Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. (Leviticus 23:2)
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday (holy day), we are reminded of the deeper roots of a national day of Thanksgiving. We usually rehearse the American history that begins with the Pilgrim celebration of Thanksgiving that included eating with the local Indians who had befriended them in their early struggle for survival. Then, we read speeches by Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln regarding a special national day of Thanksgiving.
Rarely do we go to the older roots of our day of Thanksgiving, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. “The seventh and final feast given to Israel by the Lord is known as Sukkot or “The Feast of Tabernacles.” It is the most joyful and festive of all Israel’s feasts. It is also the most prominent feast, mentioned more often in Scripture than any of the other feasts. This feast also sacred as the historical backdrop for the important teaching of the Messiah in John, chapters 7-9.” (The Feasts of the Lord, by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, Christian Jewish writers)
God ordained that all Jewish “of-age” males would make a pilgrimage three times a year to Jerusalem. They were to participate in the three clusters of feasts the Lord specified to be celebrated. That is, they made three trips and during the three trips they celebrated seven feasts. These were called: “the Pilgrim feasts” because most of the participants had to make a considerable pilgrimage on foot or on a donkey. MacArthur comments:
“Requiring all males to be present for three specified feasts at a central sanctuary would have had a socially and religiously uniting effect on the nation. The men must trust the Lord to protect their landholdings while on pilgrimage to the tabernacle (cf. Exo_34:23-24). All three feasts were joyful occasions, being a commemoration of the Exodus (the Feast of Unleavened Bread), an expression of gratitude to God for all the grain He had provided (the Feast of Harvest), and a thanksgiving for the final harvest (the Feast of Ingathering). Alternative names appear in the biblical record for the second and third feasts: the Feast of Weeks (Exo_34:22) or Firstfruits (Exo_34:22; Act_2:1), and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Lev_23:33-36).”
Please arrange the time to look up the Scripture passages in your Bible or smart phone. You will also enjoy your personal copy of the book: “The Feasts of the Lord” by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal. (Nelson) Check with Amazon Books for a used copy at a good price.
The Feast of Tabernacles was to be an annual reminder of God’s faithful provision during their forty years of wandering in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. I mention again that these three groups of feasts were called the “Pilgrim Feasts.” “They came from every village within the nation and from many foreign countries, most often in large caravans for protections. It was a joyous trip with much singing and laughing along the way.” (Howard/Rosenthal)
After the thousands of people arrived in Jerusalem and its immediate outskirts, they quickly assembled their booths. “All of them were located within a Sabbath-day’s journey to the Temple, a little more than a half-mile. At sundown, a priest blew a shofar (ram’s horn) at the Temple, which announced the arrival of the holiday (holy day). As darkness settled in, thousands of little fires were lit that studded the darkness. Well into the night, muffled laughter and cheery conversations could be heard drifting over the night breezes.” (H/R)
Two ceremonies took place each of the seven days/nights: In the morning, the Water-Libation Ceremony took place. In the evening, the celebration of the Water-Libation ceremony took place with The Temple Lighting Ceremony.
Each morning the High Priest carried a golden pitcher, a little more than a quart, to the Pool of Siloam. He dipped the container into the pool and brought it back to the southern gate of the Temple. Because of this ceremony, this gate became known as the “Water Gate.” “The High Priest continued to the stone altar in the Inner Court of the Temple. As he raised his hand to pour the water, the people shouted, “Raise your hand!” The high priest lifted his hand higher and poured. (This was not commanded by Moses but was a tradition that arose about 95 B.C.) When the water had been poured, there came three blasts by silver trumpets, signaling the start of Temple music. The people listened as a choir of Levites sang the Hallel (i.e., the praise Psalms, 113-118).
“At the proper time, the people waved their palm branches toward the altar and joined in singing: “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity” (Psalm 118:25). The priests, with palm branches in hand, marched once around the altar. Psalm 118 was viewed as a messianic psalm and as such gave the feast a messianic emphasis. This is why Jesus was greeted by the crowds shouting Hosanna and waving palm branches on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:3-9; Lk. 19:38; Jn 12:13). They viewed Him as the Messiah King. The same imagery is in view in Revelation 7:9-10)” (H/R)
“At night, the celebration of the water pouring (as opposed to the ceremony) was observed during the evenings of the feast by an impressive light ceremony in the Temple. It was known as the Simchat Bet Hasho’ayva (“the Rejoicing of the House of [Water] Drawing”).
“In the outer court, stood four towering menorahs (lampstands). Their wicks were made from the worn-out linen garments of the priests. Each of the four menorahs had a long ladder leading up to the lamp. The lamps were periodically refilled by young priests carrying large pitchers of olive oil.”
“The Feast of Tabernacles began in the middle of the lunar month when the harvest moon was full and the autumn sky clear. The outline of the surrounding Judean hills was clearly visible in the soft moonlight. Against this backdrop, the light of the Temple celebration was breathtaking. The celebration was repeated every night from the second night until the final night as a prelude to the water drawing in the morning.” (H/R)
The Feast of Tabernacles was the final Thanksgiving week for the year when the people acknowledged God’s goodness to them in giving them rain for the abundant crops they had just harvested and put into storage. Also, the water ceremony in the morning was a prayer for God to give them rain (in just a few days) during the winter to recharge their water supply for sprouting seeds and raising crops the coming year. How foreign this is to our money-making Halloween celebration we have adopted in America when we use harvested pumpkins and corn shocks in honor of Satan. Before you classify me as a party-pooper, maybe you will want to think about the Feast of Tabernacles and its symbolism of Thanksgiving and prayer for winter rains.
“John recorded that it was the day after the Feast of Tabernacles (the eighth day) which was considered a sabbath, when Jesus returned from the Mount of Olives to teach in the Temple (John 8:2; 7:2, 37) As the Pharisees came to entrap Him, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life: (John 8:12). The Pharisees did not question the meaning of His statement. They knew that it was a messianic claim, for they immediately called Him a liar. That is, He was not the Messiah. They were familiar with the many titles in the Scripture which ascribe light to the Messiah. He is called the “Star out of Jacob,” the “light of Israel,” the “light of the nations (gentiles)” a “burning lamp,” and the “Sun of righteousness.”
“Later that day, the Messiah reinforced this same truth when He healed the blind man. As He did so, He repeated, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” John 9:5). The Pharisees were again angered at Jesus. This time, they chose to find fault that He had healed on the Sabbath. Although there were no Mosaic laws against the act of healing on the Sabbath, the traditions of the Pharisees classified it as work and therefore forbade it.” (H/R)
They had just celebrated the pouring of water and the light ceremonies and Jesus stood on top of those celebrations to claim that He was the Messiah and the Light of the World. It was at this same time, following the water procession from the Pool of Siloam and pouring a quart of water on the altar in the Temple that Jesus interrupted the ceremonial procession and boomed out for them to hear: … 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)
An intense debate broke out among the people who were participating in the ceremony. Some believed he was the prophet that Moses had predicted would come (Deuteronomy 18:15) and others opposed that idea. The Feast of Tabernacles is, without doubt, the foundation of our Thanksgiving Day. Ω
Read Through the Bible in a Year
NOVEMBER 20, 2017 - MONDAY
A.M Ezekiel 22-23 P.M James 2
(Bible Gateway will read this to you if you like. Look for the speaker icon.)
Good Verse to Memorize:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
Song for Today:
How Are Things at Home? (5:06) (Janet Paschal)
A very moving song.
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