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Bible Dictionaries
Tabernacles, Feast of

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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1. OT references . In Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22 it is called the Feast of Ingathering , and its date is placed at the end of the year.

In Deuteronomy 16:13-15 its name is given as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (possibly referring to the use of booths in the vineyard during the vintage). It is to last 7 days, to be observed at the central sanctuary, and to be an occasion of rejoicing. In the ‘year of release,’ i.e. the sabbatical year, the Law is to be publicly read ( Deuteronomy 31:10-13 ). The dedication of Solomon’s Temple took place at this feast; in the account given in 1 Kings 8:66 the seven-day rule of Deut. is represented as being observed; but the parallel narrative of 2 Chronicles 7:8-10 assumes that the rule of Lev. was followed.

In Leviticus 23:34 ff. and Numbers 29:12-39 we find elaborate ordinances. The feast is to begin on 15th Tishri (October), and to last 8 days, the first and the last being days of holy convocation. The people are to live in booths improvised for the occasion. A very large number of offerings is ordained; on each of the first 7 days 2 rams and 14 Iambs, and a goat as a sin-offering; and successively on these days a diminishing number of bullocks: 13 on the 1st day, 12 on the 2nd, and so on till the 7th, when 7 were to be offered. On the 8th day the special offerings were 1 bullock, 1 ram, 7 lambs, and a goat as a sin-offering.

We hear in Ezra 3:4 of the observance of this feast, but are not told the method. The celebration in Nehemiah 8:16 followed the regulations of Lev., but we are expressly informed that such had not been the case since Joshua’s days. Still, the feast was kept in some way, for Jeroboam instituted its equivalent for the Northern Kingdom in the 8th month ( 1 Kings 12:32-33 ).

2. Character of the feast . It was the Jewish harvest-home, when all the year’s produce of corn, wine, and oil had been gathered in; though no special offering of the earth’s fruits was made, as was done at the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. (The reason was perhaps a desire to avoid the unseemly scenes of the Canaanite vintage-festival, by omitting such a significant point of resemblance; cf. Judges 9:27 .) It was also regarded as commemorating the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness. It was an occasion for great joy and the giving of presents; It was perhaps the most popular of the national festivals, and consequently the most generally attended. Thus Zechariah 14:16 names as the future sign of Judah’s triumph the fact that all the world shall come up yearly to Jerusalem to keep this festival.

3. Later customs . In later times novel customs were attached to the observance. Such were the daily procession round the altar, with its sevenfold repetition on the 7th day; the singing of special Psalms; the procession on each of the first 7 days to Siloam to fetch water, which was mixed with wine in a golden pitcher, and poured at the foot of the altar while trumpets were blown (cf. John 7:37 ); and the illumination of the women’s court in the Temple by the lighting of the 4 golden candelabra (cf. John 8:12 ). The 8th day, though appearing originally as a supplementary addition to the feast, came to be regarded as an integral part of it, and is so treated in 2Ma 10:6 , as also by Josephus.

A. W. F. Blunt.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tabernacles, Feast of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​t/tabernacles-feast-of.html. 1909.
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