Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
A New Look at the Deep Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles!
There is far more meaning and deep spiritual significance to the Feast of Tabernacles than many have ever realized! What is "sukkot" all about? What about all the sacrifices? And what is the "lulav" and why is it important? And the awesome symbolism of the four huge menorahs that lit up the entire city of Jerusalem during the Feast? Here is vital new spiritual TRUTH about YEHOVAH's Plan for His people Israel!
by John D. Keyser
I have been observing the "Feast of Tabernacles" ever since I first proved that the annual holy days of YEHOVAH God are still in operation and in force in our "Christian" age. I observed my first Feast of Tabernacles in 1970 as a young man in Phoenix, Arizona. Since that time, I have observed 47 Feasts. I first learned of the Feast of Tabernacles from Herbert W. Armstrong, from reading his booklet entitled God's Festivals or Pagan Holidays -- Which?
In the many sermons I have heard since that time regarding the Feast of Tabernacles, the stress was always on the concept that this festival of YEHOVAH God portrayed the millennial reign of the Messiah -- the "Kingdom of YEHOVAH God" -- upon the earth. It was looked upon as the "fall harvest" also -- the great end-time harvest of souls for the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God when "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26). The concept of why YEHOVAH's people Israel were commanded to "dwell in booths" (sukkoth -- temporary structures) during the seven days of the Feast was never explained or what such "booths" had to do with the millennial reign of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah! Nevertheless, we observed the Feast enjoying a plethora of sermons, and feasting, eating in fancy restaurants, traveling to exotic locations, and experiencing glorious fellowship with people of like mind. It was always a most enjoyable and enriching experience, something looked forward to every year.
However, in the past few years, as I have studied the festivals of YEHOVAH God more closely, I have discovered that the old ideas, concepts, and explanations of the Worldwide Church of God, and its many off-shoots today, have left much to be desired concerning the meaning, symbolism, and rituals connected with this important Festival of YEHOVAH God. Let us go back to the original commandment concerning this festival and see what has been missed, completely ignored, and totally overlooked!
Leviticus 23 -- The Feast
We read in Leviticus 23, concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, the following statements:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein.'" (Leviticus 23:33-36)
Additional instruction in observing YEHOVAH's festival is given in verses 39-43 of this chapter -- verses which have generally been ignored, overlooked, and never explained. Notice what these verses add to the festival commandment!
Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall REJOICE before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a STATUTE FOR EVER in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelite born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD thy God. (Leviticus 23:39-43)
In the 19 years I observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the Worldwide Church of God (from 1970 to 1989), we were never told about the command to take boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook, and to use them in rejoicing before the LORD; nor were we told how the Feast of Tabernacles relates to the journey of the Israelites as they came out of Egypt, and dwelt in the wilderness for forty years, living in "booths" or temporary structures, or tent-like portable dwellings. This aspect of the Feast was totally overlooked!
Solomon and the Feast
The next mention of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Scriptures occurs when Solomon dedicated the newly-constructed Temple of YEHOVAH God during his reign. The Temple was dedicated in 1003 B.C., exactly 1,000 years before the birth of Yeshua the Messiah, the true living "Temple of God" (John 2:19-21: Ephesians 2:21-22; 4:15-16).
And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. (I Kings 8:2)
And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days. On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people. (I Kings 8:65-66)
Notice! They enjoyed the Feast of Tabernacles, the feast of the seventh month, so much that they kept it for double the commanded time -- fourteen days, instead of just seven! The chronicler explains, "for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the FEAST seven days. And on the three and twentieth day [the day after the "eighth day"] of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel His people." (lI Chronicles 7:8-10)
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Feast
The Feast was also kept in the days of king Hezekiah (II Chronicles 31:3). Finally, in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read, "They kept also the Feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the custom, as the duty of every day required." (Ezra 3:4)
This observance occurred after the return of many Judahites from Babylon back to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Ezra, a righteous scribe of YEHOVAH God, gathered the people and read to them from the law of YEHOVAH (Nehemiah 8:1-8) on the first day of Tishri, or the Feast of Trumpets. On the next day, as the people were gathered to learn more of the laws of YEHOVAH God,
...they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner. (Nehemiah 8:14-18)
Here again the Feast of Tabernacles is described, and the statement is made that the festival had not been observed in this manner -- with the construction of booths -- since the days of Joshua himself! Truly, in the days of Ezra, there was a turning back to observe the laws of YEHOVAH God among the people, and much more attention was given to proper and correct observance.
Nevertheless, many of these features of the Feast, as observed in modern times, have also been neglected by thousands of YEHOVAH's Israelite people. How many literally build "booths" to sit in, to discuss matters within, to fellowship in? How many use the branches of various kinds of trees to do so? How many take various branches and wave them before the LORD, in rejoicing and worshipping Him? How important are these things? What do they add to our over-all understanding? How much have we missed by not observing these things circumspectly and thoroughly?
Let's begin to understand! Let's begin to get it right!
History and Tradition
Too many people try to look at YEHOVAH's Word, and His commandments, in "isolation." They have not considered at all the historical setting, and the observances and practices of YEHOVAH's people, the Israelites, and how they have historically and traditionally observed the annual holy days. Many have dismissed anything and everything "Jewish" simply because the "Jews" rejected the Messiah and did not accept Yeshua as the Savior.
It should be mentioned here that according to the popular concept the word “Jew” is supposed to relate to Israel, or to all of YEHOVAH’s “chosen race” as a single entity. But, prophecy from Moses on gives separation between each tribe of Israel and also separation in destiny between the House of Israel and the House of Judah, right into the "last days." Yet, somehow the churches can lump the tribes of Israel all together and call them “the Jews” together with any person of any race who calls himself a Jew.
Also, we have to realize that those who call themselves Jews today are, in the main, descended from the Turkic Khazars and do not have a drop of Israelite blood in their veins! (See our article, Could the Modern "Jews" Be Israel?)
