The Feast of Dedication — Hanukkah

Menorah-of-FeastsThe reference texts for Hanukkah are:  Daniel,  Chapters 7 through 10, Psalm 30, and John 10:1-39.

Found in the book of Leviticus and elsewhere are Seven Feasts which the God of Israel commanded His people to keep.   Our Father is undertaking now to restore these Feasts to His entire congregation, including those of us in the “Church” that have been grafted in by grace through faith, as were the original “mixed multitude.” (Exodus 12:38)The word “mo’ed,” translated “feast” means, in Hebrew, “set time” or “appointment.”  Our God established weekly appointments with us (which He calls ‘His Sabbaths’) as well as annual appointments (the Feasts or mo’edim, see Lev 23) – even including a fall vacation camping under the stars with like-minded people, for any who are willing!

seven cSeven Feasts: The number seven signifies completion.  In these seven events are pictured the death, burial, and resurrection of Messiah, the infilling of believers by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2); as well as the return of Messiah to re-gather His people from the ends of the earth; His coronation as King; the Day of Judgment; and the Marriage of the Lamb.

Spring Feasts

Four of these designated appointments occur in Spring.  The first three are:

Passover-Luke-22-19     Passover (Pesach)

♦      Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzah)

♦      First Fruits (Yom HaBikurim)

These first three occur over a seven day period.  In addition to commemorating the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt, they foreshadow Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Briefly, Yeshua was crucified on Passover, was buried on the first day of Unleavened Bread, and He arose from the tomb on the Feast of First Fruits (sorry, not Easter).

  • Pentecost, the fourth Spring feast – Fifty days after the feast of Unleavened Bread, the Ruach HaKodesh empowered believers at the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), already mentioned above.  This is also, traditionally, the anniversary of God’s betrothal to Israel and the mixed multitude who accompanied them on Mount Sinai.  The fascinating Messianic themes have been largely missed by modern Jewish people and almost entirely ignored by Christians.  Yahweh laments through Isaiah, “Who is blind but my servant?” (Isa 42:19)
Fall Feasts

The three Fall Feasts, which begin at the time of the wheat harvest, also carry much prophetic significance: this time pointing to the Second Coming of Messiah.

Yom Teruah 1The Feast of Trumpets, also called “The Day of the Awakening Blast” (Yom Teruah) is first on the fall calendar.   On this day in some future year we will hear the heavenly shofar and will meet Yeshua in the air (though not, in my opinion, prior to the Great Tribulation).  (1Cor 15:52)

Yom Kippur 3Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, is a prescribed 24 hour fast following ten days after Yom Teruah and prefigures the First Judgment.  (Rev 20:6)

Sukkot 3The eight-day Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) which begins five days after Yom Kippur.  Each year, the Festival of Sukkot portrays the wonderful joy of the re-gathering of all Israel and the mixed multitude grafted in to her from the four corners of the earth which will occur at the return of Yeshua when believers will celebrate the defeat of the enemies of Messiah and the start of His millennial reign.  One can gain much understanding of end-time events by studying and participating in these annual feasts.

Other Scriptural Feasts

Two other traditional Feasts referred to in Scripture are celebrated among the people Israel today:

♦ The first is Purim, commemorating the great deliverance of the Jewish people from evil Haman in the Book of Esther.

♦ The second is Hanukkah, which most American Christians think of as the “Jewish Christmas” because it has been largely commercialized.  But, it was not always so.

Hanukkah 2
A 9-branched Hanukkiah, traditionally used during Hanukkah.

Let’s look into this feast and asked ourselves why Yeshua would have walked 70 or more miles in the rainy winter season to observe a Feast which is not biblically prescribed.  Let’s decide if there is reason for us to participate in it, and if so, how to do so.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Yeshua walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the [religious leaders] surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long will You keep us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’” (John 10:22-24)

Jesus answered them and they “took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31) because “You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” (John 10:33)

As has been pointed out before, sometimes our modern translations hide the significance of events in the Bible.  If our Bibles had been translated for a Jewish readership, the first verse in the above passage would read, “Now it was the Feast of Hanukkah…” The word “Hanukkah” (חֲנֻכָּה )  means “dedication” or “consecration.”

