I was teaching two young ladies in our Bat Mitzvah class and we were studying the yearly cycle of holidays that God has given to us. I asked them if they knew which festival came after Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and one of the girls answered “Chag HaMolad” – literally “Celebration of the Birth” – Christmas. I was somewhat taken aback and was about to correct her when I realized that she was not that far off, since the right answer would be Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and the Bible strongly suggests this actually was the time of Yeshua’s birth.
How can I say such a thing? It begins by understanding that the courses of priestly service were well established in the first century. Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer, served according to that order (Luke 1:5,8). His division’s rotation included the second or third week of Sivan (early or mid June).
Like all Jewish men Zechariah would have been in Jerusalem during Shavuot which was on Sivan 6 (June). This year’s priestly service turned out to be a momentous one. He drew the lot which gave him the privilege of burning incense before the Lord in the Holy Place. It was the honor of a lifetime. It was then that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the sanctuary, announcing the forthcoming conception and birth of his son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. (Luke 1:8-22)
Zechariah arrived home around the end of Sivan (late June). He and his wife Elizabeth received the faith and physical regeneration to conceive a child (Luke 1:23-25). John was born nine months later in the spring month of Nisan around Passover. When Gabriel visited Miriam in Nazareth he told her two things.
“You’ve been chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah and your relative Elizabeth is six months with child.”
Miriam came to see her. At the sound of Miriam’s greeting, John lept for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Miriam returned home three months later, after the birth of John.
Since Miriam conceived when Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Yeshua was born six months after the birth of John. This brings us to the middle of Tishrei, the time of Sukkot. We cannot be 100% sure, but Tishrei 15, the first day of Sukkot, is the most likely birth date. Even the wording of John 1:14, confirms this. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” The word “tabernacle” is the same word that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Tenakh) uses to describe the booths that we are commanded to build on Sukkot (Leviticus 23:42). While building my first sukkah as a believer, 27 years ago, the truth of John’s words overwhelmed me with such force that I could not stand, but only lie on the ground in great amazement. Truly, the Lord dwelling in the midst of His people and His care for us is the central message of Sukkot.
Chanukah Conception for the Light of the World
The period of human gestation is 40 weeks. The number 40 is extremely noteworthy in the Scriptures, appearing nearly 40 times. It symbolizes complete development. Counting back 40 weeks (280 days) from Tishrei 15, we arrive at the first day of the month of Tevet. Tevet 1, always came 280 days before Tishrei 15, (except on leap years). Remarkably, Tevet 1 is the seventh day of Chanukah.
What an incredible picture! Young Miriam, lighting the eight lamps as the sun was setting on Tevet 1, to usher in the last day of the Festival of Lights. But there is a glow in the room that is greater than that emanating from the flames dancing on their wicks in the little pools of oil.
“The Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her,” and Yeshua was conceived within her womb. Forty weeks later, on the Feast of Tabernacles, He exited His mother’s womb to “tabernacle among us.”