We are going to deviate somewhat from our study of the Temple ceremonies, and talk a little bit about the birth of Yeshua at the festival of Sukkot, while we are on the subject of Sukkot. This is going to go a little deeper than usual, but it needs to be done because many people believe that he was born at Sukkot but really can’t show why. This study will help anyone who wants to have concrete reasons to back up what they believe.
People have been taught in Christianity that you can’t know when he was born because the Scriptures don’t tell us. However, Christianity comes from Mithraism and a combination of other pagan sources. There is a book called “The Dictionary of Deities and Demons” by Brill Publications. It is the best source to use when studying paganism. In the section on “Sol Invictus” you will find information on Mithraism and Mithras, a Persian deity. This religion was added by the Romans and it spread throughout the Middle East. They celebrated the birthday of Mithras on December 25th, and by the time we get to Constantine, we have the first “Christmas” because he took the birthday of Mithras. That is the origin of Christmas. But there is another story.
There are many sources for the birth of Yeshua at Sukkot. One source is “Rosh ha Shannah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come” by Hatikva Ministries. Another source is the Internet and looking up the birth of Yeshua at Sukkot. It was also prophesied in the Tanach. We should know this material because it will make the Scriptures come alive when it comes to the Messiah. Everything Yeshua said and did went exactly as it was prophesied in the Tanach, including his birth. We have to learn where these Scriptures are and how to see it. That is where the Temple comes in. Believe it or not, his birth is directly connected to the ceremonies in the Temple, not just at Sukkot, but even the daily Tamid service. The reason people say that you can’t know when Yeshua was born is because they don’t know the Scriptures or the Temple and its services. That is what we are trying to correct on this website.
Let’s start with Luke 1.5-25 where we read about the birth of Yochanon ha Matvil (John the Immerser). Zechariah and Elisheva were from the son’s of Aaron, but only Zechariah could serve as a kohen in the Temple. However, priestly women served in the Temple in other capacities and her functions would have been different, for instance, if a woman was going through the cleansing of a leper ceremony, her body would have to be shaved completely, and that would have been done by another woman. A woman from the line of Aaron could also eat of the korbanot (Chata’at and Asham that only a kohen can eat).
We also learn that Zechariah belonged to the mishmar Abijah (2 Chr 24.10). His name means “God Remembers” and Elisheva means “My God’s oath” so together, their names mean “My God remembers his oath.” His oath was to send the “messenger” before the Messiah. Zechariah, being from the mishmar Abijah, was the eighth course or mishmar listed in 2 Chr 24.10. This determined the order in which each priestly course would come and serve in the Temple, beginning on Nisan 1, the start of the religious calendar. But, all the priests had to serve at Passover and Shavuot, so you had to add two weeks in there, so the course of Abijah actually served during the tenth week of the year. This would be middle to late Sivan.
We learn that to burn incense, lots were chosen. The memunay (officer) in charge over the lots for the different jobs for the daily service called the Tamid. One of the jobs was burning the ketoret (incense) on the Altar in the Heichal (Holy Place). The burning of the ketoret could only be done one time in the life of a priest, except for the High Priest. Zechariah was old and he had never done it before. This was the high point in his life as a kohen.
The daily Tamid service is in two parts, the sacrificial service and the ketoret service. When Zechariah went in to the Heichal to burn the ketoret, he prayed a prayer called the Amidah (Standing Prayer) or the Shemoneh Esrai, also known as the 18 Benedictions. When he starts to pray this in the Heichal, there is a signal for the other people gathered in the Temple to start praying the same prayer. The kohen burning the ketoret and the people outside would finish praying the Amidah at the same time. The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah standing on the right side (north) of the Altar of Incense (Mizbeach shell Zahav) when he got to prayer #15, which is a
“Prayer for the Messiah.” This prayer can be seen in any Jewish prayer book. This prayer that Zechariah was praying mentions the “horn of salvation” and Zechariah mentions this again in his prayer in Luke 1.68. Because he doubted what Gabriel was saying, Zechariah became a deaf/mute (Luke 1.62..he “made signs”). When he writes :his name is Yochanon” he was immediately healed. We will touch on all of this in more detail later in this study.
Now, after Zechariah see’s Gabriel, he leaves the Temple and Elisheva conceives. We have a one week variable in there because we don’t know what day Gabriel appeared to Zechariah. It may have been at the start of his week. Now, from Nisan 1 you go at least ten weeks ahead, plus one week possibly, and we come to the middle to late Sivan. When she is six months pregnant, Gabriel appears to Miriam (Luke 1.26,36). Miriam was an “almah” (Isa 7.14). This would mean that Gabriel appeared to Miriam in mid to late Kislev, the month of Chanukah. Chanukah is celebrated for eight days because it was called a “second Sukkot.” The Maccabee’s missed Sukkot, and when they got the Temple back and rededicated it, the festival that was instituted was called Chanukah (dedication) and they celebrated it like a second Sukkot. Most people think it is because of what is called the “Miracle of the Oil” that burned for eight days until they could make new oil for the Menorah, but that is a myth (see the article “The Truth about Chanukah” on this site). The story of the oil did not appear until after Yeshua.
Chanukah was called the “Festival of Lights.” Four posts were put in the Court of the Women during Sukkot (Mishnah, Sukkah 5.2) On top of these posts there were four vats filled with oil, for a total of sixteen. Sukkot celebrated the time in the wilderness, when they lived in sukkot, or booths. A pillar of fire went with them during this time. These posts with the vats were a reminder of this pillar of fire at Sukkot. This is related to why Yeshua was born at Sukkot. Solomon dedicated the Temple at Sukkot, and the Maccabee’s “rededicated it” and that is why this festival is called Chanukah, which means “dedication.” However, there was no “liturgy” for Chanukah because it was a festival that remembered what happened with the Maccabean victory over Antiochus Epiphanes. So, they used the liturgy for Sukkot because they are so closely related. The liturgy today consists of a blessing when lighting the Chanukiah (a nine-branched candelabra) and the Shehechiyanu, which blesses the Lord for preserving the people for this time.
So, all of that has a bearing on what is happening in Luke 1.26-38. We know the appearance of Gabriel to Miriam happens around the time of Chanukah. What Miriam says in v 35 is part of the prayer that is said in a sukkah (P 813, Hertz Siddur). We will get into more detail on all of this later. She is saying some of the liturgy for Sukkot at Chanukah, when Yeshua was conceived. In Luke 1.39 she leaves her home, just like you do at Sukkot, and she went to stay with her cousin Elisheva. She would stay there for three months (v 56), then she went back home.
Now, from Kislev, if you go ahead three months, it puts you in mid to late Nisan. Elisheva is nine months pregnant now and is ready to give birth around Passover. Now, Elijah is expected around Passover, and that is when Yochanon, who will come in the “spirit and power” of Elijah, is born.
In Part 39, we will pick up here and begin discussing the Virgin Birth. What we are doing in this teaching is going over the basics in an “overview.” When that foundation is laid, we will get into all of this in more detail. We will get into what Zechariah prayed when Gabriel appeared, and what Miriam said that was related to the sukkah. We will give you the sources for when Herod was born. This birth scenario will be laid out for you to consider and to show you why we believe that Yeshua was born at the festival of Sukkot.