The Biblical Roots of Chanukah

Q: Why do we celebrate Chanukah on the 25th of Kislev? Is this an arbitrary date, or was there a purpose for it?

Q: Is it by chance that Chanukah falls on the 25th of Kislev?

Q: Had the battle been on a different day, than Chanukah would have been celebrated on that day, RIGHT?

NO WAY! The Book of Maccabees tells us that the decision to re-dedicate the Temple on the 25th of Kislev was intentional. ALSO, the date of the 25th of Kislev had already carried prophetic significance from the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, some 2 hundred years before

The Eighth Day

Seven days were used to set aside [sanctify]. The eighth day was to make Holy. In Jewish life, A number of things connect to the eighth day:

  • Jewish Writings (Megillat Ta’anit 9) states that 8 days were used to rebuild the Altar.
  • First born animals consecrated to God on the 8th day [Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 22:27].
  • Males were circumcised on the 8th day [Leviticus 12:3.]
  • Tabernacle Altar was made Holy on the 8th Day [Exodus 29:37].
  • Dedication of the 2nd Temple in 8 days [Ezra 6:16-22] [During the Passover and 7 days of Unleavened Bread].
  • The rededication of Hezekiah’s Temple in 8 days [II Chronicles 29:16-17].
  • Future Altar of Millennial Temple will be consecrated on 8th day [Ezekiel 43:26-27].

Greek Hellenism Background

During the period of time between 469 – 323BCE, three Greek philosophers laid the foundation to basic Greek thought. The first was Socrates (469-399BCE). He laid the foundations for basic Greek thought. He had a student named Plato (427-347BCE) who ws the second Greek philpsopher who took the teaching of Socrates, and expanded it. Socrates had a student, named Aristotle (384-322BCE) who was the third Greek philosopher who expanded the Greek thought of both Socrates and Plato. He was the first to introduce “Inductive Reasoning” and became known as the “Father of Western Greek Philosophy.” He had a student named Alexander the Great (July 20, 356 – June 11, 323BCE) who was a great warrior and conqueror.  Alexander the Great took this Western Greek Philosophy, known as “Hellenism,” and spread it throughout the known world.  This created two world views - Hellenism and Hebrew.

Story of Chanukah

Chanukah was prophesied in Daniel 8:1-12 In Syria (North) - Antiochus Epiphanes was raised up as king (type of anti-Messiah). He laid down harsh anti-Jewish laws, trying to impart the Hellenistic culture. In doing this, He laid down three major laws(commandments), which, if broken, would be punishable by death.

The Three Commandments of Antiochus Epiphanes were designed to destroy the Jewish people.

  1. Sabbath: This commandment states that the world already had a ruler, through whose words, everything was created – The Creator rested on the seventh day. Antiochus IV forbade worshipping the God of Israel, and tried to make them worship him. He called himself a God by adding the name, “Epiphanies” at this time [“God Manifested”].
  2. Consecration of the New Moon: God’s Power acts in time, and if sanctified, its festivals are sanctified. Why? It is the New Moon that starts the count of the festivals. Remove it, and the dates of the festivals would be unknown. That was Antiochus’ purpose. This commandment teaches the Presence of God and the Fulfillment of His aims in History, thereby teaching the Holiness of Time, and the Holiness of History.
  3. Circumcision: Circumcision, for the Jewish person, teaches that the Body and Soul are One and both together comes from one source.  It places holiness in the Body [8th Day].Major problem: Greek Hellenism taught that there are two worlds. In these two worlds, the body is NOT subject to the soul and the soul is NOT subject to the body.Antiochus forbade circumcision, eliminating the Jewish connection to God through the Abrahamic Covenant.  Mothers caught with new circumcised babies were paraded through the streets with the babies hung by their necks, than thrown over the city walls.

What did these three commandments do?  It produced a world without a Creator; time without sanctification, and people with no connection to the Divine. This is the spiritual ghetto that Antiochus wanted to place on the Jews

After the decrees were enacted, the Greek Hellenists erected an Idol on the Altar on the 15th of Kislev. They waited until the 25th of Kislev before sacrificing upon it. On the same day they began killing women who circumcised their children. The Hellenists selected the 25th Day of Kislev intentionally, being aware of its “religious” significance.

Why? What was the “religious” significance? 

It was on the 25th of Kislev that:

  • The Tabernacle was completed. It would not be dedicated until Nisan 1.
  • It was the start of the rebuilding of the First Temple.

