Ministry Resources

The Feast of Tabernacles

Author: Jim Thornber

Leviticus 23:33–36, 39–44; Deuteronomy 16:13

The seventh and final feast of Israel is the Feast of Tabernacles. It started on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and lasted for seven days. It is also the most joyous and festive of all the feasts, for it is a celebration and a rehearsal of God’s dwelling with man. This feast is mentioned in Scripture more often than any other, and is the historical background for the teachings of Jesus in John 7 through 9.

It was also called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; 34:22), for it was celebrated after all the crops for the year had been gathered and harvested. Since the fall feasts are to be fulfilled at the end of the Church Age, the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated only after the final harvest is gathered and stored, points us to the time when all the redeemed will celebrate their eternity in the presence of the Lord.

The main symbol for this feast is the sukkah, or tabernacle.

It brings to mind the hastily built dwellings erected by the Israelites in the wilderness. As soon as the Day of Atonement was over, booths or huts were constructed in yards and patios of Jewish homes. The booths were made with no fewer than three walls and covered with branches. The roofs were made with enough material to shield the people from the sun, but so the stars could still be seen.

According to Scripture, Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs in September/October. Luke 1:5 tells us that Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah. According to 1 Chronicles 24, this division served during the tenth week of the year, or the month of Sivan. By going forward nine months from the tenth week of the year, we find the birth of John occurring during the festival of Passover. During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:26), Gabriel appeared to Mary. This would have been around the twenty-fifth of Kislev, or December, which is the time of Chanukah, or the Feast of Lights. By adding eight days for the festival of Chanukah to the nine months for Mary’s pregnancy, this will bring us to Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which is Tishri 15, the day Jesus, the Son of God, came and “tabernacled” among men (John 1:14). So, not only was the Light of the World conceived during the Feast of Lights, but also He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, the time when men celebrated God’s presence among them!

Furthermore, Matthew 2:1 tells us “wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (ESV).

The land that was east of Israel at that time was Babylon, which contained the largest population of Jews in the world outside of Israel. These Jews were the descendants of those taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. The word for wise men in Greek is magos, which is “magi” in English. The Hebrew word is ravmag, which comes from the Hebrew word rav, which means “rabbi.” So, let us consider that these wise men may have been rabbis who were living in Babylon at the time of Jesus’ birth.

But what made the rabbis make a long journey all the way from Babylon to witness this Messiah? They told Herod, “‘We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him'” (Matthew 2:2, ESV). It was during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, when they could see the stars through the roofs of their huts, that they had first noticed the star that led them to their Messiah.

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