THE FESTIVAL OF SUKKOT

The  English phrase 'Feast of Tabernacles' occurs nine  times  in the Old Testament, and it is translated from the Hebrew phrase  'hag sukkot'.  See  Lev.23:34; Deut.16:13 & 16;  31:10;  2.Chron.8:13; Ezra 3:4; Zech.14:16,18-19.

The Word 'Hag'

The basic meaning of the root word 'hag' is 'to keep a feast' or 'to celebrate a holiday', and it usually refers to the three main  pilgrimage-festival seasons that were to be kept in the place chosen  by God.

In  the  nine usages of the phrase 'hag sukkot', the  word   'hag' defines  the  Feast  of Sukkot as one of  the  three  pilgrimage-festivals of God on which there is to be a celebration. However, the word 'hag' does not define what is to be celebrated,  whereas the  word 'sukkot' does define the exact thing that must be celebrated.

The Word 'Sukkot'

The Hebrew word 'sukkot' not only describes the seven-day feast of the seventh month, but is also used in  the explanation of how to observe this festival.

From  the Hebrew word 'sakak' come the words 'masak' (to  cover), 'musak' ( a covered structure), 'sok' (a covert, thicket, or  booth), and  'sukkot' (the place Succoth. i.e., the place  of  booths  or shelters).

It is from derivations of the root word 'sakak' that the translators for the King James Bible coined the phrase 'feast of tabernacles' and the word 'booths', which are  associated with the  celebration of the seven-day feast of the seventh month.

The many words and various meanings that are derived from the root word 'sakak', from which 'sukkot' is derived, will help clarify the literal, symbolic, and prophetic meaning  of the feast of the seventh month.

The Command to Keep the Feast and Dwell in Shelters

Leviticus 23:33-41 KJV

"And  the  Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the  children  of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall  be the feast of shelters for seven days unto the Lord" (vs.33-34).

This festival  is to be a seven-day festival just as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. And as with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the  number seven is significant. It pertains to perfection and bringing to an end but, moreover, when this festival ends, the Feast of The Eighth Day begins, which  pictures an ending  of the old order and the beginning of the new.

"On the first day shall be an holy convocation:  you shall do  no servile work therein. Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord:. . ." (vs.35-36). See also Num.29:12.

On  the first day of this seven-day festival, the people were  to cease from all their normal work (whatever they did to make a living) and  attend  a sacred assembly to worship God and  learn his laws.   During  these  seven days, there was to be  a  series  of specific  offerings and sacrifices made by the priesthood  as  a part  of the formal worship at the tabernacle/temple. This  seven-day festival was also an opportunity for anyone who wanted to  make personal sacrifices and offerings to do so.

The Shelters

The first major meaning and lesson of this festival, which sets it apart from the other festivals, is contained in the making of and dwelling  in shelters made from the boughs of trees:

"And  you  shall take you on the first day the boughs  of  goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows  of  the brook; and you shall  rejoice  (Hebrew, sawmayakh) before the Lord your God seven days" (v40). See Nehe.8:14-18.

The usage of the word rejoice indicates that  this was to be a feast of great joy. It was  to be a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving before  the  Lord for the blessings of the past year.

"You  shall live in booths seven days; all who are  home-born  in Israel shall live in booths" (Lev.23:42 Para.).

In verses 40 and 42 there are two important commands concerning  the observance of this seven-day festival:

1. The Israelites were to gather tree branches, make shelters from them, and  dwell in these shelters for seven days.

2. All  Israelites  were to dwell in  shelters  made  from  tree branches for seven days.

These  shelters made from the boughs of trees were  not very  strong  and did not provide much in the way  of  protection from the weather (e.g., rain,  wind, cold, and heat).

These shelters were  not  for  the purpose of physical protection from the weather; they  were to  be a yearly reminder of what God had done  for  Israel when he brought them out  of Egypt. Moreover, they were prophetic  and  symbolic of something far more important than physical  protection from the weather.

Prior to and after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.,  many people took  this  instruction literally by building  shelters  of  tree branches, sleeping in them, and eating all their regular meals in them. Even in this age, some people eat meals in a  communal or congregational shelter made of tree branches during this festival.

