The Feast of Tabernacles Part IV

Our Scripture tonight is Nehemiah chapter eight

As of old the sound of the trumpet summoned Israel before the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle, His elect 144,000 will be summoned by the Feast of Trumpets under the last trump in the day of the Lord (Matthew 24:31).

Besides the 'blowing of trumpets,' certain festive sacrifices were ordered to be offered on the New Moon. These mark 'the beginnings of months' (Numbers 28:11-15), for it is a universal principle in the Old Testament, that the FIRST always stands for the whole: the firstfruits for the whole harvest, the firstborn and firstlings for all the rest. For 'if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy.' Thus the burnt-offerings and sin-offering at 'the beginning' of each month consecrated the whole.

On New Moon's Day, the Council sat from early morning to just before the evening sacrifice to determine the APPEARANCE of the new moon. Their PROCLAMATION—'It is sanctified'—and NOT the actual appearance of the new moon, determined the commencement of the feast. Immediately, the priests blew the trumpets, which marked the feast. After the ordinary morning sacrifice, prescribed festive offerings were brought, (the blood of the burnt offerings being thrown round the base of the altar below the red line and the rest poured out into the channel at the SOUTH side of the altar; the blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled or dropped from the finger on the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, beginning from the EAST, the rest poured out, as that of the burnt offerings).

Quite distinct from the other new moons, and more sacred than they, was that of the seventh month, Tishri. Partly on account of the symbolical meaning of the seventh or sabbatical month, in which the great feasts of the Day of Atonement and of Tabernacles occurred, and partly, because it also marked the commencement of the civil year. In Scripture this feast is designated as the 'memorial blowing', 'the day of blowing' (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1), because on that day horns, not ordinary priests' trumpets, were blown all day long in Jerusalem.

From Scripture we know with what solemnity the first day of the seventh month was observed at the time of Ezra, and how deeply moved the people were by the public reading and explanation of the law, which to so many of them came like a strange sound—like the revelation of God's Word today. All the more solemn, that after so long a period they heard it again on that soil which bore witness to its truth (Nehemiah 8:1-12).

The remembrance of this may have been quickened to Paul's mind when he wrote: 'Wherefore it is said, Awake you who sleeps, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you Light' (Ephesians 5:14)! If so, we may find allusion to the appearance of the new moon, and specifically that of the seventh month, in verse 8: 'For you were once in darkness but now are you Light in the Lord: walk as children of Light!'

The most joyous of all festive seasons in Israel was that of the 'Feast of Tabernacles.' It fell on a time of year when the hearts of the people would naturally be full of thankfulness, gladness and expectancy. All the crops had been long stored. Now all the fruits were also gathered, vintage is past, and the land awaited only the softening and refreshment of the 'latter rain,' to prepare it for a new crop. It was appropriate that when the commencement of the harvest had been consecrated by offering the first ripe sheaf of wheat (Jesus Christ), and the full ingathering of the corn by the two wave-loaves (the Bride of all Ages), there should now be a harvest feast of thankfulness and of gladness unto the Lord. (The Wedding Supper of the Lamb, the new birth of 144,000, the Millennium, general resurrection, White Throne Judgment, and the renewed heaven and earth). But that was not all. As they looked around on the goodly land, the fruits of which had just enriched them, they must have remembered, that by miraculous interposition, their God had brought them to this land and given it them, and that He ever claimed it as uniquely His. The land was strictly connected with the history of the people; and both the land and the history were linked with the MISSION of Israel.

If the beginning of the harvest had pointed back to the birth of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt, and forward to the true Passover-sacrifice in the future; if the corn-harvest was connected with the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in the past, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; the harvest-thanksgiving of the Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel, on the one hand, of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while on the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest when Israel's mission should be completed: not by Israel but by Messiah; and all nations gathered unto the Lord. This will be after Israel mourns their failure to fulfil their Mission, and their murder of Messiah, and receive His forgiveness at the Day of Atonement (Genesis 45:4-8; Zechariah 12:10-13; 13:1-7).

Thus the FIRST of the three great annual feasts spoke, in the presentation of the first sheaf, of the founding of the Church in the waving and acceptance of Christ; the SECOND of its harvesting, when the Church in its present state should be presented as two leavened wave-loaves; while the THIRD pointed forward to the full harvest in the end, when 'in this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto ALL people a feast of fat things . . . And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people (Israel) shall He take away from all the earth' (Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:4).

