The second installment of the full blood moon tetrad will awe western North America and the Pacific islands in the wee hours of October 8th. Those who missed the April 15th lunar eclipse due to cloud cover will have another chance to watch the celestial show, and the near-by moon will appear even larger this time around. The total lunar eclipse will begin at 10:25 Universal Time, which translates to 3:25 am in Seattle, 11:25 pm in Auckland and 7:25 pm in Tokyo (still on the 8th). And just as the April 15th total eclipse took place at Passover, this October’s blood moon coincides with the first day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. And the same pattern will occur again next year.
Lunar eclipses come along a regular basis, usually between 2 and 4 times per year, and quite often they have fallen together on the first days of Passover and Sukkot (so conveniently spaced six months apart on full moons). Much of the time, however, these are penumbral lunar eclipses in which the moon only passes through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, and the eclipse isn’t even noticeable. When the moon passes completely into the earth’s inner shadow in a total eclipse, though, the moon offers a late-night show by turning a dark “blood” red color.
2014 and 2015 are a bit special because the lunar eclipses these years form a “tetrad” in which four lunar eclipses in a row are total eclipses. Tetrads are fairly rare, though they still take place several times per century. The last tetrad was in 2003. Tetrads that offer blood moons on both Passover and Sukkot have also taken place in the past, but not often. In fact, according to NASA’s catalog of lunar eclipses, this particular set of coincidences took place just twice in the 20th century, in 1949–1950 and in 1967–1968. The next will take place in 2032–2033.
The joyous Feast of Tabernacles begins on October 8 at sundown and runs for seven days. It is one of the three feasts along with Passover and Shavuot, that required faithful Jews to celebrate together in Jerusalem. This year, thousands will renew the ancient tradition of pilgrimage by taking a two-day walk to Jerusalem together. Israeli Arabs and Druze have been invited to join on the march as well.
Six government ministries are cooperating to fund the march. Organizers Ram Shmueli and Avihu Soffer said, “The objective is to unify the people and Israeli society in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge. There is grave concern over divisiveness, ignorance and a disconnection between the different parts of Israeli society. The people taking part in the march prefer the things that bring the different parts of society together over the things that divide.”
The word “Sukkot” means “booths” and refers to the temporary dwellings that are built and inhabited during the festival. The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of feasting that commemorates God’s provision during the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. It is a fascinating time of year to visit Israel and see the temporary shelters built in the traditional way, leaving deliberate gaps in the branches to view the stars at night and to let the wind blow through during the day.
At the end of the eight days, the Jews leave their temporary dwellings to return to their permanent homes. (This is one of the reasons some suspect that this feast, rather than the Feast of Trumpets, is suggestive of the Rapture of the Church.) Traditionally, this is also the day that Solomon dedicated the first Temple.
In the time of Jesus, Sukkot involved a daily processional to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water for the Temple. This ceremonial procession is the setting for the events of John 7, when Jesus offers his listeners living water. To this day, the water-drawing celebrations last until dawn, accompanied by music and dancing.
It is believed that the last three feasts in the seventh month are prophetic of the Lord’s Second Coming. It seems little coincidence that the seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah — “Great Salvation.” Many believers are particularly watchful each fall in the hopes that “this” will be the year these final three feasts are fulfilled.
The rabbis say that coincidence is not a kosher word, and perhaps there’s something significant about astronomical patterns. After all, the Magi did see the Messiah’s star in the east and came to worship the baby Jesus because of it. It’s noteworthy that David Ben-Gurion formed the first government of the new State of Israel on March 8, 1949 and Israel was admitted into the United Nations on May 11, 1949, marking international recognition of Israel as a state. During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel gained control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. Israel has since relinquished control of the Sinai, Golan Heights and Gaza, but even as ISIS wages war on Syria and Iraq, one wonders what is in store for Israel over the next 18 months.
Or in 2032… approximately 2000 years after Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
For more background, review our briefing package The Feasts of Israel.
- The Feasts of Israel
— Koinonia House
- How is Sukkot Observed?
- Is Lunare Eclipse at Sukkot an Ominous Sign?
- Temple-Era Pilgrimage To Jerusalem Makes A Comeback
— Israel Hayom
- Blood Moon Returns, And This Time It’s Bigger