Verse 40 of Leviticus chapter 23 contains the command for all the native-born  descendants of Israel to dwell in booths. The English phrase 'home-born'  is translated from the Hebrew word 'ezrah', which is a noun that means 'a  native' or 'one rising from his own soil'. In the Mosaic legislation,  this term is used frequently to indicate the specific native origin of the  descendants of the Patriarchs to whom God made the  covenant promises.

Although the command is specifically meant for the  descendants of  Israel to make and dwell in booths during this festival,  the command did not prohibit non-Israelites from observing the festival in this way.

Why Dwell In Booths?

The reason God gave for having the Israelites dwell in  shelters made from tree branches for seven days was so that their  descendants  would  be  reminded that he made their  ancestors  dwell  in shelters when they came out of Egypt:

"So  that your generations shall know that I caused the  sons  of Israel to live in booths, when I brought them out of the land  of Egypt; I am the Lord your God" (Lev.23:43 Para.)

Verse 43 shows the overt meaning of dwelling in shelters; however, there are prophetic, symbolic, and spiritual meanings in this ritual. The  prophetic, symbolic, and spiritual meanings are the most important  meanings for  dwelling  in shelters because these  meanings  concern  the salvation and happiness of humanity.

Israel Camped at Sukkoth

There  are a number of scriptural references to the  place  named Sukkoth (Succoth: this name  is derived from the root word 'sakak' ):

"And  Jacob  journeyed to Succoth, and built him an  house [Heb.'bet/betan'],  and made shelters [Heb. 'sukka']  for his  cattle: therefore  the name of the place is called Succoth [i.e., Shelters]" (Gen.33:17 Para.).

Here, Jacob journeyed to this place,  built himself  a permanent residence, and made shelters for his cattle. We  are not told how long Jacob stayed in Succoth.  However,  his stay  must  have been somewhat lengthy, because he built a  home  and provided shelter for his cattle.

The Israelites camped in shelters when they first left Egypt and they camped in shelters at Succoth (i.e., the place of Shelters), which got  its  name from the fact that Jacob built shelters from the  boughs  of trees there. It is at this place that the presence  of God in a towering cloud and a pillar of fire first began to  lead Israel after they left Egypt:

"And  the  Lord gave the people favor in the sight of  the  Egyptians,  so that they lent to them such things as  they  required.  And  they  spoiled  the Egyptians.  And the  children  of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. . ." (Ex.12:36-37 KJV).

"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, in  the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them  by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them by the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and  night: He  took not away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the  pillar  of fire by night, from before the people" (Ex.13:20-22 KJV).

The Presence of God

The pillar of cloud and fire is  very important to understanding the meaning of dwelling in shelters during this seven-day festival, because within the pillar of cloud and fire resided the presence of God. See Num.9:15-23; 10:33-36.

Isaiah chapter four concerns the time after the return of  Jesus Christ  when  the  government of God will have been  established on earth. Moreover, Isaiah  records  that, during  this  time,  the sheltering presence  of God in the pillar of cloud and fire will  return  to Mount Zion where it will shelter and guard all of Israel:

Isaiah 4:4-6 Paraphrased

"When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the  daughters of  Zion, and the blood of Jerusalem shall have been rinsed  away from  its  midst by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning" (v4).

This  is  clearly a prophecy that will be  fulfilled  after  the return  of Jesus Christ. It is only after his return that  the  process of  purifying Israel's people will  have been accomplished.

"Then  the Lord will create a cloud  and a smoke by day, and  the shining  of  a flaming fire by night, for over all the  sight  of Mount Zion, and over her assemblies; for over all the glory will be a canopy" (v5).

The English word 'canopy' noted at the end of verse 5 is a translation of  the Hebrew word 'choop-paw', which means a 'canopy', 'chamber', 'closet', or 'defense'.

"And there shall be a booth for a shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge, and for a hiding place from storm and rain" (v6).

The  word 'booth' in verse 6 is translated from the  Hebrew word 'sukkah', which is  the singular form of 'sukkot' ('booth' or 'shelter'). Sukkot  is the  same word that denotes the first meaning of the seven-day feast of the seventh month (i.e., Hag Sukkot, the  Feast of Shelters).

Isaiah clearly makes the point that this pillar  of  cloud and  fire will be a  protective covering and shelter  for  Mount Zion  and those who dwell there, just as it was over the  Israelites as they sojourned in the wilderness. See Ex.19:9,16,18,20.

