Today I'll focus on what Jesus wrote in the dust and the context of the Feast of Tabernacles, because once it is understood it is like a big 'wow' when you read these passages, even if you think you know the Jewish culture you may learn something.
Writing in the dust
The whole of John 7 details the events during the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), which is the last of the 7 Biblical festivals given by God to Moses, and is the only one annually celebrated in the Millennium as per Zechariah 14: 16-19. The reason is simple: The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates God living with man, so when Jesus is ruling from Jerusalem for those 1,000 years the celebration is ongoing!
The Feast of Tabernacles is also called the Feast of Living Waters because Zechariah 14:8 and Ezekiel 47 describe 'living waters' flowing from Jerusalem in that day, so much so the Dead Sea becomes a fresh water lake with only the marshy areas left briny, and many fisherman net fishing from the banks! (Ezekiel 47: 6-12)
The week of John chapter 7 leading up to Jesus writing in the dust is worth going into detail here. For the full week a daily ritual was carried out. The priests would cut willow branches 20' long or more (6-7m), and spacing themselves that far apart, march in unison swinging together the branches left and right simulating the sound of the Ruach, the breath of God, the Spirit, as they entered the city. You can just imagine the sound those long branches made as the priests marched!
At the same time this is going on the High Priest and Assistant Priest would leave the temple via the Water Gate to the Pool of Siloam, to collect water in a large gold* pitcher. The water was called the 'Mayim Hayim' (Living Water). The Assistant would have a silver* pitcher full of wine. These 2 groups, the priests with the willow branches and the High Priest and Assistant, would approach the altar at the time other priests were placing the animal on the altar. *Gold always represents God and purity in the Old Testament, and silver always represents righteousness. Thus one gold containing Living Water and and one silver pitcher containing wine which is a type of blood - both will soon be poured on the altar.
All 3 groups converged at the altar, with the willow branches being placed over the altar to form a sukkoth, tent, and the High Priest and Assistant pouring out the water and wine on the sacrifice. At this time the people sang Isaiah 12:3: "Therefore with joy will you draw out waters from the well of salvation (Hebrew word for 'salvation' is Yeshua)." This was done daily for the week.
With all this going on daily all week long, John 7: 37-39 tells us: "On the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice: 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from them.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him would later receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."
Feast of Dedication
Tabernacles was also called "The Feast of Dedication" because it was during this feast that celebrates God living among men that Solomon dedicated his temple. If you understand that fact then you'll understand why at Solomon's dedication when they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple for God to live among men, that His glory and presence was such no one could stand upright. (I Kings 8:11, II Chronicles 5:14, 7: 2-3)
The Light of the World
Because the practice was to place 4 large lamps in the midst of the Temple area during this festival, it was also known as the 'Feast of Lights' as God is the light of the world, which explains something else Jesus said.
The day after the main feast which is still part of the feast actually, is called 'Shimini Atzeret' (the 8th day). In Jesus' time that '8th day' was also called 'Simchat Torah' which means 'Rejoicing in the Torah (Word)'. (Today they are separated one day after the other, but in Jesus' time both were on day 8). The number 8 in scripture is the number of new beginnings, based on the creation week - a new week starts afresh, is what it is based upon.
It is in this setting John 8:1 tells us, the 8th day, this day of celebrating the Word, this day of new beginnings, that this woman caught in the act of adultery is made to stand face to face with Jesus, but Jesus took His finger and wrote on the ground.
This is significant because Exodus 31:18 and then repeated in Deuteronomy 9:10 both say the 10 Commandments, the Torah, the Word, were engraved on stone by the "finger of God". Additionally, for every day during the Feast of Tabernacles this passage from Jeremiah 17: 12-13 would be read by these very same leaders:
"Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will (have their names) written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the Fountain of Living Waters."
My guess is Jesus was writing their names in the dust in accordance with this passage, but we won't know with certainty this side of heaven - but it makes sense. On that day of new beginnings, of celebrating the Word, this woman was given a fresh start...a great lesson for us all.
More next week! Until then, blessings,
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