In 168 B.C., on the 25th day of Kislev (which month corresponds to November/December), the army of the Greek-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Temple of the God of Israel. This infidel ordered the sacrifice of a pig on the sacred altar, had pagan idols brought into the Sanctuary, and forbade all worship of the God of Israel. He also forbade practicing the Instructions of the Torah, the Law of the God of Israel. Those who chose to obey the Holy One rather than man, were seen as violators – the decreed punishment being execution.
Under the leadership of Judah the Maccabee, who was also known as the “Hammer,” a faithful remnant resisted the would be conquering Syrians. The Maccabees called on YHVH Tsavaot, the LORD of Hosts, the God of the Armies of Israel. They asked Him to aid them in their battle and with His help, even though they were greatly outnumbered, the Maccabees managed to regain control of Jerusalem in 165 B.C.
According to tradition, the Almighty then caused them to find in the Temple a one day supply of oil that was dedicated for lighting the Menorah. That one day cruse lasted for eight days, while fresh oil was being consecrated – thus giving constant light in the Temple. (There is no historical record of this miracle in the early accounts of Hanukkah and it is contested by many.) The Maccabees cleansed the Temple, and on the 25th day of Kislev, exactly three years after the Syrians had profaned the Sanctuary, a new altar was dedicated.
In commemoration of this victory over evil, and because they had been unable to celebrate Sukkot (Tabernacles) at its proper time, the Jewish people similarly celebrated for eight days and they gave glory to their God for delivering them from their enemies. Hanukkah, which means “Dedication,” was a Sukkot-type celebration that ultimately took on a life of its own apart from, and in addition to, the decreed Feast of Sukkot. Hanukkah is not one of Israel’s appointed feasts and was instituted by man, so one can choose to celebrate or not celebrate the occasion.
In the Apocrypha, I Maccabbees 2-4, we read of some zealous Israelites who refused to bow down to false gods. National deliverance from their enemies played a key part in the celebration they established. To honor the event in our day, worship services in synagogues around the world include the prophetic passage from Zechariah: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). For eight consecutive days Jewish people light candles on a nine branched Hanukkah candelabrum. They do not use a seven branched Menorah like that found in the Temple because the Orthodox Jewish community generally opposes the idea of reproducing the items that were especially dedicated for Temple use.
Just before sunset, families gather to light the first candle during this “Festival of Lights.” Children are given gifts of gelt (money) and chocolate, and a dreidel game is played using a special spinning top, dried beans being the reward. Hanukkah songs are sung and the story of redemption is retold.
The center, or otherwise prominent candle of the Hanukkia Lamp is traditionally called the shammas or servant. Each night it is used to light the other candles. On the first night, it is used to light one candle (starting on the right hand side), on the second night two; adding one candle each night until, on the last night, all eight candles are individually lit by the shammas.
Again, nine-branched Hanukkah lamps were created because the rabbis felt the people should not reproduce anything that was in the Temple. Thus, they should actually be called Hanukkia lamps, to distinguish them from the Holy Spirit-inspired seven-branched Menorah that the Almighty instructed Israel to build and to use in the Tabernacle and Temple.
Long ago, the Maccabees won a great military victory for our Jewish people. They won because they were faithful to the Almighty. Due to their fearless actions (coupled with the Father’s grace), the Temple was rededicated and freedom to worship the God of Israel was restored. In and through these brave men, the God of Israel once again confirmed His desire to preserve His Jewish people.
The Maccabees were brave men who stood together for righteousness sake. And now, many non-Jewish Believers have chosen to celebrate Hanukkah because it reminds them of the Father’s deliverance and protection and because it honors Israel’s dedicated leaders. But, how should the non-Jew relate to this holiday? Should we simply follow the traditions of our Jewish brothers, or, is there possibly something more for us to see here? Should this day have particular meaning for those who love the Messiah and the Jewish people?
Messiah Yeshua and Hanukkah
In John 10:22-24, we read, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.”
Some feel these verses prove that Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah. But others feel they portray Him as being on the sidelines, looking on from a distance, from Solomon’s portico (which was left standing from Solomon’s Temple).
Regardless of His participation or lack thereof, we do know that Yeshua was there, and that, at that same time, some from Judah asked Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” In other words, “If you are the Messiah, when are you going to begin to lead us like a Messiah?”
