We now come to the sixth of seven feasts commanded by God—the Feast of Tabernacles. Like the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Tabernacles is a seven-day feast, but with only the first day as a Holy Day.
Christ’s gospel focused on the good news of the coming kingdom of God. The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the rule of the government of God on earth under the reign of Christ, which will continue for one thousand years. After this millennial reign, other crucial steps in the Plan of God must occur in sequence, such as the second and third resurrections, to be discussed in Lesson 29. This 1,000-year period is only the beginning, as the saints of the First Resurrection are set up and trained for even greater things ahead.
The Feast of Tabernacles represents this joyous, utopian time of peace and fulfillment that has always been the hope and focus of true Christians. We now begin the lesson on the meaning of this great festival.
LESSON 28: Feast of Tabernacles
The Biblical Precedents
(1) Where is the biblical command to keep the Feast of Tabernacles? Leviticus 23:34-36.
Comment: This Feast begins on the 15th day of the 7th month and continues for 7 days. The first day is a Holy Day with a commanded assembly. Verse 36 shows that an offering was given each day of this Feast under the Levitical system. Yet, today, an offering is only given on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, as verse 37 indicates for Holy Days. The convocation and offering commanded on the eighth day (vs. 36) are part of a separate feast altogether.
(2) Was the Feast of Tabernacles known by any other names? Exodus 34:22.
Comment: The Feast of Ingathering was the major annual harvest in the fall of the year. As explained in Lesson 25, the spring harvest was very small in comparison to the fall harvest.
The spiritual harvest will follow this same pattern. God shows that He gives the former rain moderately, but the latter rain will come down abundantly and will yield a plentiful harvest (Joel 2:23-24). The Feast of Tabernacles typifies this plentiful spiritual harvest.
(3) What is the overriding theme of the Feast of Tabernacles? Leviticus 23:40 (last part); Deuteronomy 16:13-15.
Comment: This is the one Feast in particular in which God commands everyone to rejoice! This Feast looks forward in time to the most joyful occasion of all time.
(4) How are people to finance their travel, food and lodging for a feast lasting this long? Deuteronomy 14:22-27.
Comment: This special festival tithe (known as second tithe) was used to finance not only the expenses of the Feast of Tabernacles, but the other Holy Days, as well. God blesses those who are faithful in keeping this tithe, which the people are to spend for their own needs and desires in order to rejoice before the Eternal.
(5) Is this Feast commanded to be observed forever? Leviticus 23:41; Zechariah 14:16-19.
Comment: The account in Zechariah 14 emphasizes the fact that this Feast is a statute forever. All nations will observe this Feast in the millennium whether they prefer to do so, or not. Eventually, all nations will come to understand and appreciate God’s commanded Feasts.
(6) Does God promise to protect the property of those who leave their homes and businesses to keep the Feast of Tabernacles? Exodus 34:24.
Comment: God mandates that His people keep all of His Feasts: Unleavened Bread (includes Passover), Pentecost, and Tabernacles (includes all four fall Feasts). God intends that His people keep these feasts without distraction or worry—and with the full joy of these annual events. Although we are expected to plan ahead and do our part to ensure the preservation of our property, business, and/or farm in our absence, God promises to protect our interests while we are rejoicing at His feasts—and He delivers on this promise.
Observed by Ancient Israel
(1) Even when Israel was in the depths of disarray, were some still faithful in keeping the Feast of Tabernacles? Judges 21:19.
Comment: The tabernacle had been set up at Shiloh since the time of Joshua. Yet, much of Israel was oblivious to this crucial knowledge by the period of time that Judges 21:19 discusses. This was during the time Israel had deteriorated to the level described in verse 25. About 250 years earlier, all Israel had assembled in Shiloh (Josh. 18:1) and had proven themselves faithful and obedient to God’s laws and statutes (Josh. 24:31). The term “statutes” refers to the portion of God’s laws generally applying to worship on the national level. This included the proper keeping of the annual feast days.
(2) Did Elkanah and Hannah, to whom Samuel was born, go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles at Shiloh each year? I Samuel 1:3.
Comment: God intervened and granted Hannah a child, Samuel, whom she dedicated to God. After Samuel was weaned, she presented him to the high priest and visited the child every year at the Feast of Tabernacles, at which her husband always offered the yearly sacrifice of burnt offerings (I Sam. 2:19).
(3) Was the Feast of Tabernacles observed when the Temple was dedicated by Solomon? I Kings 8:1-2, 65-66.