The nation that formed in Palestine after the captivity of Judah in Babylon was made up mainly of people from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, together with some Levites. They settled in two regions, with Judah primarily in Judea and with Benjamin in Galilee, and internally they are referred to as Judeans and Galileans in the New Testament. The Judeans of the region of Judea came to include all the people living there, regardless of their racial origins. All these people are referred to by translators as “Jews,” because they were “of Judea”. But this does not mean “of Judah” only. Included in the population were many descendants of Esau (Edomites); these came to control the Temple, but these leaders were they whom the Messiah said could not hear (and understand) his words. It is more correct to call someone descended from the Israelite tribe of Judah a Judahite.
Yeshua himself plainly said, "Salvation is of the JUDAHITES" (John 4:22). The apostle Paul explained in simple terms, and clear language, "What advantage then hath the Judahite? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto THEM were committed the ORACLES of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid." (Romans 3:1-4)
As we just mentioned the Jews, as a people today, are descended from the Turkic Khazars and don't have a drop of Israelite blood in their veins. Most of them have never recognized Yeshua as the Messiah. Nevertheless, they have preserved not only the Old Testament Scriptures but also many important historical writings, commentaries, and religious works relating to the Bible and its observances and ordinances. Therefore, when it comes to gaining insight and understanding of the Festivals of YEHOVAH God, who better to turn to than the Jews, who have been observing them for centuries? Taken with care and discernment (don't get involved with the Talmud or the Kabala) here is a vital storehouse of knowledge which the vast majority of Christians, including festival observers, have totally ignored!
On the other hand, the apostle Paul was himself a Judahite (House of Judah -- which was comprised of the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin with some Levites). Paul himself declared of the Judahites of his day, "Who are Israelites; to who pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;" (Romans 9:4). Obviously, therefore, there is a great deal we can learn from the ancient Judahite people -- if we are open-minded and sincerely searching for truth!
Paul even "boasted" and claimed, under divine inspiration of YEHOVAH God, "I am verily a man which am a Jew [Judahite], born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the LAW of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day." (Acts 22:3) Paul had high respect for the Israelite laws and knowledge of YEHOVAH God. He did not reject all the teachings and ramifications of the Judaism of his time.
Clearly, there is much we can learn from the Jewish people -- even those who are not descended from Israel (Jacob)!
So, what do Jewish sources tell us relating to the Feast of Tabernacles? Let's take a careful and probative look and examine the subject. In ignoring Jewish sources, we have missed out on many profound truths about this Feast and its Christian interpretation and significance!
A New Look at Sukkoth
The Feast of Tabernacles came to be so important in the ancient Israelite community that it was known as "the feast of the LORD," and was even called "the feast." The Hebrew word hag translated "feast" literally means "to dance or to be joyous," and comes from a root meaning "to dance in a circle, i.e. to march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival, by implication, to be giddy: celebrate, dance...reel to and fro." (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #2287)
This final harvest celebration, coming on the heels of the fall harvest, was a special time of joy for the Israelites. The rabbis gave it the name Zeman Simhatenu, which means "the season of our joy." It was a high point in the year for all the people of Israel. That is why it was called "the feast"!
Say Mitch and Zhava Glaser in The Fall Feasts of Israel:
If the theme of Rosh Hashana is repentance, and the theme of Yom Kippur is redemption, then most naturally the theme of Sukkot is rejoicing in God's forgiveness. The gathering of the year's final harvest was a confirmation of God's blessing upon the Jewish [Israelite] people for their obedience to His law. Salvation and obedience to God always leads to joy. (p. 162)
In the book Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holidays Handbook, we read:
Khag HaAsif (Festival of Ingathering) was to take place once the produce of the vineyards and product of the threshing rooms was collected (Exo. 23:14-17; 34:22). Beginning on the fifteenth of the seventh month, this Khag Adonai (Festival of God) would last seven days, the first a sacred occasion when no work was to be done. The Israelites were to take the 'product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook' (later called the four species) and rejoice with them before God.
Then another dimension was added as a 'law for all time.' For the duration of the festival the Israelites were to live in booths (sukkot) 'so that future generations will know that I made the Israelite people live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I the LORD your God' (Leviticus 23:39-43). (Celebrate!, by Lesli Koppelman Ross, p. 211)
This source continues, defining the Festival:
The specifics of the Jewish [Israelite] harvest festival were designed to protect the Israelites from the pagan influences they would encounter once they entered Canaan. While heathens worshipped nature itself, the Jews [Israelites] were to worship the Creator and Renewer of nature. While the pagans celebrated with excess and debauchery, the Israelite pilgrims were to focus on the moral significance of the festivities.
The purpose of rejoicing was not sensual abandon but to honor and thank God for His blessings, spread good fortune, and act with sensitivity. (p. 212)
During the time of the second Temple, festival-goers would gather in Jerusalem, which was festive in garlands of olive, palm, and willow branches, fragrant with fruits and flowers. The people would participate in public prayers, sing hymns, and watch or join in with religious precessions at the Temple. At this time, the "four species" of foilage, specified in Leviticus 23, would be used to celebrate and rejoice before the LORD (YEHOVAH). We read:
The four species (definitively identified through Oral Tradition as palm, willow, and myrtle bound together into a lulav, and an etrog [citron]) were now part of the ritual. Each day of sukkot, the priests, holding the lulav and etrog in hand, marched around the altar, which had been adorned with freshly cut willow branches. As they circled, they recited a psalm asking God to 'please save us' (Hoshiah na). (p. 213)
Why are these "four species" used to celebrate Sukkot? Says The Jewish Rook of Why by Alfred J. Kolatch:
The use of four species of plants is PRESCRIBED IN LEVITICUS 23:40: 'And you shall take on the first day [of the holiday] the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees. and boughs of thick trees [myrtle branches], and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.' The Bible does not specify precisely which trees and fruits are to be taken.
