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The Feast of Tabernacles; Daily Water Pouring Ceremony

NOTE: Much of this material was taken directly from various sources and edited by myself. This material is all readily available and needs to be thoroughly taught and properly understood. Not all traditions are bad, and as long as they are consistent with scripture they can be of value.

The tradition of the “Pouring Out of Water” was used by Christ to teach the valuable lesson that the Feast of Tabernacles is the main fall harvest of humanity, The Feast of the Ingathering of ALL Nations, and that all who call upon him in repentance would receive the living waters of God’s spirit poured out upon them, during the times portrayed by this fall harvest Festival.

After the resurrection of the main body of humanity in their courses during the seven [thousband years] days of the Feast of Tabernacles; they shall repent an dlearn the ways of god to be gathered into teh Family of God.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Ingathering, pictures the repentance and pouring out of God’s spirit on all humanity! With salvation being offered to ALL!  It pictures the bringing in of all humanity in the main harvest of lives into the family of God. 

How wonderful when properly understood are the hidden things of our Great God!


In the ancient celebration, on each day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the people in the Temple courtyard would hold the clusters of branches, waving them before the LORD and make a circular procession around the altar. The first six days they would circle the altar once. On the seventh day of the Feast, they would circle the altar seven times, to increase the joy.

During the procession they would pray a prayer that came to be known as Hoshanos. It is a prayer for God’s blessing, ending each phrase of the prayer with the word hoshana (“Please save”, “save us” or “save now!”). For this reason, the last day came to be known as Hoshana Rabba, meaning the Day of the Great ‘O Save’.

Each day (except for the first day) of the festival, a group of priests would set out to gather large willows that they would wave back and forth as they proceeded toward the temple, thus making a “swooshing” sound, the sound of the wind or the Ruach, Holy Spirit.

While this was going on, another group of priests would proceed to the Pool of Siloam from which the High Priest would gather a flask full of “living water”.

On the first Holy day and the regular Sabbath water was obtained the previous day and then poured out on the high Day and regular Sabbath. Both groups would then return to the Temple, and while the group with the willows would circle the altar waving their willows, the High Priest with his flask of water and his assistant with a flask of wine would both empty their pitchers on the southwest corner of the altar, thus picturing the coming of the Holy Spirit as living water.

As mentioned earlier, the seventh day of this festival is known as Hoshana Rabba – the Great Save. Because Sukkot was a festival celebrating the final harvest of the year, it was customary to thank God during this time for the produce of that year and to ask Him to provide the needed winter rains for next years harvest. There were many special observances and traditions developed along this theme. The most spectacular of these was the water drawing ceremony.

Water was an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles. Before the festival, the Rabbis taught on every passage in Scripture dealing with water. During the water drawing ceremony, the High Priest would recite Isaiah 12:1-3: “And in that day you shall say, ‘O LORD, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you have comforted me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.” The word translated “salvation” here is the word “Yeshua.” Does that sound familiar to anyone?

The ceremony itself was, apparently, quite a sight to see. I’d like you to imagine a whole parade of worshipers and flutists led by the High Priest in his finest garb to the pool of Siloam. He is carrying two golden pitchers. One is for wine. He fills the other with water from the pool. As the flutes continue to play, a choir of Israelites chants the Great Hallel as the whole procession heads back to the Temple through the Water Gate. A trumpet sounds as the priest enters the Temple area. He approaches the altar where two silver basins are waiting. He pours wine into one of the basins as a drink offering to the Lord and water from the pool of Siloam into the other. The whole ceremony, with the parade and the flutes and the singing and dancing, was such a joyful occasion that one of the ancient rabbis wrote: “Anyone who has not seen this water ceremony has never seen rejoicing in his life.”

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 [Daily] sacrifice proceeded while 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— 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 athrogs, 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 to the accompaniment of flutes [wind instruments], 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 worshipers shook their lulavs [branches] 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 symbolized by the pouring out of water.

Thus the Mosaic Rabbins said 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’;

These ceremonies and celebrations continued throughout the festival. On the last (7th) day, a change was made to the ceremony. On this day the priests, instead of circling the altar one time, would circle it seven times; this time singing with a loud voice a song of redemption and salvation – Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord . . . (Psalm 118:25-26)

This ceremony are nowhere commanded in the Torah or the Tenakh, but the rabbis believed that because of some spelling inconsistencies in Numbers 29 that seem to spell the Hebrew word mayim(water) there was an underlying justification for them.

It appears that Yeshua [Jesus Christ] had no problem with this additional ceremony and celebration. From His childhood He would have become very familiar with these festivities as His parents made the pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Sukkot. It seems evident that He used the occasion of the seventh or last day (the 8th day is a separate festival) of His last Feast of Sukkot to teach that He was the source of the Living Waters of salvation for all Israel and ultimately all mankind.

We can now in some measure understand the event recorded in John 7:37.

The festivities of the Week of Tabernacles were drawing to a close. ‘It was the last day, that seventh or great day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The seventh day obtained this name, although it was not one of ‘holy convocation,’ partly because it closed the feast, and partly from the Rabbinical writings designating it the ‘Day of the Great Hosannah,’ on account of the sevenfold circuit of the altar with ‘Hosannah [deliver us]‘; and ‘Day of Willows,’ and ‘Day of Beating the Branches,’ because all the leaves were shaken off the willow boughs, and the palm branches beaten in pieces by the side of the altar.

It was on that day, after the priest had returned from Siloam with his golden pitcher, and for the last time poured its contents to the base of the altar; after the ‘Hallel’ had been sung to the sound of the flute, the people responding and worshiping as the priests three times drew the threefold blasts from their silver trumpets— when the interest of the people had been raised to its highest pitch, that, from amidst the mass of worshipers, who were waving towards the altar quite a forest of leafy branches as the last words of Psalm 118 were chanted— that a voice was raised which resounded through the temple, startled the multitude, and carried fear and hatred to the hearts of their leaders.

It was Jesus, who ‘stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.’ Thereby revealing that salvation was not just of the Jews but of ALL men; and that this Feast was about the salvation of ALL men, the main harvest of humanity!

Jesus cried this out on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles and not on the Last Great [Eighth] Day as some suppose. Further the pouring out of water took place daily throughout the Feast of tabernacles

John 7:38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

40Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

‘This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.’ Thus the significance of the rite, in which they had just taken part, was not only fully explained, but the means of its fulfillment pointed out.

The effect was instantaneous. It could not but be, that in that vast assembly, so suddenly roused by being brought face to face with Him in whom every type and prophecy is fulfilled, there would be many who, ‘when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ.’

Even the Temple-guard, whose duty it would have been in such circumstances to arrest one who had so interrupted the services of the day, and presented himself to the people in such a light, owned the authOrity of His words, and dared not to lay hands on Him. ‘Never man spake like this man,’ was the only account they could give of their unusual weakness, in answer to the reproaches of the chief priests and Pharisees.

The rebuke of the Jewish authorities, which followed, is too characteristic to require comment. One only of their number had been deeply moved by the scene just witnessed in the Temple. Yet, timid as usual, Nicodemus only laid hold of this one point, that the Pharisees had traced the popular confession of Jesus to their ignorance of the law, to which he replied, in the genuine Rabbinical manner of arguing, without meeting one’s opponent face to face: ‘Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?’

The main harvest of humanity will have the living waters of God’s Holy Spirit poured out upon them, if they will repent and come unto Christ the deliverer of ALL mankind!

Updated: October 1, 2012 — 13:53
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