The Spiritual Significance of the Feast of Tabernacles

By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D. (c) 1996 PLIM REPORT Jan/Feb96

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In every issue of the "PLIM REPORT" we have discussed the various Hebrew feast days, rituals, and laws. We have emphasized that Gentiles nations, at this time, also had similar ceremonies and laws (Rom. 2:14). Both the Israelites and Gentiles failed to understand that all of these ceremonies symbolically represented some spiritual principle (Rom. 1:19-20). Each became a prisoner of their own culture and could not see beyond it. This is not to say that mankind of this era did not believe in a creator and a spiritual realm. Historical and archaeological findings throughout the world prove that they did.

What clouded the issue was their lack of understanding of ‘Spirit’ and how it operates. Ancient cultures used primitive magic, myths, and superstition to explain the operation of Spirit. The people’s cultural framework or mindset of that era always attributed the miracles Spirit performed to magic and some deity other than Yahweh (Acts 17:28-30). This was their error, for the Messiah said the true worshippers must worship Elohim (God) in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:24).

What is the intent of this article?

The intent of this article is to explain the institution of the Feast of Tabernacles and its purpose. We will discuss what Bible scholars think of it and show how the Gentiles had similar feast days. We will also illustrate how the Messiah fulfilled the Feast of Tabernacles, its spiritual reality, and what it has to do with you personally. Simply, put the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizes the dedication or revelation of the Holy Spirit in a man's heart and mind (Col. 1:26). Space is not available in this article to cover every detail of the feast day.

What is the Feast of Tabernacles?

The most famous feast that Yahweh gave the Israelites at Mt. Sinai was the Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh and last one for the year (Lev. 23rd chp.), that occurred after the Day of Atonement. It began on the night of the 14th of Tishri (the 7th Hebrew month on the sacred calendar) with a full or harvest moon and lasted for seven days (Lev. 23:34). There was an eighth day to close this feast (Lev. 23:39; Neh. 8:18). Now the Feast of Tabernacles was also called the ‘Feast of Ingathering’ which corresponded to the final harvesting of crops.

What was the purpose of this feast day?

The purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles was two-fold. It was a memorial unto Israel’s migration out of Egypt and a celebration of the end of the autumn harvest. The beginning of the harvest began with the Feast of First Fruits in the Spring.

The first reason for the Feast of Tabernacles was to remind Israel how they dwelt in booths as they journeyed from Egypt. Yahweh told Moses the reason for the feast. "That your generations may know that I [Yahweh Elohim] made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt (Lv. 23:43):" Yahweh wanted Israel to remember that He brought them out of Egypt to remind them that He can release them from any state of bondage and chaos. The spiritual significance of booths and Egypt will be discussed later in this article (see "What is the spiritual significance of the booths that Israel inhabited?, p. 8" and "What is the true meaning of Egypt? p. 26").

The second reason for the feast day was to celebrate the end of harvesting the crops (Ex. 23:16; Lv. 23:39; Deu 16:13) for the year. This final harvesting of crops typifies the harvesting of resurrected human souls that will make up the heavenly body, as the Messiah pointed out in His ministry (Mat 13:30).

On a personal basis, harvesting crops means gathering in spiritual principles revealed by the Spirit within and applying these new ideas to life's problems while on earth.

Yahweh told Israel to keep a feast unto Him three times a year. He told all the men to appear before Him: once at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at two other times:"... the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field (Ex. 23:16)." We will proceed to examine the conclusions of some Biblical scholars regarding the spiritual significance of the feast day.

What do Bible scholars think about the Feast of Tabernacles?

It should be noted that many Biblical scholars realized the spiritual meaning of the feast days that Yahweh gave Israel. They knew that the Feast of Tabernacles and others were reflective of the Messiah and the Church to some degree, for the Messiah said the scriptures testified of Him (Jn. 5:39).

Now Alfred Edersheim, D.D., Ph.D. in his book The Temple (reprinting 1979 Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.) states the spiritual significance of the Feast of Tabernacles. "… 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 harvest when Israel’s mission should be completed, and all the nations gathered to the Lord (p. 269)." We will discuss this later in this article.

Did the Gentile nations have similar feast days?

Many Gentile nations had feast days that emulated Israel’s feast days long before Yahweh gave Israel the Law (Rm. 2:14). Scholars of the Bible and of antiquity point out this similarity. The Dictionary of the Bible by James Hastings states: "Many scholars maintain that there were elaborate ceremonies on the analogy of the Babylonian new-year feasts or of Canaanite annual feast. The case for a close parallel between the pre-exilic Feast of the Ingathering and the Babylonian Feast is to be found in Myth and Ritual (ed. S.H. Hooke), p. 1-146."

