And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
This was the last of the great annual festivals of the Hebrews. It was a season of great joyfulness. Let us notice -
I. THE REASONS OF ITS APPOINTMENT.
1. It was to assure them of God's return to dwell with them.
(1) This reason is not given in the text, but may be gathered from the history. The commission to build the tabernacle of witness, which had been suspended in consequence of their rebellion, was renewed to Moses in the mount. When he brought them these good tidings, he directed them to construct booths, for they were to abide in their present encampment until the work should be accomplished.
(2) In due time the Shechinah possessed the tabernacle. This glorious event foreshadowed the sublime mystery of the incarnation (comp. John 1:14). How wonderful is that grace of the gospel according to which believers become the shrines of Deity! (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
2. It was to remind their children that their fathers camped in the desert.
(1) The condition of Israel in the wilderness described the Christian in his journey through the world in quest of the heavenly Canaan.
(2) The dwelling in booths exhibited the changeful and. unsettled nature of earthly things (see Hebrews 11:9). This fact is obvious; yet we need to be reminded of it.
(3) The Hebrews dwelling happily in Canaan were not to forget the humble state of their fathers. Prosperity leads us to forget the day of humility; therefore this Divine institution recurring annually to counteract that tendency. In the review of the barbarity of our ancestors, we may feel more grateful to God for the blessings of civilization.
3. It was to be a yearly national harvest thanksgiving.
(1) This is here specified in the note of time, viz. "when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land" (verse 39). The vintage as well as the harvest was then gathered in (see Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:13). The goodness with which God crowns the year should ever be celebrated by us with grateful hearts.
(2) In Exodus the Feast of Tabernacles is called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22). Thus viewed, it was an anticipation of the Resurrection. The general resurrection is that final ingathering at the end of the world's areal year, of which the resurrection of Christ was the firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:20).
(3) This thanksgiving was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, five days after the Day of Atonement, on which the people had afflicted their souls. The joys of salvation follow upon the sorrows of repentance. The joys of the Resurrection rise out of the horrors of Calvary.
II. THE MODE OF ITS CELEBRATION.
1. It began and ended with a holy convocation.
(1) The first day, perhaps the fourteenth day of the seventh month, the eve of the feast, was kept as a sabbath from servile work. God should be served in our everyday employments; yet must there be cessation from those employments for his more especial service. Great importance is attached to social worship in Holy Scripture.
(2) The eighth day also was a sabbath. This was distinguished as" that great day of the feast" (see John 7:37). Upon it the fall round of sacrifices were offered (verse 37). On this day also the people of God returned to their houses, and so celebrated their entrance into Canaan after the toils of the wilderness, and anticipated the rest of heaven. The freedom from servile work on this day showed that at the last day all toil will terminate in the glorious rest of eternity.
(3) This was the day on which "Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst," etc. (John 7:37, 38). The occasion appears to have been that of the priest's pouring out as a libation water which he had drawn from the pool of Siloam in a golden flagon. This ceremony was not prescribed in the Law. Jesus calls off attention from human ceremonies to himself.
2. On the fifteenth day they gathered the boughs for their booths (verse 40). (l) This employment had its obvious economic use. They needed the shelter which their tabernacles afforded.
(2) But there was a religious import in what they did; and the trees were emblematical. The thick shady trees, such as the oak or beech, afforded shelter and protection, and suggested the protection and shelter of the covenant of God. The" palm" was an emblem of victory (Revelation 7:9). The "willows of the brook" represented the thriving condition of the happy (Isaiah 44:4). The olive was a symbol of peace (see Nehemiah 8:15). When Jesus proved himself to be" the Resurrection and the Life" by his miracle upon Lazarus, the people acknowledged it by the boughs of trees (John 12:13).
3. Sacrifices were offered which were reduced in number each succeeding day.
(1) (For the account of the sacrifices, see Numbers 29:12-38.)
(2) Could the reduction in the number be intended to foreshow that the typical sacrifices were destined to vanish away? Jacob seems to have anticipated this feast on his entering into Canaan (see Genesis 33:17). Anticipations of the Law, as well as of the gospel, are often seen in the history of the patriarchs. After the plague upon the enemies of Jerusalem in the last days of the Gentiles, the remnant will turn to the Lord, and keep the Feast of Tabernacles (see Zechariah 14:16). The gospel teaches us now to go out to Christ without the camp. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,