Feast Of Tabernacles

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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(See Feasts .) Ηasukoth , "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  Psalms 118:14-15;  Psalms 118:19-20;  Psalms 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,  Psalms 118:1-25;  Psalms 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

TABERNACLES, FEÂST OF. —The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in  John 7:2;  John 7:37. It was the third and. the most important of the Jewish festivals, requiring the presence of all males at Jerusalem. It began on the 15th of the seventh month, the month Tishri, and in the time of Christ continued for eight days.

In early times it was called the Feast of Ingathering ( Exodus 23:16;  Exodus 34:22), a name that testifies to its agricultural origin and character. In the time of the Judges it appears as a Canaanitish festival at Shechem ( Judges 9:27) and as an Israelitish festival at Shiloh ( Judges 21:19, 1 Samuel 1). It was the occasion that Solomon chose on which to dedicate his Temple ( 1 Kings 8:2). The date given in this chapter, viz. the seventh month, does not correspond with the date of the completion of the Temple as given in  1 Kings 6:38, and may be a later insertion giving the date of the Feast as fixed later. From the original character of the Festival, it is obvious that no precise date could be fixed at first. The early legislation in Exodus requires its observance, but does not give its date or duration.

The Deuteronomic Code calls it the Feast of Tabernacles, and requires it to be kept seven days, but does not fix a date. It describes it as a day of joy for all, including servant, stranger, and widow ( Deuteronomy 16:13 ff.). In accordance with the sweeping centralization of worship of Deuteronomy, it must be kept at Jerusalem, and we may be sure that this change involved very radical alterations in its character.

The Book of Ezekiel significantly assigns it an exact date ( Ezekiel 45:25).

The Priests’ Code requires ( Leviticus 23:33-43) the people celebrating it to dwell in booths to commemorate the fact that their fathers did likewise of necessity as they came out of Egypt. Sacrifices are prescribed ( Numbers 29:12-38), and an eighth day is added. At the time of the promulgation of the Code as the law of the land in post-exilic times, the Feast was kept with the greatest enthusiasm ( Nehemiah 8:14 ff.), and as an examination of the Law showed that the dwelling in booths was required, this was done, as an innovation. The early practice had doubtless died out as incongruous with the centralized observance from the time of Deut., but was now restored with a special significance attached to it.

Later Jewish laws added to the regulations, and the Feast was kept at Jerusalem until the destruction of the Temple. Since then it has remained one of the great feasts of the Jews, although the mode of its observance has suffered changes to accord with modified conditions.

One rite which was observed in NT times was the drawing of water from Siloam, and the pouring of it out as a libation in the presence of the people. This Feast was regarded as the appropriate time for special prayer for abundant rain to ensure a plentiful harvest for the ensuing year. Many hold that this rite and custom furnished our Lord the occasion for using the figure of water for the thirsty, in His invitation on the great day of the Feast ( John 7:37-38). This may have been the case, even though that particular rite was regularly omitted on the eighth day; but the teaching of Jesus seems to be very different, at least from the original thought of the rite on this Feast of Ingathering. It may be only a natural coincidence that an important part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple on the occasion of this Feast was for answer to prayers for rain, as they should be made statedly thereafter.

Literature.—Art. ‘Tabernacles [Feast of]’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, and in EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] and JE [Note: E Jewish Encyclopedia.] ; Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] i. 145 ff.; cf. Benzinger, Heb. Arch, passim  ; and the Comm. ad loc.

O. H. Gates.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]


1. OT references . In   Exodus 23:16;   Exodus 34:22 it is called the Feast of Ingathering , and its date is placed at the end of the year.

In  Deuteronomy 16:13-15 its name is given as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (possibly referring to the use of booths in the vineyard during the vintage). It is to last 7 days, to be observed at the central sanctuary, and to be an occasion of rejoicing. In the ‘year of release,’ i.e. the sabbatical year, the Law is to be publicly read (  Deuteronomy 31:10-13 ). The dedication of Solomon’s Temple took place at this feast; in the account given in   1 Kings 8:66 the seven-day rule of Deut. is represented as being observed; but the parallel narrative of   2 Chronicles 7:8-10 assumes that the rule of Lev. was followed.

