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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--from thirteen on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, 'that great day of the feast.' As no special injunctions are given about the drink-offering, we infer that it was, as usually (Num 15:1-10), 1/4 of a hin of wine for each lamb, 1/3 for each ram, and 1/2 for each bullock (the hin = 1 gallon 2 pints). The 'meat-offering' is expressly fixed (Num 19:12, etc.) at 1/10 of an ephah of flour, mixed with 1/4 of a hin of oil, for each lamb; 2/10 of an ephah with 1/3 hin of oil, for each ram; and 3/10 of an ephah, with 1/2 hin of oil, for each bullock. 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--that 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. On the day before the Feast of Tabernacles--the 14th Tishri--the festive pilgrims had all arrived in Jerusalem. The 'booths' on the roofs, in the courtyards, in streets and squares, as well as roads and gardens, within a Sabbath day's journey, must have given the city and neighborhood an unusually picturesque appearance. The preparation of all that was needed for the festival--purification, the care of the offerings that each would bring, and friendly communications between those who were to be invited to the sacrificial meal--no doubt sufficiently occupied their time. When the early autumn evening set in, the blasts of the priests' trumpets on the Temple Mount announced to Israel the advent of the feast.
Special Service at the Temple
As at the Passover and at Pentecost, the altar of burnt-offering was cleansed during the first night-watch, and the gates of the Temple were thrown open immediately after midnight. The time till the beginning of the ordinary morning sacrifice was occupied in examining the various sacrifices and offerings that were to be brought during the day. While the morning sacrifice was being prepared, a priest, accompanied by a joyous procession with music, went down to the Pool of Siloam, whence he drew water into a golden pitcher, capable of holding three log (rather more than two pints). But on the Sabbaths they fetched the water from a golden vessel in the Temple itself, into which it had been carried from Siloam on the preceding day. At the same time that the procession started for Siloam, another went to a place in the Kedron valley, close by, called Motza, whence they brought willow branches, which, amidst the blasts of the priests' trumpets, they stuck on either side of the altar of burnt-offering, bending them over towards it, so as to form a kind of leafy canopy. Then the ordinary sacrifice proceeded, the priest who had gone to Siloam so timing it, that he returned just as his brethren carried up the pieces of the sacrifice to lay them on the altar. As he entered by the 'Water-gate,' which obtained its name from this ceremony, he was received by a threefold blast from the priests' trumpets. The priest then went up the rise of the altar and turned to the left, where there were two silver basins with narrow holes--the eastern a little wider for the wine, and the western somewhat narrower for the water. Into these the wine of the drink-offering was poured, and at the same time the water from Siloam, the people shouting to the priest, 'Raise thy hand,' to show that he really poured the water into the basin which led to the base of the altar. For, sharing the objections of the Sadducees, Alexander Jannaeus, the Maccabean king-priest (about 95 BC), had shown his contempt for the Pharisees by pouring the water at this feast upon the ground, on which the people pelted him with their aethrogs, and would have murdered him, if his foreign body-guard had not interfered, on which occasion no less than six thousand Jews were killed in the Temple.
As soon as the wine and the water were being poured out, the Temple music began, and the 'Hallel' (Psa 113-118) was sung in the manner previously prescribed, and to the accompaniment of flutes, except on the Sabbath and on the first day of the feast, when flute-playing was not allowed, on account of the sanctity of the days. When the choir came to these words (Psa 118:1), 'O give thanks to the Lord,' and again when they sang (Psa 118:25), 'O work then now salvation, Jehovah'; and once more at the close (Psa 118:29), 'O give thanks unto the Lord,' all the worshippers shook their lulavs towards the altar. When, therefore, the multitudes from Jerusalem, on meeting Jesus, 'cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way, and...cried, saying, O then, work now salvation to the Son of David'! (Matt 21:8,9; John 12:12,13) they applied, in reference to Christ, what was regarded as one of the chief ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles, praying that God would now from 'the highest' heavens manifest and send that salvation in connection with the Son of David, which was symbolised by the pouring out of water. For though that ceremony was considered by the Rabbis as bearing a subordinate reference to the dispensation of the rain, the annual fall of which they imagined was determined by God at that feast, its main and real application was to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as predicted--probably in allusion to this very rite--by Isaiah the prophet (Isa 12:3). *
* Of course, one or other of these two views is open, either, that the words of Isaiah were based on the ceremony of water-pouring, or that this ceremony was derived from the words of Isaiah. In either case, however, our inference from it holds good. It is only fair to add, that by some the expression 'water' in Isaiah 12:3 is applied to the 'law.' But this in no way vitiates our conclusion, as the Jews expected the general conversion of the Gentiles to be a conversion to Judaism.
Thus the Talmud says distinctly: 'Why is the name of it called, The drawing out of water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."' Hence, also, the feast and the peculiar joyousness of it are alike designated as those of 'the drawing out of water'; for, according to the same Rabbinical authorities, the Holy Spirit dwells in many only through joy.
A similar symbolism was expressed by another ceremony which took place at the close, not of the daily, but of the festive sacrifices. On every one of the seven days the priests formed in procession, and made the circuit of the altar, singing: 'O then, now work salvation, Jehovah! O Jehovah, give prosperity'! (Psa 118:25). But on the seventh, 'that great day of the feast,' they made the circuit of the altar seven times, remembering how the walls of Jericho had fallen in similar circumstances, and anticipating how, by the direct interposition of God, the walls of heathenism would fall before Jehovah, and the land lie open for His people to go in and possess it.
The References in John 7:37