Summer is almost here and many are looking forward, no doubt, to a time of camping out in tents, in other words, in a sukkah!
Leviticus 23:43 – “You will dwell in sukkot seven days; all native-born Israelites will live in sukkot so that generation after generation will know that Yahweh made the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your God.”
The word, Sukkot [סֻכּוֹת H5523] means a booth – a basic, crude, or temporary shelter, a tent. Did the Hebrew slaves coming out of Egypt simply decide to erect temporary tents to sleep in every night? Not according to the Leviticus scriptures! They dwelt in sukkot (booths) because Yahweh made them do so. So, we must ask, “Is the Sukkot moed just about sleeping in booths during the Exodus?” And to this we must reply, “Perhaps not. Perhaps Sukkot commemorates where they camped, not what they slept in. Perhaps Sukkot honors what Yahweh did, not so much what the Hebrews did!”
Why Call it Sukkot
Exodus 12:37 – “The Israelites journeyed from Ra‘amses to Sukkot.”
Numbers 33:5 – “The Israelites left Ra’amses and camped at Sukkot.”
Note the key words, “camped at sukkot” The Hebrews left Ra’amses and then camped at a place called Sukkot the very first night! Perhaps this town got called “shanty town” because of the many booths they built. If so, this would not be the first time that a place or town got called Sukkot.
Genesis 33:17 tells us that Jacob also built a booth and called the place Sukkot: “Jacob journeyed to Sukkot, built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Sukkot”. Jonah 4:5 tells us that Jonah also built a booth to sleep in: “So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a sukkot, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city”. 2 Samuel 11:11 tells us that the soldiers on campaign slept in sukkot: “Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in sukkot.” And a day is coming when Yahweh will once again raise the sukkah of David (Amos 9:11).
Exodus 13:21-22 – “Yahweh went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and by night: the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, didn’t depart from before the people.”
The Hebrew people had spent 430 years in Egypt. In Egypt they had real houses, real roofs, reliable shelters. They had fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic! They had bread made with leaven. But then, in an instant, they were taken out of their security and placed in booths out in the desert at a place called Sukkot, and all they had to eat was unleavened bread, matzo!
The Hebrews were only able to provide sukkot, tents, or booths, to sleep in. They had no protection from enemies. So Yahweh provided protection for them. The cloud by day, and the fire by night. The choice to leave Egypt was a huge leap of faith. Now, the Hebrews had to rely on Yahweh to provide all of their needs of food and shelter. This is the earth shattering event that Sukkot celebrates – faith in Yahweh.
The Pesach and Sukkot moedim are six months apart. The 15th of Tishri is exactly six months after the 15th of Nisan, the start of the Chag Ha’Matzoh moed. The seven days of Sukkot is as far away from the seven days of Pesach as one can get. The difference: Pesach celebrates what the Hebrews ate whereas Sukkot celebrates where the Hebrews slept. Both honor Yahweh’s provision.
Pesach represents being as close, experientially, to Yahweh’s protection and provision as one can get. Spring is when the seeds are planted. It is at this time that one must place complete trust in Yahweh to bring the seeds to a harvest. Sukkot, however, represents being as far away, experientially, from security and provision as one can get. Fall is when the harvest has been gathered, and the barns are full of grains, etc. It is at this time that one feels the most self-sufficient, but Sukkot reminds us that we are not self-sufficient, that all of our provision truly comes from Yahweh. And Yahweh remembers this event, saying: “I remember for you the kindness of your youth, the love of your weddings; how you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2).
Sukkot represents our need, Pesach represents Yahweh’s care. Sukkot calls for us to leave our home and trust Yahweh when we least feel we need to. Pesach calls for us to wholly accept that provision, even when our homes are well stocked, safe, and secure. Real security always comes from Yahweh. Sukkot is about the gift of faith and love that we give Yahweh, and the gift of love and care that he gives us in return.
The great day of Yahweh is getting really near, even at the door. It hastens forth and will not delay. We do NOT set dates, but clearly Yahweh is getting ready to change the course of human history once again. The signs are clear for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.