“It was the first day of the seventh month” (Nehemiah 8:2).
This specific verse in Nehemiah sets the time for the events to follow as the ‘first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. This ‘appointed time’ of God begins His season of the fall feasts which are about repentance, atonement and a vision of the coming Millennial Kingdom.
The events in Nehemiah 8 are not some random occurrences in the history of Israel. They are a testimony to the restoration of the Feasts of Adonai to a people who had lived in exile for over 160 years. Though there was a first wave of Jewish return to Jerusalem 70 years after being taken captive, Ezra and Nehemiah were in the second wave 90 years later. It was during this time that the priests gathered the people together on the ‘first day of the seventh month’.
Yom Teruah 445 B.C.E.
A wooden platform was made on which Ezra, the priest, stood and could be seen and heard by all of the men and women who came to listen to the reading of the Torah. As he opened the Torah scroll, everyone stood. Then Ezra blessed Adonai, the great God. As the people answered with “Amen”, they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and fell prostrate before Adonai with their faces to the ground.
“Amen” has a very interesting root history. It comes from the Hebrew word aman meaning ‘to nourish, support, make sure and strong’. The word emunah or faithfulness also has its root in aman. The Jewish sages say that amen is an acronym for el melek ne’eman or “God is a faithful King’. According to Revelation 3:14, Yeshua is the “the amen, the faithful and true witness … he is the faithful King.” What the people said as they were about to hear the Torah was “God is a faithful King!”
Days of Awe and Repentance
The Levites had the responsibility to explain Torah to the people. After being in a foreign country for several generations, they needed to translate the Hebrew so that the ‘Persian’ Jews would understand the words being read. When they heard the instructions that Adonai gave them through Moshe, the people began to weep.
Repentance or making teshuvah, ‘turning back to God,’ is central to the fall ‘appointed times.’ After hearing the words of Torah for the first time standing in Jerusalem, the people wept. They grieved. They understood they had lost the very essence of their national heritage and had not lived accordingly.
Ezra, along with the rest of the Levites, told them not to weep, not to be sad for this day was ‘set apart to Adonai their God.’ It was His ‘appointed time.’ They were told to go out, eat rich food, drink sweet drinks, and give portions to those who couldn’t provide for themselves. Even today sweet foods are eaten on Feast of Trumpets with apples and honey being the traditional foods.
“How sweet to my tongue is your promise, truly sweeter than honey in my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
Mouth of God
Yeshua said “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). What does the mouth or ‘voice of God’ sound like?
When John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he has a revelation of Messiah. He says, “I came to be, in the Spirit, on the Day of Adonai; and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a shofar ….” The voice of Adonai sounded like the blowing of a shofar. A shofar or ram’s horn is blown on the Feast of Trumpets. Obviously, it is only when breath goes through the shofar that it is able to create a sound. Being vessels of Adonai’s Spirit, it is taught that the ‘breath of God’ blows through a shofar when it sounds.
John heard the voice that sounded like a shofar on the Day of the LORD. This is in reference to the events surrounding the coming Messianic Era and a time of judgment, not the first day of the week. The events for the Day of Adonai will begin on ‘the first day of the seventh month’ or Yom Teruah.
The Spring of Living Water
The original city of Jerusalem had very different boundaries than modern-day Jerusalem. In fact, remnants of the city are found in what is known as the City of David. Within the ‘older’ city of Jerusalem, the Water Gate led down to the Gihon Spring which was located in the Kidron Valley. This spring was the main source of water for the Pool of Siloam. The priests would go to the Pool of Siloam to collect the water for each day’s water libation ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles. During this event, they would pour water over the Altar. On the last and greatest day of this Feast, Yeshua stood and cried out:
“If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (John 7:37-39).
As the people gathered at the Water Gate, it is symbolic of the pathway to the living water of the Word of God. With the reading of the Torah by Ezra, the Jewish people had been ‘washed in the water of the Word’ and began preparing themselves to be a pure and holy bride (Ephesians 5:25-26).
