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Feast of Tabernacles

also known as: Sukkot

This is the third of the great annual festivals of the Jews (Leviticus 23:33-43).

It is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:13).

It was celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tisri, and the celebration lasted for eight days (Leviticus 23:33-43). During that period the people left their homes and lived in booths formed of the branches of trees.

The sacrifices offered at this time are mentioned in Numbers 29:13-38.

It was at the time of this feast that Solomon's temple was dedicated (1 Kings 8:2).

Mention is made of it after the return from the Captivity. This feast was designed (1) to be a memorial of the wilderness wanderings, when the people dwelt in booths (Leviticus 23:43), and (2) to be a harvest thanksgiving (Neh. 8:9-18).

The Jews, at a later time, introduced two appendages to the original festival, viz., (1) that of drawing water from the Pool of Siloam, and pouring it upon the altar (John 7:2, 37), as a memorial of the water from the rock in Horeb; and (2) of lighting the lamps at night, a memorial of the pillar of fire by night during their wanderings.

The mitzvah of waving parts of trees during the Feast of Tabernacles derives from the Torah. In Leviticus, it states:

And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. —Leviticus 23:40 ESV

Talmudic tradition says the 4 plants that should be used are leafy boughs from a myrtle tree, the fruit of a citron tree, green fronds of the date palm tree, and willow branches.

  • אתרוג —transliteration: etrog —meaning: citron tree
  • לולב —transliteration: lulav —meaning: palm branch
  • הדס —transliteration: hadass —meaning: myrtle tree
  • ערבה —transliteration: aravah —meaning: willow tree

“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.

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Article Version: June 2, 2019