Jewish authorities have interpreted the 'fruit of goodly trees' to mean the etrog [the citron] , and the 'branches of [date] palms' to mean the lulav. The 'boughs of thick trees' refers to the myrtle (called hadasim in Hebrew], and 'willows of the brook' are the familiar willow trees (called aravot in Hebrew). These tour species were to he held in the hand and blessed each day of the Sukkot holiday. (p. 250)
In all the years I celebrated the Feast of Sukkot, or Tabernacles, with the Worldwide Church of God, we NEVER paid any attention to this DIRECT COMMANDMENT OF YEHOVAH GOD! No one, it seemed, read the passage in Leviticus 23:40 or gave it any special thought! Yet YEHOVAH's Word very plainly says we are to take these items, and "rejoice before the LORD." Apparently this was felt to be too "physical" and too "ritualistic." Nevertheless, it is plainly a part of the commanded observances of the Festival of Sukkot!
Nevertheless, it is a fact that the Sadducees disputed with the Pharisees over this issue. As Alfred Edersheim writes in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services:
As usual, we are met at the outset by a controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The law had it: 'Ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook.' which the Sadducees understood (as do the modern Karaite Jews) to refer to the materials whence the booths were to be constructed, while the Pharisees applied it to what the worshippers were to carry in their hands. The latter interpretation is, in all likelihood, the correct one; it seems borne out by the account of the festival at the time of Nehemiah, when the booths were constructed of BRANCHES OF OTHER TREES than those mentioned in Leviticus 23; and it was UNIVERSALLY ADOPTED IN PRACTICE AT THE TIME OF CHRIST. (p. 273)
Always roiling the pot, the Sadducees were the original gain-sayers -- the original "contrarians" who had their own ideas about everything! The New Testament points out that they were even disbelievers in a resurrection, did not admit to the existence of angels or demons, and were, all in all, "ignorant of the Scriptures" (see Acts 23:6-8; Matthew 22:23, 29-31).
The Most Joyous Feast
Afred Edersheim writes in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, that the Feast of Tabernacles was the joyous high point of the year in ancient Israel. He declares:
The most joyous of all festive seasons in Israel was that of the 'Feast of Tabernacles.' It fell on a time of year when the hearts of the people would naturally be full of thanksfulness, gladness, and expectancy. All the crops had been long stored; and now all fruits were also gathered, the vintage past, and the land only awaited the softening and refreshment of the 'latter rain,' to prepare it for a new crop....
If the beginning of the harvest had pointed back to the birth of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt and forward to the true Passover-sacrifice in the future; if the corn harvest was connected to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in the past, and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; the harvest-thanksgiving of the Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel, on the one hand, of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on the other hand, it pointed to the FINAL HARVEST when Israel's mission should be completed, and ALL NATIONS [OF ISRAEL] GATHERED UNTO THE LORD. (p. 268-269)
This great Feast, Edersheim points out, has a dual meaning: It both reflects back on the miraculous passage of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, as they lived in rickety "booths" open to the heavens; and it depicts, in a very powerful manner, the FINAL HARVEST OF ALL THE ISRAELITES to the true paths of YEHOVAH God. This is pictured in Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-4 -- the time when all nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship the Eternal, the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah the prophet speaks of this great "fall harvest" in this manner:
And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for ALL PEOPLE a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the VEIL that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the LORD GOD will wipe away tears from all faces. (Isaiah 25:6-8, NKJV)
During that coming age, Isaiah says, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be FULL of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11:9)
Edersheim adds that this Feast, in particular, was designed by YEHOVAH God to illustrate the great harvest of all the Israelites to the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God in the latter days. This is evident, he says, "not only from the language of the prophets and the peculiar services of the feast, but also from its position in the Calendar, and even from the names by which it is designated in Scripture." He continues:
Thus in its reference to the harvest it is called 'the feast of ingathering' [Exo. 23:16; 34:22]; in that to the history of Israel in the past, 'the Feast of Tabernacles' [Lev. 23:34, and specifically verse 43; Deut. 16:13, 16; 31:10; II Chron. 8:13; Ezra 3:4]; while its symbolic bearing on the future is brought out in its designation as emphatically 'the feast' [I Kings 8:2; II Chron. 5:3; 7:8,9]; and 'the Feast of Jehovah' [so literally in Lev. 23:39]. In this sense also Josephus, Philo, and the Rabbis (in many passages of the Mishnah) single it out from all the other feasts. (p. 269-270)
The Two Most Important Features of the Feast of Sukkot
The Feast of Tabernacles was considered the most joyous season of the entire year. With all the electric anticipation along the caravan trails, the stirring religious ceremonies, the inspiring singing of hymns, and the Levitical choir and orchestra playing at the Temple, with lively singing, dancing, and feasting, the joy literally ran over the brim.
(1) The Pouring Out of Water:
Each day of the Feast, a vital celebration took place called Simkhat Beit Hashoavah, that is, "The Rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing."
Each morning of Sukkot, the priests went to the pool of Siloah (Silwan) near Jerusalem to fill a golden flask. Shofar blasts greeted their arrival at the Temple's Water Gate. They then ascended and poured the water so that it flowed over the altar simultaneously with wine from another bowl. When the priest was about to pour the water, the people shouted 'Raise your hand!' because of an incident that occurred in a previous year: The high priest Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.E.) showed contempt for the rite by spilling the water at his feet, a transgression for which worshippers threw their citrons at him.
The pelted priest had demonstrated his alliance with the Sadducees, who literally followed Torah and only what was specifically in Torah. (Explained as an oral instruction given to Moses at Sinai, this water rite was not mentioned in The Five Books.) The deliriously happy celebration connected with the water drawing developed when the Pharisees (who believed in the Oral Tradition and interpretation of Torah and gave us the rabbinic Judaism we know today) triumphed over them in the first century.
