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Messiah's Birth At Tabernacles

The life of Jesus is best described using the Feasts of the Lord as the framework:

  • His birth at Tabernacles.
  • His death at Passover.
  • His burial at Unleavened Bread.
  • His resurrection at First Fruits.
  • His Church’s Holy Spirit Baptism at Pentecost.

The exact details of His birth are equally astonishing:

  • Conception at Hanukah (Feast of Lights)
  • Birth at Sukkot (Tabernacles)
  • Circumcision at Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in Torah)


The calculation of the time of Jesus’ birth begins with Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. According to Luke 1:5, Zechariah was a priest of the order of Abijah. While he was performing his duties and burning incense in the Temple, an angel appeared to him. The angel told him that his wife Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son, and that he should name him John.

The order in which the 24 priestly families performed their duties in the Temple is given in 1 Chronicles 24:7-18:

  1. Jehoiarib
  2. Jedaiah
  3. Harim
  4. Seorim
  5. Malchijah
  6. Mijamin
  7. Hakkoz
  8. Abijah
  9. Jeshua
  10. Shecaniah
  11. Eliashib
  12. Jakim
  13. Huppah
  14. Jeshebeab
  15. Bilgah
  16. Immer
  17. Hezir
  18. Happizzez
  19. Pethahiah
  20. Jehezkel
  21. Jachin
  22. Gamul
  23. Delaiah
  24. Maaziah

According to the Mishnah (the Oral Torah explaining the Holy Scriptures, and on how to interpret and apply the Laws), the cycle began on the first Sabbath of Nisan (March-April). Each family of priests would minister in turn for one week. Since there were 24 families, each family would minister about twice a year. The cycle would be delayed slightly because all priests, regardless of their families, were required to be at the Temple for the three Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

The family of Abijah was eighth in line, so Zechariah would have his first period of duty during the Jewish month of Sivan (about June) and his second period during the month of Kislev about six months later. There is no way of knowing for sure which period of duty is referred to in Luke's Gospel. But if it is the first period, we get some very interesting results.

Zechariah finished his first period of duty about the middle of Sivan (about June). Because of his unbelief, God struck him dumb. Nevertheless, he went home to his wife and she became pregnant. Count off 40 weeks, the usual period of pregnancy, we arrive at the month of Nisan the following year. On the 14th of Nisan, we have the Feast of Passover. This raises the distinct possibility that John the Baptist was born at Passover. The Jews expected that Elijah would come at Passover. It has always been the Jewish custom to put an extra cup of wine on the table at Passover, in the hope that Elijah will come and drink it.

If John the Baptist was born at Passover during the Spring Feasts, Jesus must have been born during the Fall Feasts, and most probably at Tabernacles. In Luke 1:26 and 36 we are told that Jesus was six months younger than John. The divine conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb must therefore be 9 months earlier at about December, probably during Hanukah (the Feast of Dedication or also called the Feast of Lights). John, in his Gospel, confirmed this truth in John 1:9-11:

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

When the decree went out for everyone to go to their home town to be registered, Joseph and Mary set off for Bethlehem. They would have set out in good time before Mary was fully 40 weeks pregnant. She wouldn't want to be jogged into childbirth while riding on a donkey. Besides, they would have wanted to complete the journey before Rosh Hashanah, which was two weeks before Sukkot.

We are given two clues about the time of the birth by the angel who appeared to the shepherds and said "Fear not. For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10).

The First Clue: Sukkot is known as "The Season of our Joy", and it is also known as the "Feast of the Nations". The angel was actually giving them a greeting for the Feast of Sukkot. This is the only feast where the Gentile nations are positively encouraged to participate. If any nation refuses to go and worship the Lord at this Feast, there will be no rain on their land (Zechariah 14:16-19).

The Second Clue: The Luke narrative indicated that the angels delivered their message to shepherds. For thousands of years, Jewish literature ascribed a tradition known as Ushpizin, only observed in Sukkot. And it is practiced even to this day.

The ceremony of Ushpizin bids the Jews to partake in the privilege of inviting and welcoming the seven faithful shepherds. These special visitors will enter the Succah with the Jews as their exalted guests. These guests have come to observe how their descendants have fulfilled the commandment of the Succah, in which they will dwell under God's protection. These seven faithful shepherds of Israel were namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David.