To answer, Yeshua affirmed His oneness with YHVH and claimed that He was leading His people. But, He spoke of an eternal kingdom, of personal deliverance, and of granting eternal life to those who would believe in Him. He also told those who questioned Him, “You do not believe…because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
When Yeshua said this, “the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him,” and they said that they were doing so “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:24-32). Yeshua also told them that He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12), but they refused to recognize Who He was. They were celebrating the “Feast of Lights,” yet refusing to acknowledge the “Light of the World” Who was standing before them.
When questioned about His Messiahship at this time, why did Yeshua answer by telling of YHVH’s divine protection over His sheep, and by declaring that His sheep hear His voice?
He did so because the people were mistakenly putting great emphasis on physical deliverance from their oppressors. They wanted Him to crush their Roman oppressors like the Maccabees did the Syrians. But, Yeshua wanted something more lasting for His people. Thus He affirmed that His flock was under His Messianic guidance, and that, in Him, they were being protected by the Holy One. Sadly, His questioners could not understand the eternal things of which He spoke, because they did not belong to Him. If they had been given ears to hear, they would have known that the One standing before them wanted His people to first focus on cleansing their own temples, and to be built up by His Holy Spirit. Yeshua wanted them to know that those who responded to Him would be protected and even granted the gift of eternal life. But, those who stood before Him mistakenly thought their greatest enemies were the Romans, when in truth man’s greatest enemies are most often found within.
Cleansed Temples and Pure Lights
We are called to be temples of the Living God. Thus, we need to allow the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to cleanse our Holy of Holies – which is our hearts. When we allow Him to have His way in our inner man, He will pour in a goodly supply of oil, and we will be living examples to all the world of the eternal light, the protection and provision that is found only in YHVH Elohim (2 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 5:14; John 8:12).
Messiah Yeshua is the Servant Who also is named named “Israel.” He came to raise up the scattered tribes of Jacob, to restore the preserved ones of Israel. He is called “a light to the Goyim/Nations,” sent to preserve those of Israel who were once destined to become a melo hagoyim, a “fulness of the Gentiles.” Yeshua is the Shepherd God of formerly scattered Ephraim Israel and his companions (Isaiah 11:11; 49:6; Genesis 48:19; Hosea 1-2; Ezekiel 37:19). And, in this last day, He has a particular job assignment for Ephraim…
YHVH promised to search for His scattered sheep and to “set over them one Shepherd – that being His “Servant,” Yeshua. He also said, “I will be their God and….they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid… Then they will know that I, YHVH their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people… For, I will take… Ephraim and Judah and their companions… and make them one stick in My hand… and they will be one nation in the Land…” (Isaiah 8:14; Ezekiel 34:11,23,24,28,30; 37:15-28; Amos 9:9).
The sheep who follow the Good Shepherd do not need to fear oppressors but can trust in Him and be filled with His light (Isaiah 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9,10; Hosea 1:2-11; 2:23; Luke 1:33). That is the message the followers of Messiah Yeshua want to impart with their celebrations.
As for how we might want to honor this event we note that, when the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32 returned home to his father, he went in the house and “celebrated” with him. It was celebration with the father that provoked the older brother to jealousy. This gives us a clue as to our older brother, Judah, and his reactions to, and the importance of, our latter-day celebrations with our Heavenly Father.
Messiah Yeshua is the most important “Temple” of all. He is the “Sanctuary” over Whom “both the houses of Israel” continue to “stumble” (Isaiah 8:14; John 2:19-22). As the “Light of the World,” He is the One Who must be lifted up (John 8:12, 28; 12:32; Isaiah 33:10). And it is we who must lift Him up.
Again, we read that, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (John 10:22-23). Our Father is very careful about the words He uses in Scripture, and this verse does not necessarily indicate that Yeshua was “participating” in the event. The Word reveals that He was “walking” in the area of “Solomon’s Portico.” The indication is that He was walking around, or treading about in a location that was off in the distance (Strong’s #’s G 40:43; 3960). But why would He have been off to the side, pacing about?
Yeshua may have had reservations about this celebration – because, while He appreciated true dedication in His people, He knew that He was the true “Temple” (Isaiah 8:14; John 2:19-22). He also knew that the Jerusalem Temple that was being honored was destined to be completely destroyed. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'” (Luke 13:34,35).
Hanukkah had become a symbol of Jewish perseverance (see the Apocrypha, 2 Maccabees 10:6-9). However, the Hasmoneans were opposed by some because they wrongfully forced conversions and mandated its celebration (see chanukahgiftsplus.com, Macabees; and Deuteronomy 4:2). To mandate a celebration for Israel is to add to YHVH’s commands. The Maccabees also began a Hasmonean Dynasty, which action took the kingly leadership from David’s House – and which may be why the Lion from the Tribe of Judah was watching the celebration off to the side and treading about. Even so, Zechariah had foretold a separation and latter-day reunion between the people of Judah and David’s House: “The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah” (Zechariah 12-7). (See Israel’s Feasts and Their Fullness by Batya Wootten, chapter 34, “The Roots of Christmas.”)
