The Word literally “Tabernacled” in Human Flesh on God’s Holy Day for Tabernacling
John 1:14 relates Yeshua’s body as temporary dwelling like a tabernacle/booth:
And the Word was made flesh, and “tabernacled” among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Many versions say “dwelt” but that doesn’t adequately convey its meaning. The Greek word was “skenoo” derived from “to tent” or “to encamp.” Yeshua literally came to Sukkot in a Sukkah with His birth! The following study is the scriptural and historical proofs that Yeshua was indeed born on the first day of Sukkot!
The story of Yeshua’s birth is preceded in Luke’s Gospel by the account of Yochanan (John) the Immerser’s family and his miraculous birth. He also had a role to play. Yochanan’s mission was to prepare the way for Yeshua.
Amazingly, the personal anguish of the barren family of Zacharias and Elizabeth and for the birth of a child would be used for a higher purpose in YHWH’s Divine plan to prepare the way for Yeshua. It can be seen in the light of a miracle upon a miracle.
Lets pick up this amazing event in Luke chapter 1:
(5) There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias (Zachar’yah), of the course of Abia (Abiyah): and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth (Elisheva)”.
Three very important pieces of information are given to us in this verse.
- Zacharias was a priest,
- He performed Temple service according to the course of “Abia”
which is in the Hebrew month Sivan (May), and
- Zacharias’ wife was from the daughters of Aaron, the priestly
The principal duties of the priest were those connected with the sacrificial service of the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as teaching the people the instructions of Torah. In the course of time, the number of priests increased to such an extent that it was necessary to divide them into twenty-four divisions (1 Chron 24:1-18) serving in the Temple in rotation, each for a week at a time. According to the Mishnah, the cycle begins on the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of the Hebrew month Abib (also called Nisan), and each division (mishmar) was subdivided into several families of priests who served one day a week. This gave every priest an opportunity to discharge his duties.
During the three great annual festivals known as Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles), all twenty-four divisions are said to have officiated simultaneously.(Sukkot 5:7) Zacharias did his duty during the middle festival season known as Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost in Greek); this was the course of Abia.
The Torah required that whenever a sacrifice was offered in the Temple, the owner had to be present. The problem is that every day the priests offered the Daily Sacrifices which were offered on behalf of all the Jews; but, obviously, it is impossible for all the Jews to be constantly present in the Temple). The solution to this problem was “mamados” (shifts/duties). There were 24 shifts of mamados. Each mamad, which was comprised of devout Jews who were emissaries of Israel, would go to the Temple for one week shifts and would say special prayers, representing all of the
Jews by the offering of the sacrifices. Zacharias was part of these mamados:
(8) And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before YHWH in the order of his course, (9) According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of YHWH”.
The Bible records the practice of casting lots as a means of arriving at a decision on a variety of problems. These may be grouped into two main categories: (1) the selection of one or more members from a group; and (2) the division of goods among the members of a group. This lot was used extensively during the Second Temple Period and particularly in the Temple itself in order to determine the allocation of duties among the priests. The First Lot was for the cleansing of the altar, the Second Lot was for slaughtering the lamb, sprinkling the blood, removing the ashes, and trimming the lamps of the menorah; (Hebrew for seven branched candelabra.) and the Third Lot was for the burning of incense at the Golden Altar right in front of the veil where the Holy of Holies were. Zacharias did the duties of the last lot.
(11) And there appeared unto him an angel of YHWH standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (12) And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him”. While serving as priest Zacharias saw an angel of YHWH standing on the right side of the Golden Incense Altar. “(13) But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
The promise that Elizabeth would bear a son required a supernatural act of YHWH. The baby was to be named Yochanan, which means “God is gracious”. Not only would YHWH be gracious about removing the stigma of childlessness from the elderly couple, but He would also set in motion His plan of redemption through the Messiah.
(23) And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished (the course Abia in the Temple were over), he departed to his own house. (24) And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, (25) Thus hath YHWH dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men”.
Once again, there is critical information given to us:
“…as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished“, meaning after Zacharias has done his Temple duty of Abia (towards May/June)
“…his wife Elisabeth conceived” – that is, after Zacharias completed his Temple duty, Elizabeth became pregnant during the period of May/June.
“…hid herself five months” – It is a Jewish custom not to tell anyone other than immediate family about your pregnancy until you enter
your fifth month.
Birth of Yeshua foretold (we continue to read from Luke chapter 1)
(26) And in the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy) the angel Gabriel was sent from YHWH unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary (Miriam)”.
This is one of the most valuable clues given of Yeshua’s foretold timing of His birth. It is said that Gabriel visited in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Elizabeth was conceived after the Priestly Course of Abia, which is in the Hebrew month Sivan (May/June). Six months from Elizabeth’s conception in Sivan takes us to the Hebrew month Kislev (December), that is when Yeshua was conceived in Miriam’s womb (not born)—meaning late in December.