Based on Isaiah's promise 'With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation' (12:3), rejoicing began at the end of the first day and took place every night except Shabbat. Talmud recorded that 'one who had never witnessed the Rejoicing of the Place of the Water Drawing has never seen true joy in his life.' (Although the celebration was for the libation that would be made the next morning, it was named for the preparation for the ritual -- the water drawing -- which the rabbis said showed that getting ready was sometimes of greater merit than the mitzvah itself because of its positive effect on the person doing it). (p. 213-214)
Why was this ceremony called "The Water-Drawing Ceremony"? Alfred Edersheim gives us the emphatic reason, as understood by the Rabbis. He writes:
For though that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as being a subordinate reference to the dispensation of the rain, the annual fall of which they they imagined was determined by God at that feast, its main and real application was to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as predicted -- probably in allusion to this very rite -- by Isaiah the prophet. Thus the Talmud says distinctly: "Why is the name of it called, The drawing out of water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: 'With joy shall ye draw waters out of the well of salvation.'" Hence, also, the feast and the peculiar joyousness of it, are alike designated as those of 'the drawing out of water'; for according to the same Rabbinical authorities, the Holy Spirit dwells in man [of Israel] only through joy. (The Temple, p. 279-280)
(2) The Illumination of the Temple Ceremony:
As a part of this fascinating ceremony, four immense menorahs were set in the Temple courtyard for the Feast of Sukkot, 75 feet in height. Each menorah had four golden bowls and was reached by four ladders. Each bowl was capable of holding many gallons of oil. Four youths of priestly descent each held a pitcher of oil, which they used to fill the bowls. Wicks were made from the old, cast-off priestly garments and rags from worn-out vestments. When the menorahs were lit, they generated such intense and brilliant light, that not a courtyard in the whole city of Jerusalem failed to be illuminated by the blazing light. Notice Edersheim's description of it --
At the close of the first day of the feast the worshippers descended to the Court of the Women, where great preparations had been made. Four golden candelabras were there, each with four golden bowls, and against them rested four ladders; and four youths of priestly descent held, each a pitcher of oil, capable of holding one hundred and twenty log, from which they filled each bowl. The old, worn breeches and girdles of the priests served for wicks to these lamps. There was not a court in Jerusalem that was not lit up by the light of 'the house of water-pouring.' (ibid., p. 283)
What did these four immense candelabrum or menorahs that lit up the whole city of Jerusalem symbolize? Edersheim explains:
It seems clear that this illumination of the Temple was regarded as forming part of, and having the same symbolic meaning as, 'the pouring out of water.' The light shining out of the Temple into the darkness around, and lighting up every court in Jerusalem, must have been intended as A SYMBOL...OF THE SHECKINAH [GLORY] which once filled the Temple. (The Temple, p. 285)
While Edersheim says that the Shekinah Glory "once filled the Temple," implying that It wasn't there during the Messiah's day, there is abundant evidence to show that YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory was indeed resident in the Second Temple during the time of the Messiah -- and up to just before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.
When Yeshua the Messiah was crucified on the tree facing the Holy of Holies from the site of the Red Heifer sacrifice on the Mount of Olives, he cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?," which is translated, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). He sensed that YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory in the Temple had turned away from him at that very moment, evoking the heart-wrenching cry that was followed by "'Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.' And having said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:46) The Messiah knew that his Father's Shekinah Glory was present in the Holy of Holies of the Temple.
YEHOVAH's Shekinah Glory remained in the Temple all through the life and death of the Messiah and up to the year 66 A.D., when it was seen leaving the Temple and alighting on the Mount of Olives. Relates Ernest L. Martin:
There is another reason why Christians in the first century were very interested in the Mount of Olives. This is because it was believed that the Shekinah Glory of God which...dwelt inside the Holy of Holies at the Temple left the sanctuary and went to the Mount of Olives and hovered over that spot at the time of the Roman/Jewish War which ended in A.D. 70. (Secrets of Golgotha, ASK Publications, Alhambra, CA, p. 83)
Eusebius, an early church father (260?-340?) wrote in his book Proof of the Gospel that
...believers in Christ congregate from all parts of the world...that they may worship at the Mount of Olives opposite to the city, whither the glory [the Shekinah Glory] of the LORD [YEHOVAH, YHVH] migrated when it left the former city. (Book VI, Chapter 18 (288))
According to Eusebius the Shekinah Glory left the Temple and hovered over the Mount of Olives during "the siege of Jerusalem" (66 A.D. to 70 A.D.). Also, a Jewish rabbi named Jonathan -- who was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem -- said that the Shekinah Glory left the Temple and for three and a half years,
...abode on the Mount of Olives hoping that Israel would repent, but they did not; while a Bet Kol [a supernatural voice] issued forth announcing, Return, O backsliding children [Jeremiah 3:14]. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you [Malachi 3:7], when they did not repent, it said, I will return to My place [Hosea 5:15]. (Midrash Rabbah, Lamentations 2:11)
Josephus, 1st-century Jewish historian, mentioned that in the Spring of 66 A.D. some astonishing events took place within the Temple. He recorded three miracles associated with YEHOVAH's Shekinah Glory and the Temple -- and each one clearly showed that the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God was departing from the Holy of Holies. In Wars VI, 290 he stated that "a great light shone over the altar for thirty minutes at 3 o'clock in the morning (a week before Passover in A.D. 66) and then it departed." He said the sacred scribes interpreted this sign as a bad omen for the Temple. It was like the Shekinah Glory moving away from the Tabernacle in the wilderness as a sign to disassemble the Tabernacle and transport it to another location.
The second miracle concerned the Temple gates: "...a few days later (during Passover itself) the enormous brass gates of Nicanor, requiring twenty men to open and close them, opened at midnight of their own accord. (Wars VI, 293-295) Then, about one hundred days later, on Pentecost, the final sign was given that definitely showed that the Shekinah Glory was departing the Temple, as the other signs indicated. Notice!
