Hanukkah

The festival of lights and feast of dedication of the Temple. Christ was announced and conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary; Christ is conceived in each believer. The single day’s supply of oil for the temple lamp lasted 8 days...the number of completeness and perfection!

Chanukah can also be read as a combination of the two words “Chanu k’h” which means “they rested on the 25th”. That is what Jesus calls us to do…enter into His rest!

Is this a “Jewish” Christmas?

Christmas was never celebrated in the Bible. ”There is no historical evidence that our [Savior’s] birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times," (Christmas, p. 47) The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Another writer makes this astounding statement: "The day was not one of the early feasts of the Christian church. In fact even the observance of birthdays was condemned as a heathen custom repugnant to Christians," The American Book of Days, by George W. Douglas.

Celebrating birthdays was never sanctioned in the Scriptures. If Christmas is as popular and pervasive a religious holiday as retail sales indicate, why isn’t it found anywhere in the Bible? Why doesn’t the Bible reveal which month, let alone which day to keep it?

Luke 2:8 says: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Is this describing a cold, wintry December scene? According to Jeremiah 36:22, December is wintry in the Holy Land. It is the rainy season where on occasion snow covers the ground (see Daily Life in the Time of Jesus by Henri Daniel-Rops). Luke, however, says that sheep were still in the open fields. This had to be before the cold winter rains and snows began to fall. The livestock had not yet been moved to shelters. Notice: "It was a custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain" (Clarke’s Commentary by Adam Clarke, vol. 3, p. 370). Clarke says the first rain commences in October. He adds, "As these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Savior was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields ...the flocks were still in the fields BY NIGHT. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up." December is no time for flocks and shepherds to be standing out in the field.

Another indication that the Savior was born in the fall rather than in winter is the fact that Caesar Augustus had declared a census be made of the empire, and each citizen had to report to his hometown to register, Luke 2:1-5. Ordering the people of the empire to travel great distances in the dead of winter would have surely incited a revolt, at least among the Jews in Palestine. No right-minded king would have requested such a thing. He more likely would have called a census in early fall after the crops were harvested and the people had money and time to travel before bad winter weather set in.

Various prophetic Scriptures indicate that Yahshua the Messiah was indeed born at the time of the fall Feast of Tabernacles and Rash Ha Shanah and Yom Kippur. That may have been why the inn was full when Joseph came to Bethlehem, as the city had swelled with Feast observers. It is the seventh feast, in the seventh month, and we are to “rejoice before Yahveh [the Lord] our God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40). Seven is the Almighty God’s number and it refers to His perfection and completion.

Christmas was an invention of the Roman church, designed to compete with the heathen Roman feast of Saturnalia in honor of the sun deity Mithras. Mithras bore remarkable similarity to the Biblical Messiah. The Mithraic feast, like Christmas, was celebrated to commemorate his birth. Notice the astounding parallels, as detailed by Joscelyn Godwin, professor at Colgate University: Mithras was "the creator and orderer of the universe, hence a manifestation of the creative Logos or Word. Seeing mankind afflicted by Ahriman, the cosmic power of darkness, he incarnated on earth. His birth on 25 December was witnessed by shepherds. After many deeds he held a last supper with his disciples and returned to heaven. At the end of the world he will come again to judge resurrected mankind and after the last battle, victorious over evil, he will lead the chosen ones through a river of fire to a blessed immortality," Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, p. 99. Godwin remarks, "No wonder the early Christians were disturbed by a deity who bore so close a resemblance to their own, and no wonder they considered him a mockery of [the Messiah] invented by Satan."

Yet, there is a feast that coincides fairly closely with Christmas, and it is 9 months prior to the Feast of Tabernacles!! Hannukah, the festival of lights, represents the CONCEPTION of Christ! That is a far more significant day than His birth, don’t you think?!! It is when the replacement temple was commemorated, and is the FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS when our Light came into the world!!!!! Wow!!!?

Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar (Hebrew calendar is based on the moon). The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, called a menorah (or hanukkiah). One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shamash (Hebrew: שַׁמָּשׁ, "attendant"). Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the festival.

The Menorah

Symbol of Israel since ancient times, with construction details in Exodus 25:31-40 given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Seven “lamps” (candles were unknown), one central and 6 “branches”…with buds, blossoms, etc. Lampstand made of pure gold and used in the “portable” sanctuary carried around in the desert by Moses, etal.

Set up in the temple 300 years later in Jerusalem under Solomon.

Fueled by fresh, sanctified olive oil of the finest quality, and lit daily.

It is forbidden to use the Hanukkah lamp or the light from the lamps for anything. You cannot read by them or count money by them. It is even forbidden to light 
other candles by the Hanukkah light.

The lamps must be lit only by women!!! (Mary)

There are conflicting reports about how many of the seven lamps were burning everyday. Exodus 27:21 says “the lamp”, implying that the central lamp may have been enough. The Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that three of the seven lamps (the western ones) were allowed to burn during the day also. However, according to the Talmud (Rashi, Tractate Shabbat 22b), only the center lamp was left burning all day, into which as much oil was put as into the others. Personally, I believe this correct, as the “Christ” light shines even when we do not.

Since the Talmud states that it is prohibited to use a seven-lamp menorah outside of the temple (the temple is gone), the modern Jews now use a Menora with eight branches, plus a middle ninth lamp set apart as a “servant” lamp (shames)…used only to kindle the other lights. This type of menorah is called a hanukiah. It misses the point…or does it? Eight is cool, too!!!!

Numeralogy

Six (branches) is the number of “imperfection”, “man” or “evil” (666 is the attempt of man to reach seven). But it also can mean perfection in “religion”, which is as good as man can get…

Seven is the number of spiritual perfection, totality and completeness (Jesus Himself), fulfilled by Jesus! Also, Days of the Sabbath count (center is the Sabbath), Days of Creation (last day was Sabbath), churches in Revelation, bowls, trumpets, seals, spirits of God, etc.

Eight (branches) as used today, is the number of “New Life” or “Resurrection”!!!! Also, circumcision is on the eighth day. COOL!!!!! Can you see Christ fulfilling this? The first Menora was probably taken by Rome, but its fate is unknown. The symbol served its purpose as Christ fulfilled its message.

The Menora is referenced by Revelation, referring to the seven churches of Asia, with one like the Son of Man in their midst. This is Christ in them, as the central light is now cast into the lives of Christians all over the world.

Nowadays, the typical celebration has the first day of Hanukkah lighting one candle and thereafter one per day progressively until on the eighth day, eight candles are lit. The center candle only serves as a “servant”. Christ is our servant King!

The Story of Hanukkah

The story begins during the reign of Alexander the Great, when he conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Greek culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.

A century later, in about 198 BC, Antiochus III, the King of Syria, won a war with King Ptolemy of Egypt over the possession of the Land of Israel, thus making Israel part of Syria. He was at first “favorably disposed” to the Jews. But when the Romans conquered Syria and demanded heavy taxes, he pressed the Jews and other regions in his empire to produce. At the death of Antiochus III, his son (Seleucus IV) took over and further oppressed the Jews.

Meanwhile, the Jews began to adopt the Hellenistic idol-worship and “outward beauty” culture of the Syrian way of life, abandoning Hebrew culture. The High Priest Yochanan opposed this influence, with the result that the Hellenists hated him. One of them told the King’s commissioner that in the treasury of the Temple there was a great deal of wealth.

The wealth in the treasury consisted of the contributions of "half a shekel" made by all adult Jews annually, given for the purpose of the sacrifices on the altar, as well as for fixing and improving the Temple building. Another part of the treasury consisted of orphans’ funds which were deposited for them until they became of age. The gold and silver from the Temple instruments had been robbed already in the previous conflicts, but the treasury was refreshed.

Seleucus needed money in order to pay the Romans. He sent his minister Helyodros to take the money from the treasury of the Temple. Yochanan, the High Priest, begged him not to do it. But, Helyodros did not listen and entered the gate of the Temple. Helyodros suddenly became pale with fright upon entering, and the next moment he fainted and fell to the ground. After Helyodros came to, he did not dare enter the gate of the Temple again.

Antiochus IV

When Seleucus was killed, his brother Antiochus IV began to reign over Syria, in 174 B.C. He was a tyrant of a rash and impetuous nature, contemptuous of religion and of the feelings of others. He was called "Epiphanes," meaning "the gods’ beloved." Several of the Syrian rulers received similar titles. But a historian of his time, Polebius, gave him the epithet Epimanes ("madman"), a title more suitable to the character of this harsh and cruel king.

Desiring to unify his kingdom through the medium of a common religion and culture, Antiochus tried to root out the individualism of the Jews by suppressing all the Jewish Laws. He removed the righteous High Priest, Yochanan, from the Temple in Jerusalem, and in his place installed Yochanan’s brother Joshua, who loved to call himself by the Greek name of Jason. For he was a member of the Hellenist party, and he used his high office to spread more and more of the Greek customs among the priesthood.

Joshua (Jason) was later replaced by another man, Menelaus, who had promised the king that he would bring in more money than Jason did. When Yochanan, the former High Priest, protested against the spread of the Hellenists’ influence in the Holy Temple, Menelaus hired murderers to assassinate him. Antiochus was at that time engaged in a successful war against Egypt. But messengers from Rome arrived and commanded him to stop the war, so he had to yield. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a rumor spread that a serious accident had befallen Antiochus. Thinking that he was dead, the people rebelled against Menelaus, so he fled, together with his friends.

The Martyrs

Antiochus returned from Egypt enraged by Roman interference with his ambitions. When he heard what had taken place in Jerusalem, he ordered his army to fall upon the Jews. Thousands of Jews were killed. Antiochus then enacted a series of harsh decrees against the Jews. Jewish worship was forbidden; the scrolls of the Law were confiscated and burned. The altar was defiled with pig’s blood. Sabbath rest, circumcision and the dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death. Even one of the respected elders of that generation, Rabbi Eliezer, a man of 90, was ordered by the servants of Antiochus to eat pork so that others would do the same. When he refused they suggested to him that he pick up the meat to his lips to appear to be eating. But Rabbi Eliezer refused to do even that and was put to death.

There were thousands of others who likewise sacrificed their lives. The famous story of Hannah and her seven children happened at that time. Each of the seven sons refused to bow to the king and renounce their faith in God, and were severely tortured to death in front of their mother and brothers. Finally Hannah was left surrounded by the bodies of her sons, a prayer exalting God on her lips. Then the distraught woman threw herself from a roof and rested beside her martyred sons. Antiochus’s men went from town to town and from village to village to force the inhabitants to worship pagan gods. Only one refuge area remained and that was the hills of Judea with their caves. But even there did the Syrians pursue the faithful Jews, and many a Jew died a martyr’s death.

Mattityahu

One day the henchmen of Antiochus arrived in the village of Modin where Mattityahu, an old priest lived. The Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of the village and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. Mattityahu replied, "I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our God made with our ancestors!"

Thereupon, a Hellenistic Jew approached the altar to offer a sacrifice. Mattityahu grabbed his sword and killed him, and his sons and friends fell upon the Syrian officers and men. They killed many of them and chased the rest away. They then destroyed the altar.

Mattityahu knew that Antiochus would be enraged when he heard what had happened. He would certainly send an expedition to punish him and his followers. Mattityahu, therefore, left the village of Modin and fled together with his sons and friends to the hills of Judea.

Most loyal and courageous Jews joined them. They formed legions and from time to time they left their hiding places to fall upon enemy detachments and outposts, and to destroy the pagan altars that were built by order of Antiochus.