Comment: When the Temple was dedicated, a period of seven days was set aside for this dedication immediately before the Feast of Tabernacles. Then, the seven days of the Feast were kept and the people were sent home on (after) the eighth day (vs. 66). This eighth day following the Feast was the same day we read about in Leviticus 23:36. The month Ethanim was the original Hebrew name for the 7th month and meant the month of “permanence or permanent things”—representing events in the future leading to spiritual permanence or eternity.
(4) Had ancient Israel been negligent in keeping the annual Sabbaths and the weekly Sabbath? Ezekiel 22:26.
Comment: Because of this long-term negligence, Israel and Judah were taken into captivity—Israel first and Judah just over a century later. The blessings and cursings recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 became a painful reality to all of ancient Israel. Read Ezekiel 20:1-44 to better grasp how Israel repeatedly ignored God’s Sabbaths. (Ezekiel 20:25 means that God gave Israel over to their own ways.)
(5) Did the Jews who returned from captivity in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah greatly rejoice to keep the Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Tabernacles? Nehemiah 8:1-2, 6, 8-10, 14, 17-18.
Comment: To these Jews, who were old enough to remember the feasts from their childhood, after 70 years of captivity, the feasts now held a deeper, more profound meaning than ever. Those who can come to this level of appreciation will have greater capacity to draw closer to God, by identifying with and fervently treasuring His laws and statutes as a way of life.
The statement in verse 17 pertaining to the Feast not having been kept in this fashion since the time of Joshua was referring to the booths that were made from tree branches. Certainly, this Feast had been kept since the time of Joshua, but not exclusively in such booths and possibly not with the desire and passion that these Jews displayed—prophetic of those who will survive to keep the feasts as the millennium begins.
(6) Are we commanded to dwell in booths during the Feast of Tabernacles? Leviticus 23:40, 42.
Comment: Verse 40 describes the use of boughs or branches of trees such as palms or willows with thick or abundant leaves for coverings of temporary dwellings. The Hebrew word cukkah (pronounced as sook-kaw) means “a booth, tent or tabernacle”—basic temporary dwellings. Verse 40 shows the least expensive way to provide shelter for the Feast of Tabernacles. The reason God commanded Israel to dwell in such tabernacles is shown in verse 43—to show that God had Israel dwell in booths when he brought them out from Egypt. The lesson for us is that this life is temporary, and all our long-term hopes and plans should point to the coming kingdom of God. Hence, we are to live in temporary tabernacles during the Feast of Tabernacles—whether we stay in tents, campers, motels or hotels.
Observed by Christ and the Apostolic Church
(1) Is there any biblical evidence that Christ actually observed the Feast of Tabernacles? John 7:1-2, 8-11.
Comment: John’s use of the phrase, “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles,” was necessary since the vast majority of the readers of his gospel were non-Jewish. This phrase showed that the Jews were the only ones keeping God’s feasts in Christ’s time, as the other descendants of Israel had not returned to keeping them.
Yet, we see in verse 8 that Christ charged His physical family to keep this Feast. In verse 10, Christ also went to keep this Feast, after His brothers had left. Verse 11 shows that the Jews were looking for Him at this Feast, because they were well aware that He kept all of God’s commanded feasts.
Christ’s example shows that He was not deterred from keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, despite the fact that the Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Him. Verse 14 shows that it was not until the middle of the Feast that He made His presence known, due to the precautions He had to take with His life in danger. This Feast was so important to Christ that He attended even under such threats—negating any excuses we could ever have to not attend.
(2) Does Scripture show that the first-century apostles kept the Feast of Tabernacles? Acts 18:21.
Comment: The Feast to which Paul was referring could only have been the Feast of Tabernacles, as it fell within the fall season. Looking back, it was late summer of A.D. 50 that Paul had arrived in Corinth (vs. 1) where he stayed at the home of Justus for his final 18 months (vs. 11). By the time Paul passed through Ephesus en route to Jerusalem, two full years had elapsed. He traveled through Syria toward his destination of Jerusalem for this Feast season in the fall of A.D. 52—primarily the Feast of Tabernacles.
(3) Does Church history reveal specific references to the true Church observing the Feast of Tabernacles?
Comment: There are a number of references that the feasts continued to be observed throughout history. One particular source, Sabbatarians in Transylvania by Samuel Kohn, noted that the Sabbath-keepers in this region were observing the feasts during the early 1600s. Besides numerous songs commemorating the weekly Sabbath, the hymnal of these Sabbatarians contained songs dedicated to the following feast days: eleven songs for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, six songs for Pentecost, three songs for the Feast of Trumpets, one song for the Day of Atonement, and six songs for the Feast of Tabernacles. Unlike the Jews of their time, there is strong evidence that they understood the general meaning of the feast days.
