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The Fall Feasts: The Feast of Tabernacles

from the October 04, 2011 eNews issue
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"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... Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; 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 I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." – Leviticus 23:34, 42-43

Egypt banned all harvesting and exporting of palm fronds midway through September, causing a scramble in Israel to find other sources before next week.  Palm fronds are not a great commodity most of the year, but tens of thousands of them are waved ceremonially throughout Israel on the holiday of Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, along with citrus, myrtle and willow branches.   No specific reason was given for the ban on the date palm branches, but it ultimately doesn't matter.  If Israel cannot get palm fronds from Egypt, it will turn to Jordan and even the Gaza Strip.  Israel has previously imported some 70,000 palm fronds per year in the days leading up to this fun fall feast, and domestic crops are being harvested at higher rates than normal.

Yom Kippur starts this Friday at sundown, beginning the solemn day of fasting and repentance.  A few days after Yom Kippur, though, comes the joyous holiday of The Feast of Tabernacles, or Succoth.  This year Succoth will begin at sunset on Wednesday, October 12 and run until sundown on the 19th.  The word Succoth (also 'Sukkot') means "booths", a reference to the temporary dwellings that are built and inhabited during the festival. The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of feasting that commemorates God's provision during the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

It is fascinating to visit Israel at this time and observe the temporary shelters built in the traditional way, leaving deliberate gaps in the branches to view the stars at night and to let the wind blow through during the day.

At the end of the eight days, the Jews leave their temporary dwellings to return to their permanent homes. (This is one of the reasons some suspect that this feast, rather than the Feast of Trumpets, is suggestive of the Rapture of the Church.) This day, traditionally, is the day that Solomon dedicated the first Temple.

In the time of Jesus, Succoth involved a daily processional to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water for the Temple. This ceremonial procession is the setting for the events of John 7, where Jesus offers his listeners "living water."   To this day, water drawing celebrations last until dawn, accompanied by music and dancing.   

The holiday also involves waving four types of branches: the willow, the myrtle, the palm, and a citrus (Leviticus 23:40). The willow has no smell and no fruit. The myrtle has smell, but no fruit. The palm has no smell, but bears fruit. The citrus has both smell and bears fruit.  In Judaism, these four branches represent different personalities and kinds among the people of Israel.  However, these descriptions can also be matched in the four soils of the first "kingdom parable" of Matthew 13.

As Christians we may not celebrate many of the traditional Jewish holidays, yet they hold great spiritual and prophetic significance. Colossians 2:16-17 says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come." [emphasis added]

Most observers note that the three feasts in the first month of the religious year - Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Feast of First Fruits - are prophetic of the Lord's First Coming. They each were also fulfilled on the day they were observed.

Between these three feasts and the final three feasts is the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, which is predictive of the Church. (It is also the only feast in which leavened bread is ordained!)

It is believed that the last three feasts, in the seventh month, are prophetic of the Lord's Second Coming. It seems little coincidence that the seventh day of Succoth is called Hoshanah Rabbah - "Great Salvation".  Many believers are particularly watchful each fall in the hopes that "this" will be the year these final three feasts are fulfilled.   Even if Egypt wants to hold out on delivering its palm fronds.  

For more background, review our briefing package The Feasts of Israel.

[Editors Note: This is the final installment of a three part series on the fall feasts of Israel.]


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Related Links:

  •   The Feasts of Israel - MP3 Download - Koinonia House
  •   The Fall Feasts: The Feast of Trumpets - eNews Archive
  •   Netanyahu, Abbas, and The Day of Atonement - eNews Archive
  •   How is Sukkot Observed? - Chabad.org
  •   Egypt Bans Export of Ceremonial Palm Fronds for Jewish Holiday - CNN