The Maccabees

Before his death, Mattityahu called his sons together and urged them to continue to fight in defense of God’s Torah. He asked them to follow the counsel of their brother Shimon the Wise. In waging warfare, he said, their leader should be Judah the Strong. Judah was called "Maccabee," a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, "Who is like You, O God” from which we get “Michael”.

A religious traditionalist group known as the Chasidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees (no direct connection to the modern movement known as Chasidism) joined forces with Judah.

Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out the Maccabees. Though greater in number and equipment than their adversaries, the Syrians were defeated. Antiochus sent out another expedition which also was defeated. He realized that only by sending a powerful army could he hope to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men.

An army consisting of more than 40,000 men swept the land under the leadership of two commanders, Nicanor and Gorgiash. When Judah and his brothers heard of that, they exclaimed: "Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!" The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel, the prophet of old, had offered prayers to God. After a series of battles the war was won!!

The Dedication

Now the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 139 B.C.

Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. It didn’t burn candles, it burned oil. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small cruse of pure olive oil still bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. It was sufficient to light only for one day. The High Priest was 8 days’ journey away, in hiding. By a miracle of God, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available (consecrated) from the High Priest. That miracle proved that God had again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, the Jewish sages appointed these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for lighting lamps.

After this, Judea was freed from the surrounding armies…only remaining under the thumb of Rome. Just 100 years later, Jesus was born into this restored nation…the womb for the Christ.


More Stuff about Hanukkah

Christ Fulfills
In 4 B.C., there was a high level of expectation on Hanukkah, all connected to the hope of Messiah, the one seed of woman, desired of the nations, to come forth from Mary (means “bitter”). The people were looking for that singular light shining in the dark place until the 8th day would dawn and the day star would arise in their hearts. The center candle in the menorah represents Christ. It cannot be used for anything other than lighting the other candles…one additional each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah.

The festival of lights and the feast of dedication of the Temple. Christ was announced and conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary; just as Christ is conceived in each believer. The single day’s supply of oil for the temple lamp lasted 8 days...the number of completion and perfection…the days of circumcision! So, Christ is the light within us ALWAYS.

**HANUKKAH BLESSING ** 
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us by His Torah and commanded us to kindle the light of Hanukkah.”

The theme of the festival is "A great miracle happened here." In Hebrew it reads, "Nes gadol haya sham." The initial letters of this sentence in Hebrew are the four characters engraved on the sides of the dreidel (spinning top.) The dreidel is used in many children’s games during the feast.

The Mitzvah, or commandment, is to gaze on the light and consider the great miracle that has happened here, i.e. the Son of God has been born in you, even when it seemed that what we had was insufficient.

While the Hanukkah lamps are lit, the women rest from all work.

READ NUMBERS 8:1-4
READ ZECHARIAH 4:1-7

Some academic background

The story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees (the Apocrypha), which describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah. These books are not part of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) which came from the Palestinian canon; however, they were part of the Alexandrian canon which is also called the Septuagint (sometimes abbreviated LXX). Both books are included in the Old Testament used by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, since those churches consider the books deuterocanonical. They are not included in the Old Testament books in most Protestant Bibles, since most Protestants consider the books apocryphal. Multiple references to Hanukkah are also made in the Mishna (Bikkurim 1:6, Rosh HaShanah 1:3, Taanit 2:10, Megillah 3:4 and 3:6, Moed Katan 3:9, and Bava Kama 6:6), though specific laws are not described.

The Septuagint (in Greek) was also a source of the Old Testament for early Christians during the first few centuries AD. Many early Christians spoke and read Greek, thus they relied on the Septuagint translation for most of their understanding of the Old Testament. The New Testament writers also relied heavily on the Septuagint, as a majority of Old Testament quotes cited in the New Testament are quoted directly from the Septuagint (others are quoted from the Hebrew texts). Greek church fathers are also known to have quoted from the Septuagint. Even today, the Eastern Orthodox Church relies on the Septuagint for its Old Testament teachings. Some modern Bible translations also use the Septuagint alongside Hebrew manuscripts as their source text.

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