The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur

The Habitation of the Living God

In the opening scenes of the movie, The Fiddler on the Roof, the main character Tevye begins to explain the traditions of his Jewish village.  In the middle of his dissertation he says, “why do we do these things?  Because of tradition.  And why do we have these traditions? I will be happy to tell you… I don’t know.”  Like Tevye, many of us believe or go through religions motions or religions traditions without knowing the exact nature behind the Holy Day.  Many of us have read about the feast days in the bible only we have never embraced them as holy days to be observed.  The Day of Atonement is one of those days in scripture that has powerful implications if we will embrace it.  Thus, let us explore the history of the day, the Messianic fulfillment, and the practical application for the Christian.

God is a holy God (Isaiah 6:3).  He is so Holy that He can’t dwell in the presence of sin (see Numbers 5:13, 19:13,19,20).  This makes relationship with His Image-bearers strained and difficult.  Yet, His Love for humanity is so strong that He has developed principles by which He can continue to dwell among us.  The Day of Atonement is about those principles.  The foundation was laid in the Old Testament and Messiah brings fulfillment in the New Testament.  These principles, that are outlined in the Day of Atonement make possible the ultimate covering of sin by Messiah.  The Day of Atonement is a specific day, the tenth of the seventh month, in which God provided a release of the penalty of sin.  This release requires the shedding of blood and a sacrificial death must take place. ( see Lev 17:11)  A payment for sin must be paid for a Holy God to “cover it.”   A sacrifice is required for God to continue to dwell among His People.  Avram Yehoshua writes, “Sacrifice represents the penalty that God exacts for sin.  The animal dies but is a picture of what should happen to Israel.  Atonement happens on this day due to the sacrifice.” (1)   A Holy and Moral God must deal with sin.  If He turns His back on it, He would be immoral and unholy.  He would have to violate His character to overlook sin.  Because of who He is, His character will not afford un-holiness and immorality.  Therefore, in order for him to maintain trueness to his character and his nature, he must in fact deal with sin.  Therefore, the Lord came up with a plan to deal with sin.  Interestingly enough, it was not men who approached the Lord and asked for forgiveness for their sins.  It was not men who came to Mt. Sinai and said “what can we do to be in right relationship with you?  No, we didn’t choose God, God chose us.  And the Day of Atonement and the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua His son were all God’s plans, they were all in His mind from the beginning so that we would have perfect relationship and perfect fellowship with him.  We didn’t ask for it, this is something that he gave to us.  All of this bespeaks of the love that God has for us.  His Great Love is evidenced in the fact that He Himself, set up a system to deal with sin, so we could maintain fellowship with Him, it was totally originated in Heaven.

This necessitates a response from those who receive His great Love and Sacrifice.  Our response is that of obedience driven out of a love for God and a heart that is turned fully toward Him.  This is what Yom Kipur is all about!  Intimacy and fellowship with God are the underlying themes of “The Day”.

Events of the Day

“The object of this solemn ceremonial was to impress the minds of the Israelites with the conviction that the whole tabernacle was stained by the sins of a guilty people, that by their sins they had forfeited the privileges of the Divine presence and worship, and that an atonement had to be made as the condition of God’s remaining with them.” (2)

All of the events of the Day centered around the High Priest.  He was the focal point of the day and he was the one who would intercede for Israel in the divine presence.  Likewise, Messiah would become our intercessor in the divine presence.  The bulk of his activities is listed in Leviticus 16.  The entire chapter is dedicated to his activities on this day.  The reader is referred to that chapter and a paraphrase and discussion of those activities is listed below.  The messianic symbolism of the day can’t be overlooked to any objective reader of scripture.

1.  The High Priest lives within the temple precincts for the entire week before the day.  He is maintained in the highest level of purity during this week.  He assumes the majority of priestly roles for the daily sacrifices.  It was extremely important for him to be prepared for the ministry of this day.  Interesting, that Messiah spent thirty years preparing Himself for a ministry of three years.

