Feast of Tabernacles for All Men
In Deut. 31:9 we read an insertion from Eleazar, Moses’ nephew and scribe, who was taking notes on Moses’ speech to compile Deuteronomy. He writes,
9 So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them saying…
Moses’ instructions were not quite complete, nor was the book of Deuteronomy finished, but by this time Moses had nearly finished setting forth the laws of the Kingdom. Copies were made subsequently of this book and distributed to the priests. Special mention is made that the priests were charged with carrying the Ark of the Covenant, because a copy of this book was put into the Ark itself (Heb. 9:4).
Carrying the Ark on their shoulders signified having the law written in their minds, because their heads were also on their shoulders. Since the New Covenant was the oath where God vowed to write the law in our minds and hearts, it pictured the long-term plan of God to create “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), all carrying the law of God in their minds and hearts.
Citizens, Priests, and High Priests
The priests represent those with a genuine Pentecostal experience, and for this reason the normal citizens of the kingdom were not allowed to carry the Ark. The citizens had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, all entering into the experience of Passover when they came out of Egypt, but only the priests typified the Pentecostal group. Pentecost was the feast celebrating the law being given at Mount Horeb. Thus, Pentecost was a requirement for those carrying the Ark of His presence and for the law to be written on the hearts of men.
This is again pictured in the Tabernacle of Moses. The citizens of the kingdom were allowed entry into the outer court, the place of sacrifice, which signified a Passover relationship with God. But only the priests could enter the sanctuary itself, where the Holy Place represents a Pentecostal relationship with God.
The third room is the third experience, and only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. This represents the experience of the feast of Tabernacles, the third feast, and one must be part of the body of the High Priest (Jesus) in order to have direct access to Him with no veils separating them.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Moses gives Israel a final reminder to observe the feast of Tabernacles. We read in Deut. 31:10-13,
10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission [shemittah, “temporary release”] of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men, and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. 13 And their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.
The law was to be read to all the people every seven years during the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles. Even so, there is no record that this was done until the time of Nehemiah after the Babylonian captivity many centuries later.
Nehemiah Keeps Tabernacles
Nehemiah 8:17, 18 says,
17 And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. 18 And he read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance.
The feast of Tabernacles was the only feast day wherein it was commanded to read the law to the people. Tabernacles, therefore, represents a time when the law is written fully on our hearts. The Age of Tabernacles, following the Pentecostal Age, is a time when the overcomers will experience this, having been perfected by the bodily “change” that Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 15:51-54.
Tabernacles Open to All
Moses also makes mention once again the universality of the feast of Tabernacles, as he commands all the people—including the aliens—to appear before God and listen to the reading of the law. The clear implication is that not only genealogical Israelites, but all citizens of this “holy nation” were to participate in Tabernacles and to receive the law written on their hearts.
In fact, Moses uses the term “Israel” as a national term in the same verse, saying that “all Israel” was to hear the law, including the aliens. Hence, the aliens were part of “all Israel,” not genealogically, but certainly as national citizens. In other words, everyone had equal opportunity to be an overcomer and fulfill this festival.
In Exodus 34:23, we read,
23 Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.
In every year, the men were to appear before God at Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Women and children were not required to appear—although they were allowed to do so, if they wished—because they and their children were represented by their husbands or fathers. But Moses says in Deut. 31:10 that every seventh year, “the year of remission,” the women and children were required to appear before God.
Whether this requirement was a change from the Exodus law or a mere clarification of the original law is not clear. However, the fact that it appears in the second law suggests that this inclusiveness was to be clarified under the New Covenant. And indeed, we see this in the Gospels and the book of Acts.
Luke, in particular, focuses upon this aspect of biblical law. Luke was a Greek doctor whose gospel was designed to heal the breach between Hebrew and Greek culture, between Jew and non-Jew, and between men and women. He uses many medical terms of the day to bring healing, in order to bring about the unified New Creation Man that his companion, Paul, mentioned in Eph. 2:15. Thus, he shows particular interest in Jesus’ treatment of women and aliens, both of whom had been relegated to the outer court and were not allowed to pass the wall in the temple that divided the men from the women and the foreign converts.
Although the law never commanded such a wall to be built, the traditions of men interpreted the law to mean that God allowed only Jewish men to be close to Him, and all others were limited to a distant relationship with God. Jesus came to correct men’s thinking and to see the true intent of the law. Hence, Paul says in Eph. 2:14,
14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.
It is clear that Paul and Luke must have had many conversations about this, because they faced this formidable, unlawful attitude wherever they encountered Jews in the synagogues, whose views had been shaped by that dividing wall.
Thus, Luke was called to heal the breaches through his gospel, while the other gospels presented other truths for different purposes and to different audiences. Matthew was a gospel written for a Jewish audience, presenting Christ as the King. Mark was a gospel written for a Roman audience, presenting Christ as the Suffering Servant of all men. Luke presented Christ as the Son of Man, the example for all men to follow as they came into the New Creation Man. John presented Christ as the Son of God, the One through whom all men might become the sons of God.
Moses tells us that all men, women, children, and aliens were to stand before God to hear the law every seventh year, the year of remission. This was the Sabbatical Year when no one was supposed to sow or reap, but allow the land to rest. Because agriculture was their main source of income, the law also released them from making payments during that year on any debts that they owed. Gesenius Lexicon tells us that the Hebrew word for “remission” is shemittah. He defines it: “letting drop of exactions, (temporary) remitting, release (from debt).”
These debts were not cancelled until the start of the fiftieth year, which is the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Remission was a year in which the people were released from making payments on debt until the following year (Deut. 15:1-3). There was, of course, no such remission required of aliens living outside the borders of Israel, for they did not observe the Sabbath land rest. Thus, they had income during the Year of Remission and therefore could be required to continue making payments on debt to the Israelites.
Reading the law to all of the people every seven years would ensure that children would hear the entire law two or three times while growing up. And so, if their parents violated the law, either wilfully or through ignorance, the children had opportunity to see this and to make adjustments in their own lives.
All of the men (including aliens) were required to stand before God three times a year at the time of the feasts. In later years it became customary to read Deuteronomy every year at the feast of Tabernacles, but the lawful requirement was to read it every seventh year when all Israel was present.