On the second day, the heads of the clans of the people joined the Levites and Ezra to study the words of the Torah again. They found that Adonai had ordered that the people of Israel were to live in booths or sukkot during the ‘appointed time’ in the seventh month. They were to announce the festival of Sukkot in all of their cities and in Jerusalem.
“Go out to the mountains, and collect branches of olives, wild olives, myrtles, palms, and other leafy trees to make sukkot, as prescribed” (Nehemiah 8:15).
In Jeremiah 11:16, God calls Israel an olive tree. In Romans 11, Sha’ul speaks about branches of olives and wild olives that make up the Olive Tree of Israel. The natural branches represent the 12 Tribes of Israel and the wild branches the nations that join with them. Both receive the same living water of the Word through the same spiritual root. Though both branches will continue to produce either natural olives or wild olives, they both produce olives.
Myrtle trees are considered an evergreen and are very hardy. They produce a purplish-black berry called the mursins. This fruit can be dried then ground and used as a flavoring. It is one of the four leafy trees bound together for Sukkot that over time have been given the symbolism of ‘good smell, but no taste,’ like a person who has ‘good deeds, but does not study the Torah.’
The prophet Zechariah lived during the time between the first and second returning remnants. He has a vision of God, angels, and horsemen standing in the midst of a myrtle tree. This vision was given to reinforce God’s promise that the exiles who returned to Jerusalem would be prosperous. For the Jewish people of Zechariah’s time to prosper, they would need to repent and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rebuild the Temple, and learn Torah. In the days of Nehemiah and Yom Teruah, the repentance had begun.
“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 1:16).
Palms, or lulav in Hebrew, were also part of the branches collected to make a sukkah. It is known for its uprightness, fruit and its beauty. The Jewish sages say that the palm tree, which has taste but no smell, can be compared to a person who studies Torah, but has no fruit of good works.
The first mention of palm trees in Scripture is when the Israelites camp at the oasis of Elim during their trek in the wilderness. It is during the Feast of Tabernacles that palm branches are waved signifying the coming Messianic Era. This is why palm branches were waved when Yeshua entered Jerusalem during the Passover season. The people believed that the kingdom of God had arrived; however, it was the wrong ‘appointed time’ and season. In Revelation 7:9, multitudes from every tribe and nation will be waving palm branches and giving glory to the King of Kings. Today, the lulav is a special binding of three species of branches along with an etrog (a type of citrus fruit). It is used to worship Adonai during Sukkot and reminds everyone that one day the nations of the world will gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).
The people went out from the city, collected branches from specific trees and made sukkot for themselves on the roofs of their homes, in their courtyards, in the Temple courts, and in the open spaces by the Water Gate and the Efrayim Gate. The entire community of those who had returned from the exile made sukkot and lived in them for the commanded eight days. They had not done this since the days of Joshua and they celebrated Sukkot with great joy. They also read the Torah every day from the first day until the last day of the ‘appointed time.’
In Our Day
The Feast of Trumpets begins on the first day of the seventh month and Sukkot begins on the fourteenth day. On our Gregorian calendar, these fall festivals occur in our months of September/October. They are a vision of the coming Kingdom of God when Israel, the natural branches of the Olive Tree will gather in Jerusalem along with the nations, the wild branches of the Olive Tree, to worship the King of Kings. Everyone will wave olive, palm, and myrtle branches for they will not just study Torah, they will bear the righteous fruit of the etrog.
The Jews in the days of Nehemiah prepared for this coming Kingdom by repenting and returning to the Torah of God and celebrated the ‘appointed times’ on their commanded days. As wild olives, we can also embrace the vision of the coming Kingdom millennia later in the say way: repenting and turning back to God, learning Torah, and proclaiming the ‘appointed times’ to those who stand by the Water Gate desiring spiritual nourishment from the spring of living water. Amen. “Yeshua is the faithful King.”
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