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The Christology of Sacrificial Countdown at the Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles was that final feast of the year for Israel--six months after they Passover--in which they were to commemorate Israel's dwelling in tents in the wilderness after their redemption from Egypt. They were to remember God's faithfulness in providing for them during the days of their pilgrimage in the desert. Every year until Christ's death, Israel was to celebrate the feast in the manner prescribed by God in Numbers 29:12-40. Note the particular instructions concerning the sacrificial system during that eight day period:

"On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work, and you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days. You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the LORD: thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year. They shall be without blemish. Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each of the thirteen bulls, two-tenths for each of the two rams, and one-tenth for each of the fourteen lambs; also one kid of the goats as on the second day present twelve young bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs in their first year without blemish, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings. On the third day present eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen lambs in their first year without blemish, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one goat as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. On the fourth day present ten bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year, without blemish, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. On the fifth day present nine bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year without blemish, also one goat as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. On the sixth day present eight bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year without blemish, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one goat as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. On the seventh day present seven bulls, two rams, and fourteen lambs in their first year without blemish, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one goat as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. On the eighth day you shall have a sacred assembly. You shall do no customary work. You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the LORD: one bull, and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; also one goat as a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. ‘These you shall present to the LORD at your appointed feasts (besides your vowed offerings and your freewill offerings) as your burnt offerings and your grain offerings, as your drink offerings and your peace offerings.’” So Moses told the children of Israel everything, just as the LORD commanded Moses. a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering, its grain offering, and its drink offering. ‘ and their grain offering and their drink offerings for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, by their number, according to the ordinance; one ram, seven lambs in their first year without blemish,

Notice the reduction of sacrifices with each successive day. On the final day of the feast (i.e. the eight day) only one bull was to be offered. This is most likely foreshadowing the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ. All the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. It is also significant that only one bull was to be offered on the eight day. On a successive period of seven day weeks, the eight day is one and the same with the first day of the week. The eighth day denotes the new creation, as the first day denotes the beginning or creation. With the sacrifice of Christ, the new creation is accomplished. Walter Lowrie, the 19th Century Presbyterian missionary to China, noted this significant fact with regard to the instructions of the Feast of Tabernacle:

The last day of the Feast of Tabernacles was the great day of the feast; it was the closing act of praise to God for unnumbered mercies. It is probable also that the sacrifices and services of that day had peculiar reference to their expected Savior. The sacrifices were not so numerous on that day as on the preceding days. On the first day thirteen bulls were offered in sacrifice, on the second twelve, on the third, eleven, and thus down to the seventh, on which seven were offered, and on the eight only one. By this it might have been intended to signify that the multiplied sacrifices and ceremonies of the Mosaic-law must gradually give way and be abolished; while the one offering of Christ should perfect forever them that believe. If this were the intention, then there was a peculiar propriety in calling it, the great day of the feast.1

1. Walter Lowrie Sermons Preached in China

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