Hanukkah (Chanukah)

This feast did not originate with Moses, nor is it even mandated in the Bible.  It is found in the books of First and Second Maccabees in the Apocrypha, the books written in the 400 year “silence” between the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament).  God was not silent in these years however.  He was still at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people.  Furthermore,  there are good Biblical reasons to celebrate this feast. The first is that Yeshua observed this holiday:

John 10:22-23  “Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem.  It was winter and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon’s colonnade.”

Secondly, the events at Hanukkah were prophesied centuries before by Daniel:

Daniel 11:3-4  “Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases.  After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven.  It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.” The “mighty king” was Alexander the Great. Then Daniel goes on to describe another person who would succeed Alexander…

Daniel 11:21-28  “…a despicable person….and his heart will be set against the Holy Covenant…”

Daniel 11: 31  “His forces will desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation.” This prophecy accurately describes Antioch IV who reigned 175 – 164 BCE. His reign was one of many throughout history that tried to wipe out the Jewish people. The survival, however, of the Jewish people is a firm testimony of God’s faithfulness…

Genesis 12:3

“…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Yeshua, the Messiah of all mankind, would come through the Jewish bloodline.

Antiochus wanted everyone to be united under Greek Hellenism, thus he was not at all tolerant of the Jews.

Daniel 11:36  “Then the king shall do according to his own will.  He shall exalt and magnify himself above all gods and speak blasphemies against the God of Gods.”

The king called himself  “Antiochus Epiphanies” which means “visible god”. He made people bow down to his statues and if they didn’t comply…..the consequence was death!  Social and political pressures caused some Jews to follow Antiochus and they actually bowed down to his statues (doesn’t sound Jewish to me).

Daniel 11:32  “…by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the Covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”

Many Jews took the easy way out and tried to “go Greek”. Others understood that assimilation and elimination of Jewish worship, sacrifices and traditions would be the destruction of Judaism itself…making God a liar! The Jewish people faced persecution. Antiochus’ heavily armed soldiers were sent out to force people to worship the king and make sacrifices (pigs) on the holy altar. This was the “abomination” that Daniel spoke of. The penalty for resistance was death. Antiochus’ actions foreshadowed Hitler’s axiom toward the Jews:

First:       “You can’t live among us as Jews.”
Then:      “You can’t live among us.”
Finally:     “You can’t live.”

In 167 BCE soldiers came to Modin outside Jerusalem to force Greek worship on an influential Jewish family led by Matathias and his 5 sons. Matathias would not forsake his faith.  He tore down the Greek altar and drove off the soldiers with the battle cry, “Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!” This was the beginning of the Jewish rebellion.  The Jewish people knew they were up against great odds, but their banner was “Who among the mighty is like Thee, o God?”  (“Mee Kamocha B’aleem Adonoi!”)  The name for the Jewish heroes of Hanukkah comes from using the first letters of these Hebrew words to form “Maccabee”.  Matathias’ oldest son was nicknamed “Judah Maccabee”….the hammer….because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well equipped Syrian soldiers.

Daniel 11:32  says:  “…the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.”

The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a few, with God on their side, triumphed over a multitude of powerful enemies.
Remember:  “God’s people + God = VICTORY!

Zechariah 4:6  “…not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Haftorah reading for Hanukkah Shabbat)

On the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the date we celebrate Hanukkah, the Maccabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus.  This date was also prophesied by Daniel 8:13-14  “How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the desecration of the Temple is avenged and God’s people triumph?’ He replied: “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the Holy Place will be properly restored.”  This is a great confirmation that God’s word is true: Historically accurate from the start of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews in 171 BCE until the restoration of the Temple in 165 BCE……

6 years, 3 1/2 months = 2,300 days!!

How did the tradition of the 8 days and lighting 8 candles begin? When the victorious Maccabees began cleaning up the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil for “ner tamid”…only enough for one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days. Another explanation for the 8 day observance is that some Rabbis believe it was a delayed celebration of the fall feast of Sukkot, which also lasts for 8 days.

During the time of Yeshua (in John 10:22), people’s minds were focused on themes of deliverance and rededication, oil and light.

John 10: 27-28  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” Yeshua was promising His people deliverance from sin and death…not just for a season, but for eternity!

Earlier in John 8:12, Yeshua proclaims “I am the light of the world…he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The people listening to Yeshua understood what He was saying…they knew what God had promised through the prophet:

Isaiah 9:2  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;  those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”

Psalm 27:1  “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (“Yeshua” in Hebrew means salvation.) Hanukkah is referred to as the “Festival of Lights” (Hag Haorim) and it was during this season that Yeshua described Himself as the” light of the world”.

A future Hanukkah is described in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8 where Paul writes about the second coming of the Lord:

1.  Many will turn away from God (as some Jews did who followed Antiochus’ Hellenism).
2.  The “son of perdition exalts himself above God” (as Antiochus Epiphanies did).
3.  But the Lord will destroy him with the “brightness of His coming”… (this victory we can all think of when we gaze at the lights of our Hanukkah menorah).
4.  The Lord will usher in His millennial kingdom with the overthrow of the “lawless one” in a miraculous way.  (A miracle to think about when we retell the Hanukkah story.)

The shammash or “servant” is the candle used to light the other candles of the Hanukkah menorah.  Yeshua is our shammash…

Matthew 20:28  “…the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many…”

Other traditions:
1.  Display your menorah in the window to show God’s miracle to the world.
2.  So eat some latkes and donuts already!  Oil (the symbol of the Ruach) is associated with the Hanukkah miracle.  Fry the latkes in oil and don’t think about the calories….think about the miracle!
3.  The draydel:  The four Hebrew letters mean “a great miracle happened there”. (nes gadol haya sham)  Children play a game with the draydel and each letter has an assigned value: nes (nothing), gadol (all), hayah (half), and sham (put in).