Grafted In: Echoes of Sukkot

Since it is still Sukkot, the seventh and final feast of the Lord found in Leviticus 23, I have decided to share more about the feast.  This particular morsel of revelation was shared with me on Shabbat Sukkot (Saturday, Oct. 3) at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue by Rabbi Marty.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, A Glimpse of the Throne from Sukkot, this feast is a feast that has always had overtones of being for all nations and not just Israel.  This is seen through the prophecies scattered throughout the Tanakh regarding Sukkot.  One particular prophetic occasion is recorded in the Book of Nehemiah.  Before I get to that, we need to go over a detail in the original commands about Sukkot.  A crucial command about Sukkot is to build a sukkah (“sue-kuh”, meaning booth or tabernacle) and live in it during the feast.  It is to be made out of specific kinds of trees, as described here in Leviticus:

“On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.”

–Leviticus 23:40, NIV

The above NIV translation is just that – a translation, and several of the Hebrew words in the passage can be translated much differently than they are in the NIV.  The four species it says to gather have in Jewish tradition always been: etrog (the fruit), palm, willows, and myrtle.  In Nehemiah chapter 8 the returned exiles are reading the Torah and rediscovering the commands of God when they stumble upon the command to build a sukkah.

On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths”-as it is written.

–Nehemiah 8:13-15

But notice which four species they chose: palm, myrtle, willow (can also be translated as just “shade tree”), and olive branches.  Now that may not be so remarkable to you, but notice that the text is careful to make the distinction to gather both “branches from olive and wild olive trees”, e.g. cultivated and non-cultivated olive branches.  What does this mean?  This is a prophetic statement of the fact that the Feast of Sukkot is for all nations, Jew and Gentile alike, and looks forward to the day when wild and cultivated olive branches will be one!  But don’t take my word for it, read Paul’s midrashic explanation of it now that the Messiah has come:

I am talking to you Gentiles…If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

–Romans 11:13,17-24

Paul, in my opinion, takes the symbolism of the cultivated and wild olive branches from the celebration of Sukkot in Nehemiah 8 and uses it to talk about how all nations are now one through the Messiah.  It’s the fulfillment of prophecy and the true underpinnings to the celebration of Sukkot.  I found that quite remarkable!

Peace to you,

James

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