Is Hanukkah in the Bible?
Some claim Hanukkah is not found in the Bible. But it is! John10:22: Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.
While Hanukkah is not one of YHVH’s Appointed Times that we are to observe forever (see Leviticus 23) it most certainly is in Scripture. Yeshua observed it as the Feast of Dedication. That’s what Hanukkah means: dedication. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple.
Why was the Temple Re-dedicated?
Allow me to recount a bit of history.
It all started with Alexander the Great. He conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine. But under his relatively benevolent rule, those conquered still practiced their religions and retained a degree of autonomy. Many Jews assimilated, adopting the Greek language and Hellenistic culture. Others did not.
After Alexander’s death, his Empire was divided among his generals. And in 175 BCE, after being a hostage to the Romans for 12 years, Antiochus IV Epiphanies returned and took the throne. Being a type and shadow of the antichrist, who Scripture says will seek to change YHVH’s TIMES and LAW, Antiochus outlawed circumcision, the Sabbath, and studying Torah. He imposed horrific torture on those who disobeyed. Soldiers publicly executed babies that were circumcised along with their mothers. Jews were compelled to worship Zeus and eat pork. Refusal meant death! The traditional Jewish prohibition against speaking YHWH’s name began as one of Antiochus’s anti-Torah decrees for Hellenizing Jews. (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 18b)
Well, old Mattitias Maccabee–the Hammer–got mad as Heaven. He wasn’t going to take it anymore. So he and his five sons raised a small army to fight the Syrians. When Mattitias died, his son Judah took over leadership. Judah is a type and shadow of Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who one future day will return to save Jerusalem! Three years later, a few thousand Jewish resistance guerrillas defeated 20,000 Syrians in the hills of Jerusalem. This amazing victory is recounted in the Book of the Maccabees, volumes I & II. Unfortunately, the vacated Temple had been ransacked. Desecrated! Antiochus, in a final act of defiance, sacrificed a pig in the Temple and smeared its blood on the altar.
Is this like “Christmas in July?”
Well, Hanukkah is Sukkot in Kislev. [Kislev is the Hillell II calendar month that falls from Mid-November to Mid-December]
A letter from the Hasmoneans to the leaders of the Egyptian Jewry, circa 125 BCE, in the Second Book of the Maccabees, calls the Feast of Dedication the festival of Sukkot in Kislev. The Jewish guerrillas were still fighting in caves on Tishrei 164 BCE [Fall month of Sukkot] and could not keep the eight-day Feast. So they postponed it. Then, when they recaptured Jerusalem and had purified the Temple, they celebrated the rededication on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. It was their Sukkot.
For eight days, they celebrated, offering hymns of praise and waving palm branches. They recounted how during Sukkot, just a few months before, they’d been hiding out in caves. Fighting! And now, YHVH had given them victory. His temple was purified. (II Maccabees 10:6-7).
What is the Holiday Connection?
But there is still another connection between Sukkot and Hanukkah. Sukkot commemorates not only the wandering of the Jews in the desert dwelling in huts, [And is the actual time of Yeshua’s birth!] but also Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple. King Solomon gathered all of Israel together in the seventh month of [Tishrei] on Sukkot to dedicate the first temple. (I Kings 8:2, 12) This and the miracle of a one-day’s cruse of oil that lasted eight days account for Hanukkah’s length. Known also as the Feast of Lights, Hanukkah’s candle lighting is reminiscent of a ceremony from Sukkot: Simchat Beit HaShoava (water drawing ceremony). The water drawing ceremony, with its all-night dancing in the Temple, called for immense lamps to light the temple’s courtyard.
