798. Ceremonies at the Feast of Tabernacles

John 7:37; Isaiah 12:3; John 7:38-39
John 7:3737In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. (John 7:37). In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
In addition to the ceremonies originally prescribed at the institution of the Feast of Tabernacles (see note on Exodus 28:1616Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. (Exodus 28:16), #136) were several others of a later date. Among these was the daily drawing of water from the pool of Siloam. Every morning of the seven days of the feast proper, at daybreak, a priest went to the pool of Siloam and filled with water a golden pitcher, containing about two pints and a half. He was accompanied by a procession of the people and a band of music. On returning to the temple he was welcomed with three blasts from a trumpet, and going to the west side of the great altar he poured the water from the golden pitcher into a silver basin, which had holes in the bottom through which the water was carried off. This ceremony was accompanied with songs and shouts from the people and with the sound of trumpets. It is supposed to have been designed to represent three distinct things: 1. A memorial of the water provided for their fathers in the desert. 2. A symbol of the forthcoming “latter rain.” 3. A representation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the coming of the Messiah. To the last reference is made in verses 38-39, and to the pouring out of the water Jesus no doubt refers in the text.
Nearly all the authorities agree in saying that on the eighth day this ceremony was dispensed with. There is great diversity of opinion, however, as to the meaning of “the last day, that great day of the feast”; some supposing it to be the seventh, and others the eighth. It is urged that the eighth day was not properly a part of the feast, but a special day of “holy convocation,” the peculiar ceremonies of the feast having ceased at the close of the day previous, although the ritual provided special offerings for the eighth day. On the other hand, it is affirmed that the Jews held the eighth day in higher esteem than any of the seven others because they thought the solemnities of the day were designed especially for them, whereas on the other days all the nations of the world were included in the supplications that were offered. It is sufficient for our present purpose to say that, if the seventh day be intended by “the last,” the Saviour probably uttered the words of the text at the time when the water was poured out by the officiating priest. If the eighth day be meant, then it is probable, as Alford suggests, that the words were used after the singing of the Hallel, just at the time when, on previous days, the water had been poured out.
It is thought by some that this custom of drawing water from Siloam and pouring it out by the side of the great altar was introduced before the Babylonish captivity, and that Isaiah refers to it when he says, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:33Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)).