Hebrew Roots/Holy Days/Festival of Lights/Channukah/Overview
OVERVIEW OF THE FEAST OF CHANNUKAH
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' military victory over the Hellenist Syrians in the year 165 B.C.E., and their deliverance from oppression and defilement of the sanctuary. In Hebrew, the word "Chanukah" means "Dedication." The story of Chanukah is found in the apocryphal books of the First and Second Maccabees written in the 400 year “silence” between the Tenach (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament)..
THE HISTORICAL BACK GROUND
After Alexander the Great died his empire was divided among his four generals. General Seleucis got control of the area which was then 'Palestine', and his successors became the Seleucid Dynasty. Several of the members of that dynasty, most notably Antiochus IV Epiphanes the Greek king of Syria , attempted to eradicate the Jewish religion and make all Jews into good Greeks.
“Antiochus Epiphanies” 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.
Antiochus decided to go into Jerusalem and take the treasures in the temple and forbid the Jews from keeping their holy traditions, such as the Sabbath, kosher food laws, study of their holy books, and the practice of circumcision. To prove his point he desecrated the Holy Altar by sacrificing a forbidden, unclean pig on it. The Temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus Olympus and an altar to Zeus was set up on the high altar. The Jews were forced to bow before it under penalty of death. The Holy Temple was invaded, desecrated, and pillaged of all its treasures. Many innocent people were massacred, and the survivors were heavily taxed. Antiochus went so far as to proclaim himself a god, taking the name "Epiphanes" - i.e. God manifest.
They were partially successful in eradicating the faith, particularly among the upper class, mostly priests, that would later form the sect of the Sadducees. The slaughter of a pig on the altar of the Temple, made it unclean for its normal use. This effectively eliminated the offering of sacrifices for several years.
However, there was some resistance to the Hellenization of the Jews. In 167 BCE soldiers came to Modin outside Jerusalem to force Greek worship on an influential Jewish family of village priests 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 Yahweh, 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?” Matathias’ oldest son was nicknamed “Judah Macabee”....the hammer....because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well equipped Syrian soldiers. This family and their followers successfully revolted against the Seleucid rulers and re-established control of Jerusalem. They then cleaned out and rededicated the Temple.
On the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the date we celebrate Chanukkah, the Maccabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus.
I Maccabees 4:56-59 describes the rejoicing that ensued and says that they, "offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them. Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away."
When the victorious Maccabees began cleaning up the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil, only enough for one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days. Another reason for the eight day observance is that it was a delayed celebration of the fall feast of Sukkot, which they had not been able to keep because of the fighting.
Judah Maccabee and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that a memorial to their miraculous triumph over the vast Syrian army should be held each year. A holiday was set up to commemorate this dedication. Appropriately it was called the Feast of Dedication.
THE PROPHETIC SIGNIFICANCE AND FULFILLMENT
Daniel was given visions and prophecies regarding the kingdoms of the world which would rule over the land of Israel - Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome etc.. (Daniel 3) and specifically of the Grecian domination of the land. The date regarding the cleansing of the Temple from its desecration 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.”
From the start of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews in 171 BCE until the restoration of the Temple in 165 BCE. was 6 years, 3 1/2 months = 2,300 days!
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. “...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says Yahweh of hosts.” Zechariah 4: 6
In the time of Haggai, Yahweh gave a prophecy that He would begin to bless them on the anniversary of the day upon which the foundation stone of the Temple was laid and construction began, which was the 25th of Kislev (our month of December). It was from the 24th day forward - i.e. the construction began on the 25th.
Several hundred years later, that very same Temple was rededicated on the 25th of Kislev, and the rabbinically ordained holiday of Chanukah was instituted to commemorate that event. The battle to liberate the Temple Mount from the Greeks ended on that day and the daily sacrifices including the lighting of the menorah began.
After Yahweh gave them the victory over the pagan influence of Hellenism, the people rededicated themselves to Him and recommitted themselves the service of the Temple.
The feast is often known as the Festival of Lights because of the miracle which occurred with the portion of oil lasting eight days, but the response to that miracle was a return to true worship.