In  Leviticus 23:34 ff. and   Numbers 29:12-39 we find elaborate ordinances. The feast is to begin on 15th Tishri (October), and to last 8 days, the first and the last being days of holy convocation. The people are to live in booths improvised for the occasion. A very large number of offerings is ordained; on each of the first 7 days 2 rams and 14 Iambs, and a goat as a sin-offering; and successively on these days a diminishing number of bullocks: 13 on the 1st day, 12 on the 2nd, and so on till the 7th, when 7 were to be offered. On the 8th day the special offerings were 1 bullock, 1 ram, 7 lambs, and a goat as a sin-offering.

We hear in  Ezra 3:4 of the observance of this feast, but are not told the method. The celebration in   Nehemiah 8:16 followed the regulations of Lev., but we are expressly informed that such had not been the case since Joshua’s days. Still, the feast was kept in some way, for Jeroboam instituted its equivalent for the Northern Kingdom in the 8th month (  1 Kings 12:32-33 ).

2. Character of the feast . It was the Jewish harvest-home, when all the year’s produce of corn, wine, and oil had been gathered in; though no special offering of the earth’s fruits was made, as was done at the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. (The reason was perhaps a desire to avoid the unseemly scenes of the Canaanite vintage-festival, by omitting such a significant point of resemblance; cf.   Judges 9:27 .) It was also regarded as commemorating the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness. It was an occasion for great joy and the giving of presents; It was perhaps the most popular of the national festivals, and consequently the most generally attended. Thus   Zechariah 14:16 names as the future sign of Judah’s triumph the fact that all the world shall come up yearly to Jerusalem to keep this festival.

3. Later customs . In later times novel customs were attached to the observance. Such were the daily procession round the altar, with its sevenfold repetition on the 7th day; the singing of special Psalms; the procession on each of the first 7 days to Siloam to fetch water, which was mixed with wine in a golden pitcher, and poured at the foot of the altar while trumpets were blown (cf.   John 7:37 ); and the illumination of the women’s court in the Temple by the lighting of the 4 golden candelabra (cf.   John 8:12 ). The 8th day, though appearing originally as a supplementary addition to the feast, came to be regarded as an integral part of it, and is so treated in 2Ma 10:6 , as also by Josephus.

A. W. F. Blunt.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

 Leviticus 23:33-43 Exodus 23:16 Deuteronomy 16:13 Leviticus 23:33-43 Numbers 29:13-38 1 Kings 8:2 Leviticus 23:43 Nehemiah 8:9-18 John 7:2,37

"The feast of Tabernacles, the harvest festival of the Jewish Church, was the most popular and important festival after the Captivity. At Jerusalem it was a gala day. It was to the autumn pilgrims, who arrived on the 14th (of the month Tisri, the feast beginning on the 15th) day, like entrance into a silvan city. Roofs and courtyards, streets and squares, roads and gardens, were green with boughs of citron and myrtle, palm and willow. The booths recalled the pilgrimage through the wilderness. The ingathering of fruits prophesied of the spiritual harvest.", Valling's Jesus Christ, p. 133.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

This fell on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and continued seven days, with a holy convocation on the eighth day. Israel dwelt in booths during the feast, in remembrance of their having lived in tents when brought out of Egypt.  Leviticus 23:34;  Numbers 29:12;  Deuteronomy 16:13;  2 Chronicles 8:13;  Ezra 3:4;  John 7:2 . It was at the end of their harvest and vintage, when they enjoyed the fruits of God's goodness. The feast prefigures the millennium, when the people will enter into full blessing, and the eighth day, the great day, the communion of the heavenly and the earthly.  Zechariah 14:16 . See FEASTS and SEASONS.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [6]

See [[Feasts And Festivals Of Israel]]