#205. Was the autumn harvest festival called the Festival of Ingathering OR Booths? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:34-43; Deut 16:13-15)
#206. Was the Festival of Ingathering/Booths a 1 day pilgrimage festival OR 7 days? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:36, 39; Num 29:12-34; Deut 16:13-15)
#207. Where was this pilgrimage festival: to a local altar OR to Jerusalem? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Deut 16:15)
#208. What was offered to Yahweh on this festival: the crops from the field OR a tithe from the threshing floor and wine press? (Ex 23:16; Lev 23:39 vs Deut 16:13)

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. The Deuteronomist also extended the duration of the festival to 7 days.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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!

9 thoughts on “#205. Was the autumn harvest festival called the Festival of Ingathering OR Booths? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:34-43; Deut 16:13-15)
#206. Was the Festival of Ingathering/Booths a 1 day pilgrimage festival OR 7 days? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Lev 23:36, 39; Num 29:12-34; Deut 16:13-15)
#207. Where was this pilgrimage festival: to a local altar OR to Jerusalem? (Ex 23:16, 34:22 vs Deut 16:15)
#208. What was offered to Yahweh on this festival: the crops from the field OR a tithe from the threshing floor and wine press? (Ex 23:16; Lev 23:39 vs Deut 16:13)

  1. Can’t wait till we get to the book of Deuteronomy…

    I can’t, either. Deuteronomy 1, 2, and 10 alone are gold mines of contradictions.

  2. I suppose, however, the charge against this one might have been that although Ex 23:17 and 34:23 speak of “all males” that doesn’t necessarily mean “only” males. I’m not aware of any studies that have looked into this—to see if females were actually denied the right to participate in these pilgrimage festivals in earlier times.

    Steven,
    It’s certainly possible that the exclusion of women from pilgrimage festivals was de facto rather than de jure: women, some of whom had young children or were pregnant, weren’t expected to travel to the local sanctuaries, so only males were required to be there. When D centralized worship and made Sukkot a seven-day event, this necessitated a change. It looks like D incorporates the language of Exodus 23:17 and 34:23 to give the appearance of continuity (and D also omits Passover, as in the earlier sources!) even as he uses more-inclusive language.

    1. “It looks like D incorporates the language of Exodus 23:17 and 34:23 to give the appearance of continuity.” This, in a nutshell, is Levinson’s argument in his Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d greatly enjoy it. It was an impressionable book for me, not only because Levinson, like Carr, stays close to the text—the text displays the contrary sources—but also because he’s astute and the questions he asks are spot on. I’ve been withholding the Deuteronomic contradictions here and had decided to do them all together when we get to Deuteronomy, primarily because we will see more clearly how the author of Deuteronomy uses Moses as a mouthpiece to alter, modify, and contradict the tradition that he himself inherited—the Elohist text—while nevertheless slyly, and subversively, presenting Moses as merely only re-narrating this tradition, and thus seemingly giving the appearance of conformity and continuity with the older Elohist tradition, as you note. Can’t wait till we get to the book of Deuteronomy…

  3. #205 could have a #205a: Was the Feast of Ingathering/Booths celebrated at the end of the year or in the seventh month? (Ex. 23:16, 34:22 vs. Lev. 23:33,39)

    And how about this one? Was the Feast of Booths (as well as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks) to be an pilgrimage of males only, or were females to attend as well? (Deut. 16:16, Ex. 23:17 Ex. 34:23, vs. Deut. 16:11,14)

    1. Very nice! I was trying to be more conservative in my choices, since last time I was charged with being redundant. Let’s see, maybe your 205a I’ll link back to your comments on #194-197. It would have been a good idea to actually start with this one as the lead in to the whole discussion of the Festival Calendars, but it had slipped my mind. I’ll make sure to include it in the book version! :)

      The Deuteronomic one I like. I keep forgetting about the more secular and humanitarian agenda of the Deuteronomist—nice to include females, servants, widows, the alien resident, etc. I suppose, however, the charge against this one might have been that although Ex 23:17 and 34:23 speak of “all males” that doesn’t necessarily mean “only” males. I’m not aware of any studies that have looked into this—to see if females were actually denied the right to participate in these pilgrimage festivals in earlier times.

    1. Welcome! I’d actually like to get more Christians involved with studying the Bible, or rather its texts. It’s regrettable that so few are actually interested in the texts on their own terms and in their own contexts. That said, it seems as though you might be imposing your own ideas, presuppositions, and later created theological convictions onto these texts without really listening to the texts themselves. And yes, I’d agree; it’s not about the words, but the beliefs, agendas, and ideologies even of the various writers who wrote these texts and to address real historical concerns and needs of their own time period. In other words, it’s not about your beliefs, not mine. It’s about the texts, the beliefs, values, and worldviews of the authors. Our task is to be honest to them, not ourselves nor how later readers interpreted these these texts—to understand them from their perspectives and from within their historical contexts, not ours, nor later imposed interpretive frameworks, that’s the goal.

      Take some time and explore the site. If I may, I’d recommend What is the Bible? and a specific textual example, the contradictions in the Crossing of the Red Sea story(-ies), #120-122. The former attempts to address the difference between our preformed conceptions of these texts and the texts themselves on their own terms from the perspectives, concerns, beliefs, and worldviews of the 70+ authors who wrote the Bible’s texts, before a later readership labeled them the Bible, and deemed them unalterable divine words. The latter exemplifies what we’re doing here, and it is a particularly nice contradiction because in this post I let the texts speak for themselves and reveal to its readers their composite nature—that there are actually 2 different crossing of the Red Sea stories here, that in the end contradict each other.

      χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη

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