“At the time of the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.
It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.”
The Feast of Dedication (a.k.a Chanukah or The Festival of Lights) is more than the story of the miracle of the menorah remaining lit for eight days on one day worth of oil, dreidels, latkes, donuts or gifts. The greater narrative of Hanukkah is prophecy fulfilled, a call for spiritual revival, and our Messianic hope in Yeshua.
Historicity has spoken of Chanukah in great detail in works like Josephus, Septuagint, War of the Jews, History of the Jews, the Talmud, Midrash, and many more. The events of Chanukah occur in the time period between the Old and New Testaments. The story of Chanukah can be found in the books of the Maccabees located in the Catholic Bible, as well as the Aprocrypha. Chanukah is also referenced in the New Testament (John 10:22).
Chanukah commemorates a true event in history that was prophesized by the Prophet Daniel, and fulfilled in a military and moral victory brought forth through G-d’s provision to ensure the birth our L-rd and Savior, Yeshua HaMashiach.
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication” and marks an eight day winter celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple after a small group of Jewish believers, led by Judah Maccabee, defeated the Greek forces and freed the Jews from forced Hellenistic assimilation. Chanukah represents the victory of faith over reason and humanism and demonstrates mightily the power of G-d through His chosen people. Therefore, you could say that Chanukah truly means dedicated against assimilation.
Daniel’s Prophesy of Chanukah
Chanukah was foretold many centuries before the events surrounding it transpired by the Prophet Daniel. While in Babylon, Daniel described in detail the emergence of Antiochus IV, his campaign to convert the Jews, his desecration of the Temple, and the heroic revolt that overthrew his regime. This prophecy was written about three centuries before Alexander the Great was born. No one but G-d, could have inspired Daniel to document that Alexander would conquer the Middle East and that his empire would be divided into four kingdoms after his death. (Daniel 8:21-22). He also foretold that Antiochus would ascend to power and oppress the Jews. (Daniel 8:23-24). He also described the way in which Antiochus would desecrate the Temple, prohibit Jewish worship, and place idols in the Temple. (Daniel 11:30-31). Finally, Daniel foretold that many Jews would be deceived and practice a Greek perversion of Judaism. (Daniel 11:32).
The Story of Chanukah
In 333 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Syria, Egypt and Babylonia and promoted a lenient form of Hellenistic culture, encouraging the study of language, customs, and dress of the Greeks. He wanted a statute in His honor erected in the Temple, but since this was against Torah, the High Priest at the time offered a living tribute by requiring the people to name all their firstborn sons after him. This compromise would ultimately threaten the very existence of Judaism. It brought forth a division and selection among the Jewish people those who embraced Hellenistic ideals (Hellenistic Jews) and those who held to G-d’s Word, teachings, and mitzvot (commands).
A century later, the Syrian king Antiochus IV began to openly persecute Jews. He appointed a Hellenistic “High Priest” to the Temple, prohibited the study of Torah, and observation of G-d’s commands (e.g., Shabbat, dietary laws, circumcision, Feasts, etc.). He order pigs to be sacrificed on the holy altar and erected an image of the Greek god Zeus as a new point of worship in the Temple. He insisted on being called “epiphanies” which means “god manifest”. All the altars, utensils, and the golden menorah (lampstand) were defiled or torn down.
These outrages incited rebellion and by 165 BCE the Hasmoean family of Mattathias the High Priest and his youngest son Judah “Maccabee” (the “Hammer”) organized an army using guerrilla warfare that eventually succeeded in evicting the Syrian-Greeks from Israel. The temple was liberated but needed to be rededicated for Jewish worship. They cleaned the temple, removed the altar of sacrifice stone by stone and buried it in the nearby hills, and erected a new alter. It is at this time that the miracle of the oil happened. There was very little oil left that had not been defiled. Oil was needed for the menorah to burn continually in the Temple, but there was only enough to last for one day. Miraculously, the sanctified oil burned for eight days – the time needed to prepare a fresh supply for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared to commemorate the miracle and the liberation of the temple. The festival is the same length as Sukkot, and it is believed that this was chosen because since they did not have a chance to celebrate the Feast during their warfare with the Syrians.
The story of Chanukah includes men and women of faith you were ready and had to courage to take a stand for the true living G-d and the commands that He had given in His Word. These men and women refused to bow down to false gods and assimilate into another culture because they held tight to the teachings of G-d. Mattityahu (Mattathias), Juduah Macabee, Yehduit (Judith), Chanah (Hannah) and her seven sons, are written about in the Books of the Macabees and Judith, which are found in the Catholic Bible or the Aprorypha.
The events of Chanukah happened only four generations prior to the birth of our Messiah, if the great warriors of faith had not risen up in opposition and had the courage to fight, and sacrifice their lives to worship G-d according to His commands, the Jewish nation would have become extinct and the Messiah would never have been born.
Chanukah’s theme is about remaining steadfast in our faith, committed to G-d in a godless and broken world, and our deliverance. Since we are called to be part of His Temple, His Body, at this time we reflect on rededicating ourselves to the eradication of all that compromises us and tempts us to assimilate to the world around us. Through the light of Jesus Christ we have gained victory over the power of darkness. We are called to walk in His light. We have fellowship, unity, echudt, with one another.
Traditions: There are a number of traditions involved in celebrating Chanukah and they include:
- Lighting the Chanukiah
- Family Time and Reading Scripture
- Playing Dreidel
- Special Foods (Latkes, Donuts)
- Giving Tzedakah (Charity)
Pulling It Altogether Chanukah is a celebration of deliverance. It is a time to express our Messianic hope. Just as the Maccabees were used by G-d to redeem Israel, we more fully appreciate the scene that unfolded as Jesus celebrated the feast in Jerusalem. Amidst the activities of the celebration, He was approached by some rabbis and asked a simple question, “How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly.” (John 10:24). The answer to this question is the message of Chanukah. He reiterates his claim and the proofs of His Messiahship. (John 10:25-39).
This shows the real connection between Chanukah and Jesus. Chanukah recalls a military victory for Israel, and the implications are vast. If Antiochus had succeeded in his campaign of anti-Semitism and destruction, there would have been no Jews around by the time of Jesus. The miracle of Jesus’ birth could only take place after the miracle of Chanukah. All believers in Jesus have important reasons to celebrate the Feast of Dedication. Messiah, our deliverer, has come. Let us clean and prepare our temples for His return.
“The spake Jesus again unto them saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
Chag Chanukah Sameach! Happy Chanukah!