At the time of John’s birth, now nine months later from the month Sivan brings us to the Hebrew month Adar (February/March). At John’s birth, Miriam is three months pregnant with Yeshua. Let’s study Luke 1:35-41 carefully:
“(35) And the angel answered and said unto her (Miriam), The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (36) And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her (Sivan, May/June), who was called barren … (39) And Mary (Miriam) arose in those days (when she was conceived with Yeshua and Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant – Keslev/December), and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; (40) And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth (who was six month’s pregnant). (41) And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe (John) leaped in her womb.”
And three months later was the time of John’s birth, and that would be approximately Pesach (Passover). This is very important as the religious Jews at that time (even today), expected that Elijah would appear during Passover (Mal 4:5). Remember, John came in the spirit of Elijah (Mat 11:7-14) and not in the flesh.
Now, Luke tells us clearly that Elizabeth was six months pregnant when the angel Gabriel visited Miriam. The beginning of Elizabeth’s sixth month would have been the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which is the first day of Chanukah. Chanukah is known as the “Feast of Lights” or the “Feast of the Dedication”. (John 10:22) This date is considered, by some, to be the first day of the dedication of the Wilderness Tabernacle and of the First and Second Temples as well as the rededication of the Second Temple after the Maccabean revolt. Except for the rededication following the Maccabean revolt, it is not completely clear from Scripture what role the day of Kislev 25 played in the dedication—but Scripture tells us that the foundation of the Second Temple was laid on Kislev 24. (Hag 2:18) It is, however, clear that Miriam was being dedicated for a purpose of enormous magnitude.
Also, if Miriam conceived on Chanukah, the feast of the Dedication of Lights, then John 1:6-9 makes perfect sense:
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world”.
Now, if Miriam conceived on Kislev 25, then Yeshua would have been born on the first day of the Succoth (the Feast of Tabernacles), approximately 280 (max 285) days later. Note: 25 Kislev to 25 Tishri is 9 full Jewish months; a Jewish month is shorter than a Gregorian month. Deduct 10 days from the 25 of Tishri to the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is exactly on the 15th of Tishri, Yeshua’s birthday! It is therefore no coincidence that YHWH ordained that 15 Tishri, the very first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, should be celebrated with unrestrained happiness!
The Visitations during Sukkot:
We continue by reading from Luke chapter 2:
(9) And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (10) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”.
The glory of YHWH is the Shekinah, and this is the first appearance since the days of Ezekiel. Ezekiel the prophet records how the Shekinah departed from Israel in four successive and reluctant stages, hoping for the people of Israel to repent. But, Israel did not repent—and so the Shekinah disappears from Jewish history. Here the Shekinah is used to announce the birth of a Jewish King to Jewish shepherds.
(11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Messiah the Lord. (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”.
Such a momentous event required a sign. The sign was that the Babe would be wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. One would expect a King to be lying in luxurious garments in a palace. This King laid aside His glory (Phil 2:7). The fact that He is lying in a “manger” tells us that he is in a stable.
In those days, stables were actually natural caves in the hillsides or wooden structures (pen, fold, kraal) and were used during the warmer
In biblical times, raw caves served as houses as well, and the owner/lodger shared the cave with his animals during night-time. In the
case of a wooden structure, the person or shepherd occupying the stable would actually sleep in the door to protect his animals in the fold. That is why Yeshua said He is the “door”. My opinion is that it was a wooden structure, as I will explain. Either way—it was not a kosher place.
At this time of year during the month of Tishri (September/October) for the seven days of Sukkot, as said, all Jews had to stay in temporary shelters outside their normal houses or boarding place. During these seven days of Sukkot, people were actually required to build small temporary booths (sukkahs) for the celebration of Sukkot. It is important to note that every Jew and his family had to stay for a period of seven days in their temporary booth made of tree boughs and gazed toward the east hoping to see the star, or phenomena that would herald the birth of their Messiah.( Lev 23:34, 41) During September/October (Tishri) when this feast is celebrated, the nights in
Israel are not cold as the summer only ended—and the winter starts in November/December.
The prophet Isaiah bears witness to the occasion of the birth of Yeshua during Sukkot when he said:
They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest.”(Isaiah 9:3)
This feast was in the fall of the year (autumn) at the time of ingathering or harvesting of all things out of the field. (Exod 23:16) Isaiah explains this joy in the sixth verse of this ninth chapter when he declared, “For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given” indicating that the “joy of harvest” was actually the birth of Yeshua, at the time of harvest, or Ingathering. The Scriptural clue that lends credence to this though is found in John 1:14 as mentioned earlier; which translated literally declares,
“And the Word became flesh; and tabernacled among us”.
Here we have a key which reveals to the alert eye that the time at which the Word was made flesh and tabernacled among men was at the Feast of Tabernacles (Isaiah 9:2-3).
Verse 10 of Luke chapter 2 also gives us a clue about the time of the birth by the angel who appeared to the shepherds and said
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”.
