The Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot

“The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.  The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work.  For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work” (Leviticus 23:33-36). 

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last of the seven ‘appointed times’ given to Israel.  In Hebrew the Feast of Tabernacles is sukkot meaning ‘shelters or booths’. Sukkot is the eight-day fall festival of ingathering that follows the solemn days of awe and the Day of Atonement.  It is known as the ‘season of our joy’ when everyone dances with lulavs and builds temporary shelters with roofs made from branches of trees.  Like the other fall festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles has yet to be fulfilled by Messiah.  Its shadow contains the vision of the coming Millennial Kingdom when Yeshua will once again tabernacle with His people Israel.   The final culmination of the Feast of Tabernacles will occur in eternity when there is a new heavens, new earth and the New Jerusalem where Yahweh will sit on His throne

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place (the Mishkan) is now among the people, and he will dwell (tabernacle) with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3 NIV and Orthodox Jewish Bible).

Hebrew Word Pictures

Booth – Sukkah, the singular of sukkot סכה

Samech – A Prop means ‘to support and protect’

Kaf – An Open Palm means ‘to allow, to open’

Hey – A Window means ‘to reveal’

The Hebrew word picture for sukkah: “A protection opening revelation.”

Abraham’s Faith

Abraham's Tent

Abraham’s Tent

“By faith he [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;  he lived in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).

Abraham was called a friend of God because he believed God.   He had faith in God’s promises to make him a great nation through a promised seed.  Though he had to live in a tent in this world, he had the hope of an eternal city built by God, the the New Jerusalem.

Jacob’s Sukkah

Jacob at Succoth

Jacob at Succoth

“Jacob went on to Sukkoth, where he built himself a house and put up shelters for his animals.  This is why the place is called Sukkoth (shelters)” (Genesis 33:17).

When the Israelites left Egypt, their first stop on their way to Mount Sinai was Takut, the Egyptian name for Sukkoth.   Hundreds of years earlier, Jacob, whose name had been changed to Israel,  stopped at this exact place after he reunited with his brother Esau.  He built ‘temporary dwellings’ for his family and livestock and called it Sukkoth.

Sukkot

“You are to live in sukkot for seven days … so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:42).

In the LORD’s command for the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites  were to live in sukkot as a reminder of the 40 years they traveled in the wilderness and lived in temporary shelters. Throughout their generations, the nation of Israel (specifically the Jewish people) has built  sukkot no matter where they have lived.

Our Sukkah 2011

Our Sukkah 2011

A sukkah can be built in a yard or on a porch or balcony.  It generally has three walls with all or part of its roof open to the sky.  Any roof covering is usually branches from trees.  Lights may be hung in the    sukkah along with interior decorations such as pictures, flowers, leaves or fruit. Some families line the interior walls with white in order to remember the ‘clouds of Glory’ that surrounded them as they traveled  in the desert.  For seven days the sukkah, the personal or family dwelling place, is used for eating, sleeping and inviting special guests for the season of joy.   

The Lulav

“On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year” (Leviticus 23:40-42). 

On the first day of Sukkot, branches from palms, willows and myrtles along with a large fragrant citrus fruit called the etrog are bound together in what is called the lulav or the Four Species representing the nations of the world.   On each day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the lulav is waved facing north, south, east and west while proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God to the nations. 

Rejoicing with the Lulav

Rejoicing with the Lulavs.

Several other symbolic meanings developed from the four species creating the lulav. Some believe the four species represent the memorial name of God: Yod Hey Vav Hey which is why they species are bound together as one.   Others believe the fruit and the aroma of the trees relate to different people and how they respond to God’s Torah very similar to the Parable of the Sower and how different people’s hearts respond to the Word of God.  Still others believe that the branches and the fruit represent the parts of our bodies, our temporary dwellings, that we are to offer to God as “instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:12-13).   

The Tabernacle

“On the first day of the first month of the second year, the tabernacle was set up” (Exodus 40:17).  The Hebrew word for tabernacle is mishkan and this is what the the Tabernacle or ‘tent of meeting’ was called in the wilderness.    

