Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.
Every Jerusalem temple has hosted the festival of Succot.
But the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated long before there was a temple. And today, it’s celebrated without one.
word succot is translated “Booths” or “Tabernacles” in Deuteronomy
16:13 and Leviticus 23:34. Scripture also refers to the holiday as “the
Feast of the Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), the “Feast of Ingathering” (Exodus
34:22), “the feast” (1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 7:8-9; John 7:37), and
“the feast of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:39). Succot at the First Temple
the Hebrews entered the land, the Tabernacle of Moses dwelled at Shiloh
for three centuries. Later still, the Tabernacle remained at Gibeon
while King David brought the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath Jearim
to a tent he pitched for it in the City of David.
On the hill
that David bought from Arauna in order to build an altar to God, King
Solomon built the First Temple (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 1 Kings 6:38).
Solomon dedicated the First Temple at the Feast of Succot (1 Kings
8:1-2). Perhaps Solomon waited eleven months after the Temple’s
completion to dedicate the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles in order
to show that the nation had spiritually ended their wanderings and God
had given them rest in the land (Deuteronomy 12:8-11).
discoveries from the First Temple are sparse, owing to the fact that
Muslim control of the Temple Mount forbids any excavation there.
Nevertheless, occasional finds from the First Temple period have occurred.
• Yuval Baruch led a team in 2007 that discovered undisturbed material dating from the 8th-century BC.
Dr. Gabriel Barkay leads an ongoing project that sifts material
discarded from the Temple Mount. Some of these finds date to the First
• Recently, archaeologists excavating a
first-century road that led from the City of David to the Temple Mount
have discovered a large water reservoir dating from the First Temple
period. Succot at the Second Temple and today
the Second Temple Period, this recently discovered road likely served
as the path the priests and people would walk each day during the week
of Succot. At the time of preparation for the morning sacrifice, a
priest would descend to the Pool of Siloam—amidst great music,
celebration, and singing—and fill a golden pitcher with water. After
dipping his pitcher in Siloam’s water, the priest would return to the
Temple Mount and pour the water into one of the silver basins by the
In order to accommodate the great number of Jewish
pilgrims that came to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, Herod the Great
significantly enlarged the size of the Temple Mount by constructing a
massive retaining wall that expanded Solomon’s original square platform.
dimensions of today’s Temple Mount are the same as the Second Temple
period. The hundreds of thousands of Muslims that gather on the Temple
Mount at Ramadan indicate the number of Jews that could have worshiped
there during the first century.
Every year in modern Jerusalem,
Succot draws hundreds of thousands of Jews to the Western Wall—the
western portion of the Second Temple’s retaining wall. They carry in
their hands the “Four Species”—the etrog, the palm, the willow, and the
myrtle. They also construct succot, or “booths,” in which they dwell
during the feast.
The Prophet Zechariah pointed to an age yet
future when all nations would journey to Jerusalem at Succot each year
in honor of the Jewish Messiah (Zechariah 14:16-21).
That Succot in Jerusalem is still to come. Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.