in the backyard. The purpose of living in the booth was to remind the people that Israel dwelt in booths after the Lord brought them out of Egypt. (Leviticus 23:43).

A young boy holds an oil lamp during the Feast of Tabernacles

It also could remind Israel that the Lord dwelt among his people in the Tabernacle which stood in the center of the camp of Israel. John taught of when the Savior came to earth that “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” (John 1:14 TLV). Just as the Lord was with the people as they escaped bondage and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, so too is our Savior with us as we seek out shelter from our worldly cares and troubles. He will always dwell with us, if we let him, as we journey toward our own Promised Land.

In addition, the Lord commanded the people to celebrate by taking “the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook” and rejoice during the feast before the Lord (Leviticus 23:40 NKJV). Despite it being during Passover when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the people greeted him by waving palm branches (John 12:12-19). This was likely due to them understanding the connection of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah during Sukkot. By waving palm leaves and shouting hosanna to the Lord, they were obeying what was commanded in the law! [3]

A priest draws water from the Pool of Siloam for Sukkot

During the second temple period, additional celebrations were added to Sukkot. Each morning during the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, a procession of priests came from the Temple down to the Pool of Siloam whose water came from the Gihon spring and was the principal supply of water for Jerusalem. With a golden pitcher, a priest drew water from the large pool. Because it came from a spring, the water was considered “living water” and used for ritual purification. The priests then took the pitcher of “living water” and returned to the temple. As they arrived at the court of the priests, they circled the altar once and then the priest poured the water out onto the altar of sacrifice. They did this each morning for the first six days. On the seventh day, called the “great day of the feast” (John 7:37) the same ritual took place, except the priests circled the altar seven times instead of only once. This ritual symbolized Israel’s request that the Lord bless them with rain for the next harvest season. [4]

Water from the pool of Siloam is poured out at the altar for Sukkot

On this very day, when Israel was praying for rain, Jesus proclaimed, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). By Jesus proclaiming that he was the ultimate source for “living water,” he was giving a clear and direct declaration of His divinity. The day following the feast Jesus found a blind man and spit on the ground making a small amount of mud. He anointed the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, the exact same pool where the priests had drawn living water for seven days. The blind man obeys and is healed. (John 9:1-38) Eventually, he is able to see the One who gave him sight. Like the blind man, we too have the opportunity to see with our spiritual eyes and be purified with the Living Water, even Jesus Christ. 

On the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, in addition to the water-drawing ceremony, the people gathered at the temple in the Court of the Women. Young Levite boys climbed up to four massive candelabras lighting their large bowls filled with oil. This light was so bright that it is said that every courtyard in Jerusalem was lit. It is in this same area of the temple just days later, that Christ proclaims “I am the light of the world...” (John 8:12). Just as the light from the candelabras shone over the entire city, so too does the light of Christ shine throughout the world for all to see. [5]

In scripture, the fall feasts were also connected with several significant events. This was when traditionally kings were often anointed with oil as king of Israel. Solomon’s temple was also dedicated during the Feast of Sukkot, and the presence of the Lord came down to accept his Temple. Significantly, it is during this season of Tabernacles that we look forward to the coming of Christ as the King of Kings, coming to his temples or places of worship. The prophet Zechariah declares that all nations will celebrate Sukkot when Christ returns. “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16).

A family celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot

The Feast of Tabernacles is a wonderful time of joyous celebration. As we are now living in the last days anxiously awaiting the joyful return of our Savior, we can see that this feast teaches us of the glorious celebration that awaits us. The scriptures teach that at the sounding of the trumpet at Christ’s coming, that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord (see Romans 14:11; Mosiah 27:31; D&C 88:103-104). Are we willing to confess now before the final harvest that Jesus is our Anointed King and Savior? Are we spiritually prepared to greet him when he comes again to the Temple Mount as the light of the world? Every day we can drink of the living water of Christ as we study the scriptures, pray to the Father, and serve others as God loves them. How magnificent will be the day when those from all nations gather together and feast with our Lord, even Jesus Christ.

Script written by Heather Ruth Pack

[1] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 8.4.1.

[2] Bruce K. Satterfield, John and the Feasts of Tabernacles, 252.

[3] Eric D. Huntsman, God So Loved the World, 11.

[4] Satterfield, 252-254.

[5] Satterfield, 255-256.

3 comments:

  1. It's wonderful
    Thank you so much.
    Pl pray for my family Vani, Jesse, Prince and John

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article. Very informative about these important feasts. Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for the enlightenment.

    ReplyDelete