2.  On the morning of the Day of Atonement, the High Priest is prepared.  He goes to the courtyard for the ceremonial washing.  He removes his “royal robes”, and is dressed in a white tunic.  The motivation for this is Isaiah 1: 18 which states, “Though your sins are scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”  These are also the normal uniforms of the regular priest.  Again, we see the High Priest humble himself, remove his royal robes, and become a servant to intercede for the people.  Sound like anyone else in the bible?  Jesus laid aside His Divinity, to become a man, to serve us, to willingly go to the cross because of His Great Love for us.  (Phillipians 2:5-11)

3.  Once prepared, He goes and sacrifices the bull, at the alter of burnt offerings, to make atonement for himself and his household.  He lays his hands on the bull and confesses his sins and the sins of the priesthood and the bull becomes his sacrifice providing the covering of sin.  Likewise, Messiah knew no sin, but became a sin offering for us.  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

4.  Having now obtained atonement for his sin, he is permitted to go behind the veil and into the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God.  This is only permitted once sin is forgiven.  Perhaps, this is the reason why Aaron’s two sons died upon the dedication of the tabernacle, see Leviticus 10:1 for details.  He offers the incense offering and the cloud covers the ark, or the mercy seat, or the dwelling place of God.  Then, he sprinkles the blood of the bull in the holy place.

5.  Now, he returns from the holy place, and two goats are brought to him.  They cast lots for the goats.  One is to be sacrificed on behalf of Israel, and the other is to be sent into the wilderness (more on the scapegoat later).  Once the lot is determined, the goat for the sins of Israel is killed after laying on of hands and the confession of the sins of Israel..

6.  The High Priest returns behind the veil and sprinkles the blood of the goat in the Holy of Holies.  Thus he has atoned for Israel after having atoned for himself.  Again, tremendous Messianic parallels that we will discuss later.

7.  He goes out into the courtyard and lays hands on the live goat.  He confesses the sins of Israel over the goat and the goat is taken away alive and sent of into the wilderness.  Thus, the goat carries the sins of Israel far from them and separates Israel from their sins.  Likewise, Messiah has removed our sins from us.  A later tradition developed in Judaism in which a scarlet cord was tied around the horn of the scapegoat.  This goat was later pushed off a cliff outside of Jerusalem and killed.  If the scarlet turned white, sins were forgiven.  Tradition maintains that for forty years after the death of Messiah, the cord remained scarlet and led up to the eventual destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

8.  The high priest enters the holy place and removes his special servant garments, washes and puts on His regular garments.

9.  As a final sacrifice he went out to the great alter and offered a ram as a burnt offering for himself and another ram for the people.

The Scapegoat

The scapegoat is an interesting item in the ceremony.  All of the sins of Israel are confessed over the head of the animal; thus, transferring the sins of Israel onto the goat.  The goat is then lead away to “Azazel”.  Much controversy has arisen over the exact meaning of this word and it is most often translated wilderness in contemporary translations.  As one writer suggest, “Some debate exists as to the exact meaning of Azazel.  Some believe it was a reference to satan, for in Jewish traditions Azazel was the name of a fallen angel.  However, most scholars believe that the word was derived from the Hebrew word azel which carries the idea of escape. This line of thought led to calling this goat the ‘scapegoat’ since it escaped death and was instead driven into the wilderness.” (3)  The other school of thought seems to make more spiritual sense especially in light of the events of the day.  Keil and Delitzsch write, “This complete deliverance from sin and its author was symbolized in the leading away of the goat, which had been laden with the sins, into the desert.  The goat was to take back the sins, which God had forgiven to His congregation, into the desert to Azazel, the father of all sin, in the one hand as a proof that his evil influences upon men would be of no avail in the case of those who had received expiation from God, and on the other hand as a proof to the congregation also that those who were laden with sin could not remain in the kingdom of God, but would be banished to the abode of evil spirits, unless they were redeemed there from.” (4)  The Intervarsity Press commentary states, “It is most consistent to consider Azazel a proper name, probably of a demon.  Early Jewish interpreters had this understanding, as is demonstrated in the book of Enoch (second century B.C.).  this goat is not sacrificed to Azazel (consistent with 17:7) but released ‘to Azazel’.” (5)  When we sin, we agree with satan in rebellion against God.  Thus, a covenant of rebellion is formed against God.  When we repent, the old covenant with death is broken (Isaiah 28:15 &19) and a covenant with God is established.  Thus, the symbolic events of the day are repackaging all the sins of the past year and returning them to their originator marked “return to sender” with no forwarding address. (see Psalm 103: 10-12).