To answer the question of why Yeshua was at the Temple for the Feast of Dedication, we have to look into the circumstances that led up this holiday.

The History Behind Hanukkah

In between Malachi’s prophecy and Matthew’s Gospel were four hundred “silent years” in which the prophets’ voices were stilled.  Remember, the numberfour four always has Messianic significance.   Further, the number four means “seal” and “covenant.”   What does our Father want us to know about this so-called silent period?   But, wait. Listen! Do you hear something?   A voice is sounding! It is the voice of history and it speaks loudly!

Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
antiochus iv
King Antiochus IV …God made visible

The books of First and Second Maccabees, contained in the Apocrypha, record the events that led up to Hanukkah, an eight day holiday in Israel.

In those days, Antiochus IV ruled over Mesopotamia and the Middle East, including Israel. He was a successor to one of the generals among which the kingdom of Alexander the Great had been divided. These kings constantly waged war against each other, putting their subjects under shifting control and fortunes.  (At the same time, Rome was conquering vast areas, and was well on its way to becoming the chief empire of the world. )

Antiochus, a picture of anti-Christ, claiming to be god, even added “Epiphanes” (“God manifest”) to his name.  Coins minted at the time proclaimed “King Antiochus…God made visible.”

The Greeks sought to Hellenize conquered nations by forcing them to abandon their language, customs, and faith – many times at the point of torture and death – to the supposedly superior Hellenistic culture.  In Israel, many Jews bowed down to the king, but among those devoted to the books of Moses (Torah), Antiochus found a force with which he had never before reckoned: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Maccabees

Before Antiochus came to power, Onias (of the family of the Hasmoneans), devout and highly respected, was the High Priest.  The Book of II Maccabees reports that it was because Onias, Israel’s chief priest, loved the God of Israel and was wholly devoted to keeping God’s commandments that Jerusalem had been at peace.  Even foreign kings honored the Temple and donated precious gifts to it.

However, Onias had a wealthy brother, Jason, who, convinced that the Jews were hopelessly stuck in time, wanted to see them adopt the progressive ways of the ‘sophisticated’ Greeks.  Coveting the role of High Priest for himself, Jason aligned himself with Antiochus.  He offered to finance the king’s campaign against Egypt, which Antiochus craved as his next conquest, provided the king would designate him as head of the priesthood.  Antiochus was happy to oblige and Jason soon wore the hat that made him also head of the Sanhedrin.

Jason was unstoppable.  Onias, his brother, was eventually murdered, and Jason proceeded full force to ‘reform’ Israel.  He built a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem and hosted nude athletic games opened by ceremonies in which sacrifices were made to Greek gods.  Under his leadership, many Jews even went so far as to undergo painful reverse circumcision.

In spite of such cultural pressure, a remnant continued to adhere to the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of Torah.

Although Antiochus’ war chest was well-supplied by Jason, it wasn’t long before the king would sell the position of High Priest to an even higher bidder, Menelaus, who believed that even Jason’s evil reforms were insufficient for the prosperity of Israel.  For the first time since the second Temple had been built, the title of High Priest went outside the tribe of Levi.  This was one of Jeroboam’s crimes (1 King 13:33) and had contributed significantly to the House of Israel being carried off by the king of Assyria.

Menelaus raided the Temple to pay his debt to Antiochus, adding further to their dismay.  Menelaus’ idea of progress was not to abolish Jewish Law, but rather to liberalize it by making acceptable what the Torah called profane.  He proposed that Antiochus forbid the ordinance of circumcision, the keeping of holy days, the practice of eating only “clean” foods, and the designation of sacred places.

sackcloth-and-ashesThe sons of Aaron were trained in the Torah for many years and from an early age before they took their place before the congregation to minister to Yahweh in His holy Temple.  Upon hearing Menelaus’ plans, a faithful remnant of the sons of Aaron tore their clothes and prayed with ashes on their heads.

In the month of Kislev (November and December) in the year 167 BCE, the king put Menelaus’ ideas into law and went even further to declare the study of Torah illegal.  In addition, the Temple was dedicated to the Greek god Zeus, whose image, “the abomination that makes desolate” (Dan 11:31), was installed on its altar.   On the 25th day of Kislev 167 BCE the sacrificial offering of pigs began in the Holy Temple and the blood of these unclean animals was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies. Some believe this outrageous idea originated with the High Priest Menelaus.

When cult prostitutes were introduced on the Temple Mount, the faithful remnant could bear no more. Their fury ignited a guerrilla war that would see thousands killed during the next three grueling years.

Mattathias, an aged priest of the tribe of Levi, departed Jerusalem in holy agony over these events and returned to his hometown of Modi’in. Mattathias had five sons, one of whom was called Maccabee, or “The Hammer.”   Mattathias exclaimed,

lamentWhy was I born to see the ruin of my people and the ruin of the holy city and the holy place taken over by foreigners? Jerusalem’s temple has become like a woman raped! Her treasures stolen! Our infants have been killed in the streets! Our young people have been killed in battle! Jerusalem’s beauty has been spoiled. Our freedom has been taken away. We have become slaves. Look around! Our beautiful holy place, which we honor, has been destroyed. We have nothing left to live for!” (1 Maccabees 2:1-14)

Overwhelmed with their grief, Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes and put on sackcloth.

The king’s officials, seeking to force the Israelites to abandon their covenant with God, came to the city of Modi’in to induce them to offer sacrifices to false gods.  Many Israelites willingly bowed to the king’s command, but an escort was sent for Mattathias and his sons, who refused.  The king’s officials first tried bribery. “You’re a highly respected leader in this city, and you have the support of your sons and relatives. If you will be the first to come forward and obey the king as ordered, then you and your sons will receive the title ‘Friend of the King.’ You will be honored with silver, gold, and many other gifts.”

Mattathias refused and shouted vehemently,

Though all the nations in the king’s empire obey the king and abandon the religion of their ancestors, my sons and I will keep the terms of the promise God made to our ancestors [Torah].  It’s unthinkable for us to desert the teaching and instruction of God. We won’t obey the king’s orders, and we won’t worship in any other way!” (1 Macc. 2:19-22)

mattathias--kills apostate JewWhen Mattathias had finished speaking, a Jewish man boldly rushed forward in front of everyone to offer a sacrifice on the altar as the king had ordered.   Enraged, the aged Mattathias killed the man at the altar, as well as the officer who had forced the sacrifice.  After demolishing the altar, Mattathias ran throughout the city and shouted, “Everyone who is devoted to God and willing to stand up for His Torah, follow me!” Then he and his sons fled to the mountains, leaving their possessions behind.

A group of about a thousand, instead of joining the Maccabees, hid themselves in caves in the desert.  On the Sabbath day, knowing that the pious Jews would not resist them, the king’s troops located them, surrounded them, and offered them their freedom in exchange for obedience to the king. “Come out right now!  Do what the king has ordered, and we’ll let you live!” When they refused, the Jews were mercilessly slaughtered, leaving Mattathias and his supporters again overwhelmed with grief.

However, this event resulted in their resolve to fight to the death, even on the Sabbath.  Others who had fled the persecutions of the king joined them and a small army emerged with the zeal of Phinehas, Nehemiah, and Ezra.  They attacked and killed Jews who refused to keep the LORD’s commandments, statutes, and ordinances.  They tore down the altars dedicated to false gods and forced circumcision upon Jewish youths who had rebelled against the practice.

Before Mattathias died, he charged his sons, “We’re living in disastrous and violent times.  Offer your lives for the sake of the promise God made to our ancestors.  Remember our ancestors.  If you do what they did, you will be also be highly honored by God.  Didn’t Abraham prove that he was faithful when he was tested?  When Joseph was in a difficult situation, he obeyed God’s command and eventually became ruler of Egypt.  Our ancestor Phinehas received the promise of a permanent priesthood because of his zeal for Torah.   Joshua became a judge in Israel because he obeyed.  Caleb received a part of the land as his inheritance because he believed God would give the victory.  David inherited the throne of an eternal kingdom because he was merciful.  Elijah was taken to heaven because of his devotion.  Daniel was rescued from the lion’s mouth because he was innocent of breaking God’s covenant.  Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael believed and were saved from the fire for the same reason.  Everyone who stays in covenant will have the strength they need to do whatever God has called them to do.”

