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Vayikra/Leviticus 23:41 And you shall celebrate it as a feast to Adonai, seven days in the year ...
The feast of Sukkot is to be a time of great rejoicing. The text of this verse uses a common Hebrew technique to emphasise that: the first word - here translated "and you shall celebrate" - comes from the root , a geminate verb1 with three connected meanings. According to Davidson, the first is "to dance", relating the behaviour of the Amalekites who were "eating and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil that they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah" (1 Samuel 30:16, NASB); the second is "to reel or be giddy", describing seamen or mariners in storm at sea "They reeled and staggered like a drunken man" (Psalm 107:27, NASB). Its most common meaning, however, is "to celebrate a feast" and it is used here - and this is the Hebrew technique: to use a verb and a noun from the same root - with the noun , "a feast or festival", for emphasis. Literally, the two words should be translated either "And you shall feast a feast" or "And you shall celebrate a celebration", but in English it reads better "And you shall celebrate a feast".
The phrase - literally, seven of days - is the third occurrence within as many verses. Verse 39 contains the injunction to "celebrate the feast of the L-RD seven days" (ESV), verse 40 adds "you shall rejoice before the L-RD your G-d seven days" (ESV); verse 42 then brings the sequence to an end with "You shall dwell in booths for seven days" (ESV).Nachmanides comments that the meaning of the whole section is: "You shall keep the feast of the Great Name for the seven days of creation", thus connecting the feast - also known as the Feast of the Gentiles because of the seventy bulls sacrificed during the seven days on behalf of the seventy proto-nations of the world (see B'resheet chapter 10) - with creation when all mankind was represented in Adam and Eve. Although the lulav and etrog are taken for all seven days in the Temple, but were not in the provinces, "when the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai ordained that the lulav should be carried in the provinces seven days, as a memorial to the Temple" (m. Sukkah 3:12), to remind everyone that the rejoicing was to go on for seven days even without the Temple.
More than just the Jewish people were to celebrate during the time of Sukkot. Quoting from the psalms - "Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the L-RD, for He is coming; for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness" (Psalm 96:12-13, NASB) - the rabbis said: "the word 'field' stands for the world, 'all that is in it' refers to the world's inhabitants, that the word 'all' before 'trees of the forest' refers both to trees that do bear fruit and those that do not [thus religious and non-religious people, those of Israel and those of the nations]; that 'coming' used twice refers to Yom Teruah (Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Atonement), because the L-rd will come to judge: both the world and its peoples" (Pesikta de Rab Kahana 27:4). All the people are to exult and sing to the L-rd because He will judge both groups righteously and faithfully.
Our rejoicing - whether Jew or Gentile - is to last for the full seven days of the festival and is to be focussed upon the coming of the King, because we know that when He comes, He will judge the world. That is to say, He will set everything in order, He will right all wrongs and in the words of the prophet: "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore" (Isaiah 9:7, NASB). Since Yeshua was probably born at or close to the feast of Sukkot, thus marking His first coming to set in hand or announce the judgement of the world, a number of believers think that Yeshua's second coming will be at the same time of year - the autumn festivals - to return as King in order to actually complete that judgement. Various groups have their own opinions about when that is going to be, with estimates varying from "very soon" or "any day now", through "soon", "quickly" and "can't be much longer", right down to "it's got to be two thousand years sooner now than it was since last time"! No matter which opinion you hold, two things are certain: every year that passes is a year closer to the time when Yeshua will be coming back; and that He will be coming back.
How are we to work that out in practice though? What does that mean for us? Sukkot is a deeply prophetic feast, speaking of the return and reign of the King, aligned by some with the marriage feast of the Lamb, spoken of in the book of Revelation: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7, NASB). The previous verse tells us that this is "the voice of a great multitude" all crying out and praising G-d in heaven and that the bride is that combination of G-d's people down through the ages, made up of Jew and Gentile alike, the "one new man" brought together in unity in Messiah that we should be free from "spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27, NASB). Zechariah's words make it clear that the nations of the world will come up to Jerusalem, the city of the Great King, to celebrate the feast of Sukkot and to worship Him (Zechariah 14:16).
We are the witnesses now, on this earth and in this age, of the truth of what will be happening much sooner than many people think, in a much more real and concrete way than many people want, in a way that will amaze the nations who are conspiring against G-d - "For Your enemies rage, Your foes assert themselves. They plot craftily against Your people, take counsel against Your treasured ones. They say, 'Let us wipe them out as a nation; Israel's name will be mentioned no more'" (Psalm 83:3-5, JPS) - and defeat "the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, ESV) who are driving and inciting the people. It is our job to keep that witness alive on a daily basis and particularly at this time of year, the feast of Sukkot. Jewish and Gentile people should both celebrate the feast of Sukkot together, eating and dwelling in the sukkah, remembering the lessons that G-d taught the Jewish people in their years in the wilderness, learning about being free of dependence on bricks and mortar and proclaiming the truth that Yeshua is coming back soon! "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you!" (Zechariah 9:9, ESV)
Further Study: Psalm 65:5-13; Isaiah 42:10-13
Application: Whether you are Jewish or Gentile, why not find a sukkah near you and celebrate the feast. Take the symbols of Sukkot - the arba minim, the four species - and become a living symbol of what G-d is doing in this brief time before His return, knitting together His ancient people and those from the nations in a prophetic picture of the Kingdom.
1. - A geminate verb is one in which the second and third letters of a three letter root are the same, making the pattern XYY.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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