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SUKKOT: Yeshua and the Festival of Lights

SUKKOT: Yeshua and the Festival of Lights
James Scott Trimm

From the Hebraic Roots Commentary to Yochanan (John)

8:12 I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will find for himself the light of life.

The occasion was Sukkot (see Jn. 7:1). Sukkot was known as the “Festival of Light”. The entire city of Jerusalem was filled with light from giant 75 feet tall menorahs. (m.Sukkah 5:2–4; b.Sukkah 52b). With this backdrop Yeshua makes this beautiful proclamation.

Yeshua’s statement here may be aimed as Essenes because it draws from the language of certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls which read:

…Thus will grow and understand and be glad
in the light of the world; you will not be a disowned vessel…
(The Words of Levi 4Q541; Frag. 24 line 7)

For only through the spirit pervading God’s true society
can there be atonement for a man’s ways, all of his iniquities;
thus only can he gaze upon the light of life and be joined
to His truth by His holy spirit, purified through all iniquity. …

He created humankind to rule over the world,
appointing for them two spirits in which to walk
until the time ordained for His visitation.
these are the spirits of truth and falsehood.
Upright character and fate originate with the
Habitation of Light; perverse, with the Fountain of Darkness.
The authority of the Prince of Light
extends to the governance of all righteous people;
therefore, they walk in paths of light.
Correspondingly the authority of the Angel of Darkness
embraces the governance of all wicked people,
so they walk in the paths of darkness.
(Manual of Discipline 1QS col. 3, 6-7; 17-21)

This is a reference to Isaiah 8:20-9:2:

To the Torah and to the testimony;
if they speak not according to this word,
it is because there is no light in them…

…the people who walked in darkness have
seen a great light…

For a deeper understanding of this passage in relation to Yeshua see comments to Matthew 4:14-16. For more comments on “light” see comments to Jn. 1:4

There is a spiritual battle taking place between light and darkness. Paul writes:

...what communion has light with darkness?
And what concord has Messiah with Belial...
(2Cor. 6:14b-15a)

Throughout the New Testament there are extended metaphores revolving around light and darkness. Believers are called "sons of light" (Lk. 16:8; Jn. 12:36; Eph. 5:8; 1Thes. 5:5 see comments to Jn. 12:36). The full armor of Elohim is also called the "armor of light" (Rom. 13:12). The New Testament speaks of those "who walk in darkness" (Jn. 8:12; 12:35; 1Jn. 1:6; 2:11).

But what does this idiomatic use of the terms light and darkness mean? For the answer let us turn to the Tanak:

For the commandment is a lamp;
and the Torah is light...
(Prov. 6:23)

Your word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

To the Torah and to the testimony;
if they speak not according to this word,
it is because there is no light in them.
(Isaiah 8:20)

...for a Torah shall proceed from me,
and I will make my judgment to rest
for a light of the people.
(Isaiah 51:4)

So according to the Tanak the Torah is a light for our paths. Those that walk in the Torah walk in the light. This is why the New Testament speaks of those who walk in darkness (Jn. 8:12; 12:35; 1Jn. 1:6; 2:11). These are those who do not walk by the light of Torah. Of these John writes:

And if we say that we have fellowship with him,
and walk in darkness,
we are liars and we do not walk in truth.
(1Jn. 1:6)

Notice that John equates "walking in truth" with walking in the light. As we noted previously "the Torah is truth" (Ps. 119:142) thus if "walking in the light" means "walking in truth" then both phrases refer to walking in the Torah. This takes us back to our passages from the Tanak given above. John also confirms this by writing the parallel statements:

...walking in truth.
...walk according to his commandments.
(2Jn. 1:4, 6)

As we have noted Paul also calls the armor of Elohim the "armor of light" (Rom. 13:12). According to Paul we are involved in a spiritual battle with "the rulers of the darkness of this world." (Eph. 6:12) and thus he instructs us to put on this "armor of light" (see comments to Eph. 6:13 & Rom. 13:12)

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