The Messianic fulfillment

“But just as with the tabernacle and the sacrificial system, so too the Day of Atonement contained only the shadow of future good things, but not these things themselves (Heb 10:1).  Its intrinsic limitations are manifest, both in the repetitiveness of it numerous atoning acts and by it recurrence year after year (Hebrews 7:27).  Yom Kippur was an acted prophecy or type of Christ, who has entered into the holy place not made with hands, viz., into heaven itself, and has now appeared before God, by once for all giving Himself as a sacrifice for the removal of sin (Heb 9;23).  Like the first goat, burned out side the camp, he died outside the walls of Jerusalem for us (Heb 13:12) and like the second, the scapegoat, He suffered substitutionary condemnation, sending sin back to its demonic author and abrogating satan’s claims over the fullness of Israel (I john 3:8).  By this act, the purpose of the OT sacrificial worship in its highest development (the Day of Atonement) has been fulfilled. (6)

The kingdom principles that were laid down in the Day of Atonement, made possible the ultimate fulfillment of Messiah destiny.  God realized that something more was necessary than the rituals contained in Yom Kippur.  It is impossible for “the blood of bulls and goats” (Hebrews 9”12-13) to change our selfish and sinful nature into a new servant Christ-like nature..  Furthermore, because the ceremony had to be repeated year after year, it allowed no room for spiritual progress.  Something else was required for this type of result.  It was the sacrifice of Messiah Himself that would open the door for the dwelling place of God to come into the hearts of men.  A better covenant was needed.  Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.  The bible states:

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience form dead works to serve the liming God?” (Hebrews 9:11-14 NKJV)

Thus, Messiah fulfills all the kingdom principles outlined in the Day of Atonement.  When Jesus spoke, “it is finished” (John 19:30), and the veil in the temple, the same veil that the High Priest went through on this day, tore into (Matthew 27:51), the presence and the dwelling place of God became the hearts of men.  No longer did it have to be contained within tabernacles and temples because of the sin problem.  The veil tore in two because the presence of God was bursting to get out and once the sin was removed by Messiah, the presence of God exploded out of the Holy of Holies!  God is so motivated by the Great love that He has for us that Jesus willingly came, endured all that torment, pain, and affliction so that we could have fellowship with Him.  The Bible states.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this the love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the  propitiation for our sin,” (I John 4:9-10).

What else can be said about this?  The only response to such love is to open one’s heart and receive all that God has purchased for us.  His very presence and everlasting intimacy with Him.  John G. Lake writes, “God has been seeking a habitation a long time.  God found a habitation in Jesus Christ, and He became the dwelling place of God.  Christ’s purpose for the world was that men like Himself should become the dwelling place of god.  It was not purposed that Jesus Christ was to be  a particular or special dwelling place of God.  It was rather purposed that mankind should be just as much a holy and desirable dwelling place of God as Jesus Himself was.  The purpose of the Gospel of God was that through Jesus Christ His Son, many sons should be begotten of God, would be begotten of Christ.” (7)

The Current Observation of the Day

Leviticus 23:27:  “Also the tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of atonement.  It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, an offer an offering by fire to the LORD.” (NKJV).

In Leviticus 16:29, God commands that this day is a “statute forever”.  This means that it was God’s intention for us to continue to celebrate the Day. What is to be done if Jesus has fulfilled the requirements?  First, this is a day of confession and repentance of sin.  A day to re-align our hearts with God.  A day for  breaking off covenants with the demonic and the sin that so easily ensnares us. (Hebrews 12:1).  It is a time when we, in humility, remember that we are “saved by grace through faith and not of works” (Eph 2:8).  A day to remember all the love that God has for us and that we also reciprocate towards Him.  Additionally, there is still a powerful role, that we fulfill in the scriptures and in the fulfillment of this day.  In the role of priests, and intercessors.  Our role in this day has powerful implications