The scriptures indicate that, after the return of Christ as King of kings, there will still be rebellious people  dwelling on the earth who do not have the spirit  of God. Therefore, God's  protective  care will be necessary for the nation of  Israel  and  its people. In verse 6, the word 'sukkah' emphasizes God's  sheltering protection and presence in the pillar of cloud and fire.

The Word Sukkot

The  word 'sukkot' (i.e., booth or shelter) can be used  in  many ways  in  order to explain and emphasize different  thoughts  and concepts. It is  used  many times to  describe  a  safe  place (Psa.31:20),  a shade (Jn.4:5), a dwelling-place  of  animals (Job 38:40; Gen.33:17), and a  dwelling place of military personnel (2.Sam.11:11;  1.Kg.20:12,16). It is also used as an example of  flimsy construction (Isa.1:6; Job 27:18).

The  primary meaning and purpose of the  word 'sukkot' in  reference  to the feast of the seventh month appears to be that  of  a shade  or  protective covering, because sukkot comes from  the  root 'sakak', which means to 'overshadow', 'screen', or 'cover'.

TWO PROPHETIC AND SYMBOLIC MEANINGS

"You  shall live in booths seven days; all who are  home-born  in Israel shall live in booths: So that your generations shall  know that  I  caused  the sons of Israel to live  in  booths,  when  I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord  your  God" (Lev.23:42-43 Para.).

Why was it important for the Israelite's descendants to know that their  ancestors  were made to dwell in shelters made  from  tree branches after they left Egypt? What  great significance is there in being made to dwell in  booths  for seven days, and what does it have to do with being freed from the bondage and slavery of Egypt?

Two major symbolic and prophetic meanings of this festival are found in the answer to these questions.

THE FIRST PROPHETIC MEANING

The  first  major prophetic meaning of the Feast of  Shelters  is found  in the many scriptures that speak of God's care and  protection of his people.

Although  this  festival's title 'Hag Sukkot' points to a remembrance of the time when the Israelites first left Egypt and  God caused  them to dwell in hastily erected shelters made  from  the boughs  of trees, even more importantly, the title 'Hag Sukkot' also points to  the  literal, prophetic, and symbolic  protective  care  and presence of God among his people—past, present, and future.

God The Protector

"For  in  the day of evil he shall hide me in his  shelter [Heb. 'sok']: in the secrecy of his sanctuary [Heb.ohel], he shall hide me; he shall set me up on a rock" (Psa.27:5 Para.).

Here, King David uses the words 'sok' and 'ohel' to describe  God's protection and care for his servant. The  Hebrew word 'sok' which is translated into the  English word 'shelter', means a hut made from entwined  boughs of trees. Moreover, 'sok' is derived from the word  'saw-kak', which means to entwine as a  screen and by implication it means to 'cover over'. Figuratively, 'saw-kak' means to protect. The English word 'sanctuary'  is translated  from  the Hebrew word 'ohel' and refers  to  the holy  sanctuary (the  dwelling place of  God),  from  where  God's presence cares for and protects his people.

"How great is your goodness, which you have laid up for those who fear you; you have worked for those who trust you before the sons of  mankind. In the secrecy of your presence you shall hide  them from man's plots:  you shall cover them in a booth [sukkot]  from the strife of tongues" (Psa.31:19-20 Para.).

Here, David spoke of  God's protective care for his people and he used the word 'sukkot' (a hut, booth, or shelter made from boughs of trees), which is the same word used to reveal one of  the literal meanings  of the seven-day feast of  the  seventh  month—the sheltering presence of God.

A Psalm of Asaph

"God  is  known in Judah: his name is great in  Israel.  And  his abode  [sok]  is  in  Salem, and  his dwelling  place  in  Zion" (Psa.76:1-2 Para.).

In  this song of praise, Asaph sung of the many  attributes  of God.  In  verse 2, he used the Hebrew word 'sok',  which  has  been translated  into the English word 'abode.' It is apparent that  Asaph's use of the word 'sok' was not intended to refer to God's dwelling place, because God's presence does not dwell in a booth  made out  of tree limbs and leaves. Asaph's use of the word 'sok'  is actually a reference to the protective care and  nature  of  God, which was dwelling in Salem.

"He  who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall  abide in the Almighty's shade [Heb. 'tsel']. I will say to the Lord: my refuge  and  my  fortress: my God; I will trust in  Him. For  he delivers  you from the fowler's trap, from destruction's  plague. With  his  feathers He will cover you, and under  His  wings  you shall seek refuge" (Psa.91:1-4 Para.). See also Isa.32:1-2.

