Sukkot at St. Mark's Church

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Sukkot (which may also be called “The Feast of Tabernacles) is an 8 day festival that occurs 5 days after Yom Kippur. Sukkot is one of the three most important festivals of the Jewish people. (Read about Sukkot in Leviticus 23:42-43 and Zechariah 14:16-19).

Sukkot has 2 main emphases:

(1) Thanksgiving for the harvest. Sukkot is a joyful celebration of the fall harvest. (When the Pilgrims celebrated the first “Thanksgiving Day,” the idea came from the Bible’s description of this feast (the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot).)

(2) Remembering that this life is temporary but God is able both to protect His people during their pilgrimage and to deliver them safely to Himself. 1 (Tabernacles (little huts) are build during Sukkot as a reminder of the wilderness wanderings and the lessons that God intended for his people to learn therein.)

Jewish families celebrate Sukkot by making temporary booths outside (usually on their backyards or decks). It is a rule that the booth cannot be a permanent structure – it is mean to be a fragile/temporary structure and the roof must be open so that you can see the stars at night (this reminds you that God is our ultimate shelter and He is the one who will guard and protect us).

Additional Background information:

The name of the feast is Sukkot – the hut that is built is a sukka. “The term sukka occurs 30 times in the Hebrew Bible, generally referring to a rude shelter or booth: the kind build for livestock (Gen 33:17), a night watchman (Job 27:18), a distraught prophet (Jon 4:5) or soldiers in the field (1 Kings 20:12, 16). In Israel’s recollections of the desert wanderings, it is assumed that the people lived in tents or shelters, thus providing the historical rationale for creating these memorial experiences each autumn (Lev 23:42- 43). As time went on, the autumn festival was remembered as Tabernacles (cf. 2 Chron 8:13; Ezra 3:4), and it is by this name that h feast became a symbol of the great eschatological hope of the nations (Zech 14:16, 18-19).”2

Going Deeper. – When the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is described in Exodus and Deuteronomy “the emphasis is on the harvest and the rejoicing that attended it. (In this passages) the agricultural element clearly predominates, together with the memories of living in tabernacles (huts) in the desert that take center state in Leviticus 23:40-44. The ingathering of the autumn harvest gave hope to those who had seen Yahweh’s covenant love reward their labors, just as living for seven days in a tabernacle (hut) gave perspective on their humble past and how Yahweh had preserved them through the desert years. The poor and rich went out to find leafy trees, even as they enjoyed the fruits of the harvest just ended.

Finally, we note the importance of Tabernacles in later times. Under the return with Zerubabel, Tabernacles was the first ritual celebration of the exiles (Ezra 3:4) and seemed to function as a reinauguration of the sacrificial system in the city. Some year later, though the chronology is confusing, Ezra the priest returned to Jerusalem, and through reading in the book of the law it was discovered that the people of Israel were called upon to dwell in booths, or tabernacles, for a week in the seventh month (Neh 8:14-18). What followed as a remarkable rediscovery of the national dream, as the people went out into the field and forest, gathered the branches, created the booths and rejoiced in their God. The law was read daily, and the rejoicing of the exiles was overwhelming. Those who remembered such things decided that there had been no celebration of its equal since the days of Joshua. For many, the spirit of Tabernacles represents nothing less than the rebirth of life in the city of God (i.e. Jerusalem).

The association of Tabernacles with coming into the abundant new life of God’s covenant community may also lie behind the remarkable apocalyptic passage in Zechariah 14:15-19. The setting (Zech 14:1-13) is the final victory of Yahweh over the nations, a battle in which Jerusalem is set apart and protected from the general carnage. When it all ends, Jerusalem reigns supreme, living water flows from its midst and Yahweh is ‘king over the whole earth.’ What follows is nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 18:18-19): the blessing of the nations. Those from all nations who survive the final apocalypse join in an annual pilgrimage, which now becomes the event by which every nation on earth participates in the worship of Israel’s God and the celebration of his goodness. Tabernacles has become the feast to end all feasts and represents the full flowering of God’s promises, through Israel, to the nations.”

Jason Patterson