This day God has chosen to be a holy convocation.  A convocation in Hebrew can best be described as a gathering of the ‘called out’ ones.  A holy convocation, the holy and chosen people of God, a royal priesthood, a nation of priest and prophets, all of the called out and holy people, are commanded by God to gather on this specific day.  To come together in unity (See Psalm 133).  What does God command this chosen people to do?  To Afflict one’s soul.  Noah Webster defines afflict as, “To give to the body or mind pain which is continued or of some permanence.” (8)  Traditionally, this has always been seen as fasting.  Basically it has this idea:  If sin is the willful taking of that which is unlawful, affliction (fasting) is the willful giving up of that which is lawful for the sake of consecration.  It is a sacrifice of what is lawful for the sake of the call.  This has tremendous power in the Kingdom of God because it is just like Jesus.  He was God and put on flesh, becoming a servant for us.  Hence, when God’s people humble themselves and afflict themselves they identify with the nature of Jesus, and this moves in power.  What we have so far is this, a specific scripture day, when all of the called out ones are commanded by God to gather and fast.

Now, what are these holy and called out people to do while they are fasting?  Well, Aaron is commanded to offer an incense offering before the mercy seat, “lest he die” (see Lev 16:13).  Incense, scripture tells us in heaven, is seen as the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:4).  So, the called out ones who are afflicting their souls are to pray and the incense offering will go up before the throne of God and prevent death.  We are a royal priesthood, Peter tells us this and this has been God’s plan all along for His called out ones( I Peter 2:9, Exodus 19:6), we minister to the LORD through prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-3), so, on this particular day, which has been commanded to be a statue forever in three different places (Lev 16:29, 16:31, and 23:31), we are commanded to gather, to fast, to pray, to intercede, and sprinkle the blood of Jesus over our nation, so that the presence of the Spirit can begin to move like never before.  In fact, the New Testament believers called this day, “The Fast”. (Acts 27:9).  They knew it was a special consecrated day, for believers to confess, repent, fast, pray, make sacrifice, that will advance the kingdom of God.  (see Isaiah 58 for Godly instructions on fasting)

As we fast for the advancement of the kingdom, we become more like Yeshua (Mark 9:29).  The putting aside of self and the indulgence of the flesh is one thing, and a necessary thing, for walking in the Spiritual.  However, it is at another level to give up even what is lawful for one to have.  This is the whole basis of fasting which is the opposite of sin.  As stated previously,  sin is taking that which is not lawful, fasting, is a willful giving up of that which is lawful.  It is the sacrifice that makes the difference, this is the heart of Yeshua, the offering of self.  This sacrifice, be it fasting, be it lifestyle, be it finances, or whatever is lawful that someone is giving up, is a powerful force in moving the forces of heaven.  This is the basic premise of any apostolic work or any missionary work and we see it in so many stories throughout church history and in the life of Paul and the apostles.   The laying aside of what is lawful for the sake of the call.  It’s the cross, it is this level of self imposed sacrifice that moves the kingdom.  All intercessory prayer and fasting is based upon this premise.  It is a basic commonality in all types of ministry that are going to be Spirit empowered. Lou Engle’s “The Call” comes close to this type of kingdom activity.

Let’s fulfill the commandment of the “Fast”.  Let the Body of Christ gather together, a holy convocation, a gathering.  Let us fast and prayer with a  heart that is motivated out of a love for God and for the advancement of His Kingdom.  This obedience out of love always moves the heart of God.  He guarantees us action, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).


1.  Avram Yehoshua, “Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, article on website,  Page 1.

2.  Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., second printing, vol. I,  page 479.

3.  Kevin Howard, Marvin Rosenthal, The Feasts of the LORD, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1997, page 123.

4.  C.F. Keil, F Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament,  Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass.  Second printing, 2006  Volume one,  page 590.

5.  John H Walton, Victor H Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament,  InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill, 2000, page 131.

6.  Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.  1979, page 362.

7.  Liardon, Roberts, John G. Lake, The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings,  Albury Publishing, Tulsa OK,  1999  page 767.

8.  Webster Noah, American Dictionary of the English Language 1828 edition, San Francisco, CA, Foundation for American Christian Education, 2006.


The Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles

“Blow the Trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the Full Moon, on our solemn feast day.  For this is a statute for Israel, a Law of the God of Jacob.”  (Psalm 81)

The rabbis used to say that one had never seen or experienced joy until they experienced the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.  This extremely joyful time is celebrated in the month of Tishri (A), at time of the full moon.  The rabbis would say that the month had to come to its fullest so that all of creation could worship God during the Feast of Tabernacles. Joy is commanded during the feast, and is the central theme of the Feast.  Scripture states, “And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the father less, and the widow, who are within your gates.  Seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.”  (Duet 16:14-15 emphasis added for clarity).  Yes, mandatory fun from heaven.  God is so good that he doesn’t just ask you to generate your own sense of joy.  He prepares the way and actually blesses us and give us something to be joyful about.  Indeed, in one of the biblical references to the concluding day of the feast under the reign of Solomon is described as, “He (Solomon) sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel.” (2 Chron 7: 10 parenthetical note added for clarity)

Tabernacles, affectionately known as “The Feast”, is one of the three holy convocations that occur during the regular biblical calendar.  (Duet. 16:16-17)  These gatherings are Biblically described by the word “miqra.”  It is roughly translated “a gathering of the called out ones” and can also be translated as a “rehearsal”.(3)  This later definition provides us with a prophetic element to the feast that has both an immediate and future fulfillment while the former definition provides the backdrop for the joyous occasion.  Additionally, tabernacles takes place during the time of the fall harvest of crops, which further denotes it as a time of festivity and gratefulness to the Yahveh Yireh (The  Lord who provides. Genesis 22:14)

(A.) Tishri is the seventh month out of the year, and it is considered the most holy of months.  On its New Moon, the feast of Trumpets is celebrated.   Ten days later, the day of Atonement occurs with prayer and fasting.  Lastly, the greatest of all the fall feast occurs, the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Hebrew term is “sukkot”, which is translated as “tabernacle, or tent, or booth,”(1) “refers to a hut made of wattled twigs or branches.  In countries where trees are abundant such wattled structures are common as temporary buildings as they can be constructed in a very short time.  The booths, which were simple shelters made of interlaced branches were the people’s living quarters during the festival.” (2)  The weather in Israel in the fall is perfect with very little temperature changes from day to night, around 80 in the day and 70 at night which allows for comfortable outdoor living.

The Feast lasts eight days (Lev 23:33-36, Duet 16:13-17).  The first and the last days are celebrated as types of Sabbaths where customary and laborious work is forbidden.  These are the days of worshipful gatherings.  During these gatherings, followers of God are commanded to worship the Lord with objects known as “the four species.”  Scripture describes it this way, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Lev 23:40)  The orthodox rabbis define these as, “The esrog (fruit/esrog) resembles the heart, the lulav (Palm branches) the spine, the boughs of leafy trees resemble the eyes, and the willows resemble the lips.  By holding all four together, we symbolize the need for a person to utilize all his faculties in the service of God.” (4)  Thus, worship during this feast calls for the consecration of the entire believer to worship is “spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

The Bible describes this feast with the Hebrew phrase, “Chuqqat L’Olam” which translates to “a statue forever” (Lev 23:41).  This phraseology lends little ambiguity as to God’s intention regarding the Feast.  It was something that was that was to be kept and practiced, rehearsed, from generation to generation.

The purpose of dwelling in booths

“All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may now that I made the children of Israel swell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”  (Lev 23:42-43)

Paul writes, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…Now these things became our examples to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted…Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”  (I Cor 10:1-11).  Here Paul tells us that the things which happened to the children of Israel were written for our benefit, so that they might be a memorial to us. Biblical memorials are alive and remind us of the past actions of God.  This builds present day faith, because what the God, who changes not, has done in the past, is what He will do again in the future.  To remember the mighty acts of God is to build faith in what God is going to do in the future.  Paul is telling us that the biblical accounts  of the Old Testament were written for us, so that we could remember the ways that God interacted with His people, and the way He will continue to interact with us.  Tabernacles is a profound example of what God wants to do in the future and what He wants to do while we keep this feast.

Exodus 33 records God dwelling with a nation for the first time in history.  During this period when Israel was living in tabernacles (booths), God was with them as a “cloud by day and a fire by night.” (Ex 13:21-22)  In fact, this scripture emphatically states that, “He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.”  (Ex 13:22)  This gives us some insight into the heart of God.  God has desired to dwell among people.  He wants to be with us.  It is His desire to “tabernacle” (dwell with) us .  This was the lesson and the promise He made to Israel, that He would make them “a nation of priests”(Exodus 19:6)  In the new covenant, Peter writes the same thing, that we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)  Christians are a holy priesthood who minister to God and His desire is to tabernacle with His people.  This is to be remembered and experienced through the Feast.