Moreover, at the festival which is called Pentecost, the priests on entering the inner court of the Temple at nightfall, as their custom was in accomplishment of their ministrations, stated that they first became aware of a commotion and a roar, and after that the voice of a great multitude saying 'We are departing hence.' (Wars VI, 299)
When we couple all this information together it is quite apparent that YEHOVAH's Shekinah Glory was in residence in the Holy of Holies during at least the lifetime of the Messiah and up to within a few years of the Temple's destruction in 70 A.D.
This being the case, the ceremony of lighting the four menorahs in the Court of the Women must POINT TO SOME FUTURE EVENT! What could this future event be? None other than the RETURN OF YEHOVAH GOD'S SHEKINAH GLORY TO JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE! Edersheim records that "...according to Jewish tradition, the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night [the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God] had first appeared to Israel on the 15th of Tishri, the first day of the feast....[and] we know that the dedication of Solomon's Temple and the DESCENT OF THE SHECHINAH took place at this feast." (The Temple, p. 286)
James D. Tabor writes that "...the Hebrew Prophets constantly emphasize the dramatic, awesome, earth-shaking, personal return of YHVH [YEHOVAH] Himself to this planet. They clearly intend to convey an actual, literal, historical event in the future, something that will be experienced by all the inhabitants of the earth." (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, pp. 70-71) We read of this in Zechariah 14:1-4, 5, 9, 16:
Behold, the day of YEHOVAH is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then YEHOVAH will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day HIS FEET SHALL SHALL STAND ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES which lies before Jerusalem on the east....
Thus YEHOVAH my God will come, and all the saints [of Israel] with You....And YEHOVAH will become King over all the earth; on that day YEHOVAH will be one and His Name one....Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, YEHOVAH of Hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. (RSV)
This prophecy contains a number of remarkable features that emphasize the fact that YEHOVAH God Himself will directly intervene and become King over the entire earth. Writes Tabor:
"The entire focus of the text is upon YHVH [YEHOVAH] God. I emphasize this point, not to deny or even downplay the role of [the] Messiah, but rather to stress that Zechariah is able to offer this rather detailed scenario of the 'end of the age,' and the arrival of the Kingdom of God without once mentioning the role of the Davidic King [Yeshua the Messiah]. Also, despite any use of symbolic or metaphorical language (i.e., His feet standing on the Mt. of Olives), the passage is full of historical and geographical details. The prophet obviously intends to describe an actual, literal, historical event in the future history of Israel and Jerusalem. The language itself resists allegorical interpretation." (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, p. 71)
Throughout the Old Testament the Prophets constantly make the point that YEHOVAH God Himself (in the form of His Shekinah Glory) will come down from Heaven and intervene in the affairs of this world, acting personally and directly, to punish the wicked and RULE AS KING OVER ALL NATIONS. Many have assigned this role to the Messiah, a huge mistake that the churches of this world continue to promulgate. Following are some of the many verses in the Old Testament that underscore the role of YEHOVAH God ON THIS EARTH in the very near future! Notice:
Come my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, YEHOVAH comes out of His place [Heaven] to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isaiah 26:20-21)
Behold, YEHOVAH makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface, and scatters abroad its inhabitants....They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; for the majesty of YEHOVAH they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify YEHOVAH in the dawning light, the name of YEHOVAH God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea....It shall come to pass on that day, that YEHOVAH will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth....Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed, For YEHOVAH of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders gloriously. (Isaiah 24:1, 14-15, 21-23)
A voice cries, 'Prepare the way for YEHOVAH in the wilderness; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the [Shekinah] Glory of YEHOVAH will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of YEHOVAH has spoken.' (Isaiah 40:3-5)
Then, in Isaiah 40:9-11:
O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift up and be not afraid: Say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God!' Behold LORD YEHOVAH shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.'
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when YEHOVAH brings back Zion....YEHOVAH has made bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-8, 10)
In an obvious fulfillment of the the Water-Drawing Ceremony, the prophet Ezekiel makes the following comment:
For I [YEHOVAH God] will take you [modern Israelites] from among the nations, gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will SPRINKLE CLEAN WATER ON YOU, and you shall be clean...I will give you a new heart and out a new spirit within you.... (Ezekiel 36:25-26)
"And I will not hide my face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My spirit on the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 39:29)
In Isaiah 63 we find imagery that is duplicated in the New Testament, leading us to a startling conclusion -- notice!
Who is this who comes from Edom, with DYED GARMENTS from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? "I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." WHY IS YOUR APPAREL RED, AND YOUR GARMENTS LIKE ONE WHO TREADS IN THE WINEPRESS? "I have trodden the wine press alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; THEIR BLOOD IS SPRINKLED ON MY GARMENTS, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redemption has come. I looked, and there was no one to help, and I wondered and there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation to Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me. I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, made them drunk in My fury, and brought down their strength to the earth." (Isaiah 63:1-6)
Also, in Isaiah 66: 15-16:
For behold, YEHOVAH will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword YEHOVAH will judge all flesh; and those slain by YEHOVAH will be many.
In Revelation 19 -- in the New Testament -- we find similar wording and imagery that clearly shows the Being on the white horse to be YEHOVAH God -- NOT the Messiah as millions have believed over the centuries! Compare!
