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This article belongs to a series on the Old Covenant’s Sabbaths or holy days. This present part concentrates on the Assembly on the Eighth Day and its symbolism. In the Scriptures, that day is mentioned in Leviticus 23:39 and Numbers 29:35, and then in 2 Chronicles 7:9 and Nehemiah 8:18.
The Hebrew name for that day is Shemini Atzeret which is translated as “Assembly on the Eighth Day”.
The apostle Paul noted, regarding the Old Covenant’s high days, that they were a “shadow of things to come”, Colossians 2:17 – that is, they were types and symbols of future things. It is true that literally, many of them pointed to things that happened to the ancient Israelites, but it is clear that they also pictured things and events that were to come. Because of that prophetic symbolism, those days and the rituals that were connected to them, are an interesting object of study.
The Bible does not tell us very much about it. But, the Scriptures do state the meaning of the seven-day Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) which preceded it. Through this, we can form a picture of the probable symbolism of the Assembly on the Eighth Day.
In the Bible, the first reference to that day is found in Leviticus 23:39. The first part of that verse refers to the Feast of Booths, but its last words refer to the Assembly on the Eighth Day.
Leviticus 23:39 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. (MKJV)
“Seventh month”: The Israelites’ “religious year” began in the spring, and so, the seventh month was in the autumn, around what we call September and October. The words “a feast to the Lord seven days” refer to the Feast of Booths which was seven days long, from the 15th to the 21st day of their seventh month. The words “on the eighth day shall be a sabbath” refer to the Assembly on the Eighth Day which was a separate feast on the 22nd day of that month.
Even this verse mentions the Assembly on the Eighth Day:
Numbers 29:35 On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly. You shall do no laboring work. (MKJV)
Also these two passages mention the seven-day Feast of Booths and the Assembly on the Eighth Day:
Nehemiah 8:18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read in the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth was an assembly, according to the law. (MKJV)
2 Chronicles 7:8 And at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath to the river of Egypt. 9 And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly. […] (MKJV)
And – that’s about all the Scriptures say about the Assembly on the Eighth Day. The Bible does not contain any statement concerning its meaning or symbolism. And so, there have been created many kinds of dogmas, in regard to what it supposedly symbolised. An example of this is that some have claimed that it referred to a “judgment period”, or a “millennium”.
If we want to find out what that day pointed to and symbolised, we must stick to the Bible. By studying the symbolism of the preceding days, the seven-day the Feast of Booths, including its seventh and last day, we can find certain clues which can help us to form at least a sketchy picture of the probable meaning and symbolism of the Assembly on the Eighth Day.
Before going into that, let us consider John 7:37. In a way, that verse has a bearing on the Assembly on the Eighth Day. But, there is common misunderstanding in regard to what day that verse refers to.
For some reason, some have thought that John 7:37 refers to the Assembly on the Eighth Day. But, the “great day” which that verse mentions, was the seventh and last day of the Feast of Booths. Clarification:
According to old Jewish writings, it was the Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh and last day of the Feast of Booths, that was viewed as the “great day of the feast”. This had to do with certain temple-rituals. During the seven days of the Feast of Booths, there were special ceremonies by the temple in Jerusalem. A part of that was a special water-ritual. Those ceremonies culminated on the seventh and last day of that feast, and there was great rejoicing. In several ways, that seventh day was the “great one of the feast”. That is what John 7:37 refers to.
John 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. 39 But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified. (ASV)
The Greek text of the first part of verse 37 has en de tê eschatê hêmera tê megalê tês heortês, “and on the last day, the great [one] of the feast”. That phrase does not occur in the Old Testament; it is only here in John 7:37 in the New Testament that we find those words. And again, certain temple-rituals culminated on the seventh and last day of the Feast of Booths, and there was great rejoicing. That is why that seventh day was viewed as the “great day of the feast”.
The Assembly on the Eighth Day was not a part of that seven-day feast but was a separate high day.
The article nxa051.htm has more on the Feast of Booths. The article nxa061.htm has some notes on its seventh and last day, the great day of John 7:37.
First, some notes regarding the symbolism of the seven days of the Feast of Booths which preceded the Assembly on the Eighth Day:
Leviticus 23:42–43 tells us that the Feast of Booths symbolised the time after the Exodus, the time when the Israelites were in the desert and lived in booths or tents there, before they entered the Promised Land.
Leviticus 23:42 In booths shall ye dwell seven days; all born in Israel shall dwell in booths; 43 that your generations may know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Jehovah your God. (DBY)
Also, Jewish tradition has it that at the end of the seventh and last day of the Feast of Booths (which was a reminder of the desert sojourn), the ritual booths were put away.
More: On each of the seven days of the Feast of Booths, there was by the temple a special ritual where people ceremonially encircled the altar. On the first six days, that was done once a day, but on the seventh and last day (the “great” day, the Hoshana Rabbah) the people encircled the altar seven times. At the same time, the priests sounded their trumpets. – That ritual was obviously in reminiscence of the taking of Jericho, which happened when the Israelites’ desert sojourn came to its end. Joshua 6 records that Jericho was encircled on seven days, on the first six once a day, and on the seventh day seven times, with the priests sounding trumpets. When that was done, the walls of the stronghold Jericho fell down. This meant that the Israelites could begin to take the Promised Land into their possession and settle there.
From these things, we can see that later, when the Israelites kept the Feast of Booths, the removal of the ritual booths (this was done at the end of the seventh and last day of that feast) obviously symbolised the end of the Israelites’ desert sojourn – the time when they finally entered the Promised Land.
So, if the end of the seventh and last day of the Feast of Booths symbolised the end of the wilderness sojourn (the time when the Israelites left the desert and entered the Promised Land) – then, what could be the symbolism of the following day, the Assembly on the eight day? It might be that it pictured the time beyond that, the time when the Israelites finally took possession of their inheritance, the Promised Land. But, there is more to that matter. Even the faithful people of old knew that the earthly Promised Land was not the ultimate goal. We read:
Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (NKJV)
Already those faithful people of old looked forward to the heavenly Promised Land and the City of God there. That is also where the saints were headed. – The articles nba041.htm and nxa101.htm have more on what the Bible has to say about Heaven.
And, when one understands that the ancient Israelites’ entry into the earthly Promised Land was a “type and shadow” of the saints’ entry into the heavenly Promised Land, then there is even more to consider. The saints formed Jesus’ Bride and were because of this looking forward to the wedding feast which was to take place in the heavenly Jerusalem. So, it could even be that the Assembly on the Eighth Day ultimately symbolised that very special, festal Assembly.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa091.htm
On the symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles. → nxa051.htm
The “Last Great Day” and its symbolism. Some notes on “the last day, the great one of the feast” which is mentioned in John 7:37. → nxa061.htm
What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → nba041.htm
Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → nxa101.htm
Worshipping God. What does the Bible say about worship, in connection with the New Covenant? → naa040.htm
What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it located? Does it exist already, or is it only going to be established in the future? Or, is it merely something “in the hearts of men”? → noa010.htm
Table of contents – Key-word index – Search function – On the goal and purpose of this site
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