The Torah refers to the feast of Sukkot on a number of occasions. It first describes it as the Feast of Ingathering (Hag Ha’Asif), when the nation of Israel celebrated the conclusion of the harvest (Ex. 23:16; 34:22). God designates the feast as one of the three pilgrimage festivals when Israelites must travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday in the Temple (Deut. 16:16). These early biblical references demonstrate the close association between the holiday and the fall harvest in the agrarian setting of ancient Israel.
Later, the Torah refers to the holiday as the Feast of Tabernacles, Hag Sukkot (Lev. 23:33; Deut. 16:13; Ezra 3:4). The same section of Scripture also describes it simply as the Feast of the Lord (Lev. 23:39). In this passage, God instructs Israel to celebrate the feast for seven days, beginning on the 15th day of the seventh month. Although Tishri (the month of Sukkot) is the first month in the modern Jewish calendar, it corresponds to the seventh month in the biblical calendar. The same passage adds an additional eighth day to the festival as a closing assembly (Lev. 23:36). Judaism refers to this holiday as Shemini Atzeret, which means “the assembly of the eighth.”
During the celebration of the festival, the nation presented certain offerings to God. The book of Numbers gives a detailed description of the Temple sacrifices for each of the eight days of the holiday (Num. 29:12-39).
God also instructs Israel to gather a sample from four species of trees to use as part of the Temple celebration during the holiday (Lev. 23:40). Later Jewish tradition identifies these species as the etrog (a citron), lulav (closed date palm frond), hadas (myrtle branch) and aravah (willow branch). Nowadays, the three types of branches (date palm, myrtle and willow) are bound together and referred to by the name of the date palm frond (lulav). Throughout Sukkot, Jewish communities wave the three species along with the etrog (citron) in a special ceremony, which can occur in the synagogue, in the sukkah, or in the home.
The Bible also alludes to the holiday as the “feast of the seventh month” or by the simple designation of “feast” (Judges 21:19; 1 Kings 8:2, 65; 2 Chron. 5:3, 7:8; Ezek. 45:25; Neh. 8:14).
In the New Testament, John 7 describes Jesus’ celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.