Back in the Luke narrative, the text does not specify exactly seven shepherds who went to visit the newborn King. There seems to be a hint when one reads between the lines. The purpose of their visit was recorded to "see this thing that had happened, which the Lord has told us about." (Luke 2:15)

Likewise, during Sukkot, Jewish families today in Israel construct a flimsy shelter called a Succah, made of loosely assembled walls and a leafy overhead covering. In the Succah, they will eat or sleep. This is a reminder to them that their forefathers were completely dependent on God as they wandered for forty years in the desert, and were led by a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Because of this experience, they recall that "God is with us" (Emmanuel).

The birth of Jesus at Sukkot fulfils another prophecy: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel - which means, "God is with us". (Matthew 1:23, quoting from Isaiah 7:14).

In this same narrative in Luke 2, the shepherds were watching over their flocks AT NIGHT. The angel brought them a message that their Messiah was born in the town of David. This message was accompanied by the appearance of a great heavenly host, praising God. When we consider the seasons and weather patterns in Israel, one might ask "What is the possible time of year in which shepherds would still be outside with their flocks in the Judean hills AT NIGHT?"

November through February are far too cold in Israel to be doing this kind of activity. The answer points to the month of October. Sukkot always falls in the September-October time frame when the weather is still warm and pleasant outside, even AT NIGHT.

The type of dwelling in which Jesus was born is also a point for consideration. Had it not been for the inconvenience caused by the census, He would have been born in a house like all other children. But He wasn't, He was born in a type of Succah where servants of a household slept, or where they kept sheep and cattle. Luke used the Greek word manger. But Jesus was Jewish. It was most likely a Succah. This would make sense since we know that Jesus would fulfill every aspect of Torah from His birth until His death. The link here is a commandment in Leviticus 23:42, "Live in Sukkot for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in Sukkot so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in Sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

John, in his Gospel narrative of Jesus' birth, confirmed this truth when he indicated that God had come to earth to dwell with humanity. We read in John 1:14 about how "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling (Tabernacled) among us" which is a clear and obvious reference to Sukkot.

Eight days later, according to Luke 2:21, Jesus was circumcised. Mary would still have been ceremonially unclean for 33 days after the Jesus' birth, in accordance with Leviticus 12. Owing to her requirement to present a purification offering at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after this period, she would most likely have remained in Bethlehem, just a short distance from Jerusalem.

If the day of Jesus' birth was the first day of Sukkot, then the day of His circumcision would be the eighth day after Sukkot which was also a day of sacred assembly (Leviticus 23:39). On this day, called "Shemini Atzeret" or "the Eighth day of Solemn Assembly" and later called "Simchat Torah" or "Rejoicing in Torah," the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Genesis. It is considered to be a time of fulfillment of the Torah and also a new beginning for it.

This indeed would seem to be a fitting holiday for Jesus' circumcision and dedication before God, since He came to set the Torah on a firm foundation by correctly interpreting it and fulfilling it, thereby making a way to renew the Torah in our lives (Matthew 5:17-19).

When the days of Mary's purification were over, they would have then returned back to Nazareth in Galilee (Luke 2:39). But each year, and in accordance with the required pilgrimage commandments in Torah, Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41). During one of these visits, probably when Jesus was about two years old, they went to Bethlehem and stayed, not in a Succah or stable this time, but in a house (Matthew 2:11). They were visited there by the Magi. They then had to flee to Egypt to escape from Herod because he was killing all the male children two years old and under.

And so, by starting from Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and his first period of duty in the Temple, and doing a few simple calculations, we rediscover the correct date of birth of our Messiah. The Hebraic Roots of the Gospel become profoundly evident, giving new insights to many passages of Scripture previously misunderstood.


In brief, this all came about through a man called Constantine, who was identified as the first Pope. His father was a Roman Emperor. When his dad died, Constantine took his army and marched against Rome. Constantine was a worshipper of Baal the sun god, and therefore had the support of the pagans.

There was one man that stood between him and the throne of Rome. His name was Maxentius. And Constantine needed to gain the support of the Christians in order to have the victory he desired. We read in history that a sign was shown to Constantine of a cross that he had eventually it put on the shield of his army. But this was not the Cross of Jesus, representing the crucifixion of the Messiah. It was the cross of Ankh, the symbol of the sun god. But he gained the support of the Christians of that era, and gained control of the throne. He then professed to be a Christian. He proceeded to sprinkle all his soldiers with water making them instant Christians. No repentance was required, not even a profession of faith in Jesus as Messiah.

Constantine changed all the Feast days and took out anything that was Jewish. He made himself the head of the Church. But he was a sun worshipper till his death. He was never born again. Yet he was able to change the whole face of Christianity.

The date of December 25th was the celebration of the birth of the Babylonian sun god. Many pagan religions through the ages worshipped the sun as the source of light and warmth and life. As darkness deepened in the winter and the shortest day of the year approached, many pagans of old feared that the light might die altogether. Once the winter solstice had hit, the hours of sunlight began to increase once again. There would be great celebrations over the return of the sun and the accompanying hope for a future spring. In the northern hemisphere, these celebrations would occur toward the end of December.

Tammuz, the son of Nimrod and Semiramis, was identified with the Babylonian sun god. He was worshipped after the winter solstice, about December 22-23. Tammuz was thought to have died during the winter solstice, and was memorialized by burning a log in the fireplace. The Chaldean word for infant is yule. This is the origin of the yule log. His rebirth was celebrated by replacing the log with a trimmed tree the next morning.

And it was in the 5th century that the Roman Catholic Church made this date December 25th the celebration of the birth of Christ. And the Sabbath of God was changed to the day of the sun god to Sunday.

The early Christians are not known to have celebrated Christ's birth, and the actual date of His nativity has been lost in history. The first recorded mention of the December 25 date was in the Calendar of Philocalus (354 A.D.) which assumed Jesus' birth date to be Friday, December 25, 1 A.D. - even though it was quite unlikely that shepherds would be out in the fields in December. Pope Julius I officially proclaimed December 25 to be the anniversary of Christ's birth in 440 A.D.

Originally called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom reached Egypt by 432 AD and England by the end of the 6th century. By the end of the 8th century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to the Scandinavian countries. Christmas is being celebrated on January 6 in the Orthodox Church, on what is also called Epiphany or Three Kings Day, the day that celebrates when the wise men found the Christ Child and gave their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Puritans in England outlawed Christmas for years. The holiday was not popular in early America. In fact, Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.

Then, this holiday underwent many conversions and major commercialism. Americans reinvented Christmas into the holiday we know today. Writers Washington Irving and Charles Dickens both wrote tales that presented Christmas as a holiday of caring for the poor and bringing families together. As the angels sang above the shepherds that original Christmas night, "peace on earth, good will toward men". Americans borrowed traditions here and there to celebrate the birth of Christ - the giving of presents and good cheer and getting together to enjoy families. The Season is still a mixture of traditions pulled from a multitude of sources.


The journey to understanding the Hebraic roots of our faith sometimes passes through the Roman road before heading back to Jerusalem.

Remember that the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus was born is a season of joy and great rejoicing. The date is important but the birth is even more important.

We are to be like the citron, which produces both fruit and fragrance. We are to be faithful and steadfast, living a balanced life in wisdom before God and man. When we know about the truth of the birth of Christ, let’s do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). That’s what the Lord requires of us.

By being gracious peacemakers, we may win some of them, who do celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December, over by teaching the truth in love. No Christians in their right frame of mind would want to believe in a lie. Do not judge their ignorance if we have not taken the responsibility to pray for them and share with them the truth in love. They are still our brothers and sisters in Christ! We were once ignorant of this truth too. We also have come through this Roman road before. It takes time, patience and lots of peacemaking! Let's be gracious even as we embrace the truth.

God is now raising a remnant not just for Israel but also for the Church. A remnant not just to save themselves by being right and righteous BUT a remnant who will become a light in the darkness shining for Jesus and sharing the truth in love, and also a salt to preserve the lives of others like Joseph and Daniel of the Old Testament.

What then should we do now? Should we continue observing Christmas on December 25th? Or are we going to begin acknowledging the Hebraic roots of our faith and understanding the purposes of the Feasts which our Father in His wisdom has bestowed. He has given us an inheritance, that in them we might be in rehearsal for the day our King returns, for then, we shall all celebrate the Feasts together with Him.

The timing of the birth of the Messiah has great significance as it fulfilled the Messianic prophecy! The birth of Jesus at the Feast of Sukkot was one of God’s appointed times for prophetic reasons foreshadowing the Torah, the goal to which it pointed, the seventh millennium and the kingship of Messiah from Jerusalem. These are important pictures to treasure in our hearts!

If it is important enough to God that He would cause Jesus' birth AND coronation as King to take place at an appointed season on the Jewish Calendar, then it should be important to us, regardless of the otherwise world's traditions. Therefore, we should heed the words of Apostle Paul:

"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Cor. 6:17-18

If we do this, we will be creating the conditions in which Zechariah 14:16-19 can be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, let our celebration of the birth of Christ honor Him Who gave Himself to us as the ultimate sacrifice of love. May everything we do reflect the love and compassion of our Savior, bringing glory to His name.