Festival of BoothsAid to Bible Understanding
houses in Jerusalem. Certain men, including some of the elders, danced with flaming torches in their hands and sang songs of praise, accompanied by musical instruments.
An interesting sidelight is that Jeroboam, who broke away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and became king over the ten northern tribes, carried on (in the eighth month, not the seventh) an imitation of the Festival of Booths, apparently to hold the tribes away from Jerusalem. But, of course, the sacrifices were made to the golden calves that he had set up contrary to Jehovah’s command.—1 Ki. 12:31-33.
Jesus probably alluded to the spiritual significance of the Festival of Booths and perhaps to the ceremony with the water of Siloam when “on the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus was standing up and he cried out, saying: ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He that puts faith in me, just as the Scripture has said, “Out from his inmost part streams of living water will flow.”’” (John 7:37, 38) Also, he may have alluded to the lighting up of Jerusalem by the lamps and torches in the temple area at the festival when he said a little later to the Jews: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” (John 8:12) Shortly after his discussion with the Jews, Jesus may have connected Siloam with the festival and its lights when he encountered a man who had been born blind. After stating to his disciples, “I am the world’s light,” he spit on the ground and made a clay with the saliva, put this clay upon the man’s eyes and said to him: “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”—John 9:1-7.
The waving of palm branches by the people at this festival reminds us also of the crowds that waved palm branches during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just before his death, although this did not occur at the time of the Festival of Booths but, rather, prior to the Passover. (John 12:12, 13) Again, the apostle John, who saw in vision 144,000 of God’s slaves sealed in their foreheads, tells us: “After these things I saw, and look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”—Rev. 7:1-10.
Certainly the Festival of Booths was a fitting conclusion for the agricultural year and to the cycle of festivals for the year. Everything connected with it breathes joy, bountiful blessings from Jehovah’s hand, refreshment and life.
Festival of DedicationAid to Bible Understanding
FESTIVAL OF DEDICATION
[Heb., hhanuk·kahʹ, initiation, dedication].
This observance commemorates the recovery of Jewish independence from Syro-Grecian domination and the rededication to Jehovah of the temple at Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who called himself The·osʹ E·pi·pha·nesʹ (“God Manifest”). He built an altar on top of the great altar on which the daily burnt offering had formerly been offered. (1 Maccabees 1:54-59, AT) On this occasion (Chislev 25, 168 B.C.E.) he sacrificed swine on the altar and had a broth made of some of the flesh and had it sprinkled all over the temple to show his hatred and contempt for Jehovah, the God of the Jews, and to defile His temple to the utmost. He burned the temple gates, pulled down the priests’ chambers and carried away the golden altar, the table of showbread and the golden lampstand. Later, the temple of Zerubbabel was rededicated to the pagan god Zeus of Olympus.
Two years later Judas Maccabaeus recaptured the city and the temple. The sanctuary was desolate; weeds were growing in the temple courts. Judas tore down the old defiled altar and built a new altar of unhewn stones. Judas had temple vessels made and brought into the temple the altar of incense, the table of showbread and the lampstand. After the temple was purged of defilement the rededication took place on Chislev 25, 165 B.C.E., exactly three years to the day after Antiochus had made his sacrifice on the altar in worship of the pagan god. The daily or continual burnt offerings were renewed.—1 Maccabees 4:36-54; 2 Maccabees 10:1-9, AT.
The very nature of the festival made it a time of great rejoicing. There is some resemblance to the Festival of Booths in the manner of its observance. The celebration lasted eight days from Chislev 25 onward. (1 Maccabees 4:59) There was a great blaze of light in the courts of the temple and all private dwellings were lighted up with decorative lamps. The Talmud refers to it as the “Feast of Illumination.” Later on, some had the practice of displaying eight lamps on the first night and reducing the number on each night by one, others starting with one and increasing to eight. The objective was not solely to illuminate the house within, but so that all on the outside would see the light, for the lamps were placed near doors leading to the street. Accompanying the lighting of the lamps was the singing of songs extolling God the Deliverer of Israel. Josephus says about the initiation of the festival: “They were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XII, chap. VII, par. 7) Laborious work was allowed, as it was not considered a sabbath.
There were two former temple dedications, that of the first temple by Solomon and of the second built by Zerubbabel, that were solemnly celebrated at the time. But there was no anniversary festival in commemoration afterward, as there was of this rededication of the second temple by Judas Maccabaeus. Unlike the three great festivals, which all males were obligated to attend at Jerusalem, the Festival of Dedication could be celebrated in their various cities, as was the case with the Festival of Purim. (Ex. 23:14-17; Esther 9:18-32) Throughout the land they assembled in their synagogues with singing and jubilation, carrying branches of trees, while the synagogues and the private homes were illuminated by the many lights. The Jews celebrate this festival to the present day.
SIGNIFICANCE FOR CHRISTIANS
Jesus visited the temple at the time of the Festival of Dedication during the last winter of his ministry, in 32 C.E. The account reads: “At that time the festival of dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon.” (John 10:22, 23) Chislev, the ninth month, corresponds to November-December of the Gregorian calendar. It was, of course, common knowledge among the Jews that this festival occurred during wintertime. Consequently, the mention of winter here may have reference to the state of the weather rather than the season as a reason for Jesus’ choice of a sheltered place for his teaching, in the “colonnade of Solomon.” This covered colonnade was on the E side of the outer court of the Gentiles, where many people would gather.—Acts 3:11; 5:12.
There is no direct statement in the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah gave Judas victory and directed his repair of the temple, its refurnishing, the making of utensils, and finally its rededication. Yet, for the prophecies regarding Jesus and his ministry to be fulfilled, and for the Levitical sacrifices to continue until the great sacrifice of God’s Son would be accomplished,