There is no festival in the drama of Israel’s redemptive calendar that speaks more about the salvation of the Gentiles than the festival of Sukkot. The focal point for the ceremonies is going to be the Court of the Gentiles and the shaking of lulavim to the four corners of the earth are just a few symbolic ceremonies that point to this fact. This festival ends the High Holy day season and the Fall Festivals. Sukkot means “tabernacles” or “booths” and it remembers the time when Israel was in the wilderness and lived in temporary dwellings called “sukkot.” God dwelt among his people in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and provided all their needs for 40 years.
Once the Temple was built in Jerusalem, beautiful ceremonies were done every year called the Beit ha Shoevah and the Sinchat Beit ha Shoevah. The themes of this festival include the Messianic Kingdom, the birth of the Messiah, the dedication of the Temple and the pouring out of the living water and wine upon the altar, and the future preservation of Israel.
As each festival approached, there were massive preparations done. Roads, bridges, and housing were repaired in order to accommodate the thousands of people that would be coming to the festivals. Teachers and scholars would begin to teach the themes of each festival, taking Scripture and applying them to what was happening. They would teach on the ceremonies, history, customs and anything related to the festival. AN example of this is the water pouring ceremony at the festival of Sukkot. Any reference to living water, no matter how insignificant, was taught and ancient understandings were associated with them. This developed into a whole system of phrases, idioms and concepts related to Sukkot.
One such ceremony at Sukkot is called the Beit ha Shoevah ceremony. Beit ha SHoevah means “house of the water-pouring.” This ceremony was done every day during Sukkot and there were several things going on. There was a set of priests who would attend to the slaughtering of the korbanot (offerings). Another group of priests went out the Eastern Gate to the Valley of Motza (sent). They would cut down willow branches, about 25 feet long, and then stand shoulder to shoulder. At a signal, they would lead off with the left foot, swinging the willow branches to the right. Then they would take a step with the right foot and swing the branches to the left. They would do this creating a rushing wind (Ruach ha Kodesh) sound coming into the Temple. At the same time the High Priest (Kohen ha Gadol) and an assistant would walk out of the Water Gate and go down to the Pool of Siloam (“Shiloach” meaning Sent) and get a container full of living water. This water was them poured into a golden vessel while the assistant held a silver vessel full of wine. As the priests started back from the Valley of Motza, so did the priests from Siloam. As each approached the gates they came out of, a shofar was blown and a flute (a pierced one) would play. The priests with the willows circled the altar seven times and them placed their willows over the altar, forming a sukkah. The High Priest and the assistant would go up the altar and pour out the living water and the wine as the people sang Isa 12.3, which said “Therefore with joy you draw water out of the wells of salvation (Yeshua in Hebrew).”
As a side note, we know that Yeshua went up to the festival of Sukkot in the “midst of the feast” in John 714 and began to teach. What was he teaching? In the Mishnah, in the tractate Sukkah, it says that they teachers and scholars taught Ezek 38 and 39. We know that this is about the Russian invasion of Israel, but why were they teaching it. It is because about the future redemption of Israel over Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog have a numerical value of 70, which alludes to the 70 bulls offered for the nation during Sukkot. Yeshua was teaching about prophecy and the redemption of Israel (Ezek 39.22).
It was probably at the time that the water and wine was poured out on the altar, that Yeshua stood up and said what is recorded in John 7.37-39. He is telling the people that if any man is thirsty, let him come to him and drink, and from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. Remember, before the festival, the teachers have been teaching every passage in the Scriptures that dealt with living water, water being poured out and so on. Some thought that Yeshua may be the Messiah, and others did not. The religious authorities wanted to arrest him but they didn’t, saying that no man has ever talked like Yeshua. So, the Pharisees were going to try something else. The next morning, we learn from John 8.1-2 that Yeshua went back to the Temple and was in the Court of the Women. This day is called Shemini Atzeret, or the concluding eighth day, and Simchat Torah, which means rejoicing in the Torah. Some teachers brought a woman taken in adultery to Yeshua for his judgment on her. The day before, these same people had heard Yeshua stand up at the festival and cry out with a loud voice that he would give them a drink of the living water that would always satisfy. With this in mind, Yeshua see’s them bring the woman to him and he hears what they are saying, and he knows this is a trap. What does he do? He begins to write in the earth. These teachers and rabbis knew the passage associated with Sukkot in Jer 17.12-13 that says that those that reject the fountain of living waters (Yeshua) will have their names written in the earth. When Yeshua wrote, he probably wrote the names of those who have rejected him. Here he is, the living Torah, being questioned on the Torah, on the day to rejoice in the Torah.
