The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long fall festival commemorating the forty-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. The word Sukkot means “booths.” This year Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles begins in the evening of Wednesday, October 8, 2014.
The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. John 1:14
Many scholars believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles.The Hebrew word for “stable” is called a sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).
In John 1:14, the word “dwelled” is literally “tabernacled” in the Greek – and this comes as the climax to John’s version of the story of Christ’s incarnation.
Was the Birth of Christ during the Feast of Tabernacles?
To the Israelites the Feast of Tabernacles depicted their forty years of wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Peter and Paul referred to our physical bodies as tabernacles, or temporary dwellings (II Corinthians 5:1-4, II Peter 2:13-14).
Matthew Henry states:
It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday [Feast of Tabernacles]; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the feast of tabernacles, Zec.14:16.
The gospel of Christ teaches us to dwell in tabernacles, to sit loose to this world, as those that have here no continuing city, but by faith, and hope and holy contempt of present things, to go out to Christ without the camp, Heb. 13:13, 14.
When Was Jesus Born?
The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. We know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week.
When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abia, when Zekharya was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18 (Killian n.d.). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).
We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev. Kislev 25 is Hanukkah.
Was the “light of the world” conceived on the festival of lights?
Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).
During the Feast of Tabernacles
During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. They may have been given shelter in a sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple Feast (Luke 2:1).
We know our Messiah was made manifest into a temporary body when He came to Earth. Is it possible He also was put into a temporary dwelling? The fields would have been dotted with sukkoths during this harvest time to temporary shelter animals. The Hebrew word for “stable” is called a sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).
Joseph and Mary took the child and fled to Egypt and remained there until they were told by God that Herod was dead. Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into Jerusalem forty days from His birth for Mary’s purification and the child’s dedication (according to Torah this had to be done within forty days of the birth of a male child—not doing so is considered a sin).
This indicates that Herod died within the same forty days, because as long as Herod was alive, they could not appear at the temple. (According to Josephus’ calculations, Herod’s death occurred during the autumn in the fourth year before the Common Era 4 BCE).
Later in His life, Yeshua celebrated His birthday on a mountain with three of His disciples. In contrast to birthday parties, such as Herod’s, where people were killed for entertainment, His was a celebration of life. On the Festival of Succoth, Moshe and EliYahu (Elijah), from centuries past, representatives of the Torah and the Prophets, appeared and talked with Yeshua.
One disciple, Kepha (Peter), suggested building three succoth for Yeshua, Moshe, and EliYahu, because it was required for the festival, but he did not understand that these three were fulfilling that which the festival symbolized: they were dwelling in their succoth (temporary tabernacles) of flesh, awaiting their eternal resurrection temples (Killian n.d.)
A number of Christians are celebrating Christ’s birth during the Feast of Tabernacles, complete with decorations and lights on the sukkah, and music celebrating Jesus’ birth.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus Celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles
The Festival of Sukkot is the background for chapters 7–8 of John’s Gospel.
Jesus taught in the temple on the Feast of Tabernacles.
Although His disciples had not expected Jesus to attend the feast, the vast majority of the pilgrims from afar who had heard of Him entertained the hope that they might see Him at Jerusalem.
They were not disappointed, for on several occasions He taught in Solomon’s Porch and elsewhere in the temple courts.
These teachings were really the official or formal announcement of the divinity of Jesus to the Jewish people and to the whole world. Jesus risked His life to go to the Feast of Tabernacles, but the audacious boldness of Jesus in publicly appearing in Jerusalem overawed his enemies; they were not prepared for such a daring challenge.
On the last day and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles (the day the rabbis poured the water) Jesus stood (calling special attention to his message) and proclaimed Himself the very fountain of living water in John 7:37-38.