Many believe the story about the oil lasting eight days is a myth because it was not mentioned in the Books of the Maccabees. However, the Babylonian Talmud says this:
What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislew22 [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden.23 For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest,24 but which contained sufficient for one day’s lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel25 and thanksgiving.26
Still, another source in my research attributes the story of the miracle-oil to a legend originating with the Pharisees. The detractors claim the Pharisees resented the Maccabees because of Mattathias’ son, Simon. After becoming High Priest, Simon gave himself the title of nasi: a prince. The Pharisees saw this as an outrage because a King had to come from the lineage of David. So seeking to diminish the Maccabees role in the story of Hanukkah, they invented the miracle of the oil.
Decide this one for yourself, because I really don’t know which account is true. But I know this. YHVH is certainly able! If He wanted He could make a one-day cruse of oil last for eternity.
Hanukkah is like Purim (another holiday that’s not found in Leviticus) because it carries a Messianic significance. Purim commemorates the preservation of the Jews when Esther and Mordecai thwarted Haman’s plans to eradicate them all. Esther and Mordecai preserved the lineage through which Messiah would come. So did the Maccabees when the persecution of the Jews and desecration of the Temple by Antiochus was ended, and the Temple was re-dedicated to YHVH! They preserved the very Temple in Jerusalem that Yeshua would visit on a later Feast of Dedication!
The Hanukkiah, a nine-branch Menorah, is to be lit nightly. The shamesh is the servant light, the longest one in the middle of four smaller lights. Messianics recognize the servant candle as representing Yeshua. Lighting the servant candle first, one candle is added each night for a total of eight nights. Traditionally, on Friday, the Hanukkah candles should be kindled before the Shabbat candles. And on Saturday, one should wait until Shabbat ends to light the Hanukkah candles. The first day’s candle should be placed on the far right of the Hanukkiah. Each succeeding day, an additional candle is placed to the left of the previous night’s, from left to right. The new candle is lit first each night, always lighting the Servant candle first. The Hanukkiah should be placed in a window where it can be seen from the street. It proclaims publicly the miracle of the lights. Two Brachot (blessings) are traditionally said before lighting the candles. Then, on the last night of Hanukkah, a third blessing is added.
After kindling the first candle, and while the others are being lit on following nights, a prayer is recited, declaring the miracles YHVH performed “in those days at this season” through the brave priestly family of the Maccabees. It concludes the lights are holy and are not to be used as a light source; only to be seen as an expression of gratitude and praise to YHVH.
The Song of Hanukkah
MAOZ TZUR is the universal song of Hanukkah. It tells of centuries of oppression in Egypt, Babylon, at the hand of Haman, and the Syrian-Greeks, and the centuries following the destruction of the second Temple. This song of hope fills Jews with the courage to face the future and the desire to see the coming of Moshiach–Messiah. “May it happen speedily in our days, Amen.”
During the eight days of Hanukkah the entire Hallel (David’s Psalms of praise) are recited daily during the Shacharit (morning) prayers. To honor women, whom the Syrian-Greeks systematically abused, women are to do no work during the first hour of the candle lighting! The tradition also honors Judith, who decapitated the Syrian-Greek general Halifornus then hung his head out the window, which demoralized the Syrian-Greek army and hastened a Jewish victory.
There are many traditional Hanukkah songs, but my favorite one is MI Y’malel
Who can retell the things that befell us,
Who can count them?
In every age, a hero or sage
Came to our aid.
This time of year in days of Yore
Maccabees the Temple did restore
And tonight our people as we dream
Will arise, unite, and be redeemed.
On YOU TUBE type in “Mi Y’Malel” and listen to different performers sing this delightful and catchy tune.
|ConclusionIn closing, allow me to impart this final thought. Right now, we, the Israel of God, are His Temple. His only temple. We have the blessed honor to house in our bodies the Ruach ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit). So as we prepare to commemorate the Rededication of the second Temple, let us, likewise, rededicate our Temple.
And, if you are still worshiping YHVH the way Pagans worshiped their sun-gods, STOP! Repent! Rededicate your temple!
May Yeshua, the Light of the World, blaze like a Festival of Light in you this Hanukkah.