We read in Leviticus 23:42 that ancient Israel was commanded to “dwell in booths for seven days.” God commanded Israel to build temporary huts or booths out of tree branches and live in them during the Feast of Tabernacles (compare Nehemiah 8:14-18).
What is a booth? In the Hebrew, the word is “sukkah.” It means, literally, a “covering or a booth,” but as we will see, it conveys more than that.
The word “sukkah” is translated 12 times as “tabernacle” in the Authorized Version. In most cases, it refers to the Feast of Tabernacles (compare Leviticus 23:34; Deuteronomy 16:13, 16; 31:10; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4; and Zechariah 14:16, 18-19).
The temporary nature of a “sukkah” is stated in Job 36:29, where we read: “Can any understand the… thunder from His canopy?” The Authorized Version translates, “tabernacle.” The Hebrew word is “sukkah.” It refers here to God’s dwelling place in Heaven. But God will not always abide there. Sometime after the Third Resurrection, He will come to the new earth to reside there.
In addition, the word “sukkah,” is used in many passages to convey a temporary shelter.
In Genesis 33:17, booths (“sukkah”) are built for Jacob’s livestock, to provide shelter for them.
In Job 27:18, we read that the wicked builds his house like a booth – or, as the margin of the New King James Bible puts it, as a “Temporary shelter.”
In Jonah 4:5, it is stated that Jonah “made himself a shelter,” according to the New King James Bible. The Authorized Version translates, “a booth,” but implying, quite literally, a temporary shelter.
In Isaiah 4:6, it says that God will provide a “tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for shelter from storm and rain.” God will do this for Israelites who have not yet become born again Spirit beings in His Family. So, the shelter that God will provide for them is of a temporary nature, since once they have been made immortal, they don’t need a physical booth to protect them from heat.
Also, note 2 Samuel 11:11, where we read: “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents.” The Hebrew word is “sukkah” and describes a temporary shelter or dwelling place.
So we see that the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of booths, is associated with temporary dwellings, where God is sheltering His people and protects them from the dangers and troubles of this world.
The New Bible Commentary remarks about Leviticus 23:40-42, on page 163:
“The people are to live in booths for seven days that their generations may know that the Lord made the people of Israel dwell in booths, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. .. The thought which is stressed is of course the frail and temporary character of the dwellings of the people during the wilderness sojourn. Thus Jerusalem is likened by Isaiah to a cottage (booth) in a vineyard (Isaiah 1:8).”
As pointed out correctly above, it is the very temporary character of the booth, which is stressed in Isaiah 1:8. A booth or a tabernacle is a temporary dwelling.
The Church of God (under Herbert W. Armstrong who died in 1986) has taught consistently that we do not have to build today literal booths of tree branches to dwell in them during the Feast. The spiritual point God wanted to convey was that we are to live in a temporary dwelling or shelter during the Feast.
The Good News of August 1980 states on page 13:
“It does not matter what the booths or dwellings are made out of. Back then they were made of branches. Today they may be canvas tents, aluminum trailers, brick motels, hotels or condominiums. The important point is that they be places of temporary residence.”
Likewise, we read in the Good News, September 1983, on page 7:
“The modern counterpart of these booths would be hotels, motels and other places of temporary residence.”
Also, lesson 30 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, published in 1986, states on page 14:
“A booth or tabernacle is a temporary dwelling. God commanded the ancient Israelites to live in temporary shelters made of tree branches while observing the Feast of Tabernacles. For God’s people who attend the Feast today in many different climates, tents, campers, motel or hotel rooms are appointed as temporary dwellings.”
The Church of the Eternal God and its international associations are upholding, practicing and teaching this vital understanding. In applying the spiritual intent and purpose of God’s command to “live in booths” during the Feast of Tabernacles, God’s people today leave their homes to live in “temporary dwellings” during the Feast.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link