|Tabernacles, Feast of |
(See FEASTS.) Hasukoth, "feast of in-gathering"; haciyp (Exodus 23:16); Greek skenofgia (John 7:2). Third of the three great feasts; from Tisri 15 to 22 (Leviticus 23:34-43); commemorating Israel's passage through the desert. Thanksgiving for harvest (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). The rites and sacrifices are specified, Numbers 29:12-38. The law was read thereat publicly on the sabbatical year (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). Kept with joy on the return from Babylon (Nehemiah 8); compare the contemporary Psalm 118:14-15; Psalm 118:19-20; Psalm 118:22-27, in undesigned coincidence, alluding to the feast, the joy, the building of the walls, and setting up of the gates; Zechariah 4:7-10; Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 14:16-17. The earlier celebration under Zerubbabel was less formal and full according to the law (Ezra 3:4); therefore it is unnoticed in the statement (Nehemiah 8:17) that since Joshua's days until then (when the later celebration under Nehemiah, which was fuller and more exact, took place) it had not been so kept.
The people in the wilderness dwelt in tents, not "booths" (sukot). The primary design was a harvest feast kept in autumn bowers, possibly first in Goshen. The booth, like the tent, was a temporary dwelling, and so suited fairly to represent camp life in the desert. So Hosea (Hosea 12:9) uses "tabernacles" or "tents" for "booths," when speaking of the feast; the booth was probably used at times in the desert, when at certain places they made a more permanent stay during the forty years. It commemorated, with thanksgiving for the harvest which was the seal of their settlement in a permanent inheritance, their transition from nomadic to agricultural life. Its popularity induced Jeroboam to inaugurate his Bethel calf worship with an imitation feast of tabernacles on the 15th day of the eighth month, "which he devised of his own heart" (1 Kings 12:32-33), possibly because the northern harvest was a little later, and he wished to break off Israel from the association with Judah by having a different month from the seventh, which was the legal month.
In Jerusalem the booths were built on the roofs, in house courts, in the temple court, and in the street of the water gate and of the Ephraim gate. They were made of boughs of olive, palm, pine, myrtle, and of her trees of thick foliage. From the first day of the feast to the seventh the Israelites carried in their hands "the fruit (margin) of goodly trees, branches of palm, thick trees, and willows" (Leviticus 23:40). In one hand each carried a bundle of branches (called luwlab or "palm" in rabbiical Hebrew) and in the other a citron (hadar, "goodly trees".) The feast of tabernacles, like Passover, began at full moon on the 15th day of the month; the first day was a day of holy convocation; the seven days of the feast were followed by an eighth day, forming no part of it (Leviticus 23:34-36; Numbers 29:35), a day of holy convocation, "a solemn assembly" ('atsereth), or, as the Hebrew denotes, "a closing festival" (2 Chronicles 7:9). On each of the seven days the offering consisted of two rams, 14 lambs a year old, with 13 bulls on the first day, 12 on the second, and so on until on the seventh there were only seven, the whole amounting to 70 bulls; but on the 'atsereth only one bull, one ram, and seven lambs.
The booths or, according to Jewish tradition, huts of boards on the sides covered with boughs on the top, were occupied only the seven days, not on the 'atsereth. The feast of tabernacles is referred to in John 7:2-37; John 8:12. Jesus alludes to the custom of drawing water from Siloam in a golden goblet and pouring it into one of the two silver basins adjoining the western side of the altar, and wine into the other, while the words of Isaiah 12:3 were repeated, in commemoration of the water drawn from the rock in the desert; the choir sang the great hallel, and waved palms at different parts of Psalm 118, namely, Psalm 118:1-25; Psalm 118:29. Virtually Jesus said, I am the living Rock of the living water. Coming next day at daybreak to the temple court as they were extinguishing the artificial lights, two colossal golden candlesticks in the center of the temple court, recalling the pillar of fire in the wilderness, Jesus said, cf6 "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:1-2; John 8:12). As the sun by natural light was eclipsing the artificial lights, so Jesus implies, I, the Sun of righteousness, am superseding your typical light.
"The last great day of the feast" is the atsereth, though the drawing of water was on previous days not omitted. Joy was the prominent feature, from whence the proverb, "he who has never seen the rejoicing at the pouring out of the water of Siloam has never seen joy in his life" (Succah 5:1). The feast was called Hosanna, "save we beseech Thee." Isaiah 11 refers to the future restoration of Israel; the feast of tabernacles connected with chapter 12 doubtless will have its antitype in their restored possession of and rest in Canaan, after their long dispersion; just as the other two great feasts, Passover and Pentecost, have their antitype respectively in Christ's sacrifice for us, and in His writing His new law on our hearts at Pentecost. Jewish tradition makes Gog and Magog about to be defeated on the feast of tabernacles, or that the seven months' cleansing shall end at that feast (Ezekiel 39:12). Rest after wanderings, lasting habitations after the life of wanderers, is the prominent thought of joy in the feast, alike in its former and in its future celebration.
These dictionary topics are from Fausset Bible Dictionary, 1949. Public Domain.
Fausset, Andrew R. "Entry for 'Tabernacles, Feast of'". "Fausset Bible Dictionary".