The Kingdom of God Ruling on Earth
Finally, after 6,000 years of being under the sway of Satan’s deceptions and attitudes, the world will be free of such influence. At last, the truth and God’s Law will be the established way that the vast majority will be seeking.
(1) Does the Bible explicitly state that in the coming millennium, the world will no longer be subject to angelic powers? Hebrews 2:5.
(2) Who is the supreme ruler during this time? Revelation 11:15; 19:6; Daniel 7:13-14.
(3) Who will be ruling under Christ in the kingdom of God? Revelation 20:4; 5:10; Daniel 7:27.
(4) Will Christ’s rulership be firm when necessary? Isaiah 2:4; Ezekiel 20:33-38.
(5) Will Christ rule the people in the millennium with understanding and mercy?
Jeremiah 31:8-9; Isaiah 30:19; 40:10-11; 61:3.
Comment: God’s mercy is infinitely greater than mankind’s, as we find in Psalm 103:8, 11. His approach to people depends chiefly upon their character, as we read in Psalm 18:24-26.
(6) Will those ruling under Christ be able to manifest themselves to those they are teaching? Isaiah 30:19-20.
(7) Will the natural ecosystem—including all plant life, the soil, atmosphere, and all bodies of water—be healed during this time? Ezekiel 47:1, 8-9; Amos 9:13-14; Isaiah 35:1-2, 7.
Comment: As described in Ezekiel 47, the stream of water that flows from under the Temple to be built on Mount Zion will bring healing to the oceans and waters as God renews the environment.
(8) Will people be healed of physical impairments and afflictions, as well? Isaiah 35:3-6.
(9) When Christ begins to rule the earth with His saints, does the very creation—hills, trees, water, etc.—rejoice, in a figurative sense? Psalm 96:10-13; 98:8-9; Romans 8:19-23.
Comment: So great is the relief, joy and celebration that the land, sea and sky, which will all be restored to their original purity, reverberate with similar cheerfulness. The term “creature” in Romans 8:19, 20 and 21 is derived from the same Greek word translated as “creation” in verse 22. Thus, “creature” should be read as “creation” in all these verses.
(10) As a result of the restored environment, restored health and true knowledge, will people’s lives be more fulfilled? Micah 4:4; Isaiah 25:9; Zechariah 10:7.
(11) Will the nature of carnivorous animals and dangerous reptiles be changed? Isaiah 11:6-9.
(12) Is the millennium the time the apostle Peter referred to when he spoke of “the restitution of all things”? Acts 3:19-21.
Comment: The millennium is, indeed, the only time that could be described as “the times of refreshing” and “the restitution of all things,” as these verses clearly depict.
Israel Elevated in the Millennium
(1) Will Israel have received double punishment for her sins before the Return of Christ? Isaiah 40:1-2; Jeremiah 16:18.
(2) After Israel has been humbled, will she be doubly rewarded in the millennium? Isaiah 61:7.
Comment: The context for most of this chapter is directed to “those that mourn in Zion.” This is referring to Israel in general, not just the tribe of Judah. Israel will be given honor after having suffered extensively in concentration camps and with relatively few remaining survivors.
(3) Will the Gentiles honor Israel at that time? Isaiah 61:4-6, 9; Zechariah 8:23.
(4) As various Gentile peoples bring former Israelite captives back to unite with their families in the region of the Holy Land, will these Gentiles also present treasures to physical Israel? Isaiah 60:3-5, 11.
Comment: The phrase in verses 5 and 11, “forces of the Gentiles,” means “wealth of the Gentiles.” God will cause Israel to be highly honored in the sight of all nations, as they lavish riches upon them.
(5) Is this the time in which Israel will truly begin to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham? Genesis 22:18; 26:4.
Comment: Even the blessings of the birthright nations of Israel in this present age will pale into insignificance compared to what will be bestowed upon them during the millennium.
At that time, physical Israel will truly become “as the sand of the seashore” and will finally live up to the standard that God had intended for them (Deut. 4:5-8).
In the millennium, all the world will begin to live the way that produces happiness, peace and every desirable outcome, as God always intended.
The Feast of Tabernacles is full of meaning that can only be truly appreciated by observing this convocation each year as commanded.