The Feast of Tabernacles
G. B. Fyfe, London
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES
We consider now the final feast in the series of seven. It is called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. It is the feast of the full moon, for it began on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month in Israel’s calendar - the day when the moon was full. Israel in Scripture is God’s moon, and in the millennial age it will be full-orbed for then the nation’s face will be turned directly towards the Sun of Righteousness.
In Exodus 23. 16 the Feast of Tabernacles is termed the Feast of Ingathering since it was observed when Israel had safely gathered in the produce of the land of Canaan. In other words, it will be celebrated historically when God’s promises to Israel have reached fruition. The import of the feast therefore points us forward to the millennium, to the establishment of the glorious Messianic kingdom and the reign of righteousness and peace, reaching far beyond the confines of Palestine to the uttermost parts of the earth. Israel will then be supreme among the nations and her capital city Jerusalem will in that day be the city of the great King and the metropolis of the world. What enjoyment and blessing shall be experienced by God’s earthly people when their acclaimed King reigns in their midst!
Thus having arrived at the goal of God’s earthly ways for them, and now being settled and secure in the promised land, they must call to remembrance the pathway by which God had led them from Egypt’s bondage through the wilderness experiences and finally into undisputed possession of the land of their inheritance. This is why the last feast is called the Feast of Tabernacles or 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”, Lev. 23. 43. And so the seventh feast was essentially an appointment for remembrance - an occasion when the nation would call to mind and reflect with gratitude upon the grace and care and guidance afforded them in pilgrimage days. What praise will be induced in the hearts to flow from the lips of a restored and regathered nation in the great millennial celebration of the feast of the full moon! Dispensationally, therefore, the Feast of Tabernacles marks “the fulness of times”, the time of the “restoration of all things”, Acts 3. 21 R.V. The end of God’s earthly ways has now been reached.
The tabernacles or booths from which this last divine appointment derives its name indicate the social importance as well as the spiritual instruction intended in the feast. The Israelites had to construct the booths from various kinds of trees, Lev. 23. 40. These trees were expressive of four significant features. The branches of goodly trees had to be used - speaking of beauty, and of thick trees - telling of strength and stability. The drooping willow of the brook had to be employed - symbolizing sorrow, and, in contrast, the upright palm tree, the figure of victory. The booths themselves thus served to remind the people of the characteristics of the wilderness days of the nation - beauty and strength and victory through the grace of Jehovah; defeat and grief when they were wayward and disobedient.
It is interesting to note from Nehemiah 8. 17 that the Feast of Booths had not been celebrated from the days of Joshua until the time when Nehemiah organised the rebuilding of the shattered wall of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah revived this feast after the long interval of a thousand years, we find that the original goodly trees and the willows of the brook were replaced by olive branches (spiritual power), pine or wild olive branches (the grace of God which flowed out to the Gentiles) and myrtle branches (representing Christ’s sympathies for His people). No doubt the substitution made in this case carried its spiritual meaning and changes the emphasis in the special circumstances of this fresh start. The effect of this observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is also stated: “there was very great gladness”. This too will be the key-note when the Feast of Booths is dispensationally fulfilled in the millennium.
Reference has been made already to the Feast of the Full Moon of the seventh month as being the Feast of Ingathering. Deuteronomy 16. 13 instructs the people to observe the Feast of Tabernacles when they had gathered in the com and the wine, that is, after the harvest and after the vintage. The harvest of the earth depicts the ingathering of all those who shall have a part in the resurrection unto life - all the heavenly saints safely garnered in the heavenly barn. Happy people! The vintage of the earth on the other hand presents a solemn and a sombre picture - the judgment of Christ’s enemies as He treads alone the winepress of the fury of God., Rev. 14. 15-20. These tremendous events will precede the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in its prophetical aspect, earth’s golden era., the millennium of righteousness and peace.
The transfiguration of Jesus on the holy mount provides an impressive cameo of the millennium. All the essential elements are here. God at the apex of all - the voice from the excellent glory; Christ appearing in glory, dazzlingly transfigured; Moses and Elijah answering to the heavenly saints (sleeping ones raised and living ones translated at the rapture); Peter, John and James, the Lord’s disciples, portraying the earthly saints in close contact with the celestial realm. And so exhilarating was the experience to Peter that he expressed the desire to celebrate in miniature the Feast of Booths, “let us make three tabernacles (booths) . . .”, Luke 9. 33. But he spoke without spiritual intelligence. His suggestion was premature, for the Feast of the Paschal Lamb (“his decease which he was about to accomplish”, v. 31 R.V.) must necessarily precede the Feast of Tabernacles. The scene was designed to be but a fleeting manifestation of the future glory of Christ’s millennial kingdom.
The Feast of Tabernacles lasted for seven days, a complete cycle of time. The period began with a Sabbath and ended with a Sabbath. The second of those Sabbaths is termed “the eighth day”. It implies a new beginning that will never know an ending, for the second Sabbath or the eighth day affords us just a glimpse into the timeless state. God is steadily working towards a universe filled with uninterrupted peace and bliss. The last Sabbath is indicative of eternal rest. Thus in the feasts of Jehovah we have traced out the ways of God in relation to man, to the ultimate point at which all His ways converge, namely the rest of God.
We conclude this series of articles by briefly alluding to the New Testament parallel to the feasts as it may be discerned in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. In Leviticus 23 the feasts are recorded with a dispensational and prophetic character. In the Corinthian Epistles it is their moral and eternal aspects which are presented. So while the prophetical interpretation is but temporary in duration and will terminate after the millennium, the eternal significance of the feasts will run timelessly on forever.
The references, very concisely, are as follows:
- The Feast of Passover, 1 Cor. 5. 7, 8.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread, 1 Cor. 5. 6-8.
- The Feast of First Fruits, 1 Cor. 15. 20.
- The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, 1 Cor. 15. 23.
- The Feast of Trumpets, 1 Cor. 15. 51, 52.
- The Day of Atonement, 2 Cor. 7. 9, “made sorry unto repentance”, R.V.
- The Feast of Tabernacles, 2 Cor. 12. 9, “may rest upon me”, or “may spread a tabernacle over me”, R.V. marg.
These may be studied with profit at your leisure.