That these types reveal the very design of the Feast of Tabernacles is apparent not only from the language of the prophets and the peculiar services of the feast, but from its position in the Calendar and even from the names by which it is designated in Scripture. Thus in its reference to the harvest it is called 'the feast of ingathering' (Exodus 23:16; 34:22); in that to the history of Israel in the past, 'the Feast of Tabernacles' (Leviticus 23:34, 43; Deuteronomy 14:13, 16; 31:10; II Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4), while its symbolical bearing on the NEAR future, is brought out in its designation as emphatically 'the feast' (I Kings 8:2; II Chronicles 5:3; 7:8-9); and 'the Feast of Jehovah' (literally, in Leviticus 23:39). Quite decisive is the description of the latter-day glory at the close of Zechariah's prophecies where the conversion of all nations is distinctly connected with the 'Feast of Tabernacles' (Zechariah 14:16-21).

The Feast of Tabernacles was the third of three great annual festivals at which every male in Israel was to appear before the Lord in the PLACE which He should choose. It fell on the 15th of the seventh month, or Tishri, as the Passover had fallen on the 15th of the first month. The Passover opened, whilst this feast closed the original festive calendar. The Feast of Tabernacles, or as it should be called, booths, lasted for seven days—from the 15th to the 21st Tishri—and was followed by an Octave on the 22nd Tishri. But this eighth day, though closely connected with the Feast of Tabernacles formed NO part of that feast as clearly shown by the difference in the sacrifices and the ritual, and by the circumstance that the people no longer lived in 'booths'. The first day of the feast, and also its Octave, were to be days of 'holy convocation' (Leviticus 23:35-36), each 'a Sabbath' (Leviticus 23:39), not in the sense of the weekly Sabbath, but of festive rest in the Lord, when no servile work of any kind might be done (Leviticus 23:25, 32).

The Feast of Tabernacles followed closely on the Day of Atonement. Both took place in the seventh month; the one on the 10th, the other on the 15th of Tishri. Coming on the 15th of the seventh month—that is, at full moon, when the 'sacred' month had, so to speak, attained its full strength—the Feast of Tabernacles appropriately followed five days after the Day of Atonement, in which the sin of Israel had been removed, and its covenant relation to God restored. Thus a sanctified nation could keep a holy feast of harvest joy unto the Lord, just as in the truest sense it will be 'in that day' (Zechariah 14:20) when the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles shall be really fulfilled?

THREE things especially marked the Feast of Tabernacles: its joyous festivities, the dwelling in 'booths', and the peculiar sacrifices and rites of the week. The FIRST of these was simply characteristic of a 'feast of ingathering:' 'Because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice: thou, and thy son, and daughter and thy manservant and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, that are within thy gates.' Nor were any in Israel to 'appear before the Lord empty: every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which He hath given thee' (Deuteronomy 16:13-17). Votive, freewill, and peace-offerings marked their gratitude to God, and at the meal which ensued, the poor, the stranger the Levite, and the homeless would be welcome guests for the Lord's sake. Moreover, when the people saw the treasury chests opened and emptied at this feast for the last time in the year, they would remember their brethren at a distance in whose name as their own, the daily and festive sacrifices were offered. Thus their liberality would not only be stimulated, but all Israel, however widely dispersed, would feel itself anew 'one before the Lord their God' and in the courts of His House. There was, besides something about this feast which would peculiarly remind them, if not of their dispersion, yet of their being 'strangers and pilgrims in the earth'. For its SECOND characteristic was, that during the seven days of its continuance 'all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when l brought them out of the land of Egypt' (Leviticus 23:42-43).

According to the view universally prevalent at the time of Christ, the direction on the first day of the feast to 'take the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,' applied to what the worshipers were to carry in their hands rather than to the materials whence the booths were to be constructed. This seems borne out by the account of the festival at the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:15, 18) when the booths were constructed of branches of OTHER trees than those mentioned in Leviticus 23. The lulav was used in the Temple on each of the seven festive days. Even children, if they were able to shake it, being bound to carry one. If the first day of the feast fell on a Sabbath, the people brought their lulavs on the previous day into the synagogue on the Temple Mount, and fetched them in the morning, so as not needlessly to break the Sabbath rest.

The THIRD characteristic of the Feast of Tabernacles was its offerings. These were altogether peculiar. The sin-offering for each of the seven days was 'one kid of the goats.' Burnt offerings consisted of bullocks and rams, with their appropriate meat and drink-offerings. But, whereas the number of the rams and lambs remained the same on each day of the festival, that of the bullocks decreased every day by one: from thirteen on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, 'that great day of the feast.'