Then I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd, like the sound of rushing waters, like loud peals of thunder, saying, 'Halleluyah! YEHOVAH, God of heaven's armies, has begun His reign!'....Then I saw heaven opened, and there before me was a white horse. Sitting on it was the One called Faithful and True, and it is in righteousness that He passes judgment and goes to battle. His eyes were LIKE FIERY FLAME, and on his head were many royal crowns. And He had a Name written which no one knew but Himself. HE WAS WEARING A ROBE THAT HAD BEEN SOAKED IN BLOOD, and the Name by which He is called is, 'THE WORD OF GOD.' The armies of heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. And out of His mouth comes A SHARP SWORD with which to strike down nations -- 'HE WILL RULE THEM WITH A STAFF OF IRON.' IT IS HE WHO TREADS THE WINEPRESS from which flows the wine of the furious rage of YEHOVAH, God of heaven's armies. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: 'KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.' (Revelation 19:6; 11-16, Jewish New Testament)
It can be demonstrated that "THE WORD OF GOD" -- referred to in the above passage -- is none other than the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God! See our article, The Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah! Also, the phrase "King of kings and Lord of lords" can only refer to YEHOVAH God -- He is the ultimate King and the ultimate Lord -- there is "none other above Me." Explains James Tabor:
Too often Christians allow themselves to hastily run through such texts, all the while assuming that when the Prophets speak of YHVH [YEHOVAH] Himself acting in such decisive ways they actually refer to His Messiah. How often I have heard preachers say 'When Jesus returns, his feet will stand on the Mt. of Olives.' This is unfortunate and CARELESS EXEGESIS. As one can plainly see, through a careful reading of all these texts, the Prophets always maintain a clear distinction between [the] dramatic appearance of the LORD God (YHVH) and [the] Davidic rule of the Messiah. (Restoring Abrahamic Faith, p. 74)
To understand this teaching of Scripture one has to make a distinction between the general presence of God, which is always with His creation, and this very specific, literal, awesome, visible, manifestation of the Divine Glory. In that sense God DEPARTED from this planet [just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.], and in that sense the Prophets all tell of HIS RETURN. In other words, the Prophets predict a visible, awesome, literal, manifestation of the [Shekinah] Glory of YHVH [YEHOVAH] once again. (ibid., p. 75)
This is what the lighting of the four immense menorahs on the first Holy Day of the Feast of Tabernacles points to! The fact that the Shekinah Glory of YEHOVAH God descended and filled Solomon's Temple at it's dedication on this day, and the fact that the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night first appeared to the Israelites under Moses on the 15th of Tishri, clearly point to the return of YEHOVAH's Shekinah Glory on this SAME DAY in the near future! This is why the menorahs were lit at this time during the Water-Drawing Ceremony. When the Shekinah Glory returns there will be a future outpouring of the holy spirit upon those of Israel as predicted by this very rite.
This celebration was so brilliant that the people called it "The Light of the World." To the Israelites of the time the term "world" meant the world of Israel -- not the entire planet and all its people. Now let’s look at John 8:12: "Yeshua spoke to them again: 'I am the light of the world [of Israel]; whosoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.'” (Jewish New Testament) When the Messiah made this statement all the people knew exactly what he was referring to. The huge Temple menorahs were the light of the entire surrounding area. Even though the Messiah was away from Palestine for many years, it is evident that even from childhood Yeshua could clearly remember the spectacle of the lights of these huge menorahs. Who could forget it?
If we look in John 9:1-7 we will see how the Messiah not only talked about being the light of Israel, he actually gave the light of Israel to a blind man near the Temple gate. Records John 9:1-7:
As Yeshua passed along, he saw a man blind from birth. His talmidim [disciples] asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned -- this man or his parents -- to cause him to be born blind?' Yeshua answered, 'His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God's power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One [YEHOVAH God] who sent me; the night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.' Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, put the mud on the man's eyes, and said to him, 'Go, wash off in the Pool of Shiloach [Siloam]! (The name means 'sent.') So he went and washed and came away seeing. (ibid.)
Then, in James 1:17, we read: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” The Messiah was not only the light of Israel, but he also gave light to a blind man on the Last Great Day, the 22nd, as revealed in John 9:14: "Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Yeshua made the clay, and opened his eyes."
The apostle Paul applies this to those of us of Israel when he said in Philippians 2:14-15: "Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world...”
As the four mighty menorahs blazed in the night, we read:
A Levite orchestra of flutes, trumpets, harps, and cymbals accompanied torchlight processions, and men who had earned the capacity for real spiritual joy through their purity, character and scholarship danced ecstatically to the hand-clapping, foot-stomping, and hymn-singing crowds.
We do not imagine our distinguished sages as acrobats and tumblers, but they were often agile physically as well as mentally. Rabbi Simon ben Gamaliel juggled eight lighted torches and raised himself into a handstand on two fingers, a gymnastic feat no one else could master. Others juggled eight knives, eight glasses of wine, or eight eggs before leaders and dignitaries. (p. 214)
The celebration of the Water-drawing was a highlight of the Feast. It was a happy, even ecstatic occasion, with a torchlight parade, including musicians, jugglers, and dancers, marching to the Temple at night, as the whole city of Jerusalem was lit up by giant torches and the light of the four giant menorahs. As the lyres, drums, cymbals, trumpets, drums, and horns played, the Rabbis entertained and clowned, adding to the joy. Not one day of Sukkot passed without joyous festivities that celebrated the happiness of the harvest and the joy of community.
As the dawn of each day approached, the priests descended the steps to the Women's Court, with trumpets blaring. They marched in procession to the Eastern Gate of the Temple, then turned their faces toward the Temple (to the west) and proclaimed, "Our fathers who were in this place stood with their backs to the Temple and their faces eastward and worshipped the sun. but our eyes are unto the LORD." (based on Ezekiel 8:16)
The Seventy Sacrifices
Each day of the Feast of Sukkot, the priestly procession would march around the altar one time, waving the lulav branches and shouting praises to YEHOVAH God. But on the seventh day of the Feast, this circling procession was done seven times instead of just once! At the conclusion of the seventh circle, they struck the willows on the ground around the altar.
During the Feast, a total of seventy sacrifices of animals were performed -- understood to represent the seventy nations of the entire world that came from the Genesis 1 creation.
The Feast of Sukkot has the distinctive feature of pertaining to Israel ONLY while referring to the non-Israelite nations of the world in passing. On the first day of the Feast, 13 bulls were offered, and each successive day the number offered was decreased by one. Therefore, during the 7 days of the Feast, the bulls were offered as follows: 13 + 12 + 11 + 10 + 9 + 8 + 7 = 70 (see Numbers 29:12-34). The seventy bulls correspond to the seventy original nations that were descended from the Genesis 1 creation, and who were the ancestors of all the non-Israelite nations of the world.