Taking a cue from Mattathias, when a sefer (book of the Torah) is finished being read in synagogue, all the people say together, “Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!,” encouraging one another to be faithful to the Word of God.

Mattathias further challenged his sons, “Don’t be afraid of a sinful king who threatens you.  His honor will come to an end when he dies and his body is covered with manure and worms.  Today he may be honored, but tomorrow no one will be able to find him.  Be strong and courageous and you will receive honor from God.  Your brother Simon is wise; he will serve as your father.  Your brother, Judah, has been very strong ever since he was young.  He will be the commander of your army.   Recruit everyone who follows Torah and punish the enemies of your people.  Do everything that God’s word requires.”  Mattathias blessed his sons and joined his ancestors in death in the year 166 B.C. and was placed in his ancestors’ tomb at Modi’in.

Afterwards, Judas Maccabeus (Judah “The Hammer”) assumed leadership of the guerrilla army with his brothers’ wholehearted approval.   And just as the God of Israel enabled David to defeat Goliath, so He enabled the fledgling army of God to defeat the mammoth forces of Antiochus.  Maccabees 1:3-8 records,

Um El Umdan — site of the Hasmonean Period beit knesset unearthed in Modi’in and believed to be the site of the beit knesset of the Maccabees. Residents of the surrounding Buchman neighborhood conduct Kabbalat Shabbat services on this site on the last night of Hanukkah.

Judas brought his people widespread honor.  He wore his breastplate like a hero. He put on his weapons, fought battles, and used his sword to protect his camp. He was like a lion in everything he did, like a young lion when it roars at its prey. He hunted down those who didn’t follow Moses’ Teachings.  He set fire to the cities of those who caused trouble for his people. Those who had abandoned [Torah] retreated in fear and became confused. He…rescue(d) his people. He made life bitter for many kings, but he made Jacob’s descendants happy with everything he did.   He will be remembered and praised forever. He went through the cities of Judea and destroyed Jews who had betrayed their [God].  He turned God’s anger away from Israel. His name became known throughout the world. He united those who were about to be destroyed.”

Against exceedingly great odds, in only three years the Maccabees drove the Greco-Syrians out of Judea.  Though the army of Judas Maccabee was greatly outnumbered and outclassed, God put their enemies into their hands because they were faithful to the covenant.

Hanukkah, as one commentator puts it, loudly proclaims the message of the prophet Zachariah:

“Not by might, not by power, but by My spirit,” says the LORD of hosts [armies].”  (Zech 4:6)

But as remarkable as was the victory of the Maccabees, even more remarkable was the grace given to those who were martyred for their faith.

Faith – Sometimes it Hurts

Antiochus even went so far as to try to force the Jews to eat pork, an abomination according to Torah.   Sending soldiers to arrest a devout mother and her seven sons, he was determined to make an example of this righteous family.  When offered the pork, one of the sons declared, “We would rather die than disobey!”  He was tortured and murdered in the presence of his mother and brothers. One by one, the mother had to watch her sons courageously die unspeakably horrible deaths described in II Maccabees, chapter 7.   When the youngest remained, the king tried in every way to bribe him.  When that failed, the king implored the mother to persuade her son.   After much urging, she whispered to him in Hebrew:

“Son, have mercy on me. I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I raised you and took care of you.  My child, I want you to take a good look at the earth, the sky, and everything that’s in them.  I want you to realize that God made those things… So don’t be afraid of the king, that public executioner.  Prove that you’re like your brothers.  Die willingly so that God will mercifully give you back to me along with your brothers.”

While she was still speaking, the young man said,

“What are all of you waiting for? I won’t obey the king’s order! I’ll only obey the teachings that God gave my ancestors through faithfulness_std_t_nvMoses…We, the Hebrew people, are suffering because of our sins… My brothers, who suffered for a little while, are now enjoying everlasting life because of God’s promise…But you will receive the punishment you deserve for your arrogance because God will judge you.   I’m about to give up my body and my life, as my brothers did, for the sake of [the covenant].   I pray that God will show mercy to our nation quickly and that he will use trials and plagues to force you to acknowledge that he is the only God.   I also pray that, through my brothers and me, the Almighty will put and end to His anger, anger which our entire nation deserved.”

