The seventh and final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34, NKJV), also called the Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23:34, ESV), the Festival of Shelters (Leviticus 23:34, CSB), and the Festival of Harvest (Exodus 23:16, CSB).
The eight-day celebration was the most joyous of all the feasts. It was one of the three pilgrim feasts that required the attendance of all Jewish men (Exodus 23:14-17), so during the festival, Jerusalem was packed with worshippers from far and wide. It was one-part family reunion and another-part old fashioned revival meeting.
The feast recalled God’s faithful provision for the Hebrew nation during the forty-years of wilderness wanderings. Families built tents or booths and camped, imitating their ancient ancestors.
Each day during the autumn Feast, with much fanfare and flourish, priests carried a small golden pitcher down to the Pool of Siloam. There, he dipped water from the pool and carried it back up the hill to the Temple Mount. Inside the Temple, the priest lifted the pitcher high and ceremonially poured out the water for all the worshippers to witness. This offering was a reminder of the water that came from the Rock (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13), and it was a reminder to the Nation to pray fervently for the much-needed winter rains.
During the Feast of Tabernacles, priests lit four giant menorahs that were located in the outer courtyard. Each of the towering lampstands had four branches with multiple candles on each branch. Each menorah had four ladders allowing the priests access to the oil reservoirs that needed to be refilled regularly with pure olive oil. Like huge streetlights today, these ornate oil-burning candles lit the Temple Mount and could be seen from miles around Jerusalem. The lighting of the menorahs was a reminder of the Pillar of Fire that led Israel through the wilderness.
Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Booths (John 7:2, 7:37) when He said, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).
When Jesus made this stunning declaration, the religious hypocrites immediately called Him a liar (John 8:13). They knew that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Christ, God’s promised light. The Pharisees thought that the itinerate rabbi’s claim was blatantly blasphemous.
But here’s the truth! Jesus is the “star of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). He is the “refiner’s fire”(Malachi 3:2) and the “sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). Jesus is the object of David’s praise, “Lord, you are my lamp; the Lord illuminates my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29) and “Lord, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness” (Psalm 18:28).
Jesus is the Light of Life! That’s worth celebrating!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.