These nations had attached spiritual significance to their harvest days. The Dictionary of the Bible also states: "The general pattern involved a dramatic representation of the death and resurrection of god, a recitation of the myth of creation, a ritual combat in which the god overcomes his enemies, a sacred marriage and a triumphal procession (p. 952)." To the surprise of many, the Gentile’s understanding of the harvest was astoundingly correct although they attributed the fruitfulness of the harvest to their mythological gods. This shows that the harvest represents a universal principle that transcends all cultures.

What was required on this feast day?

There were two sets of requirements on this feast day—one for the priests and one for the people. The first requirement was for the priests to execute services within the temple. This not only included the various sacrifices they had to offer up, but the special ceremonies they had to perform each day of the feast. The second requirement was for the people to dwell in booths. So, both the people and the priests had a function in order to fulfill this feast day.

How many sacrifices were offered during the feast?

The sacrifices required for the Feast of Tabernacles were tremendous. Beside the daily sacrifices offered in the evening and the morning, there were others offered specifically for the feast (Num. 29:12-38). During the seven days of this feast, the priests were required each day to offer up: two rams, fourteen lambs and a goat for the sin offering (Num 29:12-40).

The number of offerings of bullocks decreased by one each of the succeeding seven days—13 bullocks on the 2nd day, 12 bullocks on the 3rd day …7 bullocks on the 7th day. On the 8th day the special offering was one bullock and ram, seven lambs, and a goat as sin offering. There were a total of 70 bullocks, 14 rams, 98 lambs (or 182 sacrifices) offered during the Feast of Tabernacles.

What is peculiar about the sacrifices is that the total number of each one (the bullocks, rams, and lambs) can be divided by the number ‘7’. The Feast of Tabernacles occurred during the 7th month and lasted 7 days. So according to Dr. Edersheim’s book, the number ‘7,’ which is perfection in Hebrew theology, permeates this feast day.

Were water and light important at this feast?

The priests also performed elaborate ceremonies within the temple while the people watched and sang according to The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary by Merril F. Unger. Alfred Edersheim, D.D., Ph.D. stated in his book that the two important ceremonies that the priests performed for this feast day were "the pouring of the water and the illumination of the temple (p. 286)." In the temple there were basins that had to be filled with water each day. A priest, accompanied by a joyous procession of musicians had to go to the Pool of Siloam to get the water in a golden pitcher. The importance of this water will be discussed later with reference to the Messiah. In addition, all the courts of the temple were lit during this feast. The priest also had to open the store houses within the temple so the people could eat (Deut. 16:13-14).

Did the people dwell in booths during this feast?

Yahweh required the people to dwell in booths for seven days. All able bodied men were supposed to appear before Yahweh and everyone had to carry palm and myrtle branches to wave during the temple ceremonies (Lev. 23:22-23; Deu. 16:16-17; Neh. 4:14-17). Every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles, Yahweh required the Law of Moses to be read (Deu. 31:10). The first and last day of the feast was a Sabbath day in which no work was required.

According to The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary by Merril F. Unger, the booths "… were located in the courts, street, public squares and on house roof." These booths had at least three sides and a roof which allowed sunlight therein. Furniture was allowed, but of the plainest nature. These booths were made of fresh branches of fruit and palm trees. We will explain the spiritual reality of the booths later in this article. Let’s first proceed with explaining how the Messiah illustrated the purpose of this feast day.

How did the Messiah fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles?

The Messiah’s mission was to fulfill (Mt. 5:17-18; Lk. 24:44-45) or bring to an end this Old Covenant of feasts, ceremonies, sacrificial worship of Yahweh (Rom. 10:1-4) and to establish a New Covenant (Heb. 8:6-13) where we worship Yahweh in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:24; Col. 2:14-18). Spiritual worship is with the mind and not the ritualistic offering of animal sacrifices.

The Messiah brought this feast day to a physical end when He appeared in the temple during the midst of the feast and began to teach (John 7:14). He had sent His disciples to the feast earlier and secretly came later by Himself since the rulers of Israel sought to kill him (Jn. 7:2, 8).

Prior to His speaking at this feast, the people had a great deal of doubt about the Messiah (Jn. 7:12). They wondered whether He was a good man or a devil because He healed on the Sabbath when work was forbidden (John 7:19-24). After hearing His words, the Jews marveled at how Yahshua knew the scriptures so well since He was not a priest (Isa. 11:10; Luke 1:26-27).

The Messiah said many things during this feast, but on the last day of the feast, during the final ceremonies, He spoke some astounding words that caused many to believe He was a prophet.

