The Jewish holiday of Sukkot falls five days after the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Sukkot is also referred to as the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43). “Tabernacles” refers to the temporary dwellings that the Jewish people were commanded to inhabit during this holiday. Sukkot is also called the “Season of our Rejoicing” – and for good reason!
Sukkot, like many Jewish feasts, has different levels of meaning. The first is agricultural, as the tabernacles remind us of how the farm laborers in ancient days lived as they worked to bring in the harvest. The second level of meaning is historical, as the holiday commemorates the 40-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.
Yet another meaning, however, is fulfilled in Messiah, for there is a wonderful connection between Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles. It is the Kingdom promise associated with Sukkot. The prophet Zechariah proclaims,
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
Understanding the Messianic connection of Jesus to the Feast of Tabernacles even helps us grasp something of the mystery of His incarnation:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The word “dwelt” here in the Greek means “tabernacled.” When He became flesh, Jesus inhabited the temporary shelter of an earthly body, knowing He soon would be required to leave it. Why did He do it? So that we might find a home in Him – not a temporary shelter in the wilderness, but an eternal home in a Kingdom that abides forever.
- Families live in booths – temporary shelters constructed of boughs and leafy branches – to remind us of God’s protection during the wilderness wandering after the Exodus.
- Arbat HaMinim (the Four Species): the Etrog (citron, a citrus fruit native to Israel), Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle branch) and Arava (willow branch) are used in worship and to bless the booth. With the citron in the left hand, and the others held together in the right, a blessing is recited inside the sukkah (booth) and the items are waved east, south, west, north, up and down as a symbol that God’s presence is everywhere. This practice is based on Leviticus 23:40.
- Ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”) – Hospitality is a Sukkot tradition, with people visiting each other in the sukkah and eating together.
- Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43
- Numbers 29:12-34
- Deuteronomy 16:13-15
- Ezra 3:1-4
- Nehemiah 8:14-15
- John 7 and 8 take place on Sukkot.
- Sukkot’s emphasis on ingathering is unmistakably bound to the fulfillment of Messiah’s Kingdom promises (Zechariah 14:16-19). Moreover, the theme of God’s sheltering tabernacle is most fully expressed in Revelation 21:3: “…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell with them…”