Posted by: Heather | September 30, 2010

The Lulav and Etrog: Rejoicing!

Leviticus 23:40  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.

Please forgive my delay in writing this post in this series on Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.  My family has just returned from a Sukkot gathering.  We spent 3 days in Black Mountain, NC with several families celebrating the feast.  We were disappointed that we had to leave (we weren’t able to stay the entire week this time), but had a fabulous experience, which I will share in a future blog.

If you’re joining me in the middle of this series, and would be interested in reading the previous posts, you may read the introduction here, and the second post on the sukkah as God’s dwelling place here.

As we covered in the previous posts, the Feast of Tabernacles has a two fold fulfillment.  It is first a remembrance of the days the Israelites lived in tents during their 40 years roaming the wilderness, and how God protected them.  Its future fulfillment is when Jesus comes back to earth, and we rule with Him in the millennial reign.  It is also a time of extreme joy and thanksgiving to God for His provision in providing crops for that year.

One thing that I found interesting, and even giggled a bit about, is the fact that this is a festival in which rejoicing is commanded.  Happiness is the order of the day no matter the circumstances around.  It is first and foremost about praise to God, which should always prevail no matter our personal circumstances.

Historic writings reveal part of the celebration in Jerusalem.  Four huge candelabras were built and lit.  During the festival, they were attended continually by several young men.  The candelabras were so tall, the young men had to ascend and descend ladders to keep the oil reservoirs full, so they would continue to burn.  It was said the light was so bright, it lit the entire city.  The people danced, singing hymns and praise songs up until the wee hours of the morning.  This was definitely a time of joy for them!

One of the activities enjoyed by God’s people during this time is the construction and waving of the fruit and branches mentioned in Lev 23:40.  The lulav and the etrog are used all 7 days of the feast.

The lulav consists of 3 branches:  palm, myrtle (leafy branches), and willow (poplar).  They are wrapped together into one piece, and waved every day at the festivities that take place at the synagogue daily during the feast.  This collection of branches is held in the right hand.

The etrog is actually a citron fruit, which looks much like a lemon, except the skin is very bumpy.  It is held in the left hand and waved at the same time.  The lulav and etrog are waved during seasons of great rejoicing in Israel.  They are used both at the Feast of Tabernacles and at Passover.  Each part of these has a special significance.

The willow (poplar) produces no fragrance or fruit.  It is symbolic of those that never read the Word, nor obey it.

The myrtle (leafy branches) produces fragrance but no fruit.  This represents those that read the Word, but don’t obey it.

The palm branch produces no fragrance, but produces fruit.  This symbolizes those that do not read the Word, but live a good, moral life.  It can also represent those that live by the letter of the Bible, but have no compassion or love toward others.

These are held and waved in the right hand.  The right hand is symbolically the hand of salvation.  As this is waved, it is in hope and prayer to God that they will be saved, because they are in need of the saving knowledge of Jesus.

The etrog, in contrast, has a pleasant smell and taste.  This represents those that read the Word, and then go on to obey it.  These are sweet in the sight of the Lord.  It is held and waved in the left hand.  They need not be in God’s right hand of salvation because they have already been redeemed!

As the lulav and etrog are being waved, shouts of ‘Hosanna!’ are heard in praise to God.   This does not only take place at the Feast of Tabernacles, but also at Passover.  This is exactly what was happening in Matthew 21:8-11 when Jesus is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.  The people were spreading their branches in the way, and shouting ‘Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’

After the feast comes to a close, the lulavs and other branches used in decoration are beaten against the altar.  The leaves will fall easily now, as it’s been a week since they were cut.  Immediately following, the children will clean up the leaves, and peel and eat the citron, relishing its sweet taste and fragrance.

Sukkot is a time of ‘rehearsal’ for the day when there is a new heaven and a new earth, and we enter the millennial reign of Christ.  We will be ‘eating’ his goodness (as the citron) and rejoicing in joyful worship.  At the same time, the unbelievers, those that chosen not to receive Christ (the lulav), have been cast away from God for eternity, even as the deteriorated branches.

Let us rejoice, remembering His great acts, and looking ahead to the time of the final ingathering of his children (his sweet fruit), when we live with Him forever!



  1. Heather, I had never heard this about lulav and the etrog. This sheds light for me on some things about the Feast of Tabernacles. Thank you so much for your study!

    • Judy, I have been so enlightened by this study! I know you’ve had some experience at prior Tabernacles conferences. This was my first experience, and it really brought so many things to light. I’m in over my head now and I love it! 🙂

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