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B'Midbar/Numbers 29:20 Then on the third day: eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs one year old without defect (NASB)
The sages of old and many commentators since see the bulls that are offered during the feast of Succot as sacrifices offered on behalf of the nations (Rashi, b.Talmud Succah 55b). All the proto-nations of the world are listed in B'resheet 10 as the world is re-populated after the flood - the descendants of Noach. Israel here fulfills its mandate, given when G-d said, "you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Shemot 19:6, NASB). The final form of this picture is drawn by the prophet Z'kharyah when he sees, "everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up every year to worship the King, Adonai-Tzva'ot, and to keep the festival of Sukkot" (Z'kharyah 14:16, CJB).
Hirsch, on the other hand, sees a different picture in the numbers of musaf (extra) offerings that are brought during the time of Sukkot. He splits the offerings into two groups: one of which has seven bulls, one ram and seven lambs for each of the seven days, and the other which also has a ram and seven lambs for each day, but has a decreasing number of bulls from six to zero during the feast. He suggests that the first group, having seven bulls each day, represents Israel - the number seven usually being associated with HaShem and His completeness. The second group, starting with six bulls - six being the number associated with man - represents the nations. Hirsch then explains that under the steady influence of Israel, the nations gradually decrease in their independence and rebellion, finally having their man/earth nature suppressed in their obedience to G-d.
Perhaps Rav Sha'ul had this idea in his mind when he spoke of "demolishing arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of G-d; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah" (2 Cor 10:4-5, CJB). Firstly, within our own lives, we bring every thought and desire into submission to Messiah Yeshua, that in ourselves we are completely obedient to Him. Secondly, our witness to and among the nations is to decrease the influence of sin and the devil (Revelation numbers the Anti-Messiah as 666, the epitome of flesh/earth rebellion against G-d; Rev 13:18) and help those around us to submit to G-d's authority and come into His kingdom.
Sukkot, then, is a time to rejoice before G-d and a time to remember the nations and the peoples of of world and to pray that all will soon be under the influence, obedience and, ultimately, blessing of G-d.
Further Study: Ezekiel 39:6-8; Z'kharyah 14:16-21
Application: Although it is difficult to pray in an abstract way for "the nations", we can each start by praying for our neighbours, the people we work with, our local councils and those in authority over us. The witness of our lives is often more effective than our words.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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