The Seven-day Feast of the Seventh Month
The seven-day festival in the seventh month is clearly referred to by two separate names. It is called the Feast of Booths/Shelters and the Feast of Ingathering. A distinct and separate prophetic and symbolic meanings of this festival is revealed through each of these names:
"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 to the Lord" (Lev.23:33-34 Para.).
"Three seasons in the year you shall keep a feast to me. You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread . . ., the feast of the harvest of first-fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field" (Ex.23:14-16 Para.).
THE FESTIVAL'S OBSERVANCE
This seven-day festival of the seventh sacred month is no different from the other Festivals, in that many theories, opinions, doctrines, and misconceptions have developed as to its exact meaning and purpose. As with the other festivals, much of its original meaning and purpose has been lost to humanity through the centuries, and some new meanings and methods of observance, which make its true meaning even more obscure, have been instituted by its observers with the passage of time.
In his letter of exhortation and warning, Jude said to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). And in reference to false teachings, Paul warned Titus not to give heed to Jewish fables and the commandments of men that turn people from the truth. See Tit.1: 9-14; Mk.7:5-8; 2.Tim.3:13-17.
In this study of the seven-day festival of the seventh month, we will attempt to discover much of its original meaning and intent and gain insight into its symbolic and prophetic meaning.
Because of the many distinct meanings of this festival, this study will be separated into four basic sections:
- Words and Misconceptions
- The Festival of Hag Sukkot
- The Festival of Ingathering
- Comments concerning the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering
WORDS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Many times, in order to determine the true concepts and meanings that are hidden within certain scriptures, the false assumptions about what these scriptures say must be eliminated first. Once these assumptions are eliminated, it becomes much easier to understand what is truly being taught.
Words That Do Not Describe This Festival
Because of the misconceptions concerning the use of Hebrew words, it is important to understand the meaning of some Hebrew words that have been incorrectly translated or associated with this seven-day festival.
This festival is often referred to as the Feast of Tabernacles, because there are a number of Hebrew words that have been translated into the English word 'tabernacle,' and it is a common assumption that the English word 'tabernacle' is a direct translation of Hebrew words that refer to or describe the seven-day feast of the seventh month. However, the incorrect translation of many different Hebrew words has led to much confusion about the true meaning of this festival.
The Words 'Shakan', 'Sheken', and 'Mishkan'
The three Hebrew words 'shakan', 'sheken', and 'mishkan' mean 'dwell', 'dwelling', and 'tabernacle'. These words most often refer to the place where God dwells. Some people interpret scriptures containing these words as associated with the festival of the seventh month. However, a careful word study of the context where these words are used shows these assumptions to be without merit.
The Word 'Ohel'
The Hebrew word 'ohel', which means 'tent' or 'dwelling', is normally used in scripture to indicate a tent of skins or cloth and many times it is used to refer to the Tent of Meeting where God's presence resided. It is also often translated into the English words 'dwelling', 'home', 'tabernacle', or 'tent'. As with the words 'shakan', 'sheken', and 'mishkan', the word 'ohel' is never used in reference to the feast of the seventh month.
The Words 'Gerut' and 'Magor'
The Hebrew words 'gerut' and 'magor' are sometimes used to express a temporary lodging. Neither of these words, which denote a temporary state of habitation, is ever used in connection with or to refer to the Feast of Booths/Shelters or the Feast of Ingathering.
Because none of the above Hebrew words or their derivations are used to define specific meanings of this seven-day feast or to express the method of its observance, it can be safely assumed that this festival has a meaning outside of the meaning of these words.
Another misconception concerns the wilderness area into which the Israelites entered upon their exodus from Egypt.
The picture that normally comes to mind when one thinks of the wilderness of Sinai is one of a bleak, desolate, and barren desert. However, this was not the wilderness environment that the Israelites entered into upon their exodus from Egypt. Although this wilderness was rugged, inhospitable, and not the most desirable place to inhabit, it did have more vegetation than a desert. If it had been totally barren, the Israelites and their flocks and herds would have died quickly and they could not have built shelters during the festival from the boughs of trees, which the scriptures record.
While the Israelites lived in Egypt, they lived in permanent dwellings (Ex.12:21-28); they were not nomads who lived in tents. More than likely, tent-dwelling for the Israelites did not become a way of life until after God had established them as a nation and they had rebelled against him. After their rebellion, they were made to wander in the wilderness of Sinai for 40 years of punishment.
The Israelites did not live in shelters made of tree branches and leaves for 40 years; they lived in tents made from cloth or animal skins. These tents became their permanent homes, which they carried with them throughout their years of punishment.
Among other things, the festival of the seventh month was a memorial of the time when the Israelites first left Egypt and stayed in shelters made from tree branches, but perhaps more importantly, it was a reminder of the time when the sheltering presence of God in the cloud and fire stood over the Israelites as a protective cover when they were in the wilderness.
Because of the historical meanings of this festival, perhaps more appropriate names for this festival, given the two predominant Hebrew words used to describe it, would be 'The Feast of Shelters and Ingathering of the seventh month'.
The Festival Rediscovered
The history of national Israel is one of religious chaos. They would often fall into wickedness and forget God's laws and his annual festivals. Then, after long periods of national punishment, God would cause them to rediscover his festivals. In the Book of Nehemiah one of these periods of rediscovery that concerns the feasts of the seventh month is recorded:
Nehemiah 8:14-18 KJV
"And 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 publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth to 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" (vs.14-15).
"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. . ..And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly. . ." (vs.16-18). See also 2.Kgs.22:1-20.
Secular and religious history, including the Bible, record very little about the observance of the two festivals of the seventh month; therefore, in order to understand these two interconnected festivals, one must search the biblical record as Paul instructed Timothy:
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2.Tim.2:15 NKJV). See also 2.Tim.3:15-16.
By B. L. Cocherell b5w65