The king became bitter and furious.  He tortured the young man even more cruelly than his brothers; but the young man, trusting his God, died with grace.   Afterwards, the mother was slain.

In the end, even Antiochus admitted that the God of Israel protected His people, and that it was his sins against Israel that cost him victory and his life.

The Dedication of The Holy Temple

In victory, the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They cleansed it, removed the Greek symbols and statues and rededicated (Heb: chanak) it.

On the 25th day of the month of Kislev in 164 BCE, exactly three years to the day after its desolation, the Temple was purified and rededicated.


According to legend, when the Maccabees entered the Holy Temple, they discovered that the king’s men had defiled the oil which was used to light the Temple’s menorah.  There remained only enough ancient jugpurified oil to burn for a single day—and the processing of new oil would take weeks.   As the legend goes, God wrought a miracle.  When the Maccabees lit the menorah, it burned for not one, but for eight days, and at the end of the eight days, the new purified oil was ready.  This led to the holiday of eight days of Hanukkah being established.

Prophecy Fulfilled

In the eighth chapter of his book, Daniel, writing in the sixth century BCE, describes a vision that parallels the fall of Alexander the Great and the reign of terror of Antiochus.

“A male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground, and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.” (Daniel 8:3-5)

The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel to interpret the dream.

“As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king [Alexander].” (Dan 8:20-21)

Daniel explains this vision of the Greek Empire:

“Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land [Israel].  It grew great, even to the host of heaven.  And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.   It became great, even as great as the Prince of the [Heavenly] host.   And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown.  And a host [army] will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw Truth [Torah] to the ground, and it will act and prosper.”  (Dan 8:8-12)

The Book of Daniel has proven so accurate in its predictions that secular historians have gone so far as to charge that it could not possibly have been written until hundreds of years after the birth of Yeshua!  Daniel’s description of the rise of Alexander the Great and his four successors [horns], as well as the terror of the “little horn, (Antiochus), testify powerfully of the anointing of this prophet.

Yet the prophecy leaves room for another fulfillment of Daniel’s vision.

“Therefore seal up the vision… for it refers to many days in the future.” (Dan 8:26)

And, indeed Yeshua warned of yet another “abomination of desolation” yet to come.  (Mat 24:15)

The Book of Revelation foretells a battle that Satan will wage in the future with those, like the Maccabees, who keep the commandments of God.

dragon wroth with womanAnd the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Messiah Yeshua.” (Rev 12:17)

But, this book also proclaims their faithfulness to God’s word as the very thing that seals them in the midst of the persecution.

“Here is the patience [perseverance, endurance] of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Yeshua.” (Rev. 14:12)

Yeshua, Himself, warned His disciples, both those present and those who would read His words,

“When you therefore see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place;  you who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mat 24:15-16)

Yeshua could not have been speaking of Antiochus, for the Temple was cleansed and rededicated by the Maccabees some 140 years before He was born.

How Does Hanukkah Apply to Believers Today?

Many people, including Jews and Christians, believe that the end of days is upon us.   Most of us who have been brought up in the Church have been taught that the saints will be ‘raptured’ prior to this tribulation.  This doctrine, which originated in the mid 1800’s by John Darby, was picked up by Scofield and distributed to seminaries across the western word, leaving the church with little motivation to study prophecy or to examine current events in the light of it.

Let me say it plainly: In the writings of the patriarchs and the early church, this doctrine of pre-tribulation rapture did not existRather, they were preparing for much tribulation before the second coming of Yeshua!

Surely we would be wise to prepare for a time of tribulation by thorough studying the Scriptures from beginning to end.  The Book of Daniel promises that in the end of days, “the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” (Dan 11:32)  Surely this applied to the Maccabees.

We who live in the last generation must arm ourselves as well with the sword of the word of God and put on His whole armor.  We must love God with our whole hearts and minds and souls, as did the mother and her sons, and put away all ungodliness by being faithful to the covenant.  That is what preserved the saints and gave grace to the martyrs throughout history.   In the days of the Maccabees, some hid in caves and perished. Some bowed to the king and were disgraced. But those who knew their God did exploits. In which category will you find yourself should our nation suddenly be under the authority of the anti-Christ or his precursor?