Another name for this festival is the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) because it was during this festival that King Solomon dedicated the first Temple. Other names include the Season of our Joy; the Festival of Lights, the Festival of Nations; Feast of Leviathan (we’ll touch on this one later); the Wedding feast; and the Day of Rest. During this festival, 70 bulls are offered with each being representative of the nations of the world. Zech 14.9 says that the Lord will be one over all nations, and Zech 14-16-19 says that during the Messianic Kingdom all nations will come up to Jerusalem for the festival of Sukkot.
During the festival of Sukkot, everyone is going to a banquet. We have learned in Joel 2.15-16 that the Messiah and his bride are coming out of their wedding chamber, and Rev 19.7 says that the wedding supper has come. The wedding has taken place during Yom Teruah, or Rosh ha Shannah. This wedding supper will take place on earth (Isa 25.6; Rev 19.7-9) with all those who have escaped the Birth-pains as guests. On the other hand, all the unbelievers are going to another banquet called the Feast of Leviathan (Ezek 29.5, 32.4-6; Rev 19.17-18; Luke 17.33-37; Matt 24.27). Job 41 talks about Leviathan and a covenant. Read that along with Dan 9.24-27 to understand who Leviathan is. Isa 27.1 says that Leviathan is a twisted serpent and Isa 51.9 says that this dragon (Leviathan) will be pierced by the “arm of the Lord” (an idiomatic phrase for the Messiah). Leviathan was seen as a futuristic ruler of Egypt, a type of Pharaoh (Ezek 29.1-7; 32.1-8). Eschatologically, Egypt is Europe, and Pharaoh is the false messiah. This serpent, dragon or Leviathan is seen with “heads” (Psa 74.13-14; Rev 13.1).
So, everyone is going to a banquet. Those who follow the Messiah will go to the wedding supper, those who follow the false messiah will be the banquet, and eaten by the birds and beasts (Ezek 29.5; Ezek 32.4-6; Isa 66.23-24; Rev 19.21).
This festival is also called the “festival of Lights” and it is very similar to Chanukah for the following reasons. After the Jews took the Temple back and rededicated it back to the Lord, they missed Sukkot. So, what they did was had another Temple dedication, a “second Sukkot” and held it for eight days, similar to Sukkot. This became what is known as Chanukah, but Sukkot is also called Chanukah. The liturgy is similar for both festyivals and have similar idioms associated with them. The current celebration of Chanukah has many myths associated with it, and one of them was the “miracle of the oil” that burned for eight days. This isn’t true and it was a story made up by the religious authorities to take the emphasis away from the real story of Chanukah, and making it a little less threatening to the Roman authorities. The real reason it is eight days was not because oil burned for eight days, but because it was a second Sukkot. For more on this, go to our teaching “The Truth about Chanukah” on this site.
One of the ceremonies of Sukkot took place in the outer courts, alluding to the outreach to the nations emphasized by this festival. In the second Temple, four posts were set up with four vats on each post. These were filled with oil. Each had a ladder and the wick was the swaddling clothes, or undergarments, of the priests. These four vats on each pole were lit and it illuminated Jerusalem and the surrounding area. These speak of the great light of the Kivod (2 Chr 7.1-3) filling the Temple at Sukkot at Solomon’s dedication, and the glory of the Lord that will fill the Temple when Yeshua is there.
There is another ceremony that is done at night called the Simchat Beit ha Shoevah, or the rejoicing in the house of theater-pouring. At night, the priest descend into the Court of the Women and there is singing and dancing until daybreak. The Mishnah, in Sukkah 5.1 says, “They said, ‘Whoever did not see the rejoicing of the Beit ha Shoevah, never saw rejoicing in his lifetime.” Also in the Mishnah, Sukkah 5.4 it says that “Devout men and men of good deeds would dance before them with flaming torches that were in their hands and would utter before them words of songs and praises; and the Levites with harps, lyres, cymbals, trumpets and countless musical instruments stood on the fifteen steps that descend from the Court of the Israelites to the Women’s Court, corresponding to the fifteen songs of Ascent in Psalms.” When daybreak came, those in the Courts would stand and face the Holy of Holies. They would recite the following: “Our fathers who were in this place stood with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord and their faces towards the east and they worshipped the sun toward the east. But as for us, our eyes are turned toward the Lord.” This was done because in Ezek 8.16 it says that the Lord brought Ezekiel into the Temple, and at the entrance to the Temple, between the porch and the altar, he saw twenty-five men with their backs to the Temple and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward towards the sun.
There is a time coming when we all will go to Jerusalem and the lame will walk, the deaf hear and the blind will see. We will hear the shofar and see the Temple. We will witness millions coming from all four directions t the Temple. We will see the worship, the dancing, but most importantly we will see the King.
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament
The book “Rosh ha Shannah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come” by Joseph Good
The book “Ancient Israel” by Roland Deveaux