The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 52: The Annual Feasts
With those who lived at a distance from the tabernacle, more
than a month of every year must have been occupied in attending
the annual feasts. Why would God impose such a requirement?
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There were three annual assemblies of all Israel for worship
at the sanctuary. Exodus 23:14-16. Shiloh was for a time the
place of these gatherings; but Jerusalem afterward became the
center of the nation's worship, and here the tribes convened for
the solemn feasts.
The people were surrounded by fierce, warlike tribes, that
were eager to seize upon their lands; yet three times every year
all the able-bodied men and all the people who could make the
journey were directed to leave their homes and repair to the
place of assembly, near the center of the land. What was to hinder
their enemies from sweeping down upon those unprotected
households, to lay them waste with fire and sword? What was to
prevent an invasion of the land, that would bring Israel into
captivity to some foreign foe? God had promised to be the protector
of His people. "The angel of Jehovah encampeth round
about them that fear Him, and delivereth them." Psalm 34:7.
While the Israelites went up to worship, divine power would
place a restraint upon their enemies. God's promise was, "I will
cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither
shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to
appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year." Exodus
The first of these festivals, the Passover, the feast of unleavened
bread, occurred in Abib, the first month of the Jewish year,
corresponding to the last of March and the beginning of April.
The cold of winter was past, the latter rain had ended, and all
nature rejoiced in the freshness and beauty of the springtime.
The grass was green on the hills and valleys, and wild flowers
everywhere brightened the fields. The moon, now approaching
the full, made the evenings delightful. It was the season so beautifully
pictured by the sacred singer: [p. 538]
"The winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;|
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree ripeneth her green figs,
And the vines are in blossom,
They give forth their fragrance."
|Song of Solomon 2:11-13, R.V.|
Throughout the land bands of pilgrims were making their
way toward Jerusalem. The shepherds from their flocks, the
herdsmen from the mountains, fishers from the Sea of Galilee,
the husbandmen from their fields, and sons of the prophets from
the sacred schools—all turned their steps toward the place where
God's presence was revealed. They journeyed by short stages, for
many went on foot. The caravans were constantly receiving accessions,
and often became very large before reaching the Holy
Nature's gladness awakened joy in the hearts of Israel and
gratitude to the Giver of all good. The grand Hebrew psalms
were chanted, exalting the glory and majesty of Jehovah. At the
sound of the signal trumpet, with the music of cymbals, the
chorus of thanksgiving arose, swelled by hundreds of voices:
"I was glad when they said unto me,|
Let us go unto the house of the Lord.
Our feet are standing
Within thy gates, O Jerusalem. . . .
Whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, . . .
To give thanks unto the name of Jehovah. . . .
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee."
|Psalm 122:1-6, R.V.|
As they saw around them the hills where the heathen had
been wont to kindle their altar fires, the children of Israel sang:
"Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills?|
Whence should my help come?
My help cometh from Jehovah,
Which made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1, 2 (margin).
"They that trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth forever.
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,
So the Lord is round about His people,
From this time forth and forevermore."
|Psalm 125:1, 2, R.V. [p. 539]|
Surmounting the hills in view of the Holy City, they looked
with reverent awe upon the throngs of worshipers wending their
way to the temple. They saw the smoke of the incense ascending,
and as they heard the trumpets of the Levites heralding the
sacred service, they caught the inspiration of the hour, and
"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised|
In the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King."
Psalm 48:1, 2.
"Peace be within thy walls,
And prosperity within thy palaces."
"Open to me the gates of righteousness:
I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord."
"I will pay my vows unto the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem,
Praise ye the Lord."
|Psalm 122:7; 118:19; 116:18, 19.|
All the houses in Jerusalem were thrown open to the pilgrims,
and rooms were furnished free; but this was not sufficient
for the vast assembly, and tents were pitched in every available
space in the city and upon the surrounding hills.
On the fourteenth day of the month, at even, the Passover
was celebrated, its solemn, impressive ceremonies commemorating
the deliverance from bondage in Egypt, and pointing forward to
the sacrifice that should deliver from the bondage of sin. When the
Saviour yielded up His life on Calvary, the significance of the
Passover ceased, and the ordinance of the Lord's Supper was
instituted as a memorial of the same event of which the Passover
had been a type.
The Passover was followed by the seven day's feast of unleavened
bread. The first and the seventh day were days of holy
convocation, when no servile work was to be performed. On the
second day of the feast, the first fruits of the year's harvest were
presented before God. Barley was the earliest grain in Palestine,
and at the opening of the feast it was beginning to ripen. A sheaf
of this grain was waved by the priest before the altar of God, as
an acknowledgment that all was His. Not until this ceremony
had been performed was the harvest to be gathered. [p. 540]
Fifty days from the offering of first fruits, came the Pentecost,
called also the feast of harvest and the feast of weeks. As an
expression of gratitude for the grain prepared as food, two loaves
baked with leaven were presented before God. The Pentecost
occupied but one day, which was devoted to religious service.
