In Our Lord’s time it was in the first week of December that couples were often caught committing adultery. For that whole week Jewish custom called for the people of Jerusalem to come out of their houses, and to take to living in palm frond tents they set up in the streets. The open-air living made for excessive familiarity.
That week, known as the Feast of Tabernacles, had the people recalling the forty years in the desert when their ancestors, following Moses, lived in tents, or tabernacles. It was a happy week with evenings when the people, singing as they went, made their way up to the vast Courtyard of the Gentiles where the temple chanters dramatized events from the Book of Exodus.
One night they poured vats of water over the main altar, recalling the water that flowed from the rock at the command of Moses. When they were reenacting that miracle the December before he was crucified, Jesus astounded the crowd by calling out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me to drink.”
People today, hearing about the woman caught in adultery, usually ask, “Didn’t there need to have been a man caught in the same act?” The answer those officials would have given to that is that only the woman was at fault, since the evil of adultery is that she gave to another a body that belonged to her husband.
One thing about the Feast of Tabernacles that was especially dear to Jerusalem was a great lamp that symbolized the fiery cloud that led the Israelites through the desert. People all felt sad at the last night of the feast when the lamp was extinguished for another year. It was at that moment that Jesus called out, “I am the light of the world, anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness.”