Distinctives of the Feast of Tabernacles 3: The Sacrifices

Today, we come to the last of the 3 distinctives of the Feast of Tabernacles.  We explored the Biblical mandates of living in booths, temporary dwellings, during the Feast and the palm and fruit branches.  Now, we need to look at the sacrifices offered during the Feast (Nu 29:12-38) because there are some differences between this 8 day festival and the other festivals.  One of them is quite unexplained, so there is some room for speculation.

Again referring to the PhiloLogos.org article:

The Offerings

The third characteristic of the Feast of Tabernacles was its offerings. These were altogether peculiar. The sin-offering for each of the seven days was ‘one kid of the goats.’ The burnt-offerings consisted of bullocks, rams, and lambs, with their appropriate meat- and drink-offerings. But, whereas the number of the rams and lambs remained the same on each day of the festival, that of the bullocks decreased every day by one— thirteen on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, ‘that great day of the feast.’ …Three things are remarkable about these burnt-offerings. First, they are evidently the characteristic sacrifice of the Feast of Tabernacles. As compared with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of the rams and lambs is double, while that of the bullocks is fivefold (14 during the Passover week, 5 x 14 during that of Tabernacles). Secondly, the number of the burnt-sacrifices, whether taking each kind by itself or all of them together, is always divisible by the sacred number seven. We have for the week 70 bullocks, 14 rams, and 98 lambs, or altogether 182 sacrifices (26 x 7), to which must be added 336 (48 x 7) tenths of ephahs of flour for the meat-offering. We will not pursue the tempting subject of this symbolism of numbers further than to point out that, whereas the sacred number 7 appeared at the Feast of Unleavened Bread only in the number of its days, and at Pentecost in the period of its observance (7 x 7 days after Passover), the Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days, took place when the seventh month was at its full height, and had the number 7 impressed on its characteristic sacrifices. It is not so easy to account for the third peculiarity of these sacrifices— of the daily diminution in the number of bullocks offered. The common explanation, that it was intended to indicate the decreasing sanctity of each successive day of the feast, while the sacred number 7 was still to be reserved for the last day, is not more satisfactory than the view propounded in the Talmud, that these sacrifices were offered, not for Israel, but for the nations of the world: ‘There were seventy bullocks, to correspond to the number of the seventy nations in the world.’ But did the Rabbis understand the prophetic character of this feast? An attentive consideration of its peculiar ceremonial will convince that it must have been exceedingly difficult to ignore it entirely.

~ Edersheim, Alfred. (27 May 2001 for online edition). The Feast of Tabernacles. In The Temple: Its Ministry and Services (Chapter 14). Retrieved from: http://philologos.org/__eb-ttms/temple14.htm

All of these, the variable number of bullocks, 2 rams and 14 lambs, were burnt offerings.  None of it was eaten, but it was to be wholly burned up.

The sense that the sacrifices had something to do with the nations is also interesting.  Even before Jesus came on the scene, there were passages in the OT prophecies that show that all nations would come to worship at Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (cf Zec 14:16).

However, what I find interesting and perplexing is that on the 8th day, commonly called the “Last Great Day” in COG circles, there are only 1 bullock, 1 ram and 7 lambs sacrificed (Nu 29:36).  Why the dramatic difference?

One explanation might be in the number 7 itself.  It is generally acknowledged as a number of completion.  One phase of God’s plan is complete.  If 70 does refer to the nations as a whole, then it is appropriate because those nations will come to an end.  The 8th day represents the beginning of a new phase of God’s plan, beginning with the 2nd resurrection.  Those people will probably become part of the new Israel and not their old allegiances that caused so much strife and warfare during their 1st lifetimes.

Naturally, this is just my opinion based upon what little we are given.  Prophetic details increase up to the point of Christ’s first coming, drop off sharply, increase again up to the point of His second coming, and then tapers off rapidly.  We are not given a lot of details.

Should that be surprising, though?  Prophecy should lead us to repentance and give us hope now.  Once all of those events take place, how much need is there for hope?

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