In this article I want to talk about Sukkot and its meaning for Christians.

To put this in context, let me start by recalling that in the Torah, that is in the first five books of the Bible, God gave the Israelites, through Moses, seven holy days, seven feasts, to celebrate each year.


These seven feasts are divided into the spring feasts and the fall feasts.

Among the spring feasts is

  • Passover,
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread,
  • Feast of First Fruits, and
  • Shavuot (also known as Feast of Weeks or Pentecost).


Among the fall feasts is

  • Feast of Trumpets (in our times celebrated in Israel as Rosh HaShanah or the beginning of new year),
  • Yom Kippur (also called Day of Atonement), and
  • Sukkot (also called Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths).


The feasts established by the Lord are called in the Scriptures God’s Appointed Times. They were called that way because they were meant to function as a special time of encounter with God.

Seven times a year, in addition to the weekly observance of the seventh day – Sabbath, the Israelites were to stop, put aside the affairs of their daily lives, and seek God, seek Him in a special way, in accordance with the nature and meaning of the holiday.


However, these holidays, these feasts, were also important for other reasons. Going beyond the historical context of these feasts, which is connected to the history of the Jewish people, mainly to the time of Exodus, in them God encoded His plan of salvation for mankind.

The spring feasts are directly connected to Jesus’ first coming, and the fall feasts to His second coming.


As for the spring holidays, the Passover was a prophetic picture of death of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as Lamb of God. Jesus died on the cross on the day and even the hour when the paschal sacrifices began in the temple.

On the same day, after sunset, that is with the beginning of 15 Nisan, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Feast of Matzah began. That evening, when Jewish families ate unleavened bread during the holiday supper, the body of Jesus, the sinless bread from heaven, lay in the tomb. [1] Jesus body was laid in the tomb on this day to fulfil this feast, the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Feast of the First Fruits was a prophetic picture of Jesus’ resurrection. On the first Sunday of that Passover Week, when the high priest was entering the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and the Mt. of Olives, precisely at sunrise, to harvest the first stalks of grain coming out of the ground, Jesus raised from the dead as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” as it is written in 1 Corinthians 15:20. [2]

In its prophetic perspective, next holiday, Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) foreshadowed the birth of the Church. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, on the day of Shavuot holiday, the Church was born, embracing both Jews and Gentiles, as we can read about it in the Book of Acts.


And as I said, the remaining three feasts are believed to indicate the return of the Lord and the events of the end times.

Feast of Trumpets is believed by some to points out to the day the Lord will appear in the clouds with the blast of God’s trumpet, as it is written in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is believed prophetically announcing the day when the Lord will descend to earth, saving the Jewish nation from destruction at the hands of the Antichrist and ending the current evil age.

And finally, Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, points to the Millennial Kingdom, when the Messiah will reign as king over all the earth.


So, let us now concentrate on the feast of tabernacles, and explore its broader meaning.



The name of this feast, in English Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, in Hebrew Sukkot, comes from the commandment that God gave to the Israelites to live for seven days in a year in tabernacles, booths, or sukkot (which is plural form of sukkah), that is tents-like shelters.

In Leviticus chapter 23, verses 33-36 and 40-43, we can read the following words:

(33) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, (34) “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. (35) ‘On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. (36) ‘For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. (…) (40) ‘And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. (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.’”


First. These temporary shelters, built of bushes and leaves, were intended to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt and God’s faithfulness during their 40-year stay in the desert.

We must remember that those people abandoned their homes in Egypt and were consequently forced to wander in the desert for years. Constantly moving from place to place, they could not live in houses, so they built these temporary shelters from what they could find in the desert.

The entire family lived in these temporary shelters, which had to be constantly assembled and disassembled before continuing their journey.

Additionally, these shelters did not provide 100% protection. Wild animals, snakes, spiders could sneak in and harm people. There were also strong winds, sandstorms, and things like that. All of this could bring destruction to their lives.


The word of God says that “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us …”, as it is said in 1 Corinthians 10:11.

So, what is the lesson in all of this for us?


First of all, their time in the desert is a picture of our life on this earth.

Apostle Paul, in his second letter to Corinthians, in chapter 5, seems to compare our lives to living in a tent, that is a tabernacle, booth, or sukkah, saying “if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Also Peter, in his first letter, speaks of our physical bodies as a tent (1 Peter 1.13).

Just as the Israelites walked through the desert, we too are on a pilgrimage through this life.

