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During the feast of Tabernacles there seems to be a gradual decrease of the number of bulls offered from the first day to the last.What is of note is that only the bulls offered decrees in number whilst the other animals remain the same throughout.

Numbers 29:12 NASB

12 ‘Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work, and you shall observe a feast to the Lord for seven days. 13 You shall present a burnt offering, an offering by fire as a soothing aroma to the Lord: thirteen bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old, which are without defect

17 ‘Then on the second day: twelve bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

20 ‘Then on the third day: eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

23 ‘Then on the fourth day: ten bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

26 ‘Then on the fifth day: nine bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

29 ‘Then on the sixth day: eight bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

32 ‘Then on the seventh day: seven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs one year old without defect;

In the other seven day festival(Unleaveaned bread) the animals offered throughout the festival remain the same up to the last day.

What was the significance of the decrease in this particular festival?

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According to Jewish tradition, the total number of bull sacrifices were 70 (13+12+11+10+9+8+7) to represent the 70 nations of the world - beyond Israel, and to protect those nations. Sukkot is also called the Feast of the Nations, when other nations would be welcomed. Traditional belief is that 35 of them represented the nations of Ishmael, and 35 represented the nations of Esau. (1) (2)

But, traditions of the Jews should not replace scripture. Reasoning from YHWH's word is always best. The number 70 has significance from Gen. 46:8-27, and Ex. 1:1-5.

"26 All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six;

27 And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten." (Gen. 46:26-27, KJV)

"5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already." (Ex. 1:5, KJV)

Jacob's family went into Egypt as 70 souls. Sukkot is commonly called "the festival", but also called the time of our joy. It commemorated the exodus from Egypt when the people lived in tents in the desert wilderness. The booths were a remembrance of the original huts. They were to rejoice in their release for those 7 days (Lev. 23:40). Jacob's children were going home.

Notes:

1) One such explanation is found here

2) Another traditional explanation here

  • Thanks for the detailed and clear answer. Is there a significance for why were sacrificed 13+12+11+...+9+8+7 bulls instead of 10+10+10+...+10? – shamisen Aug 16 at 13:31
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    There does not seem to be any indication in either Jewish tradition, nor in the scriptures themselves for the countdown sequence. IMO, it is a countdown to perfection... the #7, that reaches the total of 70. As Christ fulfilled a great many of sevens (Rev. 1:4, 12, 16, etc.), then it stresses the perfect completed sacrifice in Christ. But, that is just my opinion. – Gina Aug 16 at 15:09
  • Interesting! Thanks for sharing your viewpoint :) – shamisen Aug 16 at 15:13
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Great and Judaically accurate answer above. Another question that should be addressed is where the number 70 comes from. If you count the number of Jacob's family, even including Joseph and his two sons, you only get 69, not 70, souls. Rashi's commentary on that sentence quotes midrash Rabbah, which says that the 70th soul was Yocheved, Moses's mother who was born as they entered the gates of Egypt. - Rabbi K

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