Hanukah or Chanukah means “dedication”,and refers to the rededication of the Temple after a great Jewish military victory in 165 BCE This feast is not a feast that was given to Moses or a feast of the Lord's. In fact it is not mandated in the Bible. The details are found in the books of First and Second Macabees in the Apocrypha, the books written in the 400 years between the Tenach (Old Testament) and B’rit Chadashah (New Testament). If you read the books of the Macabees you will see that God was not silent in these years. He was still very much at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people. You will also see that there are good Biblical reasons to celebrate this feast. In John's Gospel 10:22-23 we will see that Yeshua observed this holiday:
“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon’s colonnade.”
If we know scripture we will see that the story was prophesied centuries before by Daniel 8 and 11. This can be found in Daniel 11:3-4 “Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parcelled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others. ”This mighty King” was Alexander the Great or Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 – 10/11 June 323 BC died 32). the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocks Ptolemaic Egypt, Selucid Mesopotamia and Central Asia, Attalid Anatolia, and Antigonid Macedon. Daniel then goes on to describe another person who would succeed Alexander. This is exactly what happened after his death.
Daniel 11:21-28 “...a despicable person....and his heart will be set against the Holy Covenant...”
Daniel 11: 31 “His forces will desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation.” This prophecy accurately describes Antioch IV who called himself Antiochus Epiphanies (meaning invisible god or god manifest) He reigned from 175 until his death in 164 BCE as Greek king of the Seleucid Empire. His reign was one of many throughout history that has tried to wipe out the Jewish people. Antiochus wanted everyone to follow the ways of Greek Hellenism, which the Jews would not do. This is prophesied in Daniel 11:36 “Then the king shall do according to his own will. He shall exalt and magnify himself above all gods and speak blasphemies against the God of Gods.”
Antiochus made the people bow down to his statue, no longer could boys be circumcised and the Torah could not be read or studied. If they did not comply with the new laws, the consequence was death. Social and political pressures caused some Jews to follow Antiochus and they would bow down to his statues.
Daniel 11:32“...by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the Covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
Many of the Jews took the easy way out and tried to become more like the Greeks but others realized that assimilation and elimination of Jewish worship, traditions etc would be the end of Judaism and in fact would make out that G-d had lied to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so many of the Jews faced the persecution. Antiochus decided that he would send out his heavily armed soldiers and force the Jews to worship him and to sacrifice pigs. He even had a statue of Zeus placed in the Temple inn Jerusalem and then sacrificed a pig to Zeus on the altar. This is the “abomination” that Daniel spoke about.
In 167 BCE soldiers came to Modin outside Jerusalem to force Greek worship on an influential Jewish family led by Matathias and his 5 sons. Matathias would not forsake his faith. He tore down the Greek altar and drove off the soldiers with the battle cry, “Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!” This was the beginning of the Jewish rebellion. The Jewish people knew they were up against great odds, but their banner was “Who among the mighty is like Thee, O God?” (“Mee Kamocha B’aleem Adonoi!”) The name for the Jewish heroes of Hanukkah comes from using the first letters of these Hebrew words to form “Macabee”. Matathias’ oldest son was nicknamed “Judah Macabee”....the hammer....because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well equipped Syrian soldiers.
Daniel 11:32 says: “...the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.”
The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a few, with God on their side, triumphed over a multitude of powerful enemies. We need to remember that if we are with God he will be with us and we will have VICTORY!
In Zechariah 4:6 “...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Haftorah reading for Hanukkah Shabbat) On the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the date we celebrate Hanukkah, the Macabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus. This date was also prophesied by
Daniel 8:13-14 “How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the desecration of the Temple is avenged and God’s people triumph?’ He replied: “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the Holy Place will be properly restored.” This is a great confirmation that the word of God is true as well as historically accurate from the start of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews in 171 BCE until the restoration of the Temple in 165 BCE 6 years, 3 1/2 months = 2,300 days!!
How did the tradition of the 8 days and lighting 8 candles begin? When the victorious Macabees began cleaning up the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil for “ner tamid”...only enough for one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days.
A future Hanukkah is described in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-12 where Paul writes about the second coming of the Lord:
1.Many will turn away from God (as some Jews did who followed Antiochus’ Hellenism).
2. The “son of perdition exalts himself above God” i.e. the AntiChrist (as Antiochus Epiphanies did).
3. But the Lord will destroy him with the “brightness of His coming”... this victory we can all think of when we gaze at the lights of our Hanukkah menorah).
4.The Lord will usher in His millennial kingdom with the overthrow of the “lawless one” (The One without Torah) in a miraculous way. (A miracle to think about when we retell the Hanukkah story.)
During the time of Yeshua (in John 10:22), people’s minds were focused on themes of deliverance and rededication, oil and light.
It is a good time to pray for the Jewish people who have not received the Light of Yeshua in their lives as yet.