“Remember that this seven-day festival to the Lord—the Festival of Shelters—begins on the fifteenth day of the appointed month, after you have harvested all the produce of the land. The first day and the eighth day of the festival will be days of complete rest. On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees—palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the Lord your God for seven days. You must observe this festival to the Lord for seven days every year. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed in the appointed month from generation to generation. For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 23:39-43 (NLT)
Big thanks to Jew FAQ (http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm) for information used in this article!
Thanksgiving, according to dictionary.com, is defined as:
the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
an expression of thanks, especially to God.
a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
Thanksgiving is almost here, and as the day approaches it made me wonder if there is any Biblical relevance or significance to the Holiday. I’ve read through the history of Thanksgiving, and honestly, it looked like the same material I’ve seen since I was in elementary school. So many places in the Bible you can read about the role of thankfulness in the life of a believer: Colossians 3:15-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Hebrews 12:28-29, 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 and Philippians 4:6 to name a few. All throughout the book of Psalms we can see where we’re called to give thanks to God through the “ups” and “downs” in life. However, my search wasn’t done as I needed to go back even further into the Old Testament.
I’ll be honest here, my biggest weakness in the bible is knowing the Old Testament specifically the Pentateuch (also known as the Torah) beyond Genesis. I’ve always meant to read through the instructions God gave the priests in Leviticus, but I’ve never taken the time. However, after reading about this feast it makes me want to start reading again where I left off in Exodus. Moses had a considerable amount of wisdom and history to share with us. That’s what intrigues me about this feast. Our modern-day Thanksgiving celebration may just have some unseen roots back to this Festival.
I was reading on the subject of Thanksgiving and saw some information on the Festival of Sukkot (pronounced Sue Coat) and was intrigued. (NOTE: I am not an authoritative expert on this subject, I strongly encourage you to read the link above for a more detailed understanding.) This Holiday is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering. The Feast of Tabernacles really doesn’t tell us today who are outside of the Jewish faith what it’s about. However, the Feast of Ingathering gives us a clue about the origins of this feast. This was a feast that God commanded his people to have once a year after the harvest was brought in.
The people build small, temporary shelters every year where they try to spend as much time in as possible for a week (at the very least have all meals within it). It’s a joyous time to celebrate and be thankful for all of the blessings of the harvest. By spending time annually in these small shelters, the people are not to forget their ancestor’s journey out of Egypt and the 40 years spent in the wilderness wandering. It was during this time that they had to rely on God to sustain them.
It’s very possible, and the author of the linked article above even states this, that the Pilgrims who arrived in the new land possibly looked at the Festival of Sukkot in Leviticus as the inspiration for the first Thanksgiving. These people were deeply religious, and one would think that they would naturally turn to the Bible for inspiration. This Thanksgiving, take some time and read about the Festival of Sukkot which has been celebrated for thousands of years.