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"Moses  commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven  years, in  the solemnity of the year of release, in the Feast  of Shelters, When all of Israel appears before the Lord your God in  the place which he shall choose, you shall read this law before  all Israel.  Gather the people together, men and women, children  and stranger  that is within your land, that they may hear, and  that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law" (Deut.31:10-12 Para.).

In  this  command, Moses  specifically  notes that the Feast  of Shelters that occurred during the Year of Release was the time  to review  the  entire law  contained in the covenant that  God made with  Israel. Why did Moses refer to the seven-day feast of the seventh month as the Feast of Shelters and not the Feast of Ingathering, and why was it necessary for the Israelites to read the entire law during this festival every seventh year, which is the Year of Release?

Moses most likely used the name Feast of Shelters because this was the time that the Israelites were to remember  that  it was  through  the overshadowing power of God's  presence  in  the cloud and fire that provided them protection from their  enemies. Additionally,  it was only through their adherence to the law contained within  the covenant that God's  blessings, care, and  protection could be maintained.

Because the law was to be read  every seventh year, the number of the year and the occasion of  the year must have a significant meaning. The  number seven is symbolic of termination, being  complete, absolute perfection, finality, and bringing to an end. It was during the years of release that  all debts were forgiven, and indentured or purchased servants were freed from  their debt and servitude. Although the announcement of the Year of Release was made  every  seventh  year on the Day of Atonement, the law was  to  be read 5 days later during the Feast of Shelters. The number  5 is symbolic of God's grace.

When these facts are looked at together, it seems that the reason the law was to be read during the Feast of Shelters in the seventh Year of Release was to show the   absolute perfection and freedom expressed in the law of God and God's  great favor, grace, concern , compassion, and mercy for the people of Israel.


There  are  basically three schools of thought as to the physical observance of the Feast of Shelters and Ingathering:

1. Some feel that it should be observed by dwelling in  shelters made from tree branches or similar vegetation, just as  God instructed ancient Israel to do.

2. Some feel that any temporary dwelling place, such as a tent or other temporary  lodging away from  one's  permanent  residence, fulfills the intent of the instruction to dwell in shelters.

3. Others feel that the human body fulfills the meaning of dwelling in shelters because it is a temporary housing for one's  spirit until  one  is transformed into a spirit-being with a glorified spirit-body  at Christ's coming.

There  are  several very important things that need  to  be understood in reference to the physical observance of this festival that will help clarify the issue of dwelling  in  temporary shelters during this festival.

The Command

Leviticus 23:40-43

"And you shall take on the first day the boughs of goodly  trees, branches  of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and  willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (v40 KJV).

The instruction to dwell in shelters was given to the Israelites  who were to make a pilgrimage to the place where God  had placed his name and observe the festival there.

"And  you  shall keep it a feast to the Lord seven  days  in  the year.   It shall be a statute for ever in your  generations:  you shall celebrate it in the seventh month" (v41 KJV).

When God said, 'your generations', he meant the generations of national Israel with whom he had made a  covenant.

"You shall live in shelters seven days; all who are home-born  in Israel shall live in shelters" (v42 Para.).

Verse  42 clearly defines that it was national Israel who was to dwell in shelters  made  from tree branches. But, why were they to dwell in shelters?

"So  that your generations shall know that I caused the  sons  of Israel  to live in shelters, when I brought them out of the  land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God" (v43 Para.).

Ancient Israel was required to live in shelters as a remembrance of being brought out of  Egypt by God.

When the sacrificial system of worship is instituted before the return of Christ, all of national Israel and  others who want  to observe the sacrificial system of worship  as  set forth  under the Sinai Covenant will be obligated to  travel  to Jerusalem and dwell in shelters during this festival.


There are no mentions or inferences of temporary shelters   made from tree branches being a part of the symbolic or literal  meaning of this festival.

This festival has nothing to do with  temporary  dwellings or the temporary nature of  life.  The transient  quality of a shelter of any kind is not an  issue   in sorting  out  the  meaning of the Feast of Shelters or its physical observance. This festival is symbolic and prophetic of God's sheltering care and protection of his people.

It is not  understanding the  temporary nature of the dwelling place of people that impacts one's salvation,  it is the concept and reality of being sheltered by God that is important.

The Elect of God

The elect of God who live during the gospel age before Christ's return are  a  temple  of God. This is the place  where  God  has chosen  to place his name and presence and meet with  his people before the return of Jesus Christ.

By  virtue  of  being the temple of God on earth  under  the continual  protective care of God the Father, Jesus  Christ,  and their  angelic  servants, there is no compelling reason  for  the children  of God during the gospel age  to observe this  festival by dwelling in shelters made from tree branches or in any  other temporary lodging.

The children of God are an extension of God's sheltering care, concern, and protection for humanity. Notice what Jesus said about the great tribulation and  the  salvation  of humanity that will come through the elect of God:

"For  there  will be great affliction, such as has  not  happened from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever will  be. And except those days are cut short, no flesh would be saved: but on  account  of  the  elect,  those  days  will  be   shortened" (Matt.24:21-22 Para.).


The  general  instructions for the observance of festivals are  given  in Deuteronomy chapters 14 and 16:

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Paraphrased

"You  shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed,  that  the field  brings forth year by year. And you shall eat  before  the Lord  your God, in the place which he shall choose to  place  his name, the  tithe of your corn, wine, and oil, and the  first  of your herds and flocks; that you may learn to always fear the Lord your God" (vs.22-23).

"And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able  to carry your goods; or if the place be too far from you, where  the Lord  your God shall choose to set his name, when the Lord  your God has blessed you: Then you shall turn it into money, and  bind up  the money in your hand, and you shall go to the  place  which the Lord your God shall choose" (vs.24-25).

"And you shall use that money for whatsoever you strongly desire, for  oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or for whatsoever  you  desire:  and you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and  you shall rejoice, you, and your household" (v26).

Historically, the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering was  traditionally the major festival of the year, after the Passover Observance  and the  Festival of   Unleavened Bread. This was the time of  year  when whole families would travel to Jerusalem (the place where God had placed  his name and presence) to bring their tithes and offerings, perform personal sacrifices, worship God, and enjoy the fruits  of their labor.

Today  the spiritual children of God are under no  obligation  to travel  to any certain location in order to worship God  and  observe a festival. Each child of God is a holy  vessel  where God has placed his name and presence through the power  of his  holy spirit and they worship God in spirit and  truth.  See Jn.4:21-24.

Deuteronomy.16:11-16 Paraphrased

"And  you  shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you,  and  your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, the Levite that is within your land, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that are among  you,  in the place where the Lord your God  has  chosen  to place his name. And you shall remember that you were a bondman in Egypt:  and you shall observe and do these statutes" (vs.11-12).

"You  shall observe the feast of shelters seven days,  after  you have  gathered in your corn and your wine: And you shall  rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, the  Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and  the  widow, that are within your land" (vs.13-14).

"Seven days shall you keep a solemn feast to the Lord your God in the place where the Lord shall choose:  because the Lord your God shall  bless  you in all your increase, and in all the works  of your hands, therefore you shall surely rejoice. Three times in  a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in  the place  which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened  bread, and  in  the feast of weeks, and in the feast of  shelters:  and they shall not appear before the Lord empty" (vs.15-16).

A Festival of Joy

"You  shall observe the feast of shelters seven days  and  you shall  rejoice  in  your feast seven days shall  you  keep  a solemn  feast to the Lord; therefore, you shall surely rejoice" (Deut.16:13-15).

The  English  word 'solemn' is a poor translation of  the  Hebrew word  'kaw-gag', which can mean 'to circle', 'to march in a sacred  procession', 'to observe a festival', and by implication, 'to celebrate', 'to dance', and 'to feast'. A more appropriate translation of  'kaw-gag' is 'joyous'.

It is commanded to celebrate  and  enjoy  this  seven-day feast of the seventh month. The Feast  of Shelters/Ingathering  should be one of the most joyous and  happy festivals  of  the year, because it is a time to look forward  in  joyous anticipation  to the time in the future when God's plan  for  the salvation of humanity is finished.


The  following are two primary messages of the seven-day feast of  the  seventh month:

1. God the Father is the protector of his people (past,  present, and future),  and  this  care, concern, and  protection  for  his people will culminate in their being brought into his Family  and Kingdom for all eternity.

2. At some time in the future, there will be a great  celebration  to commemorate the end of the harvest of  humanity  into the Family and Kingdom of God.


"Also  in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when  you  have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to  the Lord seven days:  on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath" (Lev.23:39 KJV).

The eighth day is not actually a  part  of  the  Feast  of Shelters/Ingathering. The Eighth Day is a separate festival with a separate meaning within the plan of God. See our studies about the Feast of the Eighth Day for a detailed explanation.