How to Understand the New Testament-Part 15

Let’s begin to talk about Sukkot, or “tabernacles” as some know it. In Lev 23.33-44 the command is given to celebrate this festival. It starts on the 15th of Tishri and ends seven days later, on the 21st of Tishri. The next day, or “eighth day” is called Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (“rejoicing in the Torah”) and concludes the festival. This festival celebrates the harvest and is one of the three pilgrim festivals that all the males had to appear at, called the “Shelosh Regalim.” The biblical festivals are divided into two groups, the joyous festivals and the solemn. Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot are joyous festivals and Rosh Ha Shannah and Yom Kippur are solemn festival days. The most joyous festival is Sukkot. You will find many passages in the Scriptures that talk about gladness, joy, glad tidings, and other such words, and they are considered Sukkot passages. One such passage is Isa 9.1-7 where these terms can be found, and it also contains the famous Isa 9.6 passage. Isa 4.1-6 talk about Rosh Ha Shannah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot in six verses. In v 5-6 we have the terms cloud, glory, canopy (chuppah) and shelter (sukkah) all relating to this festival. In Num 29.12-40 we have the offerings for the festival of Sukkot over seven days. You will notice that the bulls on the first day of festival are thirteen, then it diminishes to seven by the seventh day. These bulls total 70, the number of the known nations in the world according to the Scriptures (Deut 32.8; Exo 1.1-5). That is why this festival is called the “Festival of the Nations.” The 70 nations relate to the number of the children of Israel entering Egypt In Exo 1.1-5. This festival speaks about the Messianic KIngdom, and the diminishing bulls symbolize the diminishing influence of the nations during the Messianic Kingdom. Going back to Num 29.17,19,32 we have something interesting and the basis for a Sukkot ceremony found in those verses. There are 3 extra letters that spell the word “mayim” in those verses and that can only be seen in Hebrew. As a result, there is a water-pouring ceremony done only at Sukkot called the “Beit Ha Shoevah” which means “house of the water pouring” and it is done only in the morning service for seven days. Water is drawn from the Pool of Siloam (meaning “shiloach” or sent. An apostle in Hebrew is a “shaliach” and means “sent one”). Priests leave the Temple through the Water Gate and go south to the city of David, and the Shiloach Pool is down a hill. The water taken from this pool is called the “water of salvation (or “yeshua”) based on Isa 12.3 which says “ushavtem mayim besoson, mima anay ha yeshua” in Hebrew. This water is also called “mayim chaim” or “living water.” This water is brought up to the Temple through the Water Gate with trumpets. In Deut 16.13-15 you have another passage about Sukkot and the people were to “rejoice.” So, as they went through the Water Gate they come to the altar, they turn left and pour the water, with wine, at the same time on the altar through two holes. This is the biggest ceremony of the year. You would “ascend” into the Court of Israel. This ceremony was controversial in the first century because of the “Judaisms” that existed. There was an ongoing argument between the Sadducees and the Pharisees about this. The Pharisees authored this ceremony based on Num 29 and the word “mayim” found there. The Sadducees disagreed with them on this and said any ceremony had to have a literal Scripture authorizing it to be done, but the ceremony was done this way at the time of Yeshua. There was a second ceremony called “Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah” and it means “rejoicing in the house of the water pouring.” This is done at night during the seven days and the priests “descend” down into the Court of the Women. There are four great lamps that have been set up there, with four pots to each pole. The swaddling clothes of the priests were used as wicks for these lights. (Mishnah, Sukkah 5.2-3). Each pole was approximately 80 feet high and the light could be seen for miles, that is why they were called the “light of the world.” Now, Yeshua said in Matt 5.17-18 that not one “jot or tittle” would disappear from the Torah until everything was fulfilled. A “jot” is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the “yod” which looks like an apostrophe. The “tittle” is a crown written over seven letters in Hebrew. Now, every festival had additional services called a “mussaf” and these services would be a part of that. The extra letters had to be explained and were found in Sukkot passages, and so it became accepted to have this ceremony, but it pointed to Yeshua. We read in John 7.37-39 that Yeshua stood and said that whoever came to him, out of his innermost being would flow rivers of “mayim chaim” or living waters. He spoke this during the the Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony! This ceremony will be seen again. There was also a third ceremony called the “Willow Ceremony.” Priests would go to the Valley of Motza (also meaning “sent) in the Kidron Valley at the same time they were going for the water, and cut down willow branches at least 15 foot long. These willows would be brought into the Temple making a “whooshing” sound as the priests would bring them down to the ground, then up, then down and so on. This spoke of the Kivod (glory) entering the Temple during the Messianic Kingdom (Ezek 43.1-5). The willows were stacked against the altar, making a Sukkah. The Beit Ha Shoevah and Simchat Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony was done for seven days. For that reason it was called “The festival” (Zech 14.16). We believe that Yeshua was born during the festival of Sukkot. It is very easy to document, and it is done by doing the following things. You find the date that Gabriel tells Zechariah that he is going to be the father of a son who will be called John. The angelic visit to Zechariah happened while he was serving in the Temple (Luke 1.5-13). Zechariah was part of the eighth course called Abijah (1 Chr 24.10) and that would mean this was the tenth week of the religious year, around the middle of Sivan (third month of the religious calendar-all courses served in the Temple during Passover and Shavuot, equaling two weeks). So, allowing for a normal pregnancy, Johns birth was around Passover. Six months following Elizabeth’s conception (the ninth month of Kislev), Gabriel visits Miriam and tells her she is going to have a son (Luke 1.26-33). This means that Yeshua’s conception was around Chanukah. That means he was born around the festival of Sukkot nine months later. Also, King Herod died in the fall of 4 B.C. according to Josephus. Herod died within 40 days of Yeshua’s birth because they presented him in the Temple at 40 days old after hearing that Herod had died and returning to Jerusalem (Lev 12.1-5; Luke 2.21-27). So, Yeshua was born in the fall, probably around the festival of Sukkot, and “tabernacled” among us (John 1.14).
This festival commemorates the time when Israel was in the wilderness. They lived in “booths” or “sukkot” which is also the word for “stable.” God provided a cloud for protection, food, water and lived among them in the Mishkan. It was during this festival (Shemini Atzeret, the “eighth” day) that Yeshua was confronted with a woman caught in adultery (John 8.1-11). It says that Yeshua wrote on the ground. What did he write? The rabbis and teachers were teaching every verse associated with this festival that included living water, the pouring out of water and so on. The people confronting Yeshua had just rejected him the day before (John 7.37 called the “last day, the great day of the feast” called “Hoshanna Rabbah” or the “Great Salvation”) as the fountain of living water. One of the passages they were studying and discussing was Jer 17.12-13. It says there that those who reject the Lord will have their names written in the earth. That is what Yeshua was doing. Yeshua fulfilled a little known Messianic passage concerning living water, their rejection and writing their names in the earth. The author of the Torah was being questioned on the Torah on a day called “Simchat Torah” which means “rejoicing in the Torah.” This festival is also known as the “festival of Dedication” because it was at this time Solomon dedicated the first Temple. Another name for this festival is “the season of our joy” and it is easy to see why the Lord had an appointment to be born during this festival. There is so much more to this festival, and we encourage you to do a study of all the festivals. This site has much more information on these festivals in our “Feasts of the Lord” and “Prophecy/Echatology” menu. Just knowing the times and seasons, the idioms, phrases and the concepts associated with them will open up the New Testament to you. In Part 16, we will begin to discuss the concepts of “tamai and tahor” or the “unclean and clean” and touch on some concepts that will help you understand the Scriptures better.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Understanding the New Testament

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