While Hanukkah is referred to as the Feast of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, it is every bit as important to recognize it as a Feast of anti-assimilation. This celebration marks a time when against overwhelming odds, the faithful followers of Hashem refused to submit to the culture being foisted upon them. Gallantly standing strong, some paid the ultimate price, experiencing martyrdom in a most inhumane way (see 2Maccabees7), while others fought a long guerilla war. Thus, victory achieved by the Hand of the Almighty, and the desecrated temple was re-dedicated.
We need to constantly re-dedicate our walk with Hashem, and He gives us a pattern with which to do that. With each feast, we have opportunity for introspection and re-dedication. It’s not just the annual cycle of High Feasts that compel us to this introspection, but the weekly promulgated feast as well. Each Shabbat, as we come aside to fellowship, study, and praise Him, we have every opportunity for re-dedication. As we follow His cycle, observing His set apart times, we are practicing anti-assimilation. When the church world says “worship on sunday”, we say no. Our Creator called us to fellowship on Shabbat, the seventh day, not the first. When the world throws christmas at us with ferocity, we stand firm, declaring its pagan origins. When easter is proclaimed as glorious, we recognize the syncretism and refuse to participate. We do not assimilate to this cultural morass. We seek follow Hashem, our great God. The only God. The God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. It is Him, and Him alone we desire to serve. We are able to do this only by the strength He provides through His set apart Spirit. For this we give Him thanks and praise.
As we ponder these matters, we share an item from the archives about Hanukkah and hope you find it edifying.
Jesus (Y’shua) celebrated this Jewish Feast as recorded in John 10:22. The Messiah was in the Temple for the “Feast of Dedication” as many translations render the Greek word eng-kai-nia. This Greek word translates the Hebrew Hanukkah. Both words convey the idea of “consecration” or “dedication.”
The focus on the holiday is the re-dedication of the Temple of the LORD about 160 years before Messiah’s birth. God rescued his people, and preserved biblical Judaism. Without this, the prophetic fulfillment pertaining to the birth of Messiah could not have happened. Without Jews, Messiah could not have been born through the tribe of Judah, as descendant of King David.
Solomon’s Temple, the first Temple, was majestic and magnificent, but it was destroyed when the people of Judah were taken captive by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
The books of Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Nehemiah recount the building of the Second Temple, after the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon. This Temple build under Ezra’s leadership, was dedicated approximately 450 years before Messiah. Within a few centuries, this Temple was profaned and desecrated by God’s enemies.
1 and 2 Maccabees; Josephus in his writings, Antiquities; the Talmud; and Ussher’s The Annals of the World tell the story of this Feast of Lights. In the Bible, Daniel 8 records the prophet’s vision of the future, a vision that precisely foretold the events of Hanukkah.
History records that Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world several centuries before Messiah’s birth. After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided between his four generals. The Syrian-Greeks and the Egyptian-Greeks often battled each other over Judah. Ultimately, the Syrian-Greeks won. When their ruler died, a man named Antiochus took over his kingdom.
In order to subjugate the Jews, Antiochus, who called himself “Epiphanes”, meaning God manifest, began to outlaw Hebrew customs and observances such as Sabbath, circumcision, and kosher laws. He destroyed Torah scrolls, placed heathen altars everywhere, made Jews bow down before Greek gods, placed a statue of Jupiter in the Temple, and finally sacrificed a pig in the Holy of Holies.
In the small town of Modin, a man went to sacrifice to the heathen gods according to the law of the land. Mattathias, a righteous priest of Israel, a descendent of Moses’ brother Aaron, an observant man of God, could not take it any longer. Just as Phinehas had done a millennium before him, when un-holiness was being foisted upon Israel (Numbers 25:6-9), Mattathias rose up and killed the Jew who was sacrificing to the gods of Greece.
He knew that this would begin the revolt, and shouted, “Let all who are zealous for the Law and the Lord, follow me!” (1Maccabees 2:27). Mattathias and his sons, led by Judah, mustered enough forces to eventually overthrow the Syrian-Greeks. All the sons of Mattathias joined together, as well as many other zealous Jews, willing to wage guerrilla warfare until the Syrian-Greeks were overthrown. Judah and his brothers were called “Maccabees,” (meaning hammer). Thus, began the Maccabean revolt.