It also reminds us of the dependency that is necessary for the supernatural provision of God.  God was with the Children of Israel and He provided for all of their needs.  He provided food from heaven, water from rocks and clothing that never wore out..  Tabernacles reminds us of our calling to worship God from our calling as priests, and to place ourselves in a position of dependency upon Him to meet all of our needs.

The Progression of God’s Dwelling Place

The dwelling place of God is intimately tied into the Feast of Tabernacles.  It is one of the things God wants us to remember during the feast.  As the biblical narrative unfolds, some interesting points appear as the connection between where God lives and the Feast of Tabernacles becomes increasingly clear.

David desired to build a temple for God so the Divine Presence didn’t have to live in a tent or a tabernacle.  God told David that he could not do this but his son Solomon would build the temple.  Interestingly enough, Solomon finished building the temple at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Temple was dedicated to God during this Feast.  (I Kings 7 & 2 Chronicles 5)  Again, the glory cloud (Shekinah glory) filled the temple.  The same cloud that lived in the tent now lived in the temple.  Sadly, Israel and Judah fell into apostasy and went into exile leaving the temple and the land desolate for 70 years.  However, God did leave a prophecy that the people would return to the land. (Jeremiah 25:11-12)

Seventy years later, a priest named Ezra leads the people back  to Jerusalem and clears out and restores the temple.  Can guess when the regular sacrifices and worship were restored?  Yes, during the Feast of Tabernacles.  (Ezra 3 Nehemiah 8:13 )  As the Old Testament period begins to wind down, God gives us a prophecy about the temple and the dwelling place of God.  During the time of the rebuilding of the temple, a prophet named Haggai (whose name is derived from the Hebrew “Hag”  which means feast) gives a prophetic word that comes on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  So, during the feast, Haggai gives this prophecy, “The glory of the latter temple shall be greater than the glory of the former temple.” (Haggai 2:9)  This word finds its fulfillment in this, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1: 14)  The dwelling place of God had progressed from the tabernacle, to the temple, and then, into a man.  The second Adam who was begotten of God.  Jesus the Messiah, was the dwelling place and the temple of God.  In fact, He describes His body as a temple. (John 2:19)  The temple is were God tabernacles or dwells.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit, anther progression is evident.

Paul describes the New testament believer as the “temple of God.” (I Cor 6:19)  That we now are the actual housing of the presence of God.  Haggai’s word has the prophetic fulfillment that the glory of the latter temple, Jesus and the New Testament believer, is greater than the glory of the former temple, the temple is Jerusalem.  The Body of Christ, His holy priesthood and building, is a greater glory and a greater outreach of and for God, than any building in Jerusalem no matter how ornate.  Tabernacles celebrates this progression of the dwelling place of God.  As John G. Lake writes, “God and man become one.  The heart of man, the mind of man, the soul of man enter into God and God into him.  The divine fires of the eternal Christ, by the Holy Ghost, come from heaven, and the lightings of Jesus flash through the life, bless God, and the powers of Christ invigorate and manifest and demonstrate through that relationship.” (5)

The final fulfillment of the Feast of tabernacles and the dwelling place of God we find in the closing chapters of the book of Revelation.  John has a vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven.  Here is how the voice from heaven describes the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles, “ Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev 21:3)  During Tabernacles, we look forward to the time when all of eternity will be a tabernacle with God.  This is expressed by the prophet Isaiah in his vision of the millennial reign.   He speaks, “Then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night, for over all the glory there will be a covering.” (Isaiah 4:5)  Remember that the cloud by day and fire by night that was with the children of Israel in the desert only rested above the tabernacle of the meeting, but in the millennium, it remains above every dwelling and above every gathering place.  The Glory of the Lord shall rest upon us all.  This what we celebrate, pray for, and anticipate during tabernacles.  This is the essence of revival.

