11.02.14 Jn. 7:37-39
37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! 38 The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” 39 He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
The Feast of Tabernacles has always been a fall festival celebrated when the long, hot, dry summer season ends and the first rain clouds appear as the winter rainy season begins. On every day of the festival there was processional march once around the altar, but on the last day the processional march encircled the altar seven times and the priests prayed for rain. There were no less than 446 priests and just as many or more Levites active in the sacrificial worship. That final day was known as the Day of the Great Hosanna or Hosanna Rabba. It was a day of great celebration and considered a “Second Sabbath” of that week (Lev. 23:36). On each of the previous seven days a bull was sacrificed for the nations of the world, but on the last day, one was sacrificed for Israel. The events of procession on the final and glorious eighth day are as follows: 
- After the sacrifice of the bull, the priest led the people down the hill to the Fountain of Siloam.
- There the priest filled a golden pitcher with water and the procession marched back up the hill and into the temple.
- The priest carried the golden pitcher and led the crowd to the 15 steps that led from the outter court to the inner court.
- At the first step they all sang the first Psalm of Ascent – Psalm 120. At the second step everyone sang Psalm 121 and so forth to Psalm 134. Hence, the name “Psalms of Ascent.”
- The priest carried the pitcher and led the crowd back to the temple amid shouts of joy and music.
- When he approached the altar of burnt-offering, the people shouted “Lift up your hand!”
- He poured out the water toward the west.
- Then toward the east he poured out a cup of wine while the people shouted “With joy you shall draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Water from the Spring of Gihon flowed through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kg. 20:20), into a reservoir known as the Pool of Siloam, and continues into the Kidron Valley. Priests and pilgrims would march to the Pool of Siloam to fill a golden pitcher with fresh living water flowing from the spring to be used for temple libations throughout the festival of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). When the processional returned to the altar the priest offered the water and the people chanted a passage from Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you shall draw water out of wells of salvation.” It was when the people shouted “salvation,” that Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink.” He is the living water and the well of salvation. Historically, libations of water during the Feast of Tabernacles symbolized the water given to their fathers in the wilderness (Ex. 17:6). At this time, they also prayed for abundant water for the next harvest season.
“Streams of living water.” Previously Jesus had spoken often of Himself as the source of living water. Now He had the opportunity to speak of it again and use the ceremonial events to illustrate His point.
Early every morning during the festival, many people gathered at the temple. A priest would then lead the entire entourage in ceremonial pomp and circumstance to the Pool of Siloam. There, in great reverence, He drew fresh spring water known as “living water” to fill His vessel. The triumphant procession then carried the water back through the Water Gate of the city wall as trumpets announced the arrival of the precious symbol of life at the temple courtyard. The priest then marched to the western side of the altar where the living water was about to be poured into a silver basin, while another priest went to the eastern side of the same basin and held a vessel of wine. Then the Hallel (Ps. 114-118) was sung; a hymn that, ironically, celebrated Jesus. When the choir got to the verse that reads, “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever,” the water and wine were poured upon the altar. The choir then sang the great Hallel (Psalm 114-118) antiphonally. The priests would sing a line to which the people responded with Hallelujah (praise the Lord).
An interpretation of the Feast is that the water represented the Holy Spirit upon humanity (Jn. 7:39), and the empty jar represented the emptiness of people without the living water that only Jesus can give. The altar of course was the Lamb of God, Jesus. As Jesus and His disciples saw the priest and procession go by, Jesus said that He was that living water needed and desired by the priest and the people he represented. Jesus is the water of joy and gladness that gives meaning to life, yet could not be attained by anyone until He poured Himself upon the “altar” and sacrificed His life on the cross that we might live. The pouring out of the water was an acknowledgment that man had sinned and needed cleansing by the Holy Spirit. The phrase, streams of living water, is the promise of the Holy Spirit that was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost that appears several times in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Note the parallelism of ideas in the following example,
For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring.
In the Old Covenant era God sent His Holy Spirit upon certain people at certain times for specific reasons to perform His divine reason. But since the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit functions on behalf of every believer as a Counselor, a term translated from the Greek word parakletos, meaning one who comes along beside.
“He said this about the Spirit.” Where was this said? And when? This is a reference to a broad concept rather than a specific written quotation as is the previous reference (verse 38) of the Scriptures stating that “streams of living water will flow from within him.”
. The four climate seasons of Israel are unique in that winter is the rainy season with numerous rain showers and summer is a five month dry season with absolutely no rain whatsoever. The exception is of course the southern desert area which receives only a few centimeters of rain annually.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 16, page 10.
. According to the Torah, all the sons of Levi were to be workers in the temple but only the sons of Aaron were to function as priests, ministering in the Levitical rituals.
. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 582.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:163; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:311-12; 319-25.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 15, page 8. Some scholars believe that the Psalms of Ascent were also sung by pilgrims as they marched up the long and tedious mountain from Jericho to Jerusalem.
. Josephus, Antiquities 18.1.1; Elwell and Yarbrough, Readings from the First-Century World. 64; Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 75.
. Major, Manson, and Wright, The Mission and Message of Jesus. 790; Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 15, page 8.
. For the identifying connections of Jesus with the Hallel, see 04.06.01.
. To sing antiphonally is to have two groups or choirs sing or recite in alternation. In this case, one group sang one part of Scripture and the other group responded by singing another part of Scripture.
. Farrar, Life of Christ. 257-59; Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 278-79; Mishnah, Sukkot 4:9.
. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 279-80.
. Henry, “John.” 3:172-73.
. See also Isa. 32:15; Ezek. 39:29; Zech. 12:10 and Joel 2:28-29.
. Acts 2, 10:34; Jn. 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 20:22, and Rom. 5:5.
. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:243-44; Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 135; see “Counselor” 12.01.01.
. A partial list of other problematic passages is listed in Appendix 13.