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Yahshua (Jesus) stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified Jn. 7:37-39.)." The Messiah's words spoken during this Feast of Tabernacles revealed that living water (or words of truth) would be poured out at Pentecost.

Very few students of the Bible understand why the Messiah spoke of ‘living water’ during the Feast of Tabernacles. One has to know the rituals and ceremonies the priests performed during this day to understand the Messiah’s mention of water. What the Messiah was referring to was the water the priest dipped with a golden pitcher from the Pool Siloam (which means ‘sent’) and poured out at the base of the altar for the last day of the feast. Thus, the Messiah told Israel that living water would be poured out at Pentecost. His words of truth represented the ‘living water’ which is the Holy Spirit that many who believed on Him received at Pentecost. This began His harvesting of resurrected souls.

What was the significance of the booths Israel inhabited?

The booths were a dwelling place for Israel during their journey out of Egypt to the promised land. In this analogy Israel and their journey to the promised land are correlated with a soul’s journey to perfection. Being aware of the Spirit within and exemplifying the power of the Spirit by applying spiritual principles to life's adversities represents perfection for the soul. The booth symbolically represents the physical body or clay house (Job 4:19), which is the true booth (i.e. tabernacle, temple—1 Cor. 6:19-20), for the soul on earth.

The soul does not need to make a physical or literal journey, but it must make a spiritual and psychological migration. The soul's destination is a resurrected state of mind (or union with the Spirit) while it is in its booth-the physical body. When the Holy Spirit is revealed within the soul, this is its dedication and the true Feast of Tabernacles.

The soul should be moving from a carnal minded state of darkness (or ignorance of the Spirit) to a spiritual minded state of enlightenment (Rom. 8:6-8). The Messiah’s job was to transform the soul, by revealing the Holy Spirit therein on the Day of Pentecost, while the soul was still residing within its booth. Simply put, the purpose of the soul in the booth or clay house is to become conscious of the Spirit of Elohim’s ever presence and to embody the principle of power through life's trials.

Solomon’s temple, which is a type of the Messiah’s body, was dedicated on the Feast of Tabernacles to reflect Pentecost (2 Chr. 7:8-10; see illustration on this page in the right column). At the dedication, the Spirit of Yahweh came down in the form of a cloud and filled the temple (1 Kgs. 8:2, 10-11; also see Exo. 40:34-35 and above illustration). Remember, the Messiah spoke of His body as a temple (booth—Jn. 2:18-21) and it was the Heavenly Father in Him that did the miracles (Jn. 14:9-10). He told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place (Heavenly state of mind) for them, for where He was (in heaven in a physical body or booth) they would be also (Jn. 14:1-3) which began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Are there misconceptions about the Feast of Tabernacles today?

Many in Christendom do not believe that the Messiah fulfilled or brought the Feast of Tabernacles to a literal physical end. They are looking for it to take place in the near future. According to The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, it states that the Feast of Tabernacles and its fulfillment points to the 1,000 year rest for Israel. "The feast of Booths is thus prophetic of Israel’s millennial rest. The feast of Booths is a memorial to Israel, going back to Egypt and forward to the millennial rest …(p. 423)." The flaw in this argument is not understanding how the Messiah fulfilled Israel's exodus from Egypt, which will be discussed in the next section, and this millennial (1000 year) rest. The millennial rest was fulfilled when the Messiah resurrected from the grave with all those that died before Him (Mt. 27:5-53) and they reigned all day in Jerusalem. For more details see "What Happens After You Die?, Part 2," p. 16 in the September/October 1993 issue of the "PLIM REPORT."

Now there are other scholars who believe that at least part of the Feast of Tabernacles was fulfilled by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which Dr. Edersheim points out in his book The Temple. He states: "For though that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as bearing a subordinate reference to the dispensation of the rain, the annual fall of which they imagined was determined by God a feast, its main and real application was to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit as predicted … by Isaiah the prophet (p. 279)."

What is the true meaning of Egypt?

To truly understand the Feast of Tabernacles, one must understand that Egypt symbolically represents a state of mind that is devoid of spiritual enlightenment. By the tabernacle pattern, Egypt represents the Court Round About which is the dead and burial state of souls imprisoned by their own thoughts and feelings (see "Cultural Beliefs and Their Effect Upon the Mind, Part Two," p. 16, in the November/December 1995 issue of the "PLIM REPORT"). The Apostle John implies this in his vision in Revelation. "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Yahweh (Lord) was crucified (Rev 11:8)." He clearly states that the Messiah was slain allegorically, not physically in Egypt. Now the Messiah was geographically crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. The only way this verse makes sense is that Egypt and Sodom are being used here allegorically to represent a depraved state of mind.