After a three-year struggle, ending in 165 BC, the Temple was recaptured, restored, and rededicated. Hanukkah commemorates and celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple, so despicably desecrated by Antiochus and his Syrian-Greek legions.
2 Maccabees 10:5-6: “Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the month which is Kislev. And they kept eight days with gladness, as in the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Interestingly, 25 Kislev was also the day the “foundation of Adonai’s temple was laid”, noted in Haggai 2:18.
Tradition teaches that when the Temple was restored, only one vial of oil had the seal of the High Priest on it. Indicating that it could be used in the Temple menorah, the candelabra. But the one day’s worth of sacred oil miraculously lasted for eight days, long enough for more oil to be to be prepared, so that the Temple could be ritually purified.
The fact that Hanukkah is patterned after Feast of Tabernacles also provides the meaning for the emphasis on lights. When Solomon dedicated the first Temple to the LORD, he did so at the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Chr. 5:3). That dedication was accompanied by the coming of the Shekinah glory to the Temple and the divine lighting of the fire upon the sacrificial alter (2 Chr. 7:1). As a result, the Feast of Tabernacles later developed an impressive light celebration each night in the Temple.
The central symbol of Hanukkah is a nine-branched version of the menorah. The menorah was the seven-branch candelabra that shed light in the other-wise dark Tabernacle and later the Temple.
The Hanukkah menorah is nine-branched, in order to remember the eight-day miracle. The ninth candle is set apart from the rest of the candles, usually higher. It is used to light the other candles, and is called the servant. Thus, the picture of Yeshua, the Messiah. He was “set apart” from the rest of humanity. He is holy separate, above us all. Yet, he stooped down to give light to humankind, and as the servant, he continually desires to give us light if we will only hold out our wicks to be lit. Yeshua, Jesus, is the light of the world.
Many have suggested a connection between Hanukkah and Christmas since both celebrations fall on the 25th of the month (Kislev/December). Although the Bible records the birth of the Messiah, no biblical basis exists for this date or the observance of the Messiah’s birthday.
Yet, the dates of Hanukkah and Christmas are connected. Zeus was seen as the incarnation of the sun. Together with his goddess-mother, Rhea, they formed the Greek version of the mother/child cult founded in Babylon. Antiochus chose the 25th of the month to desecrate the Temple with his pagan sacrifice because it was the birthday of Zeus. It was the winter solstice, when days begin to lengthen. Sun-worshipping pagans, therefore, celebrated December 25 as the birthday of the new sun.
In the fourth century AD, the Roman Church chose December 25 as the day to celebrate “Christ’s Mass,” a special mass in honor of Christ’s birth. It was part of a concerted effort to “Christianize” pagan Roman rites so that all peoples of the empire could be brought into the Roman Church.
For centuries, many segments of Christianity condemned the observance of December 25 as sun worship. A.H. Newman writes: “Christian preachers of the West and the Nearer East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s Birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun-worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival. Yet the festival rapidly gained acceptance and became, at last, so firmly established that even the Protestant revolution of the sixteenth century was not able to dislodge it.”
Hanukkah stands as a heroic reminder of courageous and enduring faith in God. Many were martyred, “not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection”, (Hebrews 11:35). It also is a reminder of the faithfulness of God. Antiochus Epiphanes planned to destroy God’s Word and His people through assimilation and annihilation. Had he been successful there would have been no more Jewish people, no Messiah to come and most tragically of all, no Calvary! So, a great miracle did happen. It is not a cruse of oil, but God’s faithfulness to His people and His messianic promises that continue to give true significance to Hanukkah today.
As the Israelites had to struggle and sacrifice to be dedicated to God, so too must Believers today. Hanukkah reminds us that we must be dedicated to, focused on, and narrowed toward our Father in heaven. Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Let us dedicate our temples to God and celebrate God’s protection from his and our enemies, as we wait for His second appearing.
~ Author unkonown