Tonight begins the week-long Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). I mention Sukkot in “Overview of the Seven Jewish Feasts”–consistently the most-read post on this blog since it appeared in 2012. https://hiddeninjesus.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/overview-of-the-seven-jewish-feasts/?wref=tp
The Lord ordained the seven feasts to mark the dates of the most important events in what would become history, especially Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. If Jesus had been born on a feast day, which one would it be? Hands down, he would have been born on Sukkot.
The Hebrew word Moses used in instituting the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths is סֻכָּה (sukkah) and means a tent or other temporary shelter. Jews spend Sukkot in booths symbolizing the tents their ancestors inhabited during their 40 years of wandering from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. It is the most joyous of the seven feasts commanded by the Lord.
The Greek Scriptures introduce Jesus using the Greek equivalent of this word for temporary shelter: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Word [Jesus] became flesh, and pitched his tent among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten with the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1 and 14, Greek interlinear Bible)
The Greek verb used here for “pitched his tent” is σκηνόω (skénoó), also translated “dwelt” or “tabernacled.” This “Word,” the self-revealing God, is not an object, an inanimate force, or an abstract idea but a person. He came to us at a point in history in a human body, as one of us. He was “Immanuel”–God with us–in the first century in the same way that He was “God with our ancestors” in the Tabernacle they carried through the wilderness 2,000 years earlier.
Every Sukkot, devout Jews make shelters of wood, canvas or aluminum siding with roofs of organic materials like bamboo poles, branches and palm fronds. Often there is a table inside for family meals during the feast week.
In Genesis 33:17 “sukkah” refers to an enclosure for livestock, a stable. A sukkah bears a striking resemblance to the Christian manger scene, with its 4 wooden pillars and perhaps 2-3 walls, also containing livestock. Here, too, the focal point in the scene is the place for food–in this case, a meal for lowly animals.
And [the virgin Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son [Jesus] and wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a feeding trough, because there was no lodging available for them. (Luke 2:7, combined translations)
We believe Jesus was born in a stable because this Greek word for an animal’s “feeding trough” is φάτνη (phatné), from pateomai (to eat) and means a manger, crib (for fodder), or stall. (Our English word “crib” has a highly appropriate double meaning.)
Temporary lodging. Lodging in a stable, in the very manger where livestock munched their hay, the humblest of all humble places for the new-born King, the Bread of Life and Living Water, to lie. (Mary and Joseph must have marveled at how literally Jesus’ Father fulfilled the requirements of Sukkot!)
December is not an option for Jesus’ birthday because shepherds would not have been out with their flocks in the fields in winter. Looking for a more likely date, the Feast of Tabernacles stands out.
So tonight, as pious Jews begin their celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles–the Season of Rejoicing–Christians can celebrate the fulfillment of that Feast, the Messiah’s tenting himself in flesh and tabernacling with us for 33 years.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!
More on Sukkot:
What is the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths/Sukkot? https://www.gotquestions.org/Feast-of-Tabernacles.html
Judaism 101: Sukkot http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm
More on Sukkot and the birth of Jesus: