Dec 22, 2006

The History of Hanukkah VIII

(Start with part one first.)

People were so stunned and saddened that they fell to their faces on the ground. Many wept. And then they got to work to purify the Temple. They built a new altar from whole stones. They rebuilt the sanctuary and the inner parts of the Temple. They made new holy vessels and candlesticks. They baked breads and placed the loaves on the table. They hung new curtains.

Finally, early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev, the Jews began the celebration of the rededication of the temple. People sang and chanted, accompanied by harps and lutes and cymbals. The front of the Temple was decked with gold crowns and small shields. They lighted the lamps of the Temple menorah.

The Temple was purified and the Jews celebrated, but still the fighting went on. Even though Antiochus died the year after the recapture of the Temple, the Syrians kept on sending armies into Judea. It wasn’t enough for Judah and the other Maccabees to have regained the Temple. They wanted religious freedom established officially. That took more years of military battles. When religious freedom was granted, most of the Hasideans dropped out of the fighting.

But religious freedom wasn’t enough for the Maccabees. They wanted total independence, all enemy troops out of Jerusalem, and no foreign rule of their land. Fighting for this took almost twenty more years and was finally achieved by Simon’s negotiations. The only surviving Maccabee, Simon, became the High Priest of Jerusalem and ruler of Judea. As Mattathias’ second son, he began the rule of the Hasmoneans over the kingdom of the Jews in the year 143 BC.

This was twenty-five years after the confrontation in the small village of Modi’in when Mattathias refused to accept the laws of the Syrian king, Antiochus. This was twenty-five years spent gathering troops, training them, hiding in the hills, attacking and retreating – always fighting against better-equipped armies with many more soldiers. This was twenty-five years of courageous and determined struggle for the right of Jews to live their lives as Jews, freely and openly, governed only by the laws of the Torah.

In John 10:22-39, Jesus not only celebrates the Feast of Dedication, but He chooses this time to reveal himself as the Messiah.

The Feast of Dedication is about the dedication of the second temple of the Jews. So what does this have to do with us today? What can we learn from this? It is important to give God glory for the might victory over the Jews’ enemies and the restoration of God’s house to His people. If this Jewish revolt did not happen, or if they were not successful, there might not have been any Jews left for a Messiah to be born unto. Satan has tried over and over throughout history to kill the Jews, but against highly disproportionate odds, God’s chosen people always survive. We should always remember His great blessings and protection, and give Him thanks.

This is a feast that can be used to glorify God in His Temple today also. I Corinthians 6:19, 20 says “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

I Corinthians 3:17 says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

Romans 12:1 tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

And I Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

What better time of year to truly rededicate your own “temple” to the Lord? What “cleansing” needs to take place in your temple?


1. Why do you keep calling this the “Feast of Dedication?” Isn’t this the same as Chanukah?

Chanukah, which can be spelled with a “ch” or an “h,” is actually Hebrew for “Feast of Dedication.” Another name for this holiday is “The Festival of Lights.”

2. If this is Chanukah, why didn’t we hear about the miracle of the oil? Isn’t that what Chanukah is all about?

Actually, the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days is a myth. It is thought that the Pharisees hated the Maccabees because they felt they had committed blasphemy by making themselves both king and priest after their ultimate victory over the Syrians. Unfortunately, the Maccabees abused their power, becoming a dictatorship and eventually becoming very wealthy. Although they had begun by opposing Hellenism, they ended up becoming the single most successful Hellenizing force in Jewish society! The Pharisees eventually became rabbis who feared glorifying a martial past while still being occupied and oppressed by the Romans, so they shifted the focus of Chanukah over to the great lights of the Temple. Over time, the “miracle of the oil” became attached to the story of Chanukah, overriding the truth of the miracle of God’s deliverance of His people from a mighty enemy, and the restoration and dedication of His temple.

3. Why is Chanukah celebrated for 8 days?

There is a lot of significance to numbers in the Bible. The number 8, for instance, is attached to circumcision, which is a sign of a covenant. Whenever God’s temple was dedicated to Him, it was always an 8 day celebration; hence, this Feast also celebrates the dedication of God’s temple for 8 days. Another important reason is that this feast originally was patterned after the Feast of Tabernacles, another 8 day feast, which is a feast of thanksgiving. Of course, the Maccabees and their followers had many things to be thankful to God for when the Feast of Dedication first took place.

4. If Chanukah is for 8 days, why are there 9 candles?

The candle that is a little higher is called the “Shamash,” or the servant candle. You light that candle first, and then the Shamash is used to light, or serve, the other candles. It is to remind us that just as Jesus came as a servant, we, too, are to be servants to one another.

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Reformed Calvinist said...

"Shamash" doensn't mean Servant.
It means Sun.

Jen said...

RC, we are both right actually. According to Wikipedia, Shamash means sun in the Akkadian language, but it means a type of servant in Hebrew.

Hebrews13:13 said...

I have some Christian friends that have been trying to get me to observe the Sabbath and the Feasts.

I thought this was very good on Hanukkah.

And here is some great info on the Hebrew Roots Movement. I have not found better research.

Hebrews13:13 said...

Just a follow-up Jen. Why should I wait for one time each year to cleanse my temple when I am suppose to walk with Jesus each day and keep it clean.

1Co 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I now keep the FEAST (Jesus Christ) everyday, with the unleavened bread (Jesus Christ) of sincerity and truth.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone believe that Jesus had a chanukkiah (nine branch menorah) which was devised by men, and not commanded by God as the seven branch menorah was. The miracle of the oil is merely a legend, and is not historically accurate. There is no mention of it in the apocryphal- historical writings of either Maccabees 1 or 2 (63 bce – 25ce). The legend was first introduced into Judaism in the talmud. (200-500 CE).
Solomon built the first temple, but here is what Jesus had to say in Matthew: Matthew 12:42 The queen of the south will be raised in the Judgment with this generation and will condemn it. For she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and, behold, a Greater-than-Solomon is here.

Chanukkah was a celebration of the Jews (Maccabees) kicking the tar out of the Greeks. Does anyone think that Jesus went to celebrate this with the gentiles who ancestors were defeated? This would be like going into the deep south and asking the people there to celebrate the defeat of their ancestors in the civil war. He probably went there to teach, and to reach the gentiles who would hear.
I like gelt as much as the next person, but does anyone think that Jesus was spinning a dreidle which has kabbalistic connotations? The Chanukiah, the legend of the oil, the dreidle, the gelt, etc are all late rabbinic additions that occured after the time of Christ, and have noting to do with first century Judaism.. To think that He celebrated Chanukkah in the modern sense as we know it can not be proven historically or Scripturally. If you remove all the modern day practices from Chanukkah that had nothing to do with the celebration at the time of Jesus, then all you have is left is to go to the temple………but that is gone too.

As a recap then, there is no Biblical proof that Jesus “celebrated” Chanukkah. He was at the temple in the court of the Gentiles for a time debating with the pharisees, and then He left.

For more info on Hanukkah: