What does Tractate Sukkah have to do with John 7? Quite a bit! In John 7, we find Jesus preaching (lit. “crying out”) in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. He says on the last and greatest day of the feast, “If anyone is thirsty, let him/her come to me and let the one who believes in me drink, as it is written, rivers of the waters of life will flow from his womb/belly” (v 38).
Tractate Sukkah 4 has Jewish prescriptions for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). In it, we read, “The dwelling in the Succah and the pouring out of water lasted seven days…” We also read, “How was the pouring out of the water? A golden pitcher that held three lugs was filled with water from the brook Siloah. When they came with it to the water-gate, they blew a blast, a long note, and again a blast. The priest then ascended the stair of the altar…” The priest would pour the water out near the altar each day of the feast.
The imagery here is huge. Jesus calls the people away from that temple-water and calls himself the water of life. At the end of the feast, when all the people had seen the water-procession each day, Jesus stands up and says, “I am the water of life!” Tie this in with water from the rock (Ex 17), the water in Ezekiel’s temple (Ezek 47.1ff), and the flowing water in the New Creation (Rev 22.1ff), and it is clear to see how Jesus is the center of it all, the true temple (Jn 2) who gives living water (Jn 4) and calms the chaotic sea-waters (Jn 6), etc.
Side note: Jon Levenson (see previous posts) argues well for the cosmic centrality of the temple, which also has huge implications for this “water.” This, I submit, is what “womb” (Greek: koilias) is getting at in John 7.38 (cf. previous post on water from Jesus’ womb/belly).
See also Andreas Kostenberger, “John” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaryed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 78.