Hebrew Word Pictures

Tabernacle – Mishkan משכן

Mem – Water means ‘to come down from, immense’

Shin – A Tooth means ‘consumed’ or Shekinah, ‘the Divine Presence of God’

Kaf – A Palm or Wing means ‘to cover or allow’

Nun – A Fish means ‘ action and life’

The Hebrew word picture for mishkan: “The immense consuming [divine presence of God] cover of  life.”

After the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, they ended up at Mount Sinai where Moses received God’s instructions for constructing His portable ‘dwelling place’, His mishkan.   It took a long time for all of its posts, curtains, and holy articles to be made.  Gold, silver and bronze objects that were taken from Egypt had to be melted down or beaten and formed into shapes.  Acacia wood had to be gathered, cut and built into boxes.  Animals had to be slaughtered for their skins.   Fabric had to be spun from flax and wool.

Tabernacle in the Wilderness

YHVH’s Dwelling in the Wilderness – Mishkan

Eventually the articles became a the Altar of Sacrifice, a hammered golden Menorah, an Altar of Incense, a Table of pPresence and the Ark of the Testimony.  Mirrors were collected from the women to cover the large basin for priestly washing and purification.  Tabernacle coverings were stitched together and mounted on the posts.   Curtains from finely twisted linen with blue, purple and scarlet yarn were hung in the Holy Place.  By the time of their two-year anniversary of leaving Egypt, the Mishkan was set up and the glory of the LORD filled it with a cloud.  Yahweh had His ‘temporary dwelling’ that could be transported when He moved His people. 

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud remained on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel continued with all their travels.  But if the cloud was not taken up, they did not travel onward until the day with it was taken up.  For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle during the day, and the fire was (in the cloud) at night, so that all the house of Israel could see it throughout all their travels” (Exodus 40:34-38).

The Living Tabernacle

Yeshua is the living tabernacle of God’s divine presence on earth.   According to the details given in the first two chapters of Luke, it can be determined that Yeshua was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  In a ‘temporary dwelling’ outside of Bethlehem, the Word became flesh and was placed in a sukkah.  His heavenly Father, the angels in heaven, the shepherds watching their flocks, his mother Miriam and his earthly father celebrated in the birth of the Son of God.  While all Israel commemorated the festival of ingathering, Yeshua became the reason for the season of our joy. 

Sukkah for Yeshua's Birth

Sukkah for Yeshua’s Birth

“The Word became flesh and tabernacled with us, we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth … for it pleased God to have his full being live in His Son…” (John 1:14, Colossians 1:19).

Yeshua celebrates Feast of Tabernacles in John chapter 7, though he didn’t go to Jerusalem until the festival was half over.   When he arrived and began to teach in the Temple, the people were astonished and and wondered how he knew so much.  He gave credit to his Father who had sent him to find the lost sheep of Israel and told them to search the Scriptures to know if his teachings were from God or himself.

“So Yeshua gave them an answer: ‘My teaching is not my own, it comes from the one who sent me.  If anyone wants to do his will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or I speak on my own.  A person who speaks on his own is trying to win praise for himself; but a person who tries to win praise for the one who sent him is honest, there is nothing false about him” (John 7:16-18). 

Streams of Living Water

Pool of Siloam

Pool of Siloam

The Levitical priesthood officiated the sacrifices in the Temple during the Feasts as well as led other traditions rooted in celebrating  the ‘appointed times.’   The highlight each day of the Feast of Tabernacles was the Water Pouring Ceremony.  A white-robed priest would lead a procession through the city of Jerusalem carrying a golden pitcher.   The people would follow him through the Water Gate to the Pool of Siloam where he filled the pitcher with water.  He  would return to the Temple with the filled pitcher while the people would follow him singing, waving their lulavs and dancing in the streets.  When the priest arrived at the Temple, he would pour the water on the Altar.  As he poured the water from the golden pitcher, he would cry out in a loud voice words from the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

The multitude of people who gathered in Jerusalem for this festival  would respond with “LORD, save us!  LORD, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  From the house of the LORD we bless you” (Psalm 118).

Living Water

Living Water

The last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles was called Hoshana Rabbah and means ‘The Great Salvation.‘ It was the culmination of the week-long celebration of the Feast and was a vision of the final judgments to come before the restoration of God’s eternal Kingdom when He would tabernacle with mankind again.