Some of the faithful martyrs are recorded in Hebrews 11:35. It reads: “Women received their dead by a resurrection: and others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:”

The Temple Desecration

Antiochus desecrated the Temple by placing a statute of Zeus on the Altar in the Temple, urinating on the walls, sacrificing a pig on the altar, and spreading “lard” (pig fat) over Temple walls and compound. He created a law that required every priest either sacrifice a pig to the god Zeus or die. Mattathias refused to sacrifice a pig, and, when another Levite went to slaughter the pig, Mattathias slew the Levite. He then killed the Syrian-Greek officer that made the command. This started what became known as the “War of the Maccabees.” The first blood that was shed in this war was Jew by Jew. Mattathias had died of old age so his son, Judah Maccabee, known as “the Hammer”, led the Jewish people for three years from Kislev 25 (desecration) to Kislev 25 (rededication), producing what became known as the Feast of Dedication.

POINT: It is assumed that the battle to liberate the Temple Mount from the Greeks ended on the 25th day of Kislev and on that same day they began the daily sacrifices – including the lighting of the Menorah. The discovery of the Oil with the seal of High Priest and the Miracle, provided the Sages with a SIGN that the military victories of the Hasmoneans were divine. 

Question: WHY, in later generations, is the Miracle of the Oil emphasized? The Sages were aware of the dangers of the Political Power now achieved by the Hasmoneans.The central vision of Zechariah is that of the Menorah surrounded by two Olive Branches .It was through the predominance of Spirit that the pitfalls of the Monarchy of the First Temple could be avoided, and the macle of the Oil was reflective of this prophecy.

As time passed, there was a decline in the religiosity of the Hasmonean Dynasty. Why did the Hasmonean Family disappear within 200 years? It is written in Genesis 49:10 “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come: And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.” By refusing to relinquish the position of King, the later Hasmoneans were delaying and even harming Jewish Destiny. The Kingship was reserved for the descendents of David from which the Messiah would come

Yeshua and Chanukah

It is taught that Yeshua did away with the ‘LAW” when He healed a man on the Sabbath.  If that is true, there are questions that MUST be answered. It is written in John 10:22-25, “And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem:  it was winter; and Yeshua was walking in the temple in Solomon's porch. The Jews therefore came round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly. Yeshua answered them, I told you, and ye believe not: the works that I do in my Father's name, these bear witness of me.” The word, “AND” connects before and after what is said. Why is that important? Before this verse, Yeshua talked about the “Good Shepherd.”

Why is that important? It is written in Zechariah 13:7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” Yeshua quotes this passage in Matthew 26:31-32. It reads, “Then said Yeshua unto them ‘All you shall be offended in me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee”. Zechariah 13:7 is a passage that brings out the “God-Man Concept”. The Hebrew word, translated “fellow” means “My equal.” The verse literally reads: “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My equal [diety] saith Adonai of Hosts.” The Messiah, when quoting these verses, was saying that He was to be both God and Man.

If Yeshua rejected the Oral Law and the “Traditions of the Elders”, Why did He celebrate this Feast? 

Consider this: Yeshua had to be careful how He answered that question. During the festival, a large number of Jews were visiting Jerusalem. The word “Messiah” might spark off riots. Why? It was because of its heavy political overtones. Roman intelligence was headquartered in the Antonia’s Fortress to the northwest of the Temple.

In Jewish ancient writings, a song, composed during the mid-first century BC by a Pharisee, states that the Messiah was acknowledged as King and a Davidic ruler that would reign forever. This song describes how the latter Hasmonean rulers led the people away from Torah, and how the Romans under the leadership of Pompey punished the people took Israel in 63 BC, without “firing a shot”. This Pharisee, in song, is praying that the Lord will rise up a king, the Son of David, to rule over Israel. In so doing, this king would “destroy the unrighteous rulers,” “purge Jerusalem from Gentiles,” “drive out the sinners,” “smash the arrogance of sinners,” and “destroy the unlawful nations”! Their king, the Lord Messiah, would do all this! (Psalm of Solomon 17). 

If Yeshua had answered the question “yes,” the Roman authorities would have arrested Him on the spot for insurrection. Yeshua does, however, answer the question in the affirmative, but not directly. When He answers, He is careful not to use the contemporary term and understanding. After pointing out the security that a believer in the Lord Yeshua has because of faith in Him, He says in John 10:30, “I and My Father are one!”That statement had a very strong connection for the festival which they were celebrating at that time. Those gathered on the Temple Mount recalled the events nearly 200 years before on the very mount where Antiochus IV, a mere man, proclaimed himself to be god. Yeshua made the same claim—but His claim was true. The Jews picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy. In their thinking, He was a man who made Himself out to be God (John 10:31–33).

