Yehudah ben Shomeyr (Kristopher Shoemaker)
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. – John 10:22-23 (KJV)
Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. – John 10:22-23 (TLV)
First off, I’ll tell you what Chanukah is not. IT IS NOT THE JEWISH CHRISTMAS. It has nothing to do with Christmas.
Chanukah is the Feast of Dedication commemorating the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The date for its observance has moved throughout the years.
SOLOMON’S CHANUKAH: MONTH OF CHESVAN (BUL)
I Kings 8, II Chron. 7 Documents the Dedication of the Temple Solomon built.
When King Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and burned up the sacrifices that had been offered, and the dazzling light of the Lord's presence filled the Temple. Because the Temple was full of the dazzling light, the priests could not enter it. When the people of Israel saw the fire fall from heaven and the light fill the Temple, they fell face downward on the pavement, worshiping God and praising him for his goodness and his eternal love. Then Solomon and all the people offered sacrifices to the Lord. He sacrificed 22,000 head of cattle and 120,000 sheep as fellowship offerings. And so he and all the people dedicated the Temple. The priests stood in the places that were assigned to them, and facing them stood the Levites, praising the Lord with the musical instruments that King David had provided and singing the hymn, “His Love Is Eternal!” as they had been commissioned by David. The priests blew trumpets while all the people stood. Solomon consecrated the central part of the courtyard, the area in front of the Temple, and then offered there the sacrifices burned whole, the grain offerings, and the fat from the fellowship offerings. He did this because the bronze altar which he had made was too small for all these offerings. Solomon and all the people of Israel celebrated the Festival of Shelters for seven days. There was a huge crowd of people from as far away as Hamath Pass in the north and the Egyptian border in the south. They had spent seven days for the dedication of the altar and then seven more days for the festival. On the last day they had a closing celebration, and on the following day, the twenty-third day of the seventh month, Solomon sent the people home. They were happy about all the blessings that the Lord had given to his people Israel, to David, and to Solomon. – II Chron. 7:1-10 (GNT)
Chanukah is based on the Feast of the LORD called, the Feast of Tabernacles, or in the Hebrew, Sukkot.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein… Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. – Lev. 23:34-36, 39-43 (KJV)
The Book of Maccabees makes this connection clear.
We are also told how the wise King Solomon offered a sacrifice of dedication at the completion of the Temple, and that when he prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices, just as it had done earlier when Moses prayed. Moses had explained that the sin offering was consumed by fire because it was not eaten. Solomon celebrated the festival for eight days. – II Mac. 2:9-12 (GNT)
…celebrate in the month of Kislev a festival similar to the Festival of Shelters… On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev we will celebrate the Festival of Rededication just as we celebrate the Festival of Shelters. We thought it important to remind you of this, so that you too may celebrate this festival. In this way you will remember how fire appeared when Nehemiah offered sacrifices after he had rebuilt the Temple and the altar. – II Mac. 1:9,18 (GNT)
EZRA AND NEHEMIAH’S CHANUKAH: MONTH OF ADAR (3RD)
Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries of each other and spoke of the same events. Ezra and Nehemiah lead the people back from Babylonian Captivity and rebuilt the Wall of Jerusalem and its Temple and rededicated it during the celebration of Sukkot; Feast of Tabernacles (Neh. 8:13-18, Ezra 3:1-6, I Esdras 5:47-53, Ezra 6:13-18, I Esdras 7:1-9).
And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication (Chanukah) of this house of God with joy. – Ezra 6:16
THE MACCABEAN CHANUKAH: THE MONTH OF KISLEV (25TH)
Maccabee means, “The Hammer.” They were the Hammer of God to punish the Greco-Syrian’s who had gone too far in subjugating God’s People.
You see, in the time of the Maccabees, The Greco-Syrians invaded and took over Israel and determined to wipe out the Faith of the Jewish people and make the Jews assimilate into pagan Greek culture.
The wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus the Third of Syria, was a descendant of one of Alexander's generals. Antiochus Epiphanes had been a hostage in Rome before he became king of Syria in the year 137. At that time there appeared in the land of Israel a group of traitorous Jews who had no regard for the Law and who had a bad influence on many of our people. They said, Let's come to terms with the Gentiles, for our refusal to associate with them has brought us nothing but trouble. 12 This proposal appealed to many people, and some of them became so enthusiastic about it that they went to the king and received from him permission to follow Gentile customs. They built in Jerusalem a stadium like those in the Greek cities. They had surgery performed to hide their circumcision, abandoned the holy covenant, started associating with Gentiles, and did all sorts of other evil things. – I Macc. 1:10-14 (GNT)
This “surgery” was a painful process of stretching out the circumcised foreskin, so as to appear Greek, uncircumcised, because the sports in the stadium built was always preformed in the nude.
Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphanes, meaning; God in the flesh) took over the Temple and attempted to force the High Priest Mattathias Maccabee to sacrifice a pig on the Temple Altar. He refused and He and his sons left the Temple and became a guerrilla terrorist group that lived out in the wilderness and caves; attacking the Greco-Syrian forces whenever they could.
Antiochus eventually erected a statue of Zeus with his face on it in the Temple. The Faithful Jews called it The Abomination of Desolation (Dan. 11:31, 12:11) Antiochus was the Anti-Christ of his time!
Antiochus outlawed Judaism and began persecuting and killing Jews who were caught practicing their faith.
Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people. All the Gentiles and even many of the Israelites submitted to this decree. They adopted the official pagan religion, offered sacrifices to idols, and no longer observed the Sabbath. The king also sent messengers with a decree to Jerusalem and all the towns of Judea, ordering the people to follow customs that were foreign to the country. He ordered them not to offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, or wine offerings in the Temple, and commanded them to treat Sabbaths and festivals as ordinary work days. They were even ordered to defile the Temple and the holy things in it. They were commanded to build pagan altars, temples, and shrines, and to sacrifice pigs and other unclean animals there. They were forbidden to circumcise their sons and were required to make themselves ritually unclean in every way they could, so that they would forget the Law which the Lord had given through Moses and would disobey all its commands. The penalty for disobeying the king's decree was death. The king not only issued the same decree throughout his whole empire, but he also appointed officials to supervise the people and commanded each town in Judea to offer pagan sacrifices. Many of the Jews were ready to forsake the Law and to obey these officials. They defiled the land with their evil, and their conduct forced all true Israelites to hide wherever they could. On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, King Antiochus set up The Awful Horror (Abomination of Desolation) on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. Pagan sacrifices were offered in front of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law which were found were torn up and burned, and anyone who was caught with a copy of the sacred books or who obeyed the Law was put to death by order of the king. Month after month these wicked people used their power against the Israelites caught in the towns. On the twenty-fifth of the month, these same evil people offered sacrifices on the pagan altar erected on top of the altar in the Temple. Mothers who had allowed their babies to be circumcised were put to death in accordance with the king's decree. Their babies were hung around their necks, and their families and those who had circumcised them were put to death. But many people in Israel firmly resisted the king's decree and refused to eat food that was ritually unclean. They preferred to die rather than break the holy covenant and eat unclean food—and many did die. In his anger God made Israel suffer terribly. – I Macc. 1:41-64 (GNT)
Eventually the rag-tag band of Levitical Warriors defeated Antiochus and his army and retook the Temple.
Then Judah, his brothers, and the entire community of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be celebrated with a festival of joy and gladness at the same time each year, beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev and lasting for eight days. - I Mac. 4:59 (GNT)
Everyone agreed that the entire Jewish nation should celebrate this festival each year. – II Mac. 10:8 (GNT)
I Maccabees 4:52-59 and II Maccabees 10:1-8 it recounts the reason we celebrate Chanukah today. After Judah (Mattathias’ son) Maccabee recaptures the 2nd Temple and began to cleanse it and restore the service of it, they were about to light the Holy Menorah when they discovered they only had enough oil for it to stay lit for one day. It took 8 days to produce more, but they lit it anyway and a miracle occurred, the Menorah stayed lit a whole 8 days until more was made!
“When the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled the oil there. When the Hasmonean (Maccabee) clan defeated the Greeks, they searched and found only one cruse of oil that still retained the seal of the High Priest. There was only enough oil for one day’s lighting. A miracle happened, and they kindled the lamps for eight days from that cruse of oil. The next year, they declared those days festival days to be celebrated with praise and thanksgiving.” – Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 21b
THE HERONINES OF CHANUKAH
There are some Heroines of Chanukah too. Two women named Hannah; Mother Hannah and Hannah the Bride, and a beautiful woman named Judith.
Mother Hannah had seven sons. Hannah and her sons were arrested by Antiochus and were forced renounce their Jewish Faith and to eat swine’s flesh. Each one bravely refused and was slowly and brutally tortured and killed before Hannah’s eyes. She encouraged each of her sons to die bravely, knowing they would be together in the next life and their bodies restored in the resurrection (2 Macc. 7).
HANNAH THE BRIDE
Hannah the Bride was a woman of shock and awe. She was to marry Elazar, which was Judah Maccabees brother and wore nothing but her birthday suit to the wedding; obviously offending and shocking everyone! The shocked and blushing Jewish community said, “What are you doing!?” Hannah replied, “I’m making a point! If you’re shocked and offended to see me naked, you should be shocked even more by Antiochus and his antics to decimate our people! Do I embarrass you by my nudity? You should be more embarrassed by Antiochus’ attempt to strip our people bare of their faith and traditions!” Hannah’s point was made and taken and it inspired Israel to take up arms against Antiochus and his army. As a result they won their first encounter and engagement against the Greco-Syrians (Based on a Jewish Legend).
JUDITH THE WIDOW
Judith on the other hand was a widow. A gorgeous widow! Like the Hadassah (Esther) of her day. One day she and her handmaid went to Holophernes, Nebuchadnezzar’s general who cut off the city of Bethulia’s water supply, and acted like they defected to the enemy’s side stating that they believed God was going to give Israel over into their hands because of Israel’s gross sin and disobedience against the Torah. Her good looks and smooth talk won Holophernes over and her and her handmaid was permitted to stay in the enemy’s camp and to come and go as they pleased in order to pray and to obtain kosher food for themselves.
Holophernes was smitten with Judith’s beauty and impressed by her wisdom that he invited her to his tent for dinner. This was Judith’s chance to make her move. She fed Holophernes salty cheese which made him thirsty and so Judith got Holophernes drunk on wine until he passed out. Once she knew he was out like a light, she cut off his head with his own sword and carried it out in the bag that she normally carried her kosher food in so as not to raise suspicions. By the time the enemy army discovered the body of their headless general Judith and her handmaid was presenting the head of General Holophernes to the elders of Bethulia. The enemy army retreated and Bethulia was saved. Judith’s bravery and cunning renewed the fighting spirit of the Jewish People to continue their conflict against the evil and assimilation (The Book of Judith).
WHAT CHANUKAH IS ALL ABOUT
Chanukah, meaning “Dedication,” makes the entire holiday about on a literal level about the Dedication of the Jerusalem Temple in Israel to God. But on a Spiritual level is about Dedicating oneself to God; for are we not the Temple of God?
Yeshua Himself declared His Body to a Temple in John 2:21. If we are to be like Messiah, then we too are Temples as Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) said.
Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. – I Cor. 6:19-20 (TLV)
Chanukah is a time to rededicate oneself to God, His Word and His Messiah! It is time to cease assimilating into the pagan culture around us, repent and return and rededicate ourselves to Him.
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (rededication of your mind), so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Rom. 12:1-2 (TLV)
Chanukah is also called the Festival of Lights. We are to be like the Chanukah Menorah, called the Chanukiah, and be a Light to the World.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matt. 5:14-16 (TLV)
Then came Hanukkah; it was winter in Jerusalem. Yeshua was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade. – John 10:22-23 (TLV)
So if it wasn’t for the Maccabees and Chanukah, we would not have this verse in our Bibles!
Yeshua Celebrated Chanukah and if you are His follower, you are more than welcome to do so too!