Here,  an  unknown  psalmist was inspired to use  the  Hebrew  word 'tsel', which means a defense (protection) in this context.

After the Return of Christ

Isaiah spoke of God's protection after the return of Christ  as  a covering over and a wall around the Israelites. Additionally, Zechariah said that God's protection around Jerusalem will be  as a wall of fire.  See Isa.25:1-6; Zech.2:1-5.

Clearly,  one  of the major meanings of the feast of  the  seventh month  has to do with God's care, concern, and protection for  his people.

Note:

The  first prophetic meaning of 'Hag Sukkot' (Feast of  Shelters) is  expressed in the  protective care that  God  has for his people—past, present, and future.

THE SECOND PROPHETIC MEANING

In  the New Testament, we find that the seven-day festival of  the seventh month is only mentioned once by name:

"Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand" (Jn.7:2 KJV).

Here, the English word 'tabernacles' is a translation from the  Greek word  'skenopegia',  which describes the Jewish  feast  in  which shelters made of tree branches and leaves were erected and lived in.

Beyond The Physical

Beside the festival's meaning of God's care, concern, and protection for humanity (past, present, and future),  there  is  another major  meaning in the title 'Hag Sukkot', which is  meant for the future beyond human existence. This meaning was spoken of by Jesus Christ, which is recorded in the books of Luke and John.

The Eternal Sukkot

During  Jesus' lifetime the worship of God had been  greatly  perverted, and much of its original intent and meaning was  lost in antiquity and changed by the religious leaders and scholars to  fit their own ideas of what kind of worship was  pleasing  to God.  However, in regard to the festivals, much of their  original meaning was still known and understood, which is evidenced by the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus' Parable Concerning the Feast of Shelters

Luke 16:1-9, 14 Paraphrased

Luke  records  a parable in which Jesus refers to  the  Feast  of Shelters and its prophetic meaning in a very sarcastic and pointed  rebuke to the Pharisees concerning their love for money and their failure to be good stewards of God's word and truth:

"And  he also said to his disciples, A certain man was rich,  and had  a  steward: who was accused of wasting his  master's  goods. Calling  him,  he said, What is this I hear about you? give  an account  of your stewardship; for you can no longer be the  steward" (vs.1-2).

Jesus was referring to God the Father  as  the rich man, the Pharisees as spiritual stewards, and the goods  as the word and truth of God.

"And  the steward said within himself, What shall I do?  for  the lord is taking away the stewardship from me: I am unable to  dig, and I am ashamed to beg" (v3).

Realizing  that he would be unable to make a living if his master took away his position, the steward began to plan for  the future.

When reading verses 4-7, it appears that this steward was dishonest  in giving away his master's goods; however, this is not  the case  at all. In many ancient societies, when a person was  placed as a steward over another's goods, they were given control of the property  as if it were their own. Therefore, the  steward  had  the responsibility and the right to administer the master's goods  as he saw fit in order to serve the master's best interests. In these verses,  Jesus  used the steward as an example of  worldly  wisdom when confronted with the prospect of losing a position of  power, wealth, and trust.

If  we  view God the Father as the master and his goods  as  his word and truth, it was in the master's best interest for  his steward  to  be very liberal in handling his goods. This  is  why Jesus said, in verse 8, that the master praised this steward; the praise was for the wise and proper use of his goods:

"And  the Lord praised the unrighteous steward, because he  acted prudently:  for  the sons of this age are more prudent  than  the sons of light are in their generation" (v8).

Luke was inspired to use the Greek word 'epaheeneh', which means 'praise'. This is especially noteworthy,  because this word means far more than casual praise. It implies great approval and applause  for what  is done and it can mean the approval of one's total  life  at its end.

The  Pharisees  knew full well that Jesus was  accusing  them  of failing  to  be good stewards of God's word and  truth  and  was rebuking  them for their lack of wisdom in regard to their  positions as the religious leaders of God's people.

"And  I  say to you, Make yourselves friends by  the  mammon of  unrighteous [possessions acquired dishonestly],  that when it fails, they may take you into  the  eternal dwellings [skaynay]" (v9).

