The Feast of Tabernacles – Revisited


While in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts, Jesus healed a lame man at Bethesda.  Because this “work” was done on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were angry and began to persecute him.  Jesus’ response is found in John 5:16-30.

Presented with a violation of the law, Jesus responded by telling the Pharisees who He is and who His Father is.  His words and His actions revealed several fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah.  Of all people, the Pharisees, who knew the Scriptures by heart, should have been able to see that this was the Christ, and yet they didn’t or couldn’t. 

Jesus later attended the Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths) in recorded in John 7.  This feast was one of the seven feasts appointed by the Lord in Leviticus.  It took place in Jerusalem in October, right after the harvest, for seven days.  The purpose was to remember and celebrate God’s protection and providence in the desert; it was a feast of rejoicing in the abundance of God’s goodness.  In the midst of all the rejoicing, there were a multitude of sacrifices offered each day to draw their minds to the necessity of atonement and forgiveness.

A libation (drink offering) of water followed the daily sacrifices.  This was to ask God to pour out his blessing of rain upon the earth.  The water for this offering was drawn the evening before from the Pool of Siloam.  The ceremony of water drawing was a jubilant occasion.  Instruments were played, people danced and sang songs.  Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  The next morning a priest would pour water that had been drawn from Siloam into the bronze altar in the Temple Court.

On the last day of the feast, the water libation rite reached its climax.  The shofar blew, the people waved branches, and the priests sang the Hallel (the psalms of praise, Psalms 113-118).  The actual Hebrew of Psalm 118:25 is transliterated as, “Save us now, we beseech thee, O Lord.”  They are reciting Scripture begging for a Saviour!  What a climax!  The priests circled the altar seven times and then poured out the water with great ceremony.  This last day of the feast was called Hoshana Rabbah (Hebrew, “hosanna in the highest”).

Then in, John 7:37-39 we read “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stands up and loudly proclaims that he is the source of living water.  He was declaring who He was in the most public, most bold possible manner.  Imagine the uproar His statement must have caused!  The priest poured out the water libation as an appeal to God to provide water for the people, and Jesus tells them that He is the living water.  Radical.

The Feast of the Tabernacles is mentioned in Zechariah 14:16-19.  This chapter discusses the coming and reign of the Lord.  Verse 8 says, “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem…” and then verses 16-19 discuss the Feast of the Tabernacles, that people must go.  Many commentaries say that this is the only feast that is still appropriate during the Messiah’s reign:  The Passover was fulfilled in Christ’s death; the Day of Atonement fulfilled in acceptance in Christ’s salvation; the Feast of Firstfruits, in his resurrection; and Pentecost, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Feast of Tabernacles, a festival of thanksgiving, celebrates the harvest of souls for the Lord.

In addition to  Zechariah and Isaiah 12, there is also Isaiah 44:3, which says, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”  The people would have known these Scriptures.  But did they recognize their source of living water?

In light of all the symbolic and prophetic aspects of this feast, Jesus’ words and actions in John 7 take on profound significance.  There couldn’t have been a more beautiful and symbolic way to tell us that He is the Spring of Eternal Life. And yet they missed it.

We may shake our heads and wonder how this could be, but in truth, a good portion of humanity does the same thing every day, to that which we are familiar with, be it the utter improbable uniqueness of this planet that we live on, be it the ultra extreme preciseness of the constants of the universe that are razor edge upon razor edge and support life or be it the undeniable utter complexity of the code of information found within DNA that just supposedly happened by sheer chance.

Romans 1:20 NIV “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. […] “The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him. Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He? What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come’? ”Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying,“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  Emphasis is mine. That Jesus would utter these words at this particular point in time is significant. Take the time to read this associated post here. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I get profoundly amazed at the life of Christ as a human trying to get humanity around him to hear and see so many scripture prophecies being fulfilled. They couldn’t comprehend the “God with us” at all. even with all the symbolism, rites, words and prophetic examples through hundreds of historical years pointing to the messiah.
    I say all that to ask “are we any better now? There seems to be (as there has always been) a constant “pure” remnant that completely trusts and serves God with all their heart and occasional ground swells of revival numbers. We surely overestimate the limits of being human.


    • I hear you Gary. “Sometimes” when I am out and able to see the horizon in the distance, I get a small comprehension of what this world is and the greatness that lies beyond what we see. Most of the time, we just don’t get it and that is what I am thinking happened when Jesus was among us. The Apostles and early disciples caught another glimpse of that reality, when Jesus was resurrected. We need that vision again. Blessings!


Comments are closed.