What number comes to mind when you think about God and the Bible?
For most of us it is the number seven. Seven reminds us of God’s hand in creation, rest from labor, God’s covenant relationship with our people, and the annual worship calendar God gave our ancestors at Sinai. Our worship cycle features seven feasts starting and ending with seven day observances. It all fits together so perfectly. Or does it?
Just when we think we have God figured out, He throws us a curve ball, “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly; you shall do no laborious work.” (Numbers 29:35). This added day is called SheminiAtzeret, שׁמיני ﬠצרת , literally “eighth [day of] assembly”. It comes on the heels of Hoshanna Rabbah, Sukkot’s culminating seventh day, and is mentioned only twice in the Torah. The instructions for celebrating the day are sparse: a call to rest and to offer a small array of burnt offerings – but no trumpets, trips into the Holy of Holies, or sukkahs are mentioned. Why would God break up the symmetry of sevens so prominent in the Scriptures?
The answer may be found in Va’Yikra (the book of Leviticus) where the eighth day becomes the “acceptable” day. A quick survey of “eighth” (shemini) in the book demonstrates that many things enter into an acceptable state before God on the eighth day.
The first reference to eighth day acceptability is found in verse one of the eponymous parasha “Shemini” (Lev. 9:1-11:45). After a seven-day consecration period rendering the kohanim (priests) acceptable, it is on the eighth day they begin their ministry by offering sacrifices in the newly consecrated tabernacle.
The other uses of shemini follow a similar theme of eighth day acceptability: male babies are circumcised, healed lepers are cleansed, formerly defiled men and women are atoned for, newly born oxen and sheep are eligible for sacrifice, and Israel is called to rest and bring burnt offerings before the Lord. Following the same pattern of acceptability, the land is ready to be sown anew in the eighth year following a sabbatical rest.
Seeing Shemini Atzeret within this paradigm of eighth day acceptability, we begin appreciating its message. At the end of the annual cycle of seven feasts, following the seventh feast in the cycle, and on the eighth day of this final feast, God’s people are acceptable and invited to stay with God enjoying rest and fellowship in His presence. What a wonderful invitation!
Happily, this invitation is being extended to Israel and to all of the nations of the earth. We see the universality of this invitation in at least two ways. First, we see it in the number of sacrifices offered during Sukkot, 70, which happens to be the number of nations listed in the table of nations in Genesis 10. Then, we see it in Zechariah 14:16 where we are told that during Messiah’s reign on earth, all of the nations will go up to worship the Lord during Sukkot. All this ends its final expression in the new heavens and new earth where the “acceptable” from every tribe, tongue, and nation will rest and enjoy fellowship with God for eternity!
Of course, the rest and fellowship promised in Shemini Atzeret ultimately do not come through the observance of the biblical feasts. They come through the ultimate fulfillment of those feasts in Messiah. How do we know this? Because, of the ultimate eighth day event – Messiah’s resurrection. In this glorious act, God declared Messiah’s death an “acceptable” once-for-all atonement, rendering all who trust in Yeshua “acceptable” for forever rest and intimate fellowship.
May the approach of Shemini Atzeret find you acceptable through faith in Messiah, ready to enter into an eighth day joy that lasts forever!
This blog post was used with permission by Dan Strull, LIFE Board Member and pastor of Olive Tree Congregation of Suburban Chicago. You can read more “Musings from a Messianic Perspective” by Dan Strull on his website https://danstrull.net/.
 Priests Lev. 9:1&ff, Circumcision Lev. 12:3, Leper declared clean Lev. 14:10&23, Unclean person atoned for Lev. 15:14&29, Oxen & sheep acceptable as sacrifice Lev. 22:27, Israel gathers for a holy convocation & rest Lev. 23:36&39
 Crops are sown anew following sabbatical year Lev. 25:22