Sukkot and the Incarnation
by MOSHE MORRISONSEPTEMBER 21, 2021
The sukkah is a picture of Yeshua, the Word who became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. (John 1:14) Literally, the Word became flesh and “sukkahed” among us. Philippians 2:6,7 makes a similar declaration:
“Who, although he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
Yeshua came from the most solid and secure, permanent place. Even our well-built homes are but less than a shadow of the reality of the eternal realm. The biggest and the best of everything in every sphere on earth cannot compare with the dwelling place of God. Though He hears every cry and is intimately aware of every need on earth, He Himself is not subject to pain, suffering and death. Therefore, He chose to come, not only to a place of suffering, but as a person, one of us, in order to share in that suffering. By taking on a human body He took on that temporal frame, susceptible to all the afflictions of humanity. This is demonstrated by our leaving the security and comfort of our homes on the festival of Sukkot in order to dwell in a temporary structure, exposed to the full range of the elements.
The Birth of Messiah
There is good evidence that Yeshua’s birth actually took place on the first day of Sukkot. (See Sukkot – Yeshua’s Birthday)
If Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot, then His brit (circumcision) would have been on Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth [day] of Assembly), the special eighth day celebration when Israel assembled to worship after the seven days of Sukkot had ended. This has tremendous significance as it relates to Yeshua’s intercessory role.
Intercession for the Nations
Sukkot is also called the “Feast of Ingathering.” It is a harvest festival, a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving over the bounty that God has provided. This image also carries within itself the ultimate prophetic meaning of the harvest. It is indeed a celebration of ingathering, but not only in a agricultural sense, but in relation to the souls of men.
In Numbers 29, we are told that on each of the first seven days of Sukkot the same sacrifices are offered with the exception of the number of bulls that were to be slain. On the first day there were 13, then 12 the next day, then 11 the next day and so on until the seventh day when there were seven. This makes a total of 70 bulls, the number traditionally understood to represent the nations of the world. God had called Israel to be a priestly nation, therefore, it was only natural that they do as a nation what priests were supposed to do – offer sacrifices on behalf of all nations to bridge the gap between them and God.
This is also connected to the prayers for rain that are part of the concluding Sukkot liturgy. Rain is both a picture of the word of God and the Spirit of God (Deuteronomy 32:2 and Isaiah 55:10, Ezekiel 39:29 and Isaiah 32:15), symbolic of that which is needed to prepare the hearts of the nations in the same way as natural rain was needed to achieve the agricultural harvest.
The sacrifices offered on behalf of the nations were to atone for sin. The outpouring of the Spirit on all humanity (Joel 2:28) would cause the transformation in their hearts and ultimately bring them in to the kingdom of God alongside of Israel.
On the eighth day only one bull was offered and that was specifically for Israel. One traditional comment on this says,
“On the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites offered seventy bullocks for the seventy nations of the world. God said: ‘Therefore on the eighth day there shall be an assembly for yourselves.'” (Num. 29:35)
Gentiles and Jews
This ties together with the birth and “brit” (circumcision) of Yeshua in a very interesting way. In Romans 4:9-12, there is a discourse regarding Abraham as the father of both the uncircumcised and the circumcised.
“Is this blessing upon the circumcised, or uncircumcised also? For we say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;… that he might be the father of all who believe.”
So in a sense, Abraham was both a Gentile and a Jew, in order for him to be the father of the faithful from both groups.
Yeshua can be seen in a similar light. It is true that He was born of a Jewish mother, but the official entrance into the household of Israel by the Abrahamic covenant occurs on the eighth day at circumcision. So we could say that symbolically for the first seven days of His life, He was as it were, in appearance as a Gentile; like Abraham, uncircumcised.
Considering that Yeshua was born on the first day of Sukkot, Israel’s priestly role on behalf of the nations was taking place every day during the first week of His life, He who was born to be the great high priest of Jews and Gentiles. Then, on the eighth day, when the focus was turned back to Israel, He was ushered into the fold of His people through the covenant of circumcision. It then could be said of Him that He would be both
“a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.” (Luke 2:32)
The Climax of the Age
In this we also have a hint of the climax of the age, when, after ministering to the nations, Yeshua reveals Himself to His own people. This is confirmed symbolically in the story of Joseph who was a type of the Messiah. Through his hand the whole world received bread in time of famine (Genesis 41:57), yet he insisted that all the Gentiles of his house leave him alone with his brothers (a symbolic picture of the whole Jewish nation) when he revealed himself to them (Genesis 45:1).
Rav Shaul speaks to this in Romans 11. Though the wild olive branches of the Gentiles have been grafted onto the cultivated plant from which natural Jewish branches have been broken, that is not the end of the story.
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written.” (Romans 11:25,26)
It is easy to see in Sukkot both Jewish nationalism and universalism. What has been missed for so many centuries is the same combination in the Incarnation. With the exception of blatant anti-Semites, it has pretty much been recognized in the Church world that Yeshua was born a Jew. However, it has not gone much beyond that. But the Jewishness of Yeshua extends beyond the incidentals of His birth and upbringing. It is intimately connected to His return to, and the redemption of His people as a spiritual and national entity. The New Covenant of which Jeremiah prophesied and that Yeshua inaugurated is a national covenant with the house of Israel.
God opened the doors for the nations to enter the kingdom of God; however, a handful of Jewish believers here and there among the nations is not the ultimate fulfillment for which the Messiah gave His life. It is “all Israel” that is on His heart and is His goal. When we understand the festival of Sukkot as an illustration of, and a framework for the Incarnation, we see how Sukkot includes both the harvest from among the nations and the whole house of Israel gathered together in God’s sukkah.