John 7 – Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles

Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the third time in the Gospel of John, this time for the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2) and the Feast of Dedication (10:22).  He spends a significant time in Jerusalem and there is increased opposition to Jesus from the Jews in the city. This will culminate in John 11:57 when the Pharisees decide that they must arrest and execute Jesus.

Feast of TabernaclesThe Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is a week long celebration of the Wilderness period (usually in late September or October, 15-21 Tishri, see Lev 23:34).  In A. D. 32, the feast was celebrated Sept 10-17, the Feast of Dedication is two months later.  Tabernacles is an 8 day pilgrimage in Sept / Oct at the end of the grape harvest, marked by prayers for rain.  By the first century, there were daily processions from the pool of Siloam to the temple to pour out libations on the altar.  The courts of the temple were lit by huge torches, thus we have a combination of the themes of water and light that Jesus uses for the teaching sections.

The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated the time Israel spent in the wilderness but also their entry into the land of Canaan. Just as Passover celebrated the birth of the nation in the Exodus, Tabernacles celebrated the nation’s pristine years in the wilderness, where they learned the name of God, received his Law, where they rebelled against him but also experienced his grace and forgiveness.  The wilderness period culminated in the Conquest, Joshua’s entry into the Land of Canaan and the expulsion of the Canaanites from the Land promised to Abraham and his descendants.

In the prophets, the Exile was described as a long time in the wilderness. Israel was once again facing the punishment of God because of their covenant unfaithfulness.  The Feast of Tabernacles naturally stirred the nation’s hope for a new Joshua who would begin another Conquest of the Land promised to Abraham.  That Jesus is the same name as Joshua ought not be ignored, since Jesus will draw attention to himself as a messianic figure during a Feast dedicated to a remembrance of that first Joshua and the end of the exile in the wilderness.  Perhaps Jesus is the one that will end the long Exile of Israel, now under Roman rule.

Just as he did in the feeding of the 5000, Jesus plays on the imagery of Israel in the wilderness in the feast of Tabernacles in order to draw attention to himself as the one who leads Israel out of the wilderness at the end of her long Exile.

8 thoughts on “John 7 – Jesus and the Feast of Tabernacles

  1. The Old Testament should not be disconnected from the New Testament. The purpose of so many of the stories and experiences of Israel in the Old Testament is to point to the New Testament and the coming of the Messiah. John understands this connection and uses it to display the accuracy of Jesus as the prophesized Messiah. In John 7 we find Jesus back In Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast “celebrated the nation’s pristine years in the wilderness, where they learned the name of God, received his Law, where they rebelled against him but also experienced his grace and forgiveness” (Long, para. 3). Celebrating this wilderness experience often sparked the hope and longing for the coming Messiah who might expel the Romans from Israel, similar to the Canaanites being expelled from the Promise Land (Exod. 23:33). Many of the Jews were oblivious to the fact that Messiah had already come and that His Kingdom was not of this world nor political (John 18:36). The Feast of Tabernacles was also celebrated by the “daily solemn outpouring of water” (Kostenberger, p. 91). This is significant because we find symbolism when Jesus chooses to share on the last day of the festival that He can quench those who are spiritually thirsty with the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Just as they traditionally poured out water onto the altar, Jesus would pour out His Spirit onto those who believe in Him. This feast is a symbol of what has happened but also of what is to come. John makes this clear in his Gospel by presenting Christ as the one who will lead us out of the wilderness, that is, out of this sinful world, to the promised land, His Kingdom.

  2. I have been really enjoying studying and learning about the Feast of Tabernacles this semester and one piece of information I found super eye opening that P Long stated in the blog was, “Tabernacles celebrated the nation’s pristine years in the wilderness, where they learned the name of God, received his Law, where they rebelled against him but also experienced his grace and forgiveness.” I feel like the more I examine this through reading this blog, scripture on it, and hearing about it in class, it seems to have been a time where they reflected and evaluated themselves; to be intentional at looking at their own hearts and examining where they stood spiritually with their relationship with God. The keywords used in that statement are, Learned, Received, Where, and But. They learned who God truly was; not just every Sunday hearing a church sermon or a Sunday school lesson, but deeply and intentionally learning who he was by studying his word, being in communion with him through devoted prayer, mediation, silence, fasting, etc. They received his commands, needs, and his laws. They accepted the laws with not just their minds, but their hearts by applying the teachings to their lives. This was a time where they abandoned the Lord, walked away, but got to see God’s grace come alive and transform them from the inside out. I truly believe the Feast of Tabernacles was a time of restoration. A time to sit, evaluate their hearts, and to allow God to redeem them from the inside out.

  3. The different Jewish Feasts are really interesting. The Feast of Tabernacles is about the time spent in the Wilderness and praying for rain to come. Jesus connects it to Himself by the water they pray for and the light they need. Jesus doesn’t mean He is the rain water coming from the sky they were praying for. He means He is the living water they need and will have if they believe in Him. It’s like when He was talking to the women at the well and He said something along the lines of “I have water to stop you from being thirsty.” He doesn’t mean physically thirsty but spiritually thirsty because of her sin. With Jesus we can stop giving in to our sin and turn away from it because we have Jesus. Jesus is also the light of the world because He is the Son of God. He is the Light at the end of the tunnel when going through something dark and terrible. He is always with us, even at the end. He will never go away. When going through a tunnel, even when it seems to last forever, you know that you will get out at some point and Jesus is Who is at the end waiting.