Everything we surround ourselves with is temporary, impermanent, like those tents in the desert.

In this life we toil, we work for money, building and improving our lives. However, in all this we must remember that everything we have is unstable, uncertain, and cannot provide us with 100% protection.

We must remember that, just as in the case of the Israelites in the desert, in our case, the one who really protects us is God.


Second. Among their tents – that is tabernacles, booths – stood and moved with them the tent – the Tabernacle (hebr. miszkan / מִשְׁכַּן). – in which dwelt God.

Just as God dwelt among them during their 40 years of wandering, moving with them, so too, the same God dwells among us and in us, now, by the Holy Spirit, who was given to those who entrusted their lives to God’s care. We must remember that we are not alone, and we do not have to go through this life alone.

It was God who guided them on their journey, and in our case, we must allow God to lead us through our lives.


Third. The commandment to build tents – that is tabernacles, booths, sukkot – and live in them coincided with the end of the harvest in Israel.

The economy of ancient Israel was entirely agrarian. The life of the Israelites at that time was dependent on periods of harvest and crop failure. A fruitful year was a reason for joy and gratitude to God for His provision. At the end of the agrarian year, when the crops were gathered from the fields to the granaries, the people could rest after long hard work.

So, God gave the Israelites these seven days at the end of the harvest to put aside their daily cares and worries and rejoice before Him, thanking Him for the provision He gives them.

So, already in the Promised Land, having houses, once a year all the Israelites were commanded to go to Jerusalem, to the Temple of God, and again live in tents for seven days.

Everyone had to bring a gift to God, appropriate to the blessing that God had bestowed upon him in a given year.

While in Jerusalem, for seven days, the Israelites were to rejoice before God, thanking Him for His provision and blessing over their lives.

There is a lesson for us here as well. We too must remember that everything we have in this life comes from God. He is the one who provides us with everything we need in this life if we stay faithful to Him.

There are many things we should be grateful to God for in our lives. And this holiday is perfect time to express gratitude to God for His care and protection over us.

So, living in these temporary shelters was a reminder not so much of the hardships that the nation of Israel endured during their sojourn in the wilderness, but of the protection, care, and provision that God provided them with during that time.


Sukkot in the Time of Christ

It is important to say something about the feast of Sukkot in the time of Jesus.

As I already mentioned, the Jewish people were required to go up to Jerusalem for Sukkot.

Jesus, like every other Jew, was obliged to go to Jerusalem for the Feast, what is described in the Gospel of John, chapter 7.

However, the background to the events John describes is the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.

Verse 1 clearly states that Jesus deliberately stayed away from Jerusalem and Judea because “the Jews” sought to kill Him. That is why He was staying in Galilee.

In John 7, we also read about Jesus’ brothers provoking Him to go to Jerusalem for the feast, knowing that He would encounter problems there.

Jesus’ brothers clearly did not understand who Jesus was and did not fully accept the way He lived.


And so, John writes

John 7:2-5

2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.

3 His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.

4 “For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”

5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.


From the New Testament we know that Jesus became very well-known among people in Israel. Wherever he appeared, he attracted crowds, including those who expected healing or deliverance from Him, but also those to whom He was a threat and therefore wanted to kill Him.


In John 7:10-14 we read that

10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?”

12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.”

13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.


As we can see, the way people perceived Jesus varied greatly. Despite the signs and wonders that accompanied His ministry, many Jews found Jesus’ teaching difficult to accept.

Jesus’ teaching was difficult for them because it often conflicted with their understanding of the Scriptures and the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders.

However, we see Jesus there, at Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.


By the time of Jesus, two ceremonies emerged that became part of this holiday, although they did not originate from the Bible.

These ceremonies were described in the Mishnah. Mishnah constitutes the main part of the Talmud and is the collection of the Jewish oral traditions, written down between the late 2nd to the early 3rd century CE. These traditions are considered by rabbis to be written Oral Torah. [3]

But as I said the two ceremonies described in the Mishnah as relating to the feast of tabernacles were:

  • the ceremony of the Water Drawing, and
  • the ceremony of the Illumination of the Temple.



The first ceremony was called the ceremony of the water drawing, in Hebrew – Nisuch Ha-Mayim (ניסוך המים) and is rooted in the agricultural character of the feast.

The Israelites, relying on the God for rain, developed a ceremony in which they called on Him to provide heavenly waters for their crops.