Jesus  sarcastically told the Pharisees  purchase friendship with their ill gotten money. Moreover, he told them that, when their  money failed to  provide the things that are truly important, they should go to  their purchased friends and see if they have the ability to  provide them with the eternal rewards that are promised to those who are righteous.

Eternal Dwellings

In speaking  of  'eternal  dwellings', Jesus was referring to some type of reward that would be  given for righteous and  diligent service to God.

Luke  was  again inspired to use a very specific word  to  record Jesus' remark about this eternal reward. In verse 9, Luke used the Greek  word 'skaynay', which has been translated into various English words, such as 'dwellings' and 'habitations'. The  Greek  word 'skaynay' literally means 'hut' or 'tent', and it is the equivalent of the  Hebrew word 'sakak,' from which the word  'sukkoth' (shelter) is derived.

By using the word 'skaynay', Luke clearly shows that  Jesus was  referring to the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Shelters, which would be fulfilled in a time beyond this physical existence  in the spiritual Kingdom of God.

The Promise

It is clear from many scriptures that the elect of God are  promised  to dwell in heavenly Jerusalem and the temple with God  the Father and Jesus Christ. This future dwelling place is a place of unimaginable wealth and splendor—hardly a tent or a hut.

Jesus' reference to eternal  tents or huts can only be understood in the  light  of  what must have been common  knowledge  among  the religious leaders and others at that time concerning dwelling  in shelters during the feast of the seventh month. If the Pharisees  had not  understood  what  Jesus said in the context  of the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Shelters,  they would not have responded as they did:

"And  being lovers of money, the Pharisees also heard  all  these things; and they derided him" (v14).

In  verse 9,  Jesus draws from the prophetic and symbolic  meaning of dwelling in shelters made from tree branches during the  feast of  the  seventh  month to show the Pharisees  that,  unless  they change their attitudes and became good and faithful stewards  of God's word and truth, they would not dwell in the presence of God for  eternity;  instead, they would lose this reward  as  well  as their lives.

THE HOLY CITY

Revelation 21:1-7 Paraphrased

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away; and the sea no longer is. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven  from God, having been prepared as a bride; having been adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,  Behold, the  tent [Gr.'skaynay'] of God with men, and he  will  reside [Gr. skay-no-o] with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them, as their God" (vs.1-3).

This  text describes the coming of God the Father to  earth  with his holy city after all the various resurrections at the very end of his plan for the salvation of humanity. Again,  we see the Greek word 'skaynay', which means 'tent' or 'hut' and is  equivalent to the Hebrew word 'sakak', from which the word 'sukkoth' (shelter) is  derived.

It is obvious that the word 'skaynay' is not meant to be a visual description of  the holy city within which God dwells. But, it is used as a metaphor to describe a condition of  existence that is above and beyond this physical dimension.

"And  God  will wipe away every tear from their eyes;  and  death shall  be no longer, nor mourning, nor out cry, nor pain will  be any longer, for the former things are passed away "And  the  One  sitting on the throne said, Behold,  I  make  all things  new. . .  To the one thirsting, I will freely give  of  the fountain  of the water of life. The one overcoming  will inherit all  things, and I will be a God to him, and he will be a son  to me" (vs.4-7).

Verses 4-7  prove that this time period is  at  the very end of humanity's physical existence on earth, because it is only  after humanity has advanced beyond the  unrighteousness  of the  physical realm and into the righteousness of  the  spiritual realm that these conditions can exist.

Note:

The second prophetic meaning of  'Hag Sukkot' (Feast of  Shelters) is expressed in the  condition of righteous,  eternal existence within the Family and Kingdom of God.

Both  Luke 16 and Revelation 21 show the  meaning  of  the seven-day  festival of the seventh month carried  to  its  final prophetic  fulfillment.  This final meaning  and  fulfillment  is summed up in the reward of eternal life within the Family of  God and  the  eternal  relationship between  God  the Father,  Jesus Christ, and the people of God.

SUMMARY

A Remembrance

The literal meaning of the name 'Hag Sukkot' (Feast of Shelters)  for the nation of Israel was that of a memorial to their  being  brought out of Egypt under the protective  hand  of God.

The making  of shelters and dwelling in them was symbolic of  the need for God's care and protection and the futility  of  human efforts to care for and  protect  themselves.

The Israelites were to remember that it was through the overshadowing presence of God and his power in the pillar of cloud and fire that they were protected from their enemies.

The Prophetic Meaning

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w66