Yeshua declared that He was the fulfillment of Hanukkah by saying the Father “sanctified” the Son of God and sent Him into the world (John 10:34–36).  The Father was in Him, and He in the Father (John 10:38). If the Greek word “sanctified” were translated into Hebrew, it would be “dedication” or Chanukah.

The Abomination of Desolation

In Matthew 24, Yeshua is telling his disciples what will happen in the “end times”. It is written in Matthew 24:15 “Therefore, when ye see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, which shall stand in the holy place (translator’s words - whosoever reads, let him understand).” 

Bible teachers apply this “abomination of desolation” as one of two concepts:

  • The Roman army who destroyed Jerusalem in 70CE.
  • The deed of the Zealots who seized the Temple before this destruction.

To accept one of these two concepts is to take the scriptures out of its context. The first word in this verse is “Therefore”. Look at the verse before it and see what “Therefore” is talking about: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come’ (Matthew 24:14).

Question: Was the gospel of the kingdom preached to ALL the nations before 70CE? If your answer is “No”, then it places Matthew 24:15 in the future, making this a “Double Reference Prophecy”.  It is an allusion to Daniel 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11. The first time was when Antiochus Epiphanes erected an altar to Zeus on the altar of God (I Maccabees 1:54, 59; II Maccabees 6:1-5).

Question: Was the Temple destroyed at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes? No. Yeshua is applying a Chanukah reference to be done again during the end times.

The Second Sukkot

Chanukah is called the second Sukkot. The first Sukkot is the birth of Yeshua, and the second is the conception of Yeshua. Both of these feasts consist of light and dedication, Yeshua is the light and the Temple!

You can also compare Yeshua to Judah Maccabee. Consider this:

  • They both cleansed the Temple (John 2:12-17).
  • They both died for their people.
  • They both were called Shepherds of their people.

The Candle Lighting

Question: If Yeshua is the fulfillment of Chanukah by saying “I and My Father are One”, can the theory behind the lighting of the candles be Messianic?  Yes.

Question: How does Messianic Judaism see the lighting of the Candles? One of the main features of the Festival of Lights is the lighting of the Chanukah. As the candle lighting (1, 2, 3, etc.) increases, so is the increase in holiness. They are lit from left to right, but inserted from right to left. This shows that God's Presence is everywhere!  As we light an additional candle for each day of the Festival we can recall some of the Biblical references to light.

Candle 1Creation: Light was the first thing God created.  All growing things depend on light for life.  God is the source of all life. It is written in Genesis 1:3 “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” 

Candle 2 Spiritual Truth: The Menorah [candlestick] in the Tabernacle was the only source of light, and God is the only source of spiritual light. It is written in Exodus 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. 

POINT: The Menorah in the Tabernacle was a symbol of a person.  There is a personal pronoun applied to it. In Hebrew, it is written in Exodus 25:31And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: HIS shaft, and HIS branches,HIS bowls, HIS knops, and HIS flowers, shall be of the same.

Candle 3 – God’s Presence: The Light of the Pillar of Fire represented God’s Presence, known as the “Shekinah,” with His people. It is written in Psalm 78:14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

Candle 4 – God’s Blessing: It is written in Psalm 89:15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. This light is expressed in the Aaronic Blessing done every Sabbath.

Candle 5 – God’s Word: God’s Word provides us with direction in life. It is written in Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  The Aramaic Targums use “MEMRA” for the Word. It is this understanding that John used in John 1:1

Candle 6 – The Promised Messiah: The Messiah was to be a light to the nations, bringing salvation to them. It is written in Isaiah 49:6 “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” This purpose was also quoted by Simon to the baby Yeshua in the Temple.

Candle 7 – Yeshua’s Disciples: Yeshua called His followers to be the light to the world It is written in Matthew 5:14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Candle 8 – The Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit).It is written in Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the word of the L-RD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts.

The Shumech [The Servant Candle] – Yeshua Himself: Yeshua called himself the light of the world. It is written in John 8:12 Then spake Yeshua again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. This “Servant” is also known as the “Branch.”  It is written in Zechariah 3:8, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.” This “Branch” is also discussed in Jeremiah 23:5-6. It reads, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Here, a descendent of David reigns upon the throne of David and the character of His reign is described as one of peace and security for Israel. Yet He is given the very name of God – “Adonai Tzidenu” – “Adonai our righteousness.”

This name is YHVH, the very name God revealed to Moses in the burning bush as His own personal name: “I AM.” Again, the Messiah is seen as a man on one hand and God on the other. Here the “God-Man Concept” is related to the Messiah’s Kingship.

From my wife Joanne and myself, Happy Chanukah