As with the previous 2 pilgrimage festivals—Unleavened Bread (#194-197) and Weeks (#198-204)—so too here: the Festival of Ingathering developed and modified into the Festival of Booths with some minor changes implemented by the Deuteronomist, some of which were kept by the Priestly writer, while others were not.
Preceding chronologically—through the sources of the Torah (E, J, D, P) not the narrative as it now stands—the Elohist text of Exodus 23:16 is our oldest witness. This festival is listed as the last of the 3 pilgrimage festivals, of which all males must present themselves to Yahweh at a local altar or shrine.
And the Festival of Ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your produce from the field.
In other words, a pilgrimage festival to a local altar to present a portion of what was reaped at the end of the year harvest was to be observed by all males. Yahweh must receive his due portion before the Israelites can enjoying the harvest.
The 7th century Deuteronomist changes this decree in several ways, while nonetheless presenting Moses as merely renarrating it:
- Again (#117), in accordance with the Deuteronomist’s abolition of local Yahwistic altars and shrines and the centralization of the cult in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem alone, the Festival of Ingathering could no longer be celebrated locally. Now, like the Elohist’s other 2 pilgrimage festivals, the festival was converted into a national pilgrimage festival to Jerusalem.
- The Deuteronomist also extended the duration of the festival to 7 days.
- This extension itself may have been the catalyst behind the erection of booths as temporary dwelling places for the pilgrimages, and thus the name too of this Festival was changed from Ingathering (‘asip) to Booths (sukkot).
- Lastly, Deuteronomy identifies the time of this festival and what is to be presented to Yahweh differently than indicated in his Elohist source. Rather than a pilgrimage “when you gather in your produce from the field” and present these firstfruits to Yahweh, the Deuteronomist identifies the time of the autumn pilgrimage as “when you gather in from your threshing floor and from your wine press” and thus what is presented to Yahweh is not the raw firstfruits of produce, grape clusters and olives, but rather the processed yield, i.e., wine and pressed olive oil! We noted a similar alteration made by the Deuteronomist for Yahweh’s offerings for the Festival of Weeks (#200).
Finally, the later Priestly material of Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29 more or less retain the 7 day Festival of Booths, but now accord it a specific “appointed time”: the 15th day of the 7th month. This is also decreed as an “eternal law,” a phrase only found in the Priestly literature.
There are, however, some differences between the Priestly legislation and that of Deuteronomy.
- The Priestly writer resorts back to the older Elohist tradition of identifying the pilgrimage as “when you gather the land’s produce” (Lev 23:39) and not when you have processed it as in the Deuteronomic version (#4 above).
- The Priestly legislation adds an 8th day onto the festival, a “holy assembly.”
Lastly, the sacrificial stipulations listed in Numbers 29:12-38 are absent from the version preserved in Leviticus 23, similar to what we noted in the details between these two priestly texts in relation to the other pilgrimage festivals (See Festival Calendars). Numbers 29 details the specific sacrifices of each day in the 7-day Festival of Booths, 7 days of burnt-offerings:
- Day 1: 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering + a sin-offering of 1 goat + the tamid.
- Day 2: 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs w/accompanying grain-offering, etc.
- Day 3: 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs, etc.
A total of 70 bulls, 14 rams, and 98 lambs are consumed by Yahweh during this 7 day festival—a voracious appetite to say the least!