John 7 takes place within the context of the Jewish feast called Feast of Booths.
• In order to properly understand the significance of what takes place in chapter 7, we need to understand exactly what the Feast of Booths is.
• Today, we will do just that.
1) FEAST OF BOOTHS
John 7:2 (ESV) — 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.
Feast of Booths is also called Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Tabernacles and Sukkot (from sukkah, meaning booth).
• It was ordained by God in Leviticus 23:33-36.
• Leviticus 23:33–36 (ESV) — 33 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36 For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.
What are the booths?
Leviticus 23:42 (ESV) — 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths
• The booths were literal booths made with the branches of palm trees that were constructed for the week to serve as temporary dwellings.
• They were built on the “roofs of their houses, and in the streets and squares” – John MacArthur.
• The seventh month is referring to October (Lev. 23:34).
• This timing is significant because it follows just 5 days after the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
• Yom Kippur, a very solemn holiday, is perhaps the most significant Jewish holiday; the day to “make atonement…before the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:28).
• Following Yom Kippur also put Feast of Booths at the end of the harvest, which is appropriate since the Feast was associated “with the ingathering of the harvest” – D.A. Carson.
• And in Jesus’ day, unlike Yom Kippur, “it was marked by celebrations and parties” – John MacArthur.
• In our text, this Feast of Booths was about 6 months after John 6.
Deuteronomy 16:15 (ESV) — 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
Leviticus 23:43 (ESV) — 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
• (1) God desired to bless the Hebrews harvest as they obeyed.
• (2) God intended that they remember how He sheltered them during the Exodus from Egypt.
It appears that the Hebrews did a poor job of observing the Feast of Booths.
• In Nehemiah (445 B.C.) we are told that not since Joshua’s time (1400-1200 B.C.) had it been observed.
• Nehemiah 8:17 (ESV) — 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.
In Nehemiah, written after the Babylonia Exile, we also see that the Feast was reinstituted.
• Nehemiah 8:14–17 (ESV) — 14 And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” 16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.
• And “in postexilic Judaism the Feast of Booths became a popular occasion, particularly among Diaspora Jews who undertook lengthy pilgrimages to the temple at Jerusalem” – EBD.
• Apparently the Diaspora Jews would not make booths but carry a citron and palm frond together, known as a lulav.
Another significant development was that “during the seven-day observance the priest presented libations after the morning offering, while the choir pronounced the words of Isa. 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” – EBD.
• This is commonly referred to as a water drawing ceremony.
• The intent of this was apparently to remember another of God’s provisions during the Exodus.
• Numbers 20:2–8 (ESV) — 2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”
Significance to John’s Gospel:
• It is interesting that a few weeks ago we learned how the Hebrew’s were to remember the provision of the manna to remind them of God’s work during the Exodus and in the Feast of Booths we see yet another example of God’s desire that the Hebrews remember God’s work in the Exodus.
• It is obviously not a coincidence that the provision God demanded they remember would find ultimate fulfillment in the provision of Jesus Christ.
• It is no wonder then that God was so adamant that they remember – living water, bread of life, flesh & blood!
• As we will see in a later lesson, like the manna, Jesus will use the water symbolism to point to Himself.