Having written several posts on the relationship between certain books of the Bible and the festivals of God  and having heard a couple of sermons in recent weeks on the book of Ecclesiastes, including one video sermon that pointed to an explanation of the material of the book of Ecclesiastes in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles, I thought that it would be worthwhile to provide a straightforward exploration of some reasons why some Jews and Christians read the book of Ecclesiastes during the time of Sukkot/The Feast of Tabernacles. It is my hope that an exploration of this connection may help enrich both the festival for those who read it as well as deepen our understanding of the often enigmatic book of Ecclesiastes, which is often viewed as particularly obscure and ambiguous for many writers, while serving as an inspiration for other writers .
There are several parallels that the book of Ecclesiastes has with the Feast of Tabernacles. Among the most obvious and noteworthy connections between the two is that both have is the attitude that both have to the enjoyment of what the heart desires, given that this is an aspect of both the Feast of Tabernacles and the book of Ecclesiastes in a prominent way. Deuteronomy 14:23-26 tells us: “And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” Strikingly, Ecclesiastes repeats this same point over and over again, one example being Ecclesiastes 3:10-13: “ I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Both the Feast of Tabernacles and the Book of Ecclesiastes affirm that it is good that everyone should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all their labor, something we all ought to keep in mind and appreciate.
Another point of similarity between Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles is the fact that both point to judgment. Ecclesiastes reminds us in its last two verses, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” We see the same reminder in Revelation 20:11-13: “ Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” Here we see that our enjoyment and what our heart desires is to be a heart that is directed according to God’s ways, for we will be held accountable for what we do and what we desire, whether good or bad.
Finally, it is important to note that there is a complementary aspect to much of the material in the book of Ecclesiastes and the focus of the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot. Over and over again, Solomon in Ecclesiastes points out what is the case under the sun. He points out the futility of life for people, and the fact that none of our deeds or achievements are lasting. He points out the corruption of humanity, the favoritism that the wealthy receive, the way it is better to be with others than to be alone, and so on. Solomon’s relentless repeating of this is a reminder that much of what Solomon experimented with related to this life and a life that is lived with attention to this world and this life, where no one knows if one’s achievements will last or be remembered, and Solomon had more cause than most to lament given the fact that the golden age under his reign ended so rapidly and so calamitously due to the folly of his son that many contemporary scholars doubt his very existence because his achievements were so evanescent. The Feast of Tabernacles, on the other hand, points to the world to come, to the time when those who have believed in and followed God during the course of their lives are resurrected and have eternal life, and where the memory of their lives or their deeds is no longer an issue because they have eternity in front of them. It is useful during the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot to contrast the way things are now with the way things will be in the future as we are told in scripture.
In reviewing the connection between Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot, we see that both encourage us to eat and drink and enjoy life, both remind us that we will be judged and held accountable for our actions, and both provide complimentary purposes by focusing on this life in Ecclesiastes and in the world to come and eternal life for believers in the Feast of Tabernacles. Given these connections, it is little wonder that Jews and Christians over the centuries have connected the book of Ecclesiastes with the time of year of the Feast of Tabernacles. It would have been a greater wonder if there had been no connection ever made between this book and this time of year, and we would have a lot more trouble understanding this time of year without the book of Ecclesiastes and a lot less ability to connect Ecclesiastes to God’s ways if we did not see its tie to the Feast of Booths. Let us therefore connect both the book and the time and profit by the connection between the two.
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