Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
Tabernacles, Feast of
TABERNACLES, FEÂST OF.—The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in John 7:2; John 7:37. It was the third and. the most important of the Jewish festivals, requiring the presence of all males at Jerusalem. It began on the 15th of the seventh month, the month Tishri, and in the time of Christ continued for eight days.
In early times it was called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22), a name that testifies to its agricultural origin and character. In the time of the Judges it appears as a Canaanitish festival at Shechem (Judges 9:27) and as an Israelitish festival at Shiloh (Judges 21:19, 1 Samuel 1). It was the occasion that Solomon chose on which to dedicate his Temple (1 Kings 8:2). The date given in this chapter, viz. the seventh month, does not correspond with the date of the completion of the Temple as given in 1 Kings 6:38, and may be a later insertion giving the date of the Feast as fixed later. From the original character of the Festival, it is obvious that no precise date could be fixed at first. The early legislation in Exodus requires its observance, but does not give its date or duration.
The Deuteronomic Code calls it the Feast of Tabernacles, and requires it to be kept seven days, but does not fix a date. It describes it as a day of joy for all, including servant, stranger, and widow (Deuteronomy 16:13 ff.). In accordance with the sweeping centralization of worship of Deuteronomy, it must be kept at Jerusalem, and we may be sure that this change involved very radical alterations in its character.
The Book of Ezekiel significantly assigns it an exact date (Ezekiel 45:25).
The Priests’ Code requires (Leviticus 23:33-43) the people celebrating it to dwell in booths to commemorate the fact that their fathers did likewise of necessity as they came out of Egypt. Sacrifices are prescribed (Numbers 29:12-38), and an eighth day is added. At the time of the promulgation of the Code as the law of the land in post-exilic times, the Feast was kept with the greatest enthusiasm (Nehemiah 8:14 ff.), and as an examination of the Law showed that the dwelling in booths was required, this was done, as an innovation. The early practice had doubtless died out as incongruous with the centralized observance from the time of Deut., but was now restored with a special significance attached to it.
Later Jewish laws added to the regulations, and the Feast was kept at Jerusalem until the destruction of the Temple. Since then it has remained one of the great feasts of the Jews, although the mode of its observance has suffered changes to accord with modified conditions.
One rite which was observed in NT times was the drawing of water from Siloam, and the pouring of it out as a libation in the presence of the people. This Feast was regarded as the appropriate time for special prayer for abundant rain to ensure a plentiful harvest for the ensuing year. Many hold that this rite and custom furnished our Lord the occasion for using the figure of water for the thirsty, in His invitation on the great day of the Feast (John 7:37-38). This may have been the case, even though that particular rite was regularly omitted on the eighth day; but the teaching of Jesus seems to be very different, at least from the original thought of the rite on this Feast of Ingathering. It may be only a natural coincidence that an important part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple on the occasion of this Feast was for answer to prayers for rain, as they should be made statedly thereafter.
Literature.—Art. ‘Tabernacles [Feast of]’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , and in EBi [Note: Bi Encyclopaedia Biblica.] and JE [Note: E Jewish Encyclopedia.] ; Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] i. 145 ff.; cf. Benzinger, Heb. Arch, passim; and the Comm. ad loc.
O. H. Gates.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tabernacles, Feast of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/t/tabernacles-feast-of.html. 1906-1918.