Assuming all of this is so, what do we do about celebrating Hanukkah in our day?
To begin, we need to be very careful about our attitude in regard to the above bit of information. We must not gloat and think we are aligned with the House of David via its Messiah, and that Jewish Israel is no longer aligned with Him. We need to instead heed Zechariah’s warning that the House of David will not be magnified above Judah. Our God swore that He would again choose Judah and Jerusalem, and we need to be wise enough to work with Him in the process.
Our God loves and plans to reunite, both the houses of Israel. He says of both of them: “‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the LORD'” (Jeremiah 31:20). And, “Thus says YHVH Tsa’va’ot [YHVH of hosts], ‘My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem….the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem'” (Zec 1:17; 2:12).
Our Job Assignment
Most of the people at the time of Messiah Yeshua did not see and realize the truth of Who He was. And now it is our turn to proclaim the truth about the eternal life, deliverance and protection that He provides. We can help others to see this truth by being living examples of His Light and Love. With all of His being our Messiah loved His Jewish brothers and wanted them to know Him. Again, it is now up to us to be a proper example to them of His goodness.
At this Hanukkah season, let us rededicate ourselves to our God. Let us ask Him to give us ears to better hear the voice of our Shepherd, to have the Holy Spirit cleanse us, and to empower us to be wholly dedicated to the restoration of His Kingdom over the whole house of Israel. During this Season of Lights, let us acknowledge that the One to whom we belong does indeed give greater protection than even the courageous Maccabees. Let us remember that Messiah Yeshua is exactly Who He claimed to be: He is the Light of the World, and the Shepherd God of Israel. Truly, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Should you choose to celebrate Hanukkah, the following verses are suggestions for reading as you light each of the Hanukkia candles.
May you be blessed as you celebrate!
Messianic Hanukkah Blessing in Hebrew
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kidushanu b’Yeshua, asher bismo madlikim anachnu ner shell chanukah.
Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us in Yeshua, in whose name we light the Hanukkah lights.
Suggested Candle Lighting Readings for Hanukkah
Lighting the Shamash (Servant) Candle
The Father said to Messiah Yeshua in Isaiah 49:3, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.”
Messiah Yeshua said in Mark 10:44-45, “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
First Night Readings
Genesis 1:2-5 – Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day.
John 1-4 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
John 1:4-5 – Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 8:12 – In Me is life, and the life is the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
I Peter 2:9-10 – But we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but now the people of Elohim, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Second Night Readings
Isaiah 60:1 – Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
John 12:46 – I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
Acts 13:47 – This is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 26:18 – Like Paul, we are called to help open eyes, “in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Elohim, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Yeshua].
Third Night Readings
Psalm 18:28 – You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns darkness into light.
John 8:12 – Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
2Peter 1:19 – We have the Word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Fourth Night Readings
Psalm 97:11 – Light is shed on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.
John 12:46 – Yeshua said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”
Ephesians 5:8 – It is said of us, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light.”
2Corinthians 4:6 – God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Yeshua.
Fifth Night Readings
Isaiah 42:6 – I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.
Luke 11:33 – No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lamp stand, that those who come in may see the light.
I John 1:7 – If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Messiah Yeshua His Son cleanses us from all sin.
I John 2:10 – He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
Sixth Night Readings
Psalm 119:105 – Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Isaiah 58:10 – If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.
Romans 13:12 – The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Matthew 5:16 – Therefore let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Seventh Night Readings
Psalm 36:9 – With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Matthew 5:14-15 – You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
John 12:35-36 – Yeshua said, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Eighth Night Readings
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Isaiah 60:1 – Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of YHVH is risen upon you.
Isaiah 2:5 – O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of YHVH.
Isaiah 49:6 – The Father said of Messiah Yeshua, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
1 Peter 2:9 – Peter said of us, “You are a chosen people, a royal priest-hood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Romans 13:12 – The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
1Thessalonians 5:4-5 – We, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake us as a thief. We are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of darkness.
This list of suggested verses for reading serve as a companion to the article, Messiah Yeshua and Hanukkah Celebrations by Batya Wootten. This article is available for download at ZechariahsPatrol.com. For a PDF and/or hard copies of the Hanukkah Celebration Guide that can be carried in your Bible, go to Key of David Publishing.
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