It was on this day of the Great Salvation that Yeshua responds to the nation’s cry for salvation.  As the Great Salvation, he delivered a message not of judgment, but of freedom and fullness of life in the Spirit.  If they would come to him and put their faith in him, the Spirit of God would be poured out into their hearts and their spiritual thirst would be quenched.  Living waters would flow from within them and they would receive their Great Salvation.

“Now on the last day and greatest day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, ‘If a man is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drink!  Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being.’”  (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later.  The Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified”) (John 7:37-39).

Our Earthly Sukkah

“I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Messiah Yeshua has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:13).

While we live on the earth, we have an earth suit.   Peter and Paul called it our earthly tent.   Our earthly tent is mortal, decaying and dying.  It is only a temporary physical dwelling for our spirits and will one day be destroyed through death.  We will return to the dust of the ground from where we came.   While we live in our mortal sukkot, we know that we are naked and unclothed in the eyes of God.   We cry out in our temporary sufferings and affliction while we wait for the redemption of our bodies and receive our immortal clothes. 

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Once we are born again, our earth tents become the dwelling place for God’s Spirit.  He seals us with His Spirit as a guarantee  that we will be released from our mortal bodies and given heavenly tents.   When we receive our glorified bodies, they will never decay or die because they are eternal.  Until that day arrives, we live in our earthly tents by faith as our father Abraham looking forward to what is to come.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 16:19-20).

Feast of Ingathering

“… Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field” (Exodus 23:16).

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Ingathering.  It is celebrated after the harvest grain and grapes, however,   the olive harvest is still in process.   It foreshadows when the House of Judah and the House of Israel are gathered from the nations back to the Promised Land.   This ingathering of God’s chosen people will be so divinely inspired that it will be celebrated as a ‘greater exodus’ than when the Israelites left Egypt.   The Ingathering has only just begun with a modern-day movement of Jewish people returning to Israel from all the nations of the world.  It is called aliyah and means ‘going up’.   

“‘Therefore,’ says The LORD, ‘the day will come when people will not longer swear, “As The LORD lives, who brought the nation of Israel out of the land of Egypt,” but, ‘As The LORD lives, who brought the people of Israel out of the land to the north and all the countries where he drove them,’ for I will bring them back to their own land which I gave their ancestors’” (Jeremiah 16:14-15).

“They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month  and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written” (Nehemiah 8:14-15).

The Olive trees that stand in silence …

Olive Tree of Israel

When Israel returned from captivity, they found the book of the Torah that commanded collecting branches from palms, willows and myrtles to make their sukkot.   However, in the days of Nehemiah, they also brought back branches from olive and wild olive trees (Nehemiah 8:14-15).  Because the Feast of Ingathering is a shadow of the coming Kingdom of God, the  olive and wild olive tree branches hold significance to its fulfillment.

The first mention of the olive tree is in Genesis after the flood when Noah sends out a dove and it brings back a leaf, a symbol of new life.   In Exodus Moses is given pure olive oil as one of the ingredients for the anointing oil, a symbol of the Spirit.   In Deuteronomy, the land flowing with milk and honey also flowed with olive oil indicating the abundance of provision in the Promised Land.  The doors of Solomon’s Temple were made from olive wood on which were carved the cherubim that guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden (1 Kings 6:32). In the Psalms, children are like olive shoots around a blessed man’s table. Jeremiah and Hosea call Israel  a thriving olive tree with great splendor.

When Paul discusses the olive tree in Romans 11,  he sees natural olive branches and wild olive branches attached to the same tree.   He tells the gentiles that they are the wild olive branches which have been grafted into the olive tree with the natural branches of Israel.

When a branch is grafted into a tree, it gets its nourishment from the roots and sap of the tree.  It will still bear its unique fruit, but only through its dependence on the natural tree.   If the grafting doesn’t take and the branch doesn’t get its nourishment,  it will die and fall off the tree.

Paul reminds the gentiles that as wild olive branches they can be cut off the olive tree if they become arrogant over the natural branches.    They are to remember that the living water of the Spirit that comes from Messiah, the root of David,  and the nourishing sap of the Scriptures supports them both by faith.    Though some of the natural branches may have been broken off due to a lack of faith, they are easily grafted back into their own olive tree  (Romans 11:13-24).    