The eight days was originally commanded to be kept just as Sukkot (in booth)s to remember that those who overcame their enemies dwelt in caves. During those eight days it became a tradition to light a candle each day and place them in the window of the house as a testimony to the light of the truth of His Word which was upheld in that house. Each was lit from a "Shamash" candle i.e. the 'servant' candle, so that on the eighth day there would be nine candles burning, or else lighting nine on the first day and extinguishing one per day. It is a time of rejoicing and giving of gifts in celebration and thankfulness of their deliverance at that time.
Y'SHUA THE LIGHT OF THE TEMPLE
We know that Y'shua is the Light of the true tabernacle and the light which lights every man that comes into the world. In the tradition of the 'shamash' candle from which all the other candles are lit we see Y'shua from whom all men derive their light. “...the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” He took on Himself the form of a servant and became obedient to death so that we might have the light of life. The servant candle symbolises all that Y'shua represents to us. Matthew 20:28; Philippians 2:7-8; John 8:12
He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 9: 5) He also said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)
The light is the Word of God, which took bodily form in Y'shua. We have no light of ourselves, except as we are children of God, proclaiming the light. John 1: 9
Paul also says that the assembly of believers is light. “For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5: 8
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 5) As light, we must shine in darkness. We must show the light of God and of His son to the world.
The story of Hanukkah can be compared with end-time happenings described in the books of Revelation and Daniel. Antiochus is a type of the Antichrist. Just as happened under the rule of Antiochus, Daniel's prophecy has an end-time application.
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." Daniel 9:27
His people, the House of Judah (Jews) and the House of Ephraim (Church) will all face the same oppression of another who will say that he is god manifest in the flesh and seek to prevent true worship by force and by fear of death. By the power of His Spirit we can overcome, but if necessary, may we be like Daniel and not bow down to the image of the beast.
This is not one of the ordained feasts in the Mosaic covenant, but just as the Jews decided to commemorate it as a significant event in their history, so we also realise its importance for the light and testimony of Israel to be kept burning until the advent of Y'shua, against the enemy's attempt to distinguish it. It, like the feast of Purim is an occasion of thanksgiving for the faithfulness and commitment of the House of Judah to preserve the truth. Y'shua observed this feast, thus endorsing it (John 10:22-23). This celebration is recorded by the historian Josephus. The Book of Maccabees was once part of the Canon of scripture. It was removed in 400 AD by Jerome.
Although Chanukah is not a commanded observance, Paul did exhort the believers to uphold the traditions which they had been taught. "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." As demonstrated by the Apostle Paul, not all traditions are "bad," as many have been conditioned to believe. It was only when people used a tradition to replace or otherwise subvert Yahweh's Word that Y'shua objected - "Thus have ye made the commandment of Yahweh of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. 15: 6).
The feast is centred around the cleansing of the Temple from the defilement of pagan worship. The House of Judah overcame in the natural what today we face in the spiritual. Hellenism and its philosophies crept into the spiritual temple of Yahweh early in the history of the "Church" and began to defile His temple of living stones with pagan worship. In the third century Greek bishops “Christianized” the pagan Roman Empire by decree and again later by force and adopted Greek philosophy rather than biblical thinking. Instead of following the path of theocracy, prophecy, revelation and the Word of God, it was supplanted by democracy, philosophy, scholarship and tradition. The covenants between God and man were twisted and the ordinances, traditions and the holy days were paganised. We today face the overwhelming odds of this infiltration, a mighty army of the spiritual hordes of darkness that are arrayed against us. But, as our Jewish brethren, we can follow their example and take our spiritual weapons and fight the powers of darkness and stand for the truth against the Antichrist and his system in all its forms, just as they did although few in number.
Although many of their brethren capitulated to the strength of the enemy and the traditions he was imposing, the faithful remnant proved that by His power and might they could overcome.
It is a time for rededicating our lives to Yahweh, and it's a time to rejoice over one of those times when good triumphed over evil by the power of His Spirit, and the ability of God’s people to live by God’s commands when we place our trust in Him and in His Word "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says Yahweh of hosts" Zechariah 4:6
"Y'shua looking at them said, With men it is impossible, but not with Yahweh: for with God all things are possible" Mark 10:27
When keeping the faith seems impossible; remember it is possible with Yahweh. Yahweh blesses those who keep His Word and gives them an eternal reward. HalleluYah!