William F. Dankenbring
There is far more meaning and deep spiritual significance to the Feast of Tabernacles than many have ever realized! In this article we explore the deeper, hidden meanings to this Festival of God -- the Feast of Sukkoth -- also called the "Feast of Ingathering" -- and the little understood rituals, laws and commandments that were commanded for this annual Holy Festival -- Ha Hag Adonai -- "The Feast of the Lord"-- also called Zeman Simchateinu -- "the Season of our Joy"! What is "sukkot" all about? What about all the sacrifices? And what is the "lulav" and why is it important?
Here is vital new spiritual TRUTH!
I have been observing the "Feast of Tabernacles" ever since I first proved that the annual holy days of God are still in operation and in force, in our "Christian" age -- since 1958 -when I observed my first Feast of Tabernacles in Big Sandy, Texas, as a high school student. Since that time, I have observed 40 Feasts. I first learned of the Feast of Tabernacles from Herbert W. Armstrong, from reading his booklet entitled God's Festivals or Pagan Holidays -- Which?
In the many sermons I have heard since that time at and regarding the Feast of Tabernacles, the stress was always on the concept that this festival of God portrayed the millennial reign of Christ -- the "Kingdom of God" -- upon the earth. It was looked upon as the "fall harvest" also -- the great end-time harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God when "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom.11:26). The concept of why God's people were commanded to "dwell in booths" -- sukkoth -- temporary structures -- during the seven days of the Feast, was never explained, or what such "booths" had to do with the millennial reign of Christ! Nevertheless, we observed the Feast -- enjoyed a plethora of sermons, and feasting, eating in fancy restaurants, travel to exotic locations, and glorious fellowship with God's people. It was always a most enjoyable and enriching experience, something looked forward to every year.
However, in the past few years, as I have studied the festivals of God more closely, I have discovered that the old ideas, concepts, and explanations of the Worldwide Church of God, and its many off-shoots, today, have left much to be desired concerning the meaning, symbolism, and rituals connected with this important Festival of God. Let us go back to the original commandment concerning this festival, and see what has been missed, completely ignored and totally overlooked!
Leviticus 23 -- The Feast
We read in Leviticus 23 concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, the following statements: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein" (Lev.23:33-36).
Additional instruction in observing God's festival is given in verses 39-43 of this chapter -- verses which have generally been ignored and overlooked, and never explained. Notice what these verses add to the festival commandment! "Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall REJOICE before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a STATUTE FOR EVER in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelite born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD thy God" (Lev.23:39-43).
In the 30 years I observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the Worldwide Church of God, from 1958 to 1987, we were never told about the command to take boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook, and to use them in rejoicing before the LORD; nor were we told how the Feast of Tabernacles relates to the journey of the Israelites as they came out of Egypt, and dwelt in the wilderness for forty years, living in "booths" or temporary structures, or tent-like portable dwellings. This aspect of the Feast was totally overlooked!
Solomon and the Feast
The next mention of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Scriptures occurs when Solomon dedicated the newly-constructed Temple of God during his reign. The Temple was dedicated in 1004 B.C., exactly 1000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the true living "Temple of God" (John 2:19-21; Eph.2:21-22; 4:15-16). "And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month" (I Kings 8:2). "And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days. On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people" (I Kings 8:65-66).
Notice! They enjoyed the Feast of Tabernacles, the feast of the seventh month, so much that they kept it for double the commanded time -- fourteen days, instead of just seven! The chronicler explains, "for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the FEAST seven days. And on the three and twentieth day (the day after the "eighth day") of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people" (I Chron.7:8-10).
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Feast
The Feast was also kept in the days of king Hezekiah (II Chron.31:3). Finally, in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read, "They kept also the Feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the custom, as the duty of every day required" (Ezra 3:3).
This observance occurred after the return of many Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Ezra, a righteous scribe of God, gathered the people and read to them from the law of God (Nehemiah 8:1-8) on the first day of Tishri, or the Feast of Trumpets (Ezra 8:2). On the next day, as the people were gathered to learn more of the laws of God, "they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner" (Neh.8:14-18).
Here again the Feast of Tabernacles is described -- and the statement is made that the festival had not been observed in this manner, with the construction of booths, since the days of Joshua himself! Truly, in the days of Ezra, there was a turning back to observe the laws of God among the people, and much more attention was given to proper and correct observance.
Nevertheless, many of these features of the Feast, as observed in modern times, have also been neglected by thousands of God's people. How many literally build "booths" to sit in, to discuss matters within, to fellowship in? How many use the branches of various kinds of trees to do so? How many take various branches, and wave them before the LORD, in rejoicing and worshipping Him? How important are these things? What do they add to our over-all understanding? How much have we missed, by not observing these things circumspectly, and thoroughly?
Let's begin to understand! Let's begin to get it right!
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