Tabernacles at the time of Jesus

The New Testament verifies that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.  (John 7-8).  Scripture tells us that on the last day of the feast Jesus stood in the temple and shouted, “If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit…“ (John 7:37-39)  This statement is awesome enough on its own.  However, when one understands the backdrop against which this statement is made, it becomes even more impressive.  That backdrop is a water libation offering.

“Throughout the seven days of the festival a special priest carries water in a gold pitcher from the Pool of Siloam to be put into a basin at the foot of the alter by the high priest.  It symbolized prayer for rain which begins on the next day, on Sh’mini Atzeret (the eighth day), and pointed toward the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) on the people of Israel.” ([6] parenthetical notes added for clarity)  This ceremony is considered one of the most joyful in all of the feast.  It is noted in the Talmud and the Encyclopedia Judica, as a “time of religious joy were the worshippers draw true inspiration from the Holy Spirit. (7)  The last day of the feast, or the eighth day, was the culmination of the joyful festivities.  On this day, during the ceremony the Great Hallel was sung, which is also called “The Great Hosanna.”  It consisted of the Psalms 113-118 with the concluding passages are “Save now, I pray, O Lord (Hebrew is Hosanna) O Lord, I pray send now prosperity, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 188:25-26)  Here is the sequence of events for this ceremony.  The priest would leave the temple out of the Fountain Gate and make his way toward the pool of Siloam.  (Incidentally, Siloam means “sent one”  or the pool of the sent one, or the pool is sent, it was constructed during Hezekiah’s time which does explain the name in light of the biblical narrative relating to Hezekiah.  Also, this is the pool which the “angel” stirs in John 5 that brings healing.  There was a supernatural presence to this pool both symbolically, as representing Messiah, the sent one from God, and physically, as it waters yielded healing when stirred by the angel)  Crowds would gather, with the four species in hand, particularly the lulav (or palm branch), and a joyful procession would follow the priest down to the pool.  He would fill his pitcher and return to the Temple.  By this time, large crowds had gathered and the High Priest would emerge to the cheers of the people. The worship and prayers to God would be accompanied by the waving of the lulav or the palm branches. The High Priest would encircle the alter seven times and upon each circle the roar of the crowd would grow larger.  The chanting of the Great Hosanna, prayers for rain and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit were all shouted at the same time as worshippers waved large palm lulav toward the alter.  After the seventh lap, the High Priest would pour the water at the base of the alter as the cheering crowd watched him raise his arm to the full extent indicating that all of the water had been poured out.  It is against this backdrop that Jesus makes the aforementioned statements.  As Alfred Edersheim notes, “The pouring of the water was immediately followed by the chanting of the Hallel.  But after that there must have been a short pause to prepare for the festive sacrifices.  It was then, immediately after the symbolic rite of water pouring, immediately after the people had responded by repeating those lines from Psalm 118, and prayed that Jehovah would send salvation and prosperity, and had shaken their lulav toward the alter, that there rose so loud as to be heard throughout the Temple, the Voice of Jesus…At the close of the most solemn rites of the feast, asserting, within the hearing of all, His claim to be regarded as the fulfillment of all, and the true Messiah.” (8)

Shortly after the aforementioned events, Jesus makes the following statement, “I am the light of the world,  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life,”  (John 8:12)  Again, a very powerful statement, but when understood against the backdrop of the ceremonies of Tabernacles, it becomes more impressive.  Beginning on the second night of the Feast, large crowds would gather into the “Court of the Woman” in the temple precincts.  Seven very large menorahs were brought out and lit in the evening.  The Levites would bring out the temple instruments and worship would take place as priest danced before the Lord with torches and as the Levites led the people in worship. (9)  With the full moon and the seven menorahs, every courtyard in Jerusalem was said to be well lit.  Light, in both Jewish literature and in scripture, is symbolic of Messiah.  Therefore, Jesus meaning could not be mistaken that He was claiming again, His Messiahship and alluding to the fact, that, those who followed Him would not walk in darkness, but would be in the light, just as every courtyard in Jerusalem was in the light during the Feast of Tabernacles.

70 bulls and the Gentiles?