Every day for seven days during the feast, the priests descended the steep hill from the Temple to the to the Pool of Siloam near Jerusalem.

When they reached the Pool of Siloam, they filled jugs and pitchers with water and returned to the Temple through the Water Gate.

To enter the inner court, the priests ascended 15 steps, on each sang one Psalm, from Psalm 120 to 134. In the Hebrew text, each of these psalms begins with the phrase A Song of Ascents because the priests sang them as they ascended these steps.

Upon entering the inner court, they poured out the water at the base of the altar, and tremendous rejoicing followed.

As the Mishnah states: “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the place of the water drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life”. [4]


So, we see that it was a very joyful ceremony.

Why were they so happy?

This ceremony, apart from being a prayer of supplication to God for rains, had another, deeper meaning.

According to rabbinic interpretation, this symbolized the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel in the last days.

So, this joy was related to this hope.


Jesus’s Response to the Water-Drawing Ceremony is described in John 7  beginning from the verse 37.

John 7:37

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Here we see Jesus announcing the above words about Himself to the crowds gathered for the ceremony of the water drawing.

As I already said, the rabbis interpreted the outpouring of the water on the seventh day of Sukkot as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel (Isa 12:3), and this explains Jesus’s response in verses 37-38.

Like the rabbis, Jesus also identified the outpouring of the water with the Holy Spirit, therefore acknowledging a future national fulfilment of this prophecy.

However, when Jesus cried out these words: “he who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”, He tried to tell them two things:

  • first, that the Holy Spirit will be given to those who believe in Him;
  • second, that the outpouring of the spirit predicted for the future could become a reality in their own lives.


What Jesus was saying here was consistent with His entire teaching on the Kingdom of God.

According to Jesus, the Kingdom of God, which was to come at the end of the age, already became available to people with His first coming.

The same applied to the promise of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, who was promised for the end times, became available to people, as if before time, with the first coming of Christ.

Therefore Jesus tells them that those who believe in Him will receive the Holy Spirit at the present time.


Just as the water from the Pool of Siloam flawed from within, the rivers of living water will flow from within those who would believe in Jesus.

In other words, this water from the Pool of Siloam represented the Holy Spirit, who was promised to those who believe on the Messiah.


It is important to note that at this point the Gospel narrative, the permanent indwelling of the Spirit was still future: “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn 7:39b).

Therefore, the beginning of the fulfilment of this promise, we see only in Acts 2.

After the death of Jesus and His ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit will descend on the apostles and become available to everyone who believes.

And in this reality, we live today, between the first and second coming of the Messiah. The living water that Jesus spoke about, that is the Holy Spirit, is available to every person today, if they accept Jesus into their lives as Messiah and Saviour.


Therefore, the proper application of the ceremony of the water drawing is an individual fulfilment of Sukkot in the life of a believer, not the national one as understood by rabbis.

The joy of this holiday is related to the joy that results from the presence of God, through the Holy Spirit, in the life of a believer.



Another ceremony of the feast of Tabernacles, the ceremony of the Illumination of the Temple, also had its source in Jewish tradition.

At the conclusion of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests descended to the Court of the Women of the Temple, which was illuminated by huge golden lampstands with four golden bowls on the top of each of them.

Four ladders, which according to the Talmud were 75 feet high (about 23 meters), allowed four young man to climb up to the bowls and fill them with oil.

Mishnah says that “There was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that was not illuminated by the light of the place of the water-drawing.” [5]

According to rabbinic interpretation, the kindling of the lampstands represented the Shekinah glory, the visible manifestation of God’s presence.

Furthermore, the rabbis saw a strong connection between the Illumination of the Temple and the Messiah. This idea was probably derived from Zechariah 14:16-21, which prophesied that the feast will be fulfilled by the Messianic kingdom.


Jesus’s Response to the Illumination of the Temple Ceremony

Jesus’s response to the second ceremony of Sukkot, the Illumination of the Temple, is given in John 8:12.

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12)

The meaning of Jesus’ words is that after being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the individual believer is now able to ‘walk in the light’ because he has the light of God within him.


The statement of John 8:12 is illustrated by the account in John 9:1-41 of the man born blind.

1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.

2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”


This event described here most likely still takes place during the Feast of Tabernacles or alternatively on the eighth day, which was called: “Eighth Day of the Solemn Assembly” (in hebr. Shemini Atzeret), considered by some to be an independent celebration immediately following Sukkoth. [6]

After Jesus announced to the crowd that He was the light of the world, a long discussion began with the Pharisees and the people gathered there, which ended in verse 59 of the eighth chapter, where it is said that “then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple”.

