He Tabernacled Among Us
December 14 04
As "Christmas" approaches, it is time once again to examine the roots of this festival. Most Christians would admit that they don't know the exact day of Yeshua's birth and would say that it doesn't really matter. But what if we can know the day and what if it does matter?
Let's look at a pattern that Yahweh has established already. In Leviticus 23, the LORD gives His people seven festivals or feasts that they are to observe: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks (Pentecost), Rosh Ha Shannah (Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Succot (Tabernacles). A quick study of the first three mentioned will show us that Yeshua, in His death, burial, and resurrection, fulfilled those feasts. Yeshua was crucified at Passover, His burial fulfills the feast of Unleavened Bread, and His resurrection points to Firstfruits. The Holy Spirit, according to Acts 2, came at Pentecost (50 days after Firstfruits), fulfilling the Feast of Weeks.
Nothing that God does is trivial or irrelevant. He was showing His people things to come. So does the festival of Succot have anything to do with Yeshua? Succah means "hut," or "temporary dwelling," or "tabernacle." On 15 Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, and which coincides with our September/October, the Israelites are to spend seven days in temporary dwellings, or huts, or succot. It is a time of celebration and joy. To Jews, Succot is known as "The Season of Our Joy."
Now remember the scene in Luke 1 in which we are told that the shepherds are out in the fields at night. In Bethlehem, the shepherds would not be out at night for the months of November through February, but they would still be out in September/October. Now recall what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds: "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy..." This is what observant Jews have been proclaiming at Succot for thousands of years. In addition, Jewish tradition tells us that Jews hold the ceremony of Ushpizin, in which they welcome the Presence of God into the succah. In this ceremony, seven "faithful shepherds" enter the succah and they represent Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. Prayer and rejoicing take place as they observe how God's word has been fulfilled from generation to generation. Likewise, in Luke 2:15, it says that the shepherds went to the succah in Bethlehem to "see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
Also, we know that the Feast of Tabernacles or Succot is a time to remember that "God is with us," according to Leviticus 23. Ever wonder why the Bible says that our Savior was to be called Emmanuel but then we call Him Yeshua or Jesus? Emmanuel means "God is with us" and points to the meaning of Succot. Yeshua means "salvation" and He fufills the Feast of Tabernacles. Yeshua was born in a temporary dwelling or succah. John 1:14 says that Yeshua "dwelt among us." That word "dwelt" is the Greek "skenoo," which means "tabernacled" or "dwelt temporarily."
In fulfilling Succot, the Israelites are to dwell in the succah for seven days, the first of which is to be a sabbath rest, and then, on the eighth day, another sabbath. If Yeshua was born on the first day of Succot, then He would have been circumcised on the eighth day, according to the covenant and, indeed, we are told of this in Luke 2:21. In addition, this eighth day at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles is to be a sacred assembly. Jews for thousands of years have called this day "Rejoicing in Torah," as they have completed on this day their yearly cycle of Torah readings. This would be a fitting day for Yeshua to have been circumcised, for He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).
Now here's some more interesting evidence. Remember that John the Baptist was born six months before Yeshua. John's father was Zacharias and his mother was Elizabeth. Zacharias was a priest in the temple and he was fulfilling his priestly duties when an angel spoke to him saying that Elizabeth would conceive. Can we know what time of year Zacharias received this news? If so, we can then calculate some 40 weeks to when Elizabeth would deliver and then six months after that to when Yeshua would be born.
According to Luke 1:5, Zacharias was a priest of the order of Abia. So, we go to 1 Chronicles 24:7-18 to see that there were 24 orders of priests, Abia being the eighth in line. Each week, a priest would serve until all 24 had served over a 24-week period. With 24 families of priests, each priest would serve twice a year, although there would be special times for Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Zacharias' family was eighth, so he would have served his first week during Sivan (or June). If the Luke account is referring to Zacharias' first service, then we can see that Elizabeth would have delivered in Nisan, the following spring. According to Leviticus 23, Passover is on the 14th of Nisan, Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th, and Firstfruits ends the week. Could John the Baptist have been born at Passover? If so, that would place Yeshua's birth six months later, at Succot.
Consider this: Jews for thousands of years have expected the return of Elijah at Passover. It has always been their custom to put an extra cup of the fruit of the vine at the Passover table for Elijah, just in case... Now remember what Yeshua said of John the Baptist in Matthew 17:11-13: "...'Indeed, Elijah is coming and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished...' Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist."
It would seem, with all the evidence we've been given in God's word, that the birth of Yeshua was at Succot. Yeshua has, and will, fulfill all seven of the feasts of Leviticus 23. It is no trivial thing to say that we can celebrate the birth of Christ at some time that we appoint. There is no mention of the celebration of Yeshua's birth in the early Church. Should we celebrate it at all? If so, should we celebrate it at Succot? Where did December 25th come from? We'll take up that question next week.