(As no special injunctions are given about the drink-offering, we infer that it was, as usually (Numbers 15:1-10), 1/4 of a hin of wine for each lamb, 1/3 for each ram, and 1/2 for each bullock (the hin=1 gallon 2 pints). The 'meat-offering' is expressly fixed (Numbers 29:12) at 1/10 of an ephah of flour, mixed with 1/4 of a hin of oil, for each lamb; 2/10 of an ephah, with 1/3 hin of oil, for each ram; and 3/10 of an ephah, with 1/2 hin of oil, for each bullock). Three things are remarkable about these burnt-offerings characteristic of the Feast of Tabernacles. As compared with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of the rams and lambs is double, while that of the bullocks is fivefold (14 during the Passover week, 5x14 during that of Tabernacles. Secondly, the number of the burnt-sacrifices, whether taking each kind by itself or all of them together, is always divisible by the sacred number seven. We have for the week 70 bullocks, 14 rams and 98 lambs, or altogether 182 sacrifices (26x7), to which must be added 336 (48x7) tenths of ephahs of flour for the meat offering.

We won't pursue the symbolism of numbers further than to point out that whereas the sacred number 7 appeared at the Feast of Unleavened Bread only in the number of its days, and at Pentecost in the period of its observance (7x7 days), the Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days, took place when the seventh month was at its full height, and had the number 7 impressed on its characteristic sacrifices. It's not so easy to account for the daily diminution in the number of bullocks offered. The view propounded in the Talmud is that these sacrifices were offered, not for Israel, but for the nations of the world: 'There were seventy bullocks to correspond to the number of the seventy nations in the world.' This would appear to agree well with the prophetic type whilst the first thirteen might apply to the Twelve Tribes and the Bride which like Levi, was separated unto the Lord.

As at the Passover and at Pentecost, the altar of burnt-offering was cleansed during the first night-watch, and the gates of the Temple were thrown open immediately after midnight. The time till the beginning of the ordinary morning sacrifice was occupied in examining the various sacrifices and offerings that were to be brought during the day.

While the morning sacrifice was being prepared, a priest accompanied by a joyous procession with music went down to the Pool of Siloam, whence he drew water into a golden pitcher capable of holding about two-pints. On the Sabbaths they fetched the water from a golden vessel IN the Temple itself where it had been carried from Siloam on the preceding day (to avoid work on the sabbath). At the same time that the procession started for Siloam, another went to a place in the Kedron valley, close by, called Motza, whence they brought willow branches which, amidst the blasts of the priests trumpets they stuck on either side of the altar of burnt offering, bending them over towards it so as to form a kind of leafy canopy. Then the ordinary sacrifice proceeded, the priest who had gone to Siloam so timed it that he returned just as his brethren carried up the pieces of the sacrifice to lay them on the altar. As he entered by the 'Water-gate,' which obtained its name from this ceremony, he was received by a threefold blast from the priests' trumpets. The priest then went up the rise of the altar and turned to the left, where there were two silver basins with narrow holes—the eastern a little wider for the wine and the western somewhat narrower for the water. Into these the wine of the drink-offering was poured, and at the same time the water from Siloam, the people shouting to the priest, 'Raise thy hand,' to show that he really poured the water into the basin which led to the base of the altar.

As soon as the wine and the water were being poured out, the Temple music began, and the 'hallel' (Psalms 113-118) was sung, and to the accompaniment of flutes, except on the Sabbath and on the feast, when flute-playing was not allowed, on account of the sanctity of the days. When the choir came to these words (Psalms 118:1), 'O give thanks to the Lord,' and again when they sang, (Psalms 118:25) 'O work then now salvation, Jehovah;' and once more at the close, (Psalm 118:29) '0 give thanks unto the Lord,' all the worshipers shook their lulavs towards the altar.

When, therefore, the multitudes from Jerusalem, on meeting Jesus, 'cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way, and . . . cried, saying, "O then, work now salvation," to the Son of David!' (Matthew 21: 8-9; John 12:12-13) they applied, in reference to Christ, what was regarded as one of the chief ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, praying that God would now from 'the highest' heavens manifest and send that salvation in anointing the Son of David, as was symbolized by the pouring out of water. Although that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as bearing a subordinate reference to the annual rainfall, which they imagined was determined by God at that feast, its main and REAL application was to the future out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, predicted by Isaiah the prophet—probably in allusion to this very rite (Isaiah 12:1-6). Thus the Talmud says distinctly: 'Why is the name of it called, The drawing out of water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation".' Hence, also, the feast and the peculiar joyousness of it are alike "the drawing out of water;" for, according to the same Rabbinical authorities, the Holy Spirit dwells in man only through joy. What we call 'stimulation of revelation'.