Mitch and Zhara Glaser go even further concerning the numbers of sacrifices. They point out:
The order of sacrifices on Sukkot is spelled out in minute detail in the book of Numbers. Never before had so many sacrifices been required of Israel on any one day. The vast number of sacrifices were commensurate with Israel's depth of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
A fascinating and mysterious pattern emerges from the seemingly endless list of sacrifices. No matter how the offerings are grouped or counted, their number always remains divisible by the number seven. During the week are offered 70 bullocks. 14 rams and 98 lambs -- altogether 182 sacrifices (26 x 7), to which must he added 336 (48 x 7) tenths of ephahs of flour for the meal offering....
It was no coincidence that this seven-day holiday, which took place in the height of the seventh month, had the perfect number, seven, imprinted on its sacrifices. It was by divine design that the final holiday...bore on its sacrifices the seal of God's perfect approval. (p. 163)
Therefore, the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of celebration and rejoicing in YEHOVAH God for the Israelites, to whom salvation will be extended exclusively. Says the book Celebrate!:
The sacrifices made throughout the week -- a total of seventy -- were understood to represent the seventy nations that then existed in the world. Their well-being, like Israel's, depended on whether or not they would receive the rain needed for food supplies. Blessings like rain were understood as rewards for proper behavior (Deut. 11: 13-l5) (In his vision of messianic times, Zechariah presents lack of rain as punishment for the nations that fail to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Sukkot to worship God, which would show that they accept His sovereignty [14:16]. This prophecy, and those of Isaiah and Micah calling on all nations to show their acceptance of God's sovereignty by going to His Temple -- combined with the connection between Sukkot and fulfillment, the ultimate being messianic redemption -- encouraged many proselytes to join the pilgrims in Jerusalem). (p. 214)
A connection of the non-Israelite nations with the Feast of Tabernacles is pointed out in the prophecy of Zechariah. We read that during the millennial reign of YEHOVAH God, after he has established the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God in the earth, that all nations will come up to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles! Notice this amazing prophecy:
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-19, NKJV)
The Last Great Day of the Feast -- Hoshana Rabbah
The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is not an annual Sabbath day -- yet it has special meaning and significance of its own. In ancient times it was known as the "great day of the feast." Being the seventh and last day of the Feast -- and the culmination of the Feast -- it represented in a unique way the FINAL DAY OF HARVEST! Therefore, it also pictured the FINAL DAY of JUDGMENT. It pictured the celebration of the gathering in of the final great harvest of Israelite souls in YEHOVAH's plan.
The seventh day of the Feast is called "Hoshanah Rabbah," meaning "the many hoshanahs. " This is a contraction of hoshiah na -- or "The Great Salvation." During the Middle Ages, customs associated with Yom Kippur, such as dressing the Torah in white vestments, and the cantor's wearing of a kittel, were adopted for Hoshanah Rabbah, looked upon as "the final day of judgment."
Says Avraham Finkel in Essence of the Holy Days:
Hoshana Rahbah, the seventh day of Sukkot, has a solemn undertone, it is closely linked to Yom Kippur, for it is on this day that the FINAL SEAL is placed on the verdict that was pronounced on Yom Kippur...
On Hoshana Rabhah we are mindful of the fact that during Sukkot, judgment is rendered concerning the rainfall for the entire world (Rosh Hashana 16a). The economic fortunes of the world depend on abundant rainfall, so our prayers for rain are of crucial importance for the global economy as a whole and for Eretz Yisrael in particular.
This is evident in the special prayers of Hoshana Rabbah. During the Shacharit (morning) service of the first six days of Sukkot, the entire congregation makes one circuit around the bimah with lulav and etrog in hand while the chazzan leads the recitation of the hoshana prayer that is punctuated by the congregation's saying aloud, Hoshana, 'Please save!' On the seventh day of Sukkot -- Hoshana Rabbah -- seven circuits are made, hence the name Hoshana Rabbah, which means 'many hoshanas.'
In the hoshana prayers we ask for rain, 'to give life to the forsaken wastes, to sustain with trees, to enhance with sweet fruits, to rain on the sproutings, to elevate the thirsty earth.' After the seven processions around the bimah, additional prayers are said, after which the lulav and etrog are laid aside and the hoshana bundle, consisting of five willow branches, is picked up. The hoshana bundle is beaten on the ground five times in accordance with an ancient custom that was instituted by the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (c. 350 B.C.E.). (The Essence of the Holy Days, p. 94)
This final day of celebrating the Harvest, and Ingathering, therefore, pictures the final stage of YEHOVAH's plan of salvation for His people Israel -- the "Last Great Day," or the "Great White Throne Judgment"! It literally pictures the final day of "judgment" and sealing of all those Israelites who will receive eternal life (compare Revelation 20:11-13), as opposed to those who will suffer the second and final death penalty (v. 14-15).
This final day of "harvest celebration" pictures the vast second resurrection -- the resurrection of all the Israelites who ever lived, who did not qualify to be in the first resurrection, at the coming of YEHOVAH God (Revelation 20:1-4). All these others will rise up to human life after the 1,000 year period (Revelation 20:5-6). They will be judged at that time -- the time of the "Great Salvation," or "Many Hoshanas."
Mitch and Zhava Glaser tell us concerning this day of Hoshana Rabbah:
The seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as Hoshana Rabbah, The Great Hoshana,' is somewhat a festival in itself. On other days of the feast, when the family goes to synagogue, one procession is made around the sanctuary with lulav and etrog while the congregation sings, 'Hoshianah, save us.' This particular tradition is believed to date back to the time of the Maccabees, around 165 B.C.
On the final day, the entire congregation marches around seven times, carrying even more willow leaves with them. These seven times, a memorial of the circuits made by the ancient priests around the Temple altar during worship, remind us of God's goodness in destroying Jericho once Israel had circled it seven times.
After the seventh time around the synagogue, the willow branches are beaten until their leaves fall off -- a symbol of beating off our sins and a prayer for plenteous water for next year's willows...
