The Feasts of Jehovah: The Feast of Tabernacles


The Feast of Tabernacles was the climax of Israel’s religious year. It was held in the seventh month, after crops and vintage had all been gathered in. Its alternative description is “the feast of ingathering” (Exo 23:16).[1] Like Passover, it has both a retrospective aspect and a prophetic outlook.

The Backward Look

Looking back, it was a reminder of the wilderness journey, when their homes were temporary structures. For the eight days of the feast they had to lodge in makeshift booths constructed from intertwined branches (Lev 23:40). Two trees that are specifically mentioned are palms and willows. They picture the shifting circumstances of wilderness conditions. We speak about the weeping willow, and that concept is borne out in Scripture, weeping being linked with harps being hung on willows (Psa 137:1-2). By contrast, palm trees were a reminder of refreshment at Elim (Exo 15:27). That is life, with its blend of Marahs and Elims, abasement and abounding (Php 4:12), hills and valleys, but our God is the God of both the hills and the valleys (1Ki 20:28)! Reflecting on life, we will be able to say with Mrs. Cousin, “With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove.”

The Forward Look

Looking forward, Tabernacles anticipates the Millennium. In Zechariah 14 the feast is linked with the day when “the Lord shall be king over all the earth” (v9), and when the nations will be obliged to make an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Tabernacles (vv16-21). Remember the timeline. The Day of Atonement foreshadows Israel’s national repentance, but flowing out of that will be kingdom joy, grief giving way to glory. The Sun of Righteousness will have arisen “with healing in his wings,” and contrite hearts will be healed. They will become as lighthearted as calves “gamboling” from the stall (Mal 4:2 RV). “Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Lev 23:40); if the type was so joyous a time, how much more its fulfillment!

Again, remember the alternative title for the feast, the feast of ingathering, with harvest and vintage preceding it. Figuratively, the harvest and vintage will be gathered before the Millennium. The harvest of the end of the age will have been reaped, when “the wheat” will be gathered into His barn; they will enjoy kingdom blessing (Mat 13:30,38-40). Harvests and vintage of judgment will also set the stage for Him introducing His kingdom (Rev 14:14-20). A postscript to His appearing will be the campaign that will see Him in bloodstained garments treading the winepress alone (Isa 63:1-6). The Millennium will follow these harvests, just as surely as the Feast of Tabernacles followed the literal harvests.

The Duration of the Feast

This was a seven-day festival (Lev 23:34), with an eighth day added (v39), described as “the last day, that great day of the feast” (Joh 7:37). From page one of our Bibles, it is evident that seven denotes completion; there were six days of creation and God rested on the seventh day (Gen 2:2). The number eight signifies a new beginning, as when “eight souls” emerged from the ark into a new environment (1Pe 3:20). As noted, the major part of the feast anticipates the final 1000 years of human history (Rev 20:4). The eighth day foreshadows the new beginning, the eternal state, “the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved” (2Pe 3:12 RV). To allow the introduction of the eternal state, there will be this culminating event of the day of the Lord, the dissolving of heavens and earth (v10). Significantly, that eighth day was to be “a sabbath” (Lev 23:39), for tranquility will pervade the eternal ages.

“No servile works” were to feature either on the first or eighth days, illustrating that whether it is blessing for the kingdom or for the eternal ages, works are excluded. As for the kingdom, those who emerge from the great tribulation to enjoy its blessings are people who “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). As for the eternal state, those enjoying the blessings of “the ages to come” will experience “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward [them] through Christ Jesus”; by grace they have been saved through faith (Eph 2:7-8). In both cases, works are redundant.

The Offerings

Leviticus 23 makes the simple statement, “Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord” (v36). Numbers 29 is more specific, and space is devoted to explaining the nature and number of the offerings (vv12-38). With each passing day, the number of bullocks diminishes. The lesson is that during the Millennium, Christ’s death will be prominent, and as in every age since Calvary, it will be preached as the basis of salvation. While the inaugural subjects of the kingdom will be “the righteous” (Mat 25:46), passing years will see many born who will have to hear for themselves the message of the crucified Savior; they “shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this” (Psa 22:31). Multitudes, while professing outward allegiance to the King, will at heart be resentful of His strict religious, moral and ethical code.

The reducing number of sacrifices indicates that during the Millennium appreciation of Christ will diminish, so much so that when Satan is released from the abyss, he will find in these resentful hearts fertile soil in which to sow the seeds of rebellion. It is staggering that after such a peaceful and prosperous 1000 years, as many “as the sand of the sea” will join the final mutiny against divine authority (Rev 20:7-10).


Few celebrations of Tabernacles feature in Scripture. Appropriately, one is recorded during Solomon’s reign, which itself is a picture of peaceful kingdom days (1Ki 8:2). Another was in Nehemiah’s day, where the indication is that although the feast may have been acknowledged spasmodically, they had never actually constructed the booths! Men love to interfere with divine arrangements (Neh 8:13-18).

The Lord Jesus attended the Feast as recorded in John 7. Even at the climax of the year’s religious rituals, Judaism’s followers were still thirsty, and thus His invitation, “Come unto me, and drink” (v37). The crowds then drifted back to their home comforts after living in their rough shelters for a week (v53), but significantly, “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives”; “the Son of Man [had] not where to lay his head” (Luk 9:58).

As promised at the start, these studies have been rudimentary, but hopefully, interest in the Feasts has been stirred.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.