For many years the former Worldwide Church of God associated Jesus’ statements of “the last day, that great day of the feast” with the sacred assembly held on the day after the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Many organizations still hold to that understanding of the dating of his sermon about living water in John 7:37.
What then is the significance of the eighth day?
Here are some differences and similarities between the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day:
- Unlike the seven-day festival, the eighth day had no water procession.
- The most important difference is that there was no requirement to live in tabernacles on the eighth day.
- The last light show was the previous night (remember that this is at the beginning of the day according to Jewish reckoning, and therefore part of the eighth day.) The light of the glory of God is not extinguished on the Eighth Day.
Interestingly, Whereas Jesus gives his “living waters” sermon on the “great day of the feast” (John 7:37-39), he gives his “I am the light of the world” sermon on the following day (John 8:12). Since there was a light ceremony, but no water-drawing on the eighth day, it makes sense for Jesus to split the water and light sermons up in this order.
Another interesting event on the eighth day is the story of Jesus forgiving the adulteress on the day after “the great day.” This is the day that Jesus reconciled a woman to God, forgiving her and ordering her to “sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)
This event lines up well with some of ways God uses the idea of the eighth day in other contexts.
On the eighth day:
- Ex. 22:30 Firstborn animals are sacrificed (given to God) on the eighth day after their birth.
- Lev. 12:3 Circumcision of male Israelite boys on the eighth day after birth.
- Lev. 8-9 Ordination of Aaronic Priests (There is a lot that happens during these 8 days.)
- Lev. 14 Cleansing from skin diseases
- Lev. 15 Cleansing from bodily fluid discharges
- Num. 16:9-10 Nazirite cleansing from defilement by dead body
- Ezek 43:27: Atonement for Priesthood in Third Temple
The Symbolism of Eighth day seems to be as day of Completion of Consecration.
Built into each of the above examples is the idea that the person or animal involved is set apart from the general population for a period of seven days, then sacrificed or consecrated by sacrifice on the eighth day. (Of course, circumcision is a different kind of sacrifice: of a small part of the body.)
It would seem then, that the Feast of Tabernacles symbolized a period of setting apart, followed by the Eighth Day of consecration for a new cycle of crops and holy life in Israel.
Given this symbolism of the eighth day, it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ resurrection takes place on a Sunday, the day after the seventh day of the week.
Spiritually speaking, the Eighth Day represents renewal and readiness to follow the Light of the World in his work in the world.