In contrast to the festive days of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah is observed solemnly, as an extension of the Day of Atonement. On this day, the rabbis tell us, the GATES OF JUDGMENT FINALLY CLOSE and the decrees pronounced by God [upon the resurrected Israelites] on the Day of Atonement take effect. (The Fall Feasts of Israel, p. 198-199)
Joel Ziff, in Mirrors in Time: A Psycho-Spiritual Journey through the Jewish Year, tells us more about Hoshana Rabbah:
The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah. On this day, the ritual of Hoshanot [marching around the synagogue or room] involves seven circlings of the synagogue with the four species. At the end of this ritual, willow branches are beaten against the ground. Hoshana Rabbah is viewed as the END of the cycle which began on the first day of Elul. (p. 235)
In other words, Hoshana Rabbah is the culmination of the holy day season that begins with the month of Elul, which is the preparation month for the great feasts of the month of Tishri. Thus the process begins with self-examination and repentance, enjoined on us during Elul, heightened with Rosh Hoshana and the trumpet warnings sounded on that day to "repent" and draw close to YEHOVAH God. This "Feast of Trumpets" is followed by the Days of Awe, leading up to "Yom Kippur" or the "Day of Atonement," picturing judgment and cleansing -- forgiveness to the deserving Israelites and judgment upon the wicked. This is followed by the joyousness of the Feast of Sukkot, but this time is terminated by the FINAL "judgment" of Hoshana Rabbah!
In reality, then, we have the following scenario:
1) Nisan 1 -- first trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day
2) Iyyar 1 -- second trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day
3) Sivan 1 -- third trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day
4) Tammuz 1 -- fourth trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day
5) Ab 1 -- fifth trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day
6) Elul 1 -- sixth trumpet -- warning to repent and prepare for the judgment day -- 30 days to examine ourselves and come to deeper repentance
7) Rosh Hashanah -- Day of Blowing -- pictures final warning of YEHOVAH God symbolized by the seventh trumpet of Revelation, call to repentance -- return of the Messiah
8) Days of Awe -- final warnings to prepare for the day of judgment
9) Yom Kippur -- the Messiah judges Israel, and marries his bride
10) Feast of Sukkot -- YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory returns to the Temple in Jerusalem on the first day of the Feast -- seven days of joyous exuberance and feasting -- symbolizing the Millennial Kingdom of YEHOVAH God and the Messiah, and the "wedding feast" of the Lamb
11) Hoshana Rabbah -- last great day of Sukkot -- symbolizes the "Great White Throne Judgment," when all Israelites who ever lived receive the opportunity for salvation
We read in the gospel of John that Yeshua the Messiah went up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (John 7:1-10). Then, about the middle of the Feast, He went up to the Temple and taught the people (v. 14-30). We then read this amazing truth:
On the LAST DAY, THAT GREAT DAY OF THE FEAST, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
The "last day," the "great day of the Feast," was Hoshana Rabbah! It was the seventh or last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Yeshua therefore made this statement, about the out-pouring of the holy spirit, on the last day of the Feast of Sukkot -- picturing the Day of Final Salvation, the Day of Great Salvation, and the Great White Throne Judgment of YEHOVAH's people Israel!
The Feast of Sukkot -- an Awesome New Vitality
There is far more meaning and significance to the Feast of Sukkot than most of us, if not all of us, have begun to imagine in our wildest dreams. The awesome significance of the lighting of the four huge menorahs that lit up the entire city of Jerusalem during the Feast is one that has escaped notice in nominal Christianity -- and also amongst those in the Churches of YEHOVAH God! The fact that the return of YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory to this earth, and to a newly rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, is symbolized by the four huge menorahs should fill us with awe and profound thanks for the love and concern YEHOVAH shows for His people Israel! However, while the return of Yeshua the Messiah is important and to be greatly anticipated, we should NEVER elevate it above the tremendous, earth-shaking return of YEHOVAH God Himself!
When YEHOVAH returns the Water-Drawing Ceremony will be fulfilled as He pours out His holy spirit upon a repentant Israel. Even the "lulav" ceremony itself -- something which most Christians are totally ignorant of -- contains tremendous depth of meaning and spiritual significance.
It would not be at all wrong to place a candelabrum or menorah in the sukkah to remind us of the soon-coming return of YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory. We should light the candelabrum or menorah at the same time that the four menorahs were lit in the Second Temple -- at the close of the first day of the Feast. It should burn constantly for the rest of the Feast. Also, it would not be wrong to keep fresh water in the sukkah to remind us of the outpouring of the holy spirit that will occur when the Shekinah Glory manifests Itself in the Temple in Jerusalem. We should drink from that "water" constantly throughout the Feast.
In summation, the Feast of Tabernacles comprises three powerful spiritual lessons: It is "The Feast of Faith," and "The Feast of Joy," and "The Feast of Love." It contains vital elements expressing all of these major themes.
(1) We are commanded to build a temporary Sukkot -- this teaches us the lesson of FAITH.
(2) We are commanded to "rejoice" -- teaching us the lesson of JOY related to our HOPE.
(3) We are commanded to rejoice with "lulav" branches, waving them in the six directions, out and away from ourselves -- teaching us the lesson of out-going concern for others -- true LOVE. Maintaining a burning candelabrum or menorah in the sukkah also reminds us of love -- YEHOVAH God's unfathomable LOVE, evidenced by His return to this earth to pour out His spirit on His people Israel and usher in a time of fantastic peace and prosperity like has never been seen before!
What an awesome Feast! Isn't it time we begin to really celebrate this Festival of YEHOVAH God -- this Hag HaAdonai -- with the depth and emotion and joy and understanding that YEHOVAH intends for us to have?
Blessed be the Name of the LORD!
Baruch Attah Adonai, Yavenu, Elohenu, Avenu, Melchenu, Melek ha Olam!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
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