A similar symbolism was expressed by another ceremony which took place at the close, not of the daily, but of the festive sacrifices. On every one of the seven days the PRIESTS formed in procession, and made the circuit of the altar, singing: 'O then, now work salvation, Jehovah! O Jehovah, give prosperity!' (Psalms 118:25). But on the seventh, 'that great day of the feast,' they made the circuit of the altar seven times, remembering how the walls of Jericho had fallen in similar circumstances and anticipating how, by the DIRECT interposition of God, the walls of heathenism would fall before Jehovah, and the land lie open for His people to go in and possess it. We see in this seven times, Seven Church Ages, and the Millennium.

We can now in some measure realize the event recorded in John 7:37. The festivities of the Week of Tabernacles were drawing to a close. 'It was the last day, that great day of the feast.' It obtained this name, although it was a 'holy convocation,' partly because it closed the feast and partly from the circumstances which procured it in Rabbinical writings the designations of 'Day of the Great Hosanna,' on account of the sevenfold circuit of the altar with 'hossanna'; and 'Day of Willows,' and 'Day of Beating the Branches,' because all the leaves were shaken off the willow boughs, and the palm branches beaten in pieces by the side of the altar. It was on that day, AFTER the priest had returned from Siloam with his golden pitcher, and for the last time poured its contents to the base of the altar; after the 'Hallel' (Psalms 113-118) had been sung to the sound of the flute, the people responding and worshiping as the priests three times drew the threefold blasts from their silver trumpets—just when the interest of the people had been raised to its highest pitch, that, from amidst the mass of worshipers, who were waving towards the altar quite a forest of leafy branches as the last words of Psalm 118 were chanted—a voice was raised which resounded through the Temple, startling the multitude and carrying fear and hatred to the hearts of their leaders. It was Jesus, who 'stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let him come unto Me, and drink.' Then by faith in Him should each one truly become like the Pool of Siloam, and from his inmost being 'rivers of living waters flow' (John 7:38). 'This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.' Thus the significance of the rite in which they had just taken part, was not only fully explained, but the mode of its fulfilment pointed out. The effect was instantaneous. It could not but be, that in that vast assembly, so suddenly roused by being brought face to face with Him in whom every type and prophecy is fulfilled there would be many who, 'when they HEARD the saying, said, "Of a truth this is the Prophet". Others said, "This is the Christ".' Even the Temple-guard, whose duty it would have been in such circumstances to arrest one who had so interrupted the services of the day, and presented himself to the people in such a light were also captivated by His words, and dared not lay hands on Him. 'Never man spake like this man,' was the only account they could give of their failure to arrest Jesus, in answer to the reproaches of the chief priests and Pharisees.

The rebuke of the Jewish authorities which followed, is too characteristic to require comment. Only one of their number had been deeply moved by the scene just witnessed in the Temple. Yet timid as usual, Nicodemus only laid hold of this one point, that the Pharisees blamed the popular confession of Jesus to IGNORANCE of the Law, to which he replied, in the genuine Rabbinical manner of arguing, "Without meeting one's opponent face to face: 'Does our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he does'?"

But matters were not to end with the wrangling of priests and Pharisees. The PROOF which Nicodemus had invited them to seek from the teaching and the miracles of Christ before the people was about to be displayed both before the people and their rulers in the healing of the blind man. Here also it was in allusion to the ceremonial of the Feast of Tabernacles, that Jesus when He saw the 'man blind from his birth,' said: 'As long as l am in the world, I am the Light of the world;' having just as He told him, 'Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam (which is, by interpretation, Sent).' For the words 'I am the Light of the world,' are the same which He had just spoken in the Temple (John 8:12), and they had in all probability been intended to point to another very peculiar ceremony which took place at the Feast of Tabernacles. In the words of the Mishnah, the order of the services for that feast was as follows: 'They went first to offer the daily sacrifice in the morning, then the additional sacrifices; after that the votive and freewill offerings; from thence to the festive meal; from thence to the study of the law; and after that to offer the evening sacrifice; and from thence they went to the joy of the pouring out of the water'. It is this 'joy of the pouring out of the water' which we are about to describe. (The water was poured over the sacrifice, in memory of the rock at Rephidim—'That Rock was Christ'—which poured forth waters of natural life in the wilderness as living waters came forth from the side of our anointed Rock when He was smitten on Calvary's cross. The Lord sent the man to wash in the pool of Siloam, for it was the clay from his eyes (carnality) that must be washed from the eyes of each of us before we can see. The permanent source of the pool of Siloam was En-rogel—the fountain of the fuller.

At the close of the first day of the feast the worshipers descended to the Court of the Women, where great preparations had been made. Four golden candelabras were there, each with four golden bowls and against them rested four ladders; four youths of priestly descent held a pitcher of oil, capable of holding one hundred and twenty logs (almost nine gallons), from which they filled each bowl. The old, worn breeches and girdles of the priests served for wicks to these lamps. There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of 'the house of water-pouring.' The 'Chassidim' and 'the men of Deed' danced before the people with flaming torches in their hands and sang before them hymns and songs of praise; and the Levite, with harps, and lutes, and cymbals, and trumpets, and countless instruments of music stood upon the fifteen steps which led down from the Court of Israel to that of the Women, according to the number of the fifteen Songs of Degrees in the Book of Psalms. They stood with their instruments of music, and sang hymns. Two priests, with trumpets in their hands were at the upper gate, that of Nicanor at the top of the stairs, which led from the Court of Israel to that of the women. At cock-crowing they drew a threefold blast. As they reached the tenth step, they drew another threefold blast; as they entered the court itself, they drew yet another threefold blast; and so they blew as they advanced, till they reached the Gate Beautiful. Coming to this eastern gate, they turned round towards the west (to face the Holy Place), and said: "Our fathers who were in this place turned their back upon the Sanctuary of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east and they worshipped towards the rising sun; but as for us, our eyes are towards the Lord".

It seems clear that this illumination of the Temple was regarded as forming part of, and having the same symbolical meaning as, 'the pouring out of water.' The light shining out of the Temple into the darkness around, and lighting up every court in Jerusalem, must have been intended as a symbol not only of the Shekinah which once filled the Temple, but of that 'great light' which 'the people that walked in darkness' were to see, and which was to shine 'upon them that dwell in the land of the shadow of death' (Isaiah 9:2). The prophecies of Isaiah 9 and 60 were connected with this symbolism, and Jesus referred to this ceremony in the words spoken by Him in the Temple at that very Feast of Tabernacles: 'I am the Light of the world; he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of Life' (John 8:12).

Only the first of the seven days of this feast was 'a holy convocation'; the other six were 'minor festivals'. On each day, besides the ordinary morning and evening sacrifices, the festive offerings prescribed in Numbers 29:12-38 were brought. The Psalms sung at the drink-offering after the festive sacrifices (or Musaph, as they are called), were for the first day of the feast, Psalm 105; for the second, Psalm 29; for the third, Psalm 1 from verse 16; for the fourth Psalm 94, from verse 16; for the fifth, Psalm 94, from verse 8; for the sixth, Psalm 81, from verse 6; for the last day of the feast Psalm 82, from verse 5. As the people retired from the altar at the close of each days service they exclaimed, 'How beautiful art thou, O altar!'—or, according to a later version, 'We give thanks to Jehovah and to thee, O altar!' All twenty four orders of the priesthood were engaged in the festive offerings which were apportioned among them according to definite rules, which also fixed how the priestly dues were to be divided among them. Lastly, every sabbatical year the Law was to be publicly read on the first day of the feast (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).

On the afternoon of the seventh day of the feast the people began to dismantle the 'booths'. For at the Octave, on the 22nd of Tishri, they lived no longer in booths nor did they use the lulav. It was observed as 'a holy convocation;' and the festive sacrifices prescribed in Numbers 29:36-38 were offered, although no more by all the twenty four courses of priests, and finally the 'Hallel' sung at the drink-offering.

It will have been observed that the two most important ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles—the pouring out of water and the illumination of the Temple—were of POST Mosaic origin. According to Jewish tradition, the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night had first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast. On that day also Moses was said to have come down from the Mount and announced to the people that the Tabernacle of God was to be reared among them. We know that the dedication of Solomon's Temple and the descent of the Shekinah took place at this feast (I Kings 8; II Chronicles 7). And we find allusion to it in this description of heavenly things, 'After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice saying, Salvation to our God, who is seated upon the throne, and unto the Lamb' (Revelation 7:9-10).

The Feast of Tabernacles is the one type in the Old Testament yet to be fulfilled and we see in the two great ceremonies of the 'pouring out of the water' and the Temple illumination what it will produce. bb960410.htm.

The Feast of Tabernacles, Part V


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