Since all of Israel were spiritually dead during the time the Messiah was on earth (Rom. 5:12-14; Matt. 8:22), this put all of them in spiritual Egypt. They were like the Egyptian's dead bodies who were killed by the death angel (Ex. 12:30) and the dead sacrifices on the altar in the tabernacle. By the tabernacle pattern, the dead bodies of animal sacrifices were found in the Court Round About with the altar for sin sacrifices and the water laver for washing.

The Apostle John is seeing Egypt likened unto the Court Round About of the tabernacle because it represents the death and burial state. He is made to understand that the Messiah was the sacrifice for mankind, meaning allegorically He was slain in spiritual Egypt.

Does the Messiah's blood free us from bondage?

All the lambs and goats slain in Egypt, during the Passover, released Israel from captivity. These animal sacrifices symbolically represented the Messiah (Heb. 10:1-6). It was the Messiah’s death that released Israel from spiritual and psychological bondage while they were still in physical bodies or booths. His death brought an end to the law and sin, for He was the atoning sacrifice (Jn. 1:29).

In other words, no one has to physically die in order to receive the promise of eternal life or the heavenly state of mind (Col. 1:13). What held Israel in bondage at the time of the Messiah, was the religious teachers of Israel and the Law of Moses which condemned them to a sin sick state of mind (Rom. 8:1-2).

What happens to those who remain in Egypt?

Now in his vision the prophet Zechariah speaks allegorically of Egypt and all those that did not keep this feast. "And if the family of Egypt go not up [to Jerusalem], and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith Yahweh (the LORD) will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles (Zec. 14:18-19)."

Again many misinterpreted the prophet by taking him literally. They do not understand that he is speaking allegorically and symbolically. "The family of Egypt go not up" is literally interpreted as the Egyptian people and all GENTILES nations convening at the physical city of Jerusalem to worship Yahweh.

First of all, it is literally impossible for all the people in the world, 6 billion presently, to go to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. The prophet Zechariah is not referring to the literal city of Jerusalem in his vision; he is speaking allegorically. The Apostle Paul understood that the physical city Jerusalem symbolically represented a spiritually resurrected and peaceful state of mind (Heb. 11:15-16). Paul wrote: "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:22-23), …" Now the ‘general assembly and church of the first born,’ constitute the city of new Jerusalem above, consisting of all the angels in heaven and the resurrected souls of men (Rev. 21:22-27).

Why should we journey from Egypt as Israel did?

The prophet Zechariah is implying that Egypt is a state of mind which is totally ignorant of Yahweh, His purpose, and operation. Yahweh told Moses that the children of Israel had to make a three day journey out of Egypt so that they could worship Him (Ex. 3:18). Their migration into the wilderness symbolizes the journey that all humans have to make. Our journey is a mental, spiritual resurrection out of psychological Egypt (a dead, materialistic state of mind) if we hope to keep the Feast of Tabernacles or worship Elohim in Spirit and Truth within our minds.


In summary, the Feast of Tabernacles represent a universal principle of the human soul receiving the Holy Spirit and rejoicing at its revealed presence. The booths the Israelites dwelled in symbolized the tabernacle where the Spirit of Elohim dwelled and Israel worshipped. The booths also symbolize the clay houses or physical bodies where souls dwell as they journey through life. The Feast of Tabernacles was supposed to remind Israel how they dwelt in booths in their journey out of the land of Egypt.

Israel's physical migration symbolized a soul's journey from spiritual and psychological darkness, bondage, and ignorance into a knowledge of the Holy Spirit and an experience with its ever presence (2 Cor. 4:6; also discover what principles should be exercised to move from darkness to light in the article on the "Feast of Unleavened Bread," p. 4 in the September/October 1995 issue of the "PLIM REPORT.") This migration is not a change in geographical location, but is a change of mind (Rom. 12:2)—where one becomes spiritually minded. We rejoice as we await the transformation while we are in the booths of our physical bodies, for this is eternal life.

Finally, one may ask on an individual basis what is the spiritual significance of the end of harvesting? The end of harvesting not only represents the true ministers of the Messiah gathering resurrected souls together in the Messiah's one body (Lk. 10:2; Rev. 14:5). It also symbolizes the soul harvesting or gathering spiritual principles from experiences in life (Rom. 5:1-5) and applying them to tribulations as one goes through life. Now the gathering of knowledge of these principles adds strength to one's faith in the Holy Spirit. This is the true harvesting of the knowledge of Yahweh as revealed by His Son Yahshua the Messiah.



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