Sukkot: Following the Cloud – Part 2

In this final part of the two-part series entitled, Sukkot: Following the Cloud, we will examine some artifacts related to Sukkot. Additionally, we will see how the Jewish roots of our faith release God’s blessings to both Jew and Gentile. We will see how following ‘The Cloud’—God’s presence and glory—brings us not only into closer relationship with God but allows us to experience the fullness of God’s blessings and benefits.

Sukkot Symbols Found in Archaeology and History:

 Stained glass window crafted for a synagogue in 1932, in Essen, Netherlands.

As discussed in Part One of this two-part blog series, the symbols of Sukkot are perhaps the most unique found in the archaeological record. The use of the ‘four species’—citron, palm, myrtle, and willow—together, is tied solely to Sukkot. But even when these symbols are used individually, they are often still linked to Sukkot, particularly with the use of the citron. Furthermore, these artifacts are not only found in Israel, but all around the world!

One example, originally found in a synagogue in Essen, Netherlands, is seen in the picture to the LEFT. Designed by a Jew before the Holocaust, it somehow survived the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands and the deportation of the Essen Jews—most of whom, unlike this stained glass window, did not survive.

Despite the distance from the Promised Land, this Jewish artisan chose to craft the stained glass with imagery of tradition and the Word—the left half shown with the sukkah and ‘four species’ that are solely connected to Sukkot. Through this usage, we see that the importance of God’s Feast did not depart from the memory of His people—even as the world around them made it safer to forget.

Yet, while distance did not diminish the importance of fulfilling God’s Feast in the minds of His people, Israel has perhaps some of the oldest and most stunning archaeological depictions of Sukkot.

 Tiberias synagogue mosaic depicting the ‘four species’ of Sukkot.)

In a Tiberias synagogue that is over one thousand years old, the ‘four species’ were prominently depicted in a costly mosaic. Those entering the synagogue, particularly the Rabbis who saw it daily, would have been reminded of God’s Commandments, His Law, His Word, and of course, His commanded feast. Not only is this example, seen RIGHT, a reminder of God’s instruction to the Jewish people, but the meticulous detail is stunning!

Even everyday objects included symbols of Sukkot—reminders of God’s Presence, Glory, and the physical ingathering of crops. Examples can be seen BELOW in the depictions rendered on the First Revolt and Bar Kochba era coins. These everyday items that contained symbols of desired freedom also allowed the memory of their God and His instruction to be forever before His people.

 First Revolt ¼ shekel coin from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, dating from 69-70 A.D.—just before the Second Temple destruction in 70 A.D. Made of bronze, one side depicts a goblet, reading, ‘For the redemption of Zion.’ The reverse depicts the ‘four species’ and reads, ‘4th year’—this references the 4th year of the revolt against Roman rule)

Silver coin from the Bar Kochba—or Second—Revolt, 132-133 A.D. One side depicts the Temple, the reverse, the ‘four species.

Are the ‘four species’ the only ties to Sukkot found in the archaeological and historic records?

God's Blessings found on ancient tablet. ((Credit: Leon Mauldin) Gezer Calendar found in 1908. Inscription in ancient Hebrew giving the seasons for crops; lower left-hand corner has the name of the scribe, Abijah.

No, for Sukkot is connected to ingathering—harvest.

Some twenty miles from Jerusalem, in the town of Gezer, a 10th century B.C. calendar was found. The calendar tells of the planting, harvesting, and pruning cycles of all the crops the ancient Jews would have grown. It gives the seasons for God’s people, such as the season of ingathering—the time of Sukkot.

As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season,” we see that God’s people in centuries past—as today—knew this. There are times and seasons to bring offerings to the Lord; times and seasons to prepare, sow, and harvest crops; times and seasons to celebrate the Lord through His feasts, such as Sukkot.

What can we learn from Sukkot? What is the takeaway?

Sukkot harkens back to the people of Israel following ‘The Cloud’—God’s presence and glory—but it is also a time of ingathering. It is a celebration focused on God; a celebration of His goodness to His people—spiritually and physically.

The things Gentile Believers can learn from Sukkot and our Jewish brothers and sisters are innumerable. But the main takeaway is that we—Gentiles—should follow ‘The Cloud.’ Just as the children of Israel did thousands of years ago after escaping Egypt, we should do now. We should follow God’s presence and glory! We should do as Jesus did… doing nothing unless He first saw His Father do it. For this is what the children of Israel did in their 40 years of wandering—they did not move unless they first saw ‘The Cloud,’ their God, move!

“Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle… Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up.”

—Exodus 40:34, 36-37 (emphasis added)

Today we are living in a world that’s swift, where information is vast, with our time spent more in the world and less in communion with our brothers and sisters. We are living in a time that, more than ever, we MUST NOT MOVE UNLESS WE SEE THE LORD MOVE! We MUST learn to listen to our Father, to seek His presence and His glory.

Fall Feast Banner advertisement for Sukkot.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters, like us, are not perfect, but the Hebraic roots of our Gentile faith lie within these kinsmen—as do practices which allow us to return our focus and engagement to God. Yes, Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin, allowing the veil to be separated—allowing Gentiles to join in covenant with God… but He never said that He came to replace the Law—the Instruction. He never told us to refrain from obeying His Old Testament Commandments.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

—Matthew 5:17 (emphasis added)

If we ignore that which God spoke of in the Old Testament—if we fail to obey Him—we are believing ourselves to be above God. We are believing that God is like a man… that He says one thing, then changes His mind. We are believing that He could lie.

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

—Numbers 23:19 (emphasis added)

God cannot lie. Jesus’ blood allowed us into covenant with Him. He became the sacrificial lamb for the forgiveness of our sins. He allowed us close to Him… but if we do not follow Him, His Word, His Presence, and His Glory, we will not receive the ultimate fullness of our blessing!

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

—Matthew 5:18-19 (emphasis added)

So, let us, on this Sukkot, ‘Follow the Cloud’—let us seek the presence and the glory of the Lord!

“…If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?…”

—Exodus 33:15-16 (emphasis added)