In Numbers 29, God commands the children of Israel to sacrifice many sacrifices during the Feast.  The sacrifices begin with large numbers and move to decreasingly smaller numbers (Numbers 29:12-39).  No reason is given for the sacrifices but the rabbis give us an interesting interpretation.  Rabbi Eleazar states, “To what do those seventy bullocks (that were offered during the seven days of the Festival) correspond?  To the seventy nations.  To what does the single bullock (Of the Eight day) correspond?  To the unique nation.(10)  Assuming the Rabbi Eleazar is correct in his symbolism, this paints a beautiful picture of the nations of the world uniting with Israel for unified worship before their God.  One common body, worshiping their Creator, as the apostle Paul writes, “one new man from the two.” ( Ephesians 2: 15)

Shadows of tabernacles in the New Testament

The Triumphal Entry

At the time of Jesus entry into Jerusalem prior to His crucifixion, the disciples begin to through palm branches onto the road and to shout, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 21:1-11)  Does any of this sound familiar?  Exactly, it is the same event that is described during the temple services that we described above.  What were the disciples and the people really claiming about Him.  That He was in fact the fulfillment of Tabernacles and that God was now dwelling among men.  Proof responds, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”(Luke 19:40)  Thus claiming His Messiahship as the only true one there who was worthy of such worship.   The scribes and the Pharisees recognized it as worship and were astounded that Jesus would receive it.  Proving that Jesus was either a crazed religious fanatic or the actual fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.   This event happens prior to the Passover, but its rich symbolism from the Feast of Tabernacles must not be missed.  It has evolved into the modern church holiday known as Palm Sunday.  Perhaps it should be recognized as Lulav Sunday.

The Transfiguration on the Mount

“Surely I say to you that there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man in His Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)

Shortly after making this statement, Jesus takes three disciples onto the mountain.  Right before their eyes, He is transfigured into His Glory.  Moses and Elijah show up and begin to discuss his “exodus” (for so it reads in the Greek).  Peter, although misguided,  recognizes the significance of these three individual standing together, the fulfillment of Tabernacles.  Thus he states, “Let us make here three tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”(Matthew 17:4)  Although He was mistaken, he gives us another key insight into the prophetic significance of this holy day.

The Feast continues into the Millennium

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up for year to year to worship the King, the Lord of host, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, on them there will be no rain.  If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain, they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”  (Zechariah 14:16-18)

In the preceding verses, Zechariah describes a scene where the nations of the world have gathered against Jerusalem, and then, “And in that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east.” (Zechariah 14:4)  This is the second coming of Messiah, as the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary notes, “The place of His departure at His ascension, shall be the place of His return, and the manner of His return also shall be similar (Acts 1:11) …This was the scene of His agony, so it shall be the scene of His Glory.” (11)  Even so, tabernacle among us and inside of us, Oh Lord.

The worshipers at Tabernacles prayed for literal rain, and they prayed for symbolic Holy Spirit rain.  They believed they were going to receive both types.  Interesting that the plague on the heathen nations will be the absence of rain.  Famine, both spiritually and physically.  This is a plague.  It would appear that other nations of the world are going to be left after the return of Messiah and the inauguration of the millennial reign.  This nations will be required to come to Jerusalem and acknowledge the Kingship of Messiah.  What better time to recognize His Kingship than the Feast of Tabernacles!


**All scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version  of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN.**

1.  Strong, James,  The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,   Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN  1995, Strong’s number 5521.

2.  Bromiley, Geoffrey, The International Standrd Bible Encyclopedia,  Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979,  page 535.

3.  Strongs, number 4744.

4.  Scherman, Nosson Rabbi, The Stone Edition Tanach,  Mesorah Publications, ltd,  Brooklyn New York,  2003, page 305.

5.  Liardon, Roberts, John G. Lake The Complete Collection of His life Teachings, Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 1999, page 462.

6.  Stern, David, The Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarsville, Maryland, 1992, page 179.

7.  Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkot 5:1, and Encyclopedia Judaica 14:365.

8.  Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publishing, 1993 Page 584-585.

9.  The Talmud, Sukkah 5: 2-4)

10.  Sukkah 55 from the Talmud as quoted in:  Nadler, Sam, The Feasts of Israel, Word of Messiah ministries, 2002, page 142.

11.  Jamieson, Robert; Faussett, A.R.; Brown, David, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hendrickson Publishing