Happy Hanukkah!!! Today, December 4, 2018 is the 2nd day of Hanukkah! Ask a Christian what they think Hanukkah is about, and they will often reply “It’s the Jewish Christmas”. This is because Hanukkah and Christmas generally occur in the month of December, they’re both portrayed as having something to do with “lights”, and often both Holidays seem to involve the exchange of gifts. But what is Hanukkah really? Is Hanukkah a Biblical Feast or Jewish Holy Day (Holiday)?
Although Hanukkah is a Jewish Festival, it’s actually not mentioned in the Old Testament at all. The only Biblical reference to Hanukkah is an indirect reference in the New Testament. This is because Hanukkah first occurred during the 400 “silent years” between the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament, Hanukkah is referred to as “The Feast of Dedication”, and was kept by Jesus the Messiah in John 10.
John 10: 22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are [the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
In the book of John, Jesus walked into the Portico of Solomon (King Solomon) during the Feast of Dedication, which is actually another name for Hanukkah. It was at this time that Jesus revealed He was indeed the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah. The Bible doesn’t provide any additional details about Hanukkah, but we can find additional details in an Extra-Biblical Source known as “The Book of Maccabees”. Hanukkah is also known as The Feast of Dedication or The Festival of Lights.
Remember Alexander the Great, the leader of the Greek Empire? When he died at a very young age, his empire divided into four smaller empires. One of those empires became known as the Seleucid Empire. A Seleucid King (Syrian/Greek) known as Antiochus IV came into power during those 400 silent years in-between the Old and New Testaments. Antiochus was a very evil, vain, self-deluded king who believed himself to be some sort of deity. He even demanded to be called Antiochus Epiphanes which means “Antiochus the visible God”. Antiochus did not like it that the Jews had their own “God”, and made every attempt to impose Greek culture on them. He forbid them to practice their religion and their culture. He forbid them to circumcise their sons (a part of the Jewish religious practice), and would not allow them to observe the Sabbath (one of the ten commandments).
But Antiochus drew the final straw when he defiled the Jewish Temple (similar to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness) by demanding they erect a statue of Zeus (pagan “god”/demon) in the Temple. He then demanded that this statue be erected in every Jewish town and village and that alters be built with which to sacrifice a pig (unclean animal) to Zeus. Antiochus’ desecration of the Temple sparked a national outrage.
In a little Jewish town known as Modi’in, located near the site of the Ben Gurion Airport today, Syrian Soldiers were sent to the village to test the Jewish people’s loyalty to King Antiochus. The soldiers ordered the villagers to sacrifice a pig on the alter to the Greek ‘god’ (demon) Zeus. An elderly Priest named Mattathias refused, but another Jewish priest offered to go ahead and do the sacrifice.
The Jewish people had to make a decision, and this other priest decided to acquiesce . Mattathias was filled with a “holy rage” and killed the traitor. This was the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Syrian/Greek overlords. Mattathias’ son Judah quickly became the primary leader of this revolt. Judah displayed himself to be a very skilled military commander and soon won the title “The Maccabee”, meaning “The hammer”.
This was quite a war! The Greek/Syrian army was massive, but the little Maccabean army fought bravely utilizing a guerrilla type warfare. After a period of 3 years, the Maccabees wore down the massive Greek/Syrian army and won the war. They retook Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. They were horrified at what they found in the Temple, the House of YHWH! They found the statue of Zeus and an alter where swine (unclean pigs) had been sacrificed to Zeus. The Maccabees tore down that alter and built a new one, and then completely cleansed the Temple with a ritual cleansing. They rededicated the Temple to YHWH, the True God, on Kislev 25 (Hebrew Calendar) in the year 165BC. This was exactly 3 years to the day that the Temple had been desecrated by The Greeks/Syrians. This is why Hanukkah is known as “The Feast of Dedication”. At the time of this dedication, a miracle occurred. When the Maccabees filled the Temple lamps (Menorah) with oil, there was only enough oil to last one day. It would take 8 days to secure more oil that had to be specially prepared. Miraculously the oil that was only enough to last for one day, burned for the entire 8 days. This is why the Holiday is known as “The Festival of Lights”. Spiritually speaking, the Miracle of the oil in the Menorah is a picture of the Holy Spirit that is constantly being renewed and flowing into the Believer’s life, causing the Light of Jesus to shine continuously in this dark world.
In John 10, Jesus walked into the Portico of Solomon during the Feast of Dedication. There is irony here because the Jewish people were celebrating Hanukkah (liberation from the Greek/Syrian occupation) while living under Roman occupation. They were still looking for their Messiah to rescue them from the Roman occupation, so they asked Jesus, are You the Messiah? In John 10:22, Jesus answers that He is the Messiah, and even claimed to be One with the Father (claiming to be God in the flesh). The Jewish leadership could not accept the truth, and therefore wanted to stone him to death. What a picture!!! Here they were, celebrating the Festival of Lights, and desiring to stone to death the true Light of the World, Jesus the Christ. They had eyes but could not see and ears but could not hear.
Why is understanding Hanukkah important to Christians? The desecration of the Jewish Temple not only happened in HIS story, but is also a fore-shadowing of an even bigger event that is yet to come. God continues to use shadows, types, patterns and cycles to teach us His Truths. In Matthew 24, Jesus referred to this historical event (the desecration of the Jewish Temple by Antiochus IV) by warning of a future event that will mimic this historic event. Jesus called this “The abomination that causes desolation” spoken of by the prophet Daniel”, and warned that a “type” of this event will repeat in the not too distant future during a period known as “The Tribulation”. Antiochus IV was a fore-runner of the future Biblical “anti-christ”, otherwise known as “the man of sin/son of perdition”. We will be discussing these details in depth in a new section that will soon become available on this blog known as Biblical Prophecy.
In the meantime, Christians can consider this time of Hanukkah as a time to rededicate our “Temples” to Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. In the New Testament, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus lives inside of all believers via His Holy Spirit, symbolized by the oil that continually flows through the Menorah. Because of this, Christians’ bodies are the Temple of God, the house where His Spirit dwells. How can we rededicate our Temples to God? By throwing stuff out of our lives that is displeasing to God. Get rid of the baggage, the sacrifices to “gods” of money, ambition, pride, or anything that pulls us away from the True God. We can work to remove sin from our lives via the power of the Holy Spirit who lives and dwells within us. If we’re not aware of specific sins we may be committing, we can ask God to reveal where in our lives we need to “clean house” and He will do just that. Then, we can give ourselves to the True God, inviting Him to fill our “Temples” with His Glory. 🙂
We are in the 2nd night of Hanukkah, an 8 day Feast. The number 8 means “new beginnings” and is an awesome time to rededicate our Temples to prepare for the Coming of Jesus the Christ, which we celebrate on December 25th (Christmas). Though we continue to celebrate Jesus’ first coming, we also know that Jesus IS coming again….SOON…sooner than most people think! 🙂 Let’s also look forward to Jesus’ 2nd coming!!!