  4. It is very interesting to note the context of Jesus at the Feast of the Tabernacles. Understanding the feast and its history help us understand the significance of Jesus’ words to the people. These people are gathering to remember the Israelites being led from the wilderness, and in doing so they hoped for a new Joshua to lead them to the next Promised Land- the Messiah. And in this story, here was the Messiah that they had come together to celebrate, and yet they did not recognize him. Why didn’t they recognize him? Perhaps because of his humanness, or because of his Galilean origins. Here we also see Jesus use the analogy of water to speak to the people. Considering the context of his teaching, that this festival was taking place to celebrate the story of the Israelites being led out of the wilderness, it is fitting that Jesus would use an example that is analogous to that story. Jesus tells the people that from him come streams of living water- it seems likely that Jesus used such a phrase to refer to God providing water from the rock in the desert. The people were undoubtedly familiar with this story, and they knew what Jesus was claiming. This left them with a choice- to follow, or to reject him. They were in the same position as their ancestors, face to face with God and with the choice to follow him. It would seem that the pillar of smoke made for an easier choice than a Galilean man in sandals.

  5. God has a neat way of creating double meanings throughout history. Here in the Feast of Tabernacles, we see one such expression, pointing to the coming Christ. All of it points to a Messiah, the remembrance of exile, the need for a Conquerer to bring victory, the unfaithfulness of the people, even Jesus’ name. Expanding from this one example, we see numerous examples of this double meaning pointing to Jesus, the passover lamb, the nature and principles of the Law, and even at the beginning, God promising to crush the serpents head (Genesis 3:15). This brings up the question, how does God use us now to point to Christ? Naturally, He has to be doing this today, but it can be often hard to see. God crafts our lives to be roadsigns pointing to the coming Messiah, our sins, our exile while in this life, and our hope in Jesus.

  6. It interesting how God seemed to emulate some of the same miracles that were done throughout the Bible. For instance Jesus had performed many miracles that had been seemed fairly similar in previous texts. As Kostenberg said it is believed that the purpose of feed those 5000 was to fulfill the symbolisms inherent in this festival. this led me to believe that John was trying to highlight this specifically to showing similarities between the feeding of the 5000 and the feast of the tabernacle to show the reader that Jesus is the Messiah .subsequently John does great job depicting Jesus as the one who is to come. In fact all throughout John each miracle point to Jesus as being the messiah and the person who would fulfill the prophecies. A great example of this would be John 6:14-15 where John breaks down the prophecy of the Messiah who is a political figure who would restore Israel to its former glory. I find it interesting that Kostenberger believed that John dispels this notion of a primary political Messiah In two ways. The first notion that he shows is Jesus withdraws. Secondly John shows Jesus’s statement to pilate about the kingdom of God which pointed to his kingdom that is in heaven and not on earth hence giving the reader clarity on the prophecy. Undoubtedly John gave great detail to point us to Jesus as being the messiah and the repeating Tabernacle was one of many great examples John used to show us that Jesus was the one to come fulfill the Word.

  7. Before this class and reading Kostenberger, I had a hard time comprehending the difference between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication. I soon realized how nationalistic the people of Israel are and how proud they are to be Israelites. Rightly so. In John 6:1-22, John uses themes and imagery in his storytelling that allude to stories in the Old Testament. Same thing applies here as well when the people are celebrating the Feast of Tabernacle. This feast was the people celebrating God’s provision while the people were in the wilderness. I think it is ironic that the previous chapter talked about well over 5000 people being hungry and Jesus providing food for them. Jesus shows Himself again during this big feast where He boldly announces that whoever believes in Him will have living water flowing within them (John 7:37-38). Again, John uses themes to relate this event to that of the Old Testament. The verse for the Feast of Tabernacles is Isaiah 12:3 which talks about drawing water from the wells of salvation and here Jesus is offering living water; He fulfills the symbolism of the Feast of the Tabernacles. Another link between the Old Testament and New Testament is that during this feast the people are reminiscing how Joshua led people into the promised land, Canaan. Now Jesus, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua, which translates to Joshua in English, is offering life to the people.

  8. It is interesting to see how Jesus returning to Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles shows the symbolism and brings meaning to the events in John. It’s fascinating to see how these feasts reveal his identity as the Messiah. Before this class, I never knew that Jesus and Joshua were the same name. This similarity helps show the comparison of Jesus as a leader who can lead Israel out of oppression and wilderness just like Joshua. The images of water and light during the feasts are also important to consider. It is a reminder that Jesus is the source of living water and the light of the world. This emphasizes his divinity and his ability to provide for our spiritual needs and to be the source of our salvation. Despite this, the Jewish leaders and people did not understand the Messianic prophecies or recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They were waiting for the Messiah to come and yet they did not recognize him when He was right in front of them. Instead, they planned to harm Him and that he was blaspheming. John uses allusions and symbolism to show his readers who Jesus truly is and the purpose of His ministry.

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