Then we see His encounter with the blind man, where Jesus repeats the words He said at the Illumination of the Temple Ceremony, that ‘He is the light of the world’. So, in this situation we see a direct reference to Jesus’ earlier words.

6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.

7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.” He said, “I am he.”


Notice that Jesus sends this blind man to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. It could take about 15 minutes for a healthy person to reach this pool. So why does Jesus send him there? Jesus sends him to the same place where the priests went every day in procession for seven days, carrying water to the temple.

By sending him to the pool of Siloam during this Feast, Jesus demonstrates in this man the truthfulness of His words, that He truly is who He said He was.

John 9:35-41

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.


As we read in John 8:12, during the Illumination of the Temple Ceremony, Jesus announced that He was the light of the world.

This was first illustrated physically in John 9:6-7, when the man born blind moved from the darkness of physical blindness to the light of physical sight.

Here, in John 9:35-41, it is illustrated spiritually in that the man moved from the darkness of sin and spiritual blindness to the light of salvation and spiritual light.

This is the second proper application of Sukkot in this age. Walking in the light of salvation through faith in the Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus Christ.

 As we have seen, against the background of these two ceremonies, Jesus was announcing to the pilgrims at the feast, that His presence among them ushered in the promised messianic age – a time of restoration and forgiveness for the Jewish people.


Jesus tabernacling among men

However, Jesus fulfilled the feast of tabernacles in yet another way.

John wrote:

14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14 TLV) [7]


John is saying here that Jesus was God tabernacling among men.

This word tabernacled is the same word, which was used for the feast of tabernacles and for a tabernacle as booth, or in Hebrew sukkah, that is tents-like house.

As the Temple was a temporary dwelling for the Shekinah, so Jesus, tabernacling among us manifested the glory of God.


Prophetic meaning of Sukkot

Finally, in a few words, I would like to talk about one more meaning, the prophetic meaning of the feast of tabernacles.

Zechariah 14:16-19

16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.


We see from Zechariah’s prophecy that in its ultimate meaning, the Feast of Tabernacles, will be fulfilled by the Messianic kingdom, when the Messiah will reign as king over all the inhabited earth.

As Sukkot was a time of rejoicing following the afflictions of Yom Kippur, so the Messianic Kingdom will be a time of rejoicing following the afflictions of the Great Tribulation and the day of the Lord.

In the Messianic Kingdom, the observance of Sukkot will be obligatory not only for Jews, but for all the nations of the world. Every year, every nation of the world, will have to send a delegation to Jerusalem.

If any nation refuses to go to Jerusalem to keep the feast, upon them there will be no rain. They will have to live through a year-long drought in their area.

On Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), God, in person of His Son, will again “tabernacle” with His people.  He will dwell among us, establishing His Messianic Kingdom of righteousness.


To sum everything up

The main message of this holiday is rejoicing before the Lord, as it is written in Leviticus 23:40 “you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days”.



We should rejoice before God for His presence in our lives and His protection over our lives.



We should rejoice before God for his provision in our lives.



We should rejoice before God for the living water of His spirit and for the light of His salvation in our lives.



We should rejoice before God for the hope of dwelling in God’s Kingdom, under His future rule over the whole earth.



[1] During the Last Supper, Jesus, instituting the Lord’s Supper, explains that the bread is a symbol of his body and the wine is a symbol of his blood, which was shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:26-28).

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

[3] By the way, during His ministry, Jesus was constantly in conflict with the Pharisees and scribes because of their traditions, and it continues to be so to this day. It is because of these traditions, now constituting the content of the Talmud, that the Jews have not yet been able to accept Jesus as their Messiah, except for a few, as was the case in Jesus’ time. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus’ words to the Pharisees that they “nullify the word of God for the sake of their tradition” (Mat 15:6).

[4] b. Sukkah, 5.1; 51a-b

[5] b. Sukkah 51a-b

[6] In Israel, Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”) is also celebrated on the eighth day of Sukkoth, when the yearly cycle of Torah reading is completed and the next cycle is begun.

[7] Messianic Jewish Bible, Tree of Life Version

Obrazek: The Feast of the Tabernacles, 1916 – Marc Chagall –


Written by Artur Pluta


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