In the seventh month came the Feast of Tabernacles, or of
ingathering. This feast acknowledged God's bounty in the products
of the orchard, the olive grove, and the vineyard. It was the
crowning festal gathering of the year. The land had yielded
its increase, the harvests had been gathered into the granaries,
the fruits, the oil, and the wine had been stored, the first fruits
had been reserved, and now the people came with their tributes
of thanksgiving to God, who had thus richly blessed them.
This feast was to be pre-eminently an occasion of rejoicing.
It occurred just after the great Day of Atonement,when the assurance
had been given that their iniquity should be remembered
no more. At peace with God, they now came before Him to
acknowledge His goodness and to praise Him for His mercy. The
labors of the harvest being ended, and the toils of the new year
not yet begun, the people were free from care, and could give
themselves up to the sacred, joyous influences of the hour.
Though only the fathers and sons were commanded to appear
at the feasts, yet, so far as possible, all the household were to
attend them, and to their hospitality the servants, the Levites, the
stranger, and the poor were made welcome.
Like the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles was commemorative.
In memory of their pilgrim life in the wilderness the
people were not to leave their houses and dwell in booths, or
arbors, formed from the green branches "of goodly trees, branches
of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the
brook." Leviticus 23:40, 42, 43.
The first day was a holy convocation, and to the seven days
of the feast an eighth day was added, which was observed in like
At these yearly assemblies the hearts of old and young would
be encouraged in the service of God, while the association of the
people from the different quarters of the land would strengthen
the ties that bound them to God and to one another. Well would
it be for the people of God at the present time to have a Feast of [p. 541] Tabernacles—a joyous commemoration of the blessings of God
to them. As the children of Israel celebrated the deliverance that
God had wrought for their fathers, and His miraculous preservation
of them during their journeyings from Egypt, so should we
gratefully call to mind the various ways He has devised for bringing
us out from the world, and from the darkness of error, into
the precious light of His grace and truth.
With those who lived at a distance from the tabernacle, more
than a month of every year must have been occupied in attendance
upon the annual feasts. This example of devotion to God
should emphasize the importance of religious worship and the
necessity of subordinating our selfish, worldly interests to those
that are spiritual and eternal. We sustain a loss when we neglect
the privilege of associating together to strengthen and encourage
one another in the service of God. The truths of His word lose
their vividness and importance in our minds. Our hearts cease to
be enlightened and aroused by the sanctifying influence, and we
decline in spirituality. In our intercourse as Christians we lose
much by lack of sympathy with one another. He who shuts himself
up to himself is not filling the position that God designed he
should. We are all children of one Father, dependent upon one
another for happiness. The claims of God and of humanity are
upon us. It is the proper cultivation of the social elements of
our nature that brings us into sympathy with our brethren and
affords us happiness in our efforts to bless others.
The Feast of Tabernacles was not only commemorative but
typical. It not only pointed back to the wilderness sojourn, but,
as the feast of harvest, it celebrated the ingathering of the fruits
of the earth, and pointed forward to the great day of final ingathering,
when the Lord of the harvest shall send forth His reapers
to gather the tares together in bundles for the fire, and to
gather the wheat into His garner. At that time the wicked will all
be destroyed. They will become "as though they had not been."
Obadiah 16. And every voice in the whole universe will unite in
joyful praise to God. Says the revelator, "Every creature which is
in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as
are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing,
and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth
upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." Revelation
5:13. [p. 542]
The people of Israel praised God at the Feast of Tabernacles,
as they called to mind His mercy in their deliverance from the
bondage of Egypt and His tender care for them during their
pilgrim life in the wilderness. They rejoiced also in the consciousness
of pardon and acceptance, through the service of the day of
atonement, just ended. But when the ransomed of the Lord shall
have been safely gathered into the heavenly Canaan, forever
delivered from the bondage of the curse, under which "the whole
creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now"
(Romans 8:22), they will rejoice with joy unspeakable and full
of glory. Christ's great work of atonement for men will then have
been completed, and their sins will have been forever blotted out.
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"The Earlier Judges"
"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;
And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and
The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it,
The excellency of Carmel and Sharon;
They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,
And the tongue of the dumb sing:
"For in the wilderness shall waters break out,
And streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool,
And the thirsty land springs of water: . . .
"And an highway shall be there, and a way,
And it shall be called The way of holiness;
The unclean shall not pass over it;
But it shall be for those:
The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
"No lion shall be there,
Nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon,
It shall not be found there;
But the redeemed shall walk there:
"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
And come to Zion with songs
And everlasting joy upon their heads:
They shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
|Isaiah 35:1, 2, 5-10.|