400Remember, the number 400 represents “seal,” and “covenant.”  The stories that emerge from those four hundred “silent years” reveal that those who kept the covenant (Torah) were sealed for whatever God’s purpose was for them.  They were either given grace to live victoriously or grace to die with honor for the glory of God.

We still have not answered the question of why Yeshua kept the Feast of Dedication.

“At that time, the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-24)

Based on the chronology that John presents, the setting could have been the winter prior to Yeshua’s crucifixion. Depending upon where He was in the Galilee, He would have walked 70 or more miles in the rainy season, in the cold of winter, to go to the Temple.

In chapter 7, we are told that He had delayed His appearance at the Feast of Tabernacles because the religious leaders “sought to kill him.”   (John 7:1)  Why would He then openly make an appearance at the Temple for the Feast of Hanukkah? Why would He risk raising their ire toward Him?

Yeshua was well aware that His crucifixion would come at Passover.  It had been heralded for thousands of years since the night that Israel was delivered from Pharaoh, when Israel and the mixed-multitude that came out with them (Ex 12:38) painted the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.  Yeshua, like the Maccabees, had waged war against the enemy for three years; but while their war was over and victorious, His greatest battle was yet to be fought.

The evening before His crucifixion, we see him sweating great drops of blood, crying out to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane,

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me!” (Luke 22:42)

Was He wrestling with His own will during those dark winter days?  Did He come to strengthen Himself with the stories of the Maccabees’ dedication and divine victory?  Did He rehearse David’s psalm for the dedication [hanukkah] of the house of God (Psalm 30)? Did He visit again the very mountain where Isaac had carried the wood and allowed himself to be bound and placed on the altar at the age of 37?   Yes, I believe He went to remind Himself of the power of complete surrender; but I also believe He wanted to establish a pattern for us.

Hanukkah is an eight-day opportunity for us to revisit these historical events, to meditate upon the state of the world at the time when God allowed His holy place to be desecrated, and to evaluate where we stand at this very moment in history.  In the days of the Maccabees, the Temple altar was literally defiled when Antiochus sacrificed a pig on it.  This defilement was a symbol of the spiritual defilement taking place as men sought to compromise the Law of God and wed the Israelites to Greek culture.

We have to ask whether the altar is defiled today.

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” (I Cor 3:16)

There were two versions of ‘priesthood’ in the days of Antiochus:  Onias lived a life wholly dedicated to God; Jason, on the other hand, dedicated his life to worldly gain and entertainment.  By our faith in Yeshua, we have been made priests, says Peter. (1 Pet 2:9) What kind of priesthood do we hold? Is it righteous or defiled? Have we established idols in our hearts that need to be torn down?

Hanukiah (Hanukkah menorah) with the Shamash candle in the center.

The lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiah, is the most cherished of Hanukkah traditions.  Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. This special menorah has nine branches (whereas the one in the Temple had seven), usually with eight candles of the same height, with a taller one in the center. This taller one, the Shamash (servant), is used to light the others. Each evening of Hanukkah, one more candle is lit, with a special blessing, until the eighth night the menorah blazes in all its glory.

Most Jews don’t know that Yeshua claimed to be the Light of the World, yet they keep this tradition that so obviously points to Him.  Yeshua said that His disciples are the light of the world.  He is the Shamash, the Servant, who is the Light of the World.

The Torah is equated to light.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Yeshua is the Living Torah.  He kept His Father’s commandments perfectly (John 15:10) and came to teach us how to do so as well, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It is this light of Torah that makes us also the Light of the World; but it is our love for Him that keeps the fire burning.  He said,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

The love for God and His Torah was the oil that burned in the hearts of Mattathias and Judah and their followers.

This year (2014), Hanukkah begins at sundown on the 16th of December and ends at sundown on December 24rd.   As we light the candles of the hanukiah (the Hanukkah menorah) each night, may we pray that the light that burned so fiercely in the hearts of the Maccabees will burn also in us, that we may have no reason to be ashamed when we stand before our God and King.

firey heart

(written 12/2006, edited and updated 12/2014)

Please note the following sources:

♦  The books of First and Second Maccabees

♦ “From Epiphanes to Epimanes” by Tim Case, located at

♦  The Story of Hanukkah 

Note: Quotes in italics are verbatim. Quotes in regular type have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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