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John 7:30, 31 says,
30 They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 But many of the crowd believed in Him; and they were saying, “When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?”
The Pharisees had no authority to arrest Jesus, because the Sadducees ruled the temple in those days. When the people attending the feast of Tabernacles began to mutter and grumble about Jesus’ controversial teachings, the Pharisees notified the temple authorities. Together, the Pharisees and chief priests seized the opportunity to arrest Jesus with the support of most of the people. John 7:32 says,
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him; and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.
Jesus knew that His time to die had not yet arrived, for this was Tabernacles, not Passover. So He did nothing to escape. Instead, He began to speak (in cryptic terms) of His ascension, telling the people that He would not remain among them for much longer.
John 7:33, 34 says,
33 Therefore Jesus said, “For a little while longer I am with you; then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You shall seek Me and shall not find Me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
Only those who believed that the Father had sent him would have had a chance of understanding that He would ascend to heaven. After his ascension, it is unlikely that the chief priests would actually look for Him. This appears to be a prophecy that they would continue their search for the Messiah but would not find Him, though many false messiahs arose in the centuries ahead.
But for the moment, the Jews (probably the religious leaders are meant here) misunderstood the meaning of His statements once again. John 7:35, 36 says,
35 The Jews then said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him? He is not intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, is He? 36 What is this statement that He said, ‘You will seek Me, and will not find Me; and where I am you cannot come’?”
The term “Dispersion” (Greek: diaspora) was applied to the dispersion of either Israelites or Jews. It is unclear as to which dispersion the chief priests had in mind here, but most likely they were referring to the Jews who had moved to many of the Greek cities throughout the Empire. Twenty or thirty years later, the Apostle Paul went to their synagogues to teach the gospel. A few accepted the gospel, but most of them rejected it.
It was commanded in Lev. 23:36 to conclude the feast of Tabernacles on the eighth day, when the people were to assemble and keep it as a Sabbath. John 7:37-39 says,
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’.” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Part of the ceremony during the feast of Tabernacles was to send a priest each day to the pool of Siloam to fetch water in a golden pitcher to pour out a drink offering of water with the morning sacrifice. Alfred Edersheim describes this ceremony, saying,
“As he entered by the ‘Water-gate,’ which obtained its name from this ceremony, he was received by a threefold blast from the priests’ trumpets. The priests then went up the rise of the altar and turned to the left, where there were two silver basins with narrow holes—the eastern a little wider for the wine, and the western somewhat narrower for the water.
“Into these the wine of the drink-offering was poured, and at the same time the water from Siloam, the people shouting to the priest, ‘Raise thy hand,’ to show that he really poured the water into the basin which led to the base of the altar.” (Edersheim, The Temple, p. 278).
The people understood this water ceremony to be a signal that the former rain was soon to begin. There were two rainy seasons there, the former in November and the latter rain after Passover. Edersheim says,
“Thus the Talmud says distinctly: ‘Why is the name of it called, The drawing out of water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation”. Hence, also, the feast and the peculiar joyousness of it are alike designated as those of “the drawing out of water;” for according to the same Rabbinical authorities, the Holy Spirit dwells in man only through joy.” (Edersheim, The Temple, p. 280).
The priest brought water from Siloam for seven days during the feast. There was no water poured out on the eighth day. Instead, Jesus cried out, inviting the people to come to Him to drink. This prophesied a transition from Siloam to Christ and from literal water to the water of the Holy Spirit on the eighth of Tabernacles. This, then, is the prime significance of that eighth day.
Most Christians interpret Jesus’ statement in Pentecostal terms, being familiar with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost in the second chapter of Acts. However, this prophecy was given on the eighth of Tabernacles, showing a yet greater outpouring of the Spirit that is yet to come when this feast is fulfilled on a historic level.
Jesus Himself, of course, was quoting from Isaiah 12:1-3,
1 Then you will say on that day, “I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort [nacham] me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation [yeshua], I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God [Yah Yahweh] is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation [yeshua].” 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation [yeshua].
The passage begins with a reference to the Comforter (nacham). Then it tells us literally that “God is my Yeshua,” which boldly declares the deity of Christ, for which reason He was given the name Yeshua. This supports the declaration in John 1:18, where Jesus is called “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” While Father and Son remain distinct, both are said to be “God.”
Christ is the Agent of God and the Son of the Father. So also Isaiah tells us that “Yah Yahweh is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua.” This speaks of the incarnation of Christ as a divine Agent and manifestation of Yahweh (Father). God works through various Agents, both men and angels, but primarily through Christ.
The people were familiar with the prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit in the ceremony of the water being poured out during Tabernacles. But Jesus took it a step further, telling people that if they were thirsty for the Spirit, they must come to Him to drink. He thus identified Himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, where He was named specifically.
In other words, Jesus Himself was the “well” or “spring,” the Source of the water that would spring up from within all those who came to Him. The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus Christ, who continues to be the Source of this continuous flow of the Spirit in those who are Spirit-filled.
In the next sign (#6), found in John 9, we will see that the man born blind was sent to the same pool of Siloam to receive His sight. This suggests that the man was among those who were thirsty for the Spirit, and he thus became a prophetic type of all who thirst. Mark’s account gives the added detail that it took two washings before his sight was fully restored (Mark 8:23-25). This suggests that Pentecost was the first washing, which restores our vision partially, and that Tabernacles is the second washing, which restores our full vision.
John omits any reference to the actual sacrifices that were done on the feast of Tabernacles. Numbers 29 tells us that there were 70 bulls offered during this time. The first day they offered 13 bulls (Num. 29:13), the second day 12 (Num. 29:17), and so on. The seventh day just 7 bulls were sacrificed (Num. 29:32). These were sacrificed for the 70 nations of the earth, a symbolic number that is based on the beginnings of the 70 nations from the sons of Noah in Genesis 10.
A final bull was sacrificed on the eighth day of Tabernacles, representing Christ Himself, as distinct from the 70 nations. However, the people in Jesus’ day did not see it this way, according to John Lightfoot:
“Hence, therefore, this last day of the feast grew into such esteem in that nation above the other days; because on the other seven days they thought supplications and sacrifices were offered not so much for themselves as for the nations of the world, but the solemnities of the eighth day were wholly in their own behalf.” (John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. 3, p. 320)
Their interpretation was according to the narrow nationalism of their religious culture, which the New Testament shattered. Paul’s claim to bring the gospel to “the gentiles” always caused anger among them, as seen, for example, in Acts 22:21-23.
John 7:40-43 says,
40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41 Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him.
Some thought He was “the Prophet,” that is, the one that Moses prophesied in Deut. 18:18, 19. Others thought He was the Messiah (Christ). Still others, perhaps not knowing that He had been born in Bethlehem, saw Him as a Galilean and doubted His calling. Galileans were despised as ignorant, as suggested later in John 7:52.
The people were divided in their opinions about Him, but it appears that Jesus was the main topic of conversation that year. As the people studied the book of Deuteronomy in their booths that year, they should have searched the Scriptures to see who Jesus was.