What is the Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles?

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Leviticus 23:41-43 New King James Version (NKJV)

41 You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’”

I’ve often wondered  what could be the meaning of this Jewish feast. We know that the feasts all picture a particular truth that God wanted the Israelites to see; we also know that they all have a second, deeper, spiritual meaning and will be finally fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ. So the meaning of this feast has to be something more than just a reminder to the Jewish people that when God brought them up out of Egypt they lived in booths.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I was reading an article that made the statement that the Feast of Tabernacles would be the only one of the feasts still celebrated in the Millennial Kingdom. Is that the truth? I don’t know, and that’s not what I wish to explore in this post. But first we need to look at just what is meant by this word “booths” or “tabernacles”.

The Hebrew word is transliterated “cukkah” and pronounced sük·kä’.  Strong’s number H5521 if you would care to look it up. Most Bible versions I checked translate this as “booths”. In the King James Version it occurs 31 times and is translated 12 times as “tabernacle”, 11 times as “booth”, 5 times as “pavilion”, 1 time as “cottage”, 1 time as “covert”, and 1 time as “tents”. The actual meaning of the word is “a rude or temporary shelter.” (Blue Letter Bible)

So what are these booths? For all intensive purposes I think we could say these are probably tents of one form or another. At any rate, we know they are temporary shelters.

So how could this be related to anything that our Lord Jesus did? Well, let’s take a look at a few scriptures. First let’s look at John 1:14:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)

OK, so Jesus (the Word) became flesh and lived among us – made his dwelling among us. There’s our word, but in Greek this time, transliterated skēnoō. It means to live in a tabernacle, or tent. (Blue Letter Bible) Jesus became flesh (became a human being, took on a human body) and pitched his tent among us. But more than just pitching a tent, God the second person (Jesus) put on a temporary shelter (his human body) and lived on earth among us. You get that? John, through the Holy Spirit, is saying that God became a man and lived here on earth!

Let’s look at another short passage, this time from 1 John:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Here John is testifying to the same truth we read in the previous verses, that God came to earth and became a man, and this time he adds that we (the Apostles and others alive at the time) have seen Him, we have heard Him speak, we have even touched Him. We testify that He is real, and that He is the eternal God.

John is saying that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. And that is what the Feast of Tabernacles is looking forward to — the incarnation — the coming to earth of the living God, putting on a temporary shelter, and dwelling among us, and doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

While the Jews may deny this, and claim that the only purpose of the feast is to remind them that God made them dwell in temporary shelters, or tents, during the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt, I think this may be the real meaning of the feast.