There are actually two clues here. Sukkot is a festival of joy, and it is also known as the “Festival of the Nations”. The angel was actually
giving them a greeting for the Festival of Sukkot. This is the only festival where the “nations” and not only individuals are positively encouraged to participate. (Zech. 14:16-19)
As said, during Sukkot the Jews construct flimsy shelters called “Sukkahs”; using wood, branches and leaves, eating and sleeping in them. This is to remember how they were completely dependent on YHWH as they wandered around for forty years in the wilderness when they came out of Egypt. They are celebrating “God with us”. The birth of Yeshua at Sukkot fulfils another prophecy: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”, (Matt 1:23) a quotation from Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore YHWH himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
If this is not enough, we also have to consider the type of dwelling in which Yeshua was born. Had it not been for the inconvenience caused by the census, He would have been born in a cave house like all other children. But He wasn’t, He was born in a “stable”. Manger is “phátne” in Greek, and is generally described as “a manger or crib at which cattle are fed”. Gen. 33:17 tells us that Jacob made sukkahs for his cattle. The crib to feed animals in was normally made out of wood for the convenience of cleaning. It is only logical to reason that Yeshua was born in a flimsydwelling, a sukkah, in a place where they kept sheep and cattle.
Another fact is that Yosef and Miriam would not break the law and had to comply with Positive Law 168 – Lev 23:42 – On dwelling in a Sukkah (booth) for seven days. So Yeshua was born in a Sukkah, to indicate that YHWH had come to earth to dwell with humanity.
From this we can logically conclude that the date of the birth of Yeshua was undoubtedly during the Feast of Tabernacles in the Jewish month Tishri (September/October), on the first day of the Feast, the great day and solemn assembly. (Lev 23:39; John 7:37)
Other arguments against the birth having taken place in December:
It is extremely improbable or even impossible that Miriam, under such circumstances, could have undertaken a journey of about 113 kilometers (as the crow flies). She would have had to travel through the hazardous hill district, averaging some 3,000 feet above sea-level in the middle of winter when it was snowing in Israel.
Shepherds and their flocks would not be found “abiding” (Greek ‘agrauleo’) in the open fields at night in December (Tebeth), for the paramount reason that there would be no pastures at that time. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks, starting during the month October/November), from the open districts and house them for the winter.
Yeshua alluded to “certain things” during the days of Sukkot:
During the Feast of Tabernacles on the last day of the seven-day feast, two major ceremonies were performed. The first one is the drawing of water nissuch ha-mayim or hoshanna rabba. It is a major ceremony but was not part of the biblical celebration of the feast. The feast reached its height with this ceremony and is rooted deep in the agriculture (harvest) character of the feast.
Rain was a prominent feature in the celebration of the feast, and the water-drawing ceremony was a joyous occasion. Why was the name of it called “the drawing out of water”? Because it points to Yeshua, according to what is said in Isaiah 12:2-3:
“Behold, God is my salvation (Yah shua = Yeshua); I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD YHWH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation (Yeshua). Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation (Yeshua)”.
Years have gone by and Yeshua is in Jerusalem on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles when this water drawing ceremony is performed. It was during this ceremony when He uttered this awesome statement:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Yeshua stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37- 39)
The Hebrew ritual: Priests go down to the Pool of Siloam and fill a special golden flask (pitcher) with water. They return through the Water Gate of Jerusalem and shofars are sounded. The golden flask is then placed with two silver basins, which are different from one another, on the southern side of the great altar—one filled with water and the other with wine. While the words of Psalm 113 and 118 are recited, they shake palm branches in their hands and march seven times around the burnt offering altar, while the water/wine drips to the base of the altar (emblems of what came out of Yeshua while He was on His altar, the crucifixion stake). It was during this water drawing ceremony on Sukkot when Yeshua said the words in John 7:37- 39.
A second major ceremony is also performed later the day when the sun sets—and that is the illumination of the Temple with four enormous golden lampstands higher than the Temple walls.
That night Jerusalem glittered like a diamond, but the brightness of the Holy City during the ceremony of illumination paled in the presence of Yeshua. In the brilliance of the gloriously-lit Temple, Yeshua cried that night,
“I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life”. (John 8:12)
As the Jews celebrate the end of the agricultural period and all the harvest is now in the storerooms, they therefore also call
this feast the Feast of Ingathering. Now, there are two critical things the Jews needed for their crops to grow—water and light. Praise God, our Messiah gives every Believer both to ensure we grow spiritually: ‘Water of life’—to purify us and the ‘Light of the world’—to illuminate and guide us. Sadly, Yeshua came to quench His own people’s spiritual thirst that they might see the light, but they did not drink from Him.
From the facts given, every event and circumstance seems properly reconciled and proves that Yeshua’s birthday was on a warm autumn night when the shepherds were outside. Why not honour the birth of Yeshua with the Feast of Sukkot vs. a pagan tradition that is not honouring at all and is not even Biblical?
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