The Feast of Booths
Today I wanted to cover some of what we call "historical background" in Bible study. If you have any comments or questions on the content of today's reading, make sure you put them in the comments. Since our passage specifically mentions that these things happen at the "Feast of Booths", I wanted to make sure we understand that that is so we can fully understand what's going on. Here's the description from the "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia":
"This festival, known variously as the Feast of Booths, (Lev. 23:34; Dt. 16:13), Tabernacles (2 Ch. 8:13; Jn. 7:2), or Ingathering (Ex. 34:22), was one of the three major feasts in which all Hebrew males were required to participate each year. It began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tishri), i.e., mid-October, five days after the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10). It continued for one week, and was associated with the end of the year (Ex. 34:22) when agricultural work concluded. It was a “pilgrim” festival, the intent of which was to emphasize the nomadic character of the wilderness period (Lev. 23:43).
On the first day the congregation ceased from all normal activities and presented burnt offerings to the Lord, a procedure that was repeated on the eighth day, after the festival proper had terminated. Lev. 23:39–43 describes the ritual procedures that the Israelites were commanded to observe, and that gave the occasion its particular designation. The booths, which were simple shelters made of interlaced branches, were the people’s living quarters during the festival. In each seventh year occurred a special ceremony, a public recitation of the covenant provisions agreed to on Mt. Sinai by the Israelites in time of Moses. This served the extremely important function of keeping at the forefront of the people’s minds the obligations assumed on that occasion, as well as reminding them of the blessings that would follow as long as the provisions of the covenant were honored.
The feast was celebrated against a background of rejoicing for divine blessings, represented by the bounty of the year’s harvest. This was reflected in its occasional designation as the “Feast of Ingathering” (Ex. 23:16; 34:22). The feast seems to have lapsed during the monarchy, so that the observance which occurred in Jerusalem during the time of Ezra was of particular significance. On that occasion a celebration of a character unknown since the time of Joshua took place (Neh. 8:13–18). The popularity of the feast was maintained throughout the postexilic period, and it became the occasion on which Jews from the eastern Diaspora visited Jerusalem for worship and celebration. In at least one instance Christ Himself was in the city when the festival was being observed (Jn. 7:2). By NT times it had become a custom on that feast for a procession to visit the Pool of Siloam and return with water, which was then poured out as a libation of thanksgiving to God. It may well have been as a result of witnessing this ceremony that Jesus was prompted to make His observations about living water and eternal life (Jn. 7:37–39)."  (emphasis mine)
A few simple observations on how this background informs our reading a bit, relating to the parts I bolded:
1. All Hebrew males were expected to attend, yet Jesus says that He's not going. This would have been very unusual.
2. Moses and the Law were an important part of this celebration, and Jesus specifically brings up Moses because this would be on everyone's mind.
Not terribly deep, but I wanted to point out how something as simple as a Bible dictionary or handbook can be helpful in better understanding passages like this. So.....you should all enter this week's giveaway of Halley's Bible Handbook!