The addition of olive and wild olive branches to the sukkah in Nehemiah’s time suggests that the Ingathering will not only include the natural olive branches of Israel,  but also the wild olive branches  of gentiles who have joined the covenant that God made with Israel.  When both branches of olives live by faith in Yeshua trusting in him as the root of the tree, living water will bring nourishing sap to both branches.  They will finally thrive with splendor as God intended for  the Olive Tree of Israel.

The Millennial Kingdom

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. …Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken” (Micah 4:1, 3).

Ezekiel's Millennial Temple

Ezekiel’s Millennial Temple

Yeshua’s teachings centered around the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.  Though it was near, it had not yet fully arrived and would not until he had been glorified and crowned King.  During a one thousand year ‘season of our joy,’  the nations of the world will come to the mountain of the LORD in Jerusalem.  Yeshua will sit on his throne in the Temple and rule the nations from Israel.  His reign will join the present world and mortal men with immortal men in a unique time in history.  With an iron scepter, he will rule the earth and prepare its people for his Father’s eternal kingdom.

“After six days Yeshua took Peter, James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain privately.  As they watched, he began to change form – his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light.  Then they looked and saw Moses and Elijah speaking with him.   Peter said to Yeshua, ‘It’s good that we’re here, Lord.  I’ll put up three sukkot [temporary dwellings]  if you want – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him’! (Matthew 17:1-5).

Yeshua had just days before told the disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:28).  They were waiting for this kingdom to arrive with great expectation.  Six days later Yeshua took Peter, James and John up a mountain.

The three disciples watched as Yeshua changed into glory in front of them. They saw him speaking with Moses and Elijah establishing a witness of three to the transfiguration.  They didn’t realize that were receiving only a glimpse at the coming kingdom, but believed that Yeshua was establishing his Kingdom rule on earth at that ‘appointed time.‘   They believed that Yeshua was going to take up his throne in Jerusalem and reign as King of Kings.  They weren’t being stupid;  they knew the prophecies.  Peter responded with his great faith in Yeshua’s words of the coming kingdom when he offered to build these three glorified men, Moses, Elijah and Yeshua shelters or sukkot.

The Eternal Tabernacle

“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them …. They will be his people, and he himself, will be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

The New Jerusalem Descends

The New Jerusalem Descends

At the end of Yeshua’s Millennial reign, a new heaven and a new earth will appear.  Everything from the old heaven and earth will pass away.   The New Jerusalem will come down out of the restored heavens and descend to the renewed earth.  There won’t be a Temple in the New Jerusalem because God will be the Temple.  There will be no sun or moon to shine on it because the glory of God gives it its light.  It’s lamp will be Yeshua.

The river of the water of life will flow from the throne of God producing fruit for each month and healing leaves for the nations.  The servants of God will worship Him as His throne will be in the city.   The eternally redeemed will see His face and His name will be written on their foreheads.  They will reign as kings forever and ever.  When the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, Yahweh, the Father, the Creator,  the great I AM will eternally Tabernacle with His people.

“All of these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised.  They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth.  …As it is, they aspire to a better homeland, a heavenly one.  This is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city”  (Hebrews 11:13-15).

Our father Abraham lived in a tent. As Abraham’s children by faith and heirs to the same promises, we also live in earth tents like he did.  Until the day of our redemption, we will live as strangers and foreigners on this earth.  We can celebrate Sukkot with the hope of our future glory by building a sukkah.  As we feast in our ‘temporary dwelling’, we can identify with the children of Israel who lived in tents with the Mishkan of Yahweh in their midst.

Yeshua took on the tent of a human body to live with us. As the Messiah of Israel, he will soon return to Jerusalem as King to prepare the nations for the eternal Kingdom of Heaven.  When we  keep our eyes on the promises of God and the the New Jerusalem we will truly understand the ‘season of our joy’ and the Feast of Tabernacles.

“Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.  Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

©2011 Tent Stake Ministries

(Purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive that includes this chapter along with more teachings on the Feasts of the LORD and how to celebrate them in your home or with others.)

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