Today we will learn about a feast that many people are familiar with, but few outside of the Jewish culture celebrate. This is the Feast of Dedication, the Festival of Lights, or as it is more commonly known, Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah). Today we will explore it’s origin, history, and ultimately understand some of it’s deeper prophetic meanings and mysteries. Chanukah is an eight day celebration that begins on Kislev 25 (December 6th) unto Tevet 2 (December 14), on the Hebrew calendar. On the Julian (Gregorian) calendar, this usually correlates in December or January. Chanukah, is celebrated in remembrance of the successful Maccabean rebellion during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, and the rededication of the Holy Temple.
The inter-testamental period (the period between the Old Testament/Tanakh and the New Testament/B’rit Hadashah) is a time which is often neglected in modern day Christianity. Interestingly enough, this is the time period in which many prophecies were fulfilled. It is within this time frame that we discover the origins of Chanukah. In 333 B.C., the Medo-Persian Empire was overthrown by Alexander the Great (Grecian Empire), and shortly after his premature death, the empire was divided into four regions ruled by four of his generals: Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassandra, and Lysimachus. The book of Daniel tells us that from these four regions of the Grecian Empire (Goat), a “little horn” arose*, and was from the Seleucus empire: Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
Antiochus Epiphanes IV came to power in 175 B.C. During his reign he sought to expand his empire by invading Egypt (Ptolemic Empire) and other regions, aggressively “dominating” the cultures of which he ruled. This included the Jewish culture and Jerusalem, which was part of his empire. He was regarded, in many respects, as a tyrant ruler who was erratic, violent, and volatile. Thus he incurred the nickname “Epimames,” (meaning “the mad one”) which was a word-play on his name Epiphanes. Because of Antiochus’ violent and tyrannical nature, he was in direct conflict with the Jewish people, especially the traditionalists who sought to keep pure traditions, faith, and priesthood.
In his attempt at the hellenization of the Jews, Antiochus IV disposed of the rightful Jewish High Priest (Kohen-Gohdol) and installed a hellenized Jewish priest to the High Priesthood. He then reportedly sold the position of High Priest to a man, Meneleus, who was not of priestly lineage. This created a major power struggle in Jerusalem between the traditionalists, who were the true heirs to the priesthood, and the followers of Antiochus IV, the Grecian-Syrian society. After Antiochus IV’s unsuccessful attempt to conquer Egypt in 168 B.C., he was angry and set out to destroy the Jewish people. Antiochus attacked Jerusalem in 167 B.C. and killed approximately 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery. He banned all the traditions, feast days, dietary laws, customs, study of the Torah, circumcision, and anything else that was held holy by the Jewish people upon penalty of death. He also set up a statue of Zeus in the Holy Temple, the first abomination of desolation, and defiled the Temple by sacrificing swine and other pagan offerings on the alter. Antiochus committed many horrendous actions against the children of Israel and YHWH (God). These actions, and many others, gave rise to the Maccabean revolt, which was led by the five sons of the priest Mattityahu (Mattathias), and especially his son Judah “the Hammer” Maccabee (Maccabee is composed of the four Hebrew words: Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem- Who is like you, O God?).
Despite the fact that Judah Maccabee and his followers were exiled and living in caves during the three year guerrilla war that followed, these traditionalists eventually defeated the armies of Antiochus IV. This resulted in the restoration of the priesthood, Torah study, Jewish traditions, and eventually, the reclamation and rededication of the Temple 164 B.C.
While much of these amazing events are recorded in the extra biblical books of the Apocrypha and other historical accounts, modern day Chanukah tradition is primarily focused on the famous “miracle of the oil.” This, however, was not included in the original Chanukah traditions or historical writings, but was added approximately 600 years later, around 450-500 A.D., in the Talmud. This tradition states that after the recapturing of the Holy Temple, there was only enough holy oil to light the menorah for one day, but due to a miracle of God, this oil burned for eight days, which was the time needed to purify new oil. This is why on Chanukah, the tradition is to eat things cooked in oil.
While this oil tradition survives today, early writings in fact point to the origins of Chanukah being a later Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles*) festival, celebrated on Kislev 25 instead of Tishri 15. The reason is, in 164 BC, on Tishri 15, the traditionalists were still fighting the Greek-Syrian armies of Antiochus IV. It was not until the capture and rededication of the Temple that they were able to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles followed by the eighth day, Shemini Atzeret.**
Given this history, one question many Christians may ask is: “Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, why should Christians celebrate it?” The simple answer is that Jesus/Yeshua not only knew about Chanukah, but also celebrated it, as the Holy Bible clearly states.
“At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But 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 My Father are one.”
Without question, Messiah is in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, or Chanukah. He is walking in the Temple, which is where the festival would have occurred, and is surrounded by many people. He then clearly identifies Himself as one with God, and has ultimate authority over all of creation. Not only did Yeshua understand and celebrate Chanukah, but it is also very significant to His prophetic timeline. Yeshua was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, on Tishri 15*. This usually occurs on the Julian calendar in mid/late September or early October. Count back nine months, September, August, July, June….and what month do come to? December-January! This corresponds to Kislev-Tevet, the exact time of Chanukah/Hannukah. So it is very likely that Yeshua/Jesus was conceived during Chanukah, as we know he was born on Tishri 15, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)!
Messiah was conceived during the celebration of God’s miraculous victory over evil at the Festival of Lights/Feast of Dedication, and born during the harvest celebration of Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles! On this prophetic event, we can understand Messiah was conceived into the world as a baby during the Festival of Lights, and born during the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15) in order to tabernacle with men. Amazing!
If we look at the traditional celebration of Chanukah (Hannukah), which centers around the lighting of the Chanukiah, or special nine pointed candelabra, we can also see prophetic symbolism. This candelabra is similar to a menorah, except that it has nine points instead of seven. The center point is generally higher than the rest, and holds the shamash, or servant candle. This candle is used to light all of the other eight candles, one on each evening of Chanukah, and a blessing is recited with the lighting of each candle. Each night the Chanukiah becomes brighter and brighter, as the shamash lights more candles, until the 8th night when the entire Chanukiah is lit, with the shamash standing tall. The Chanukiah is not supposed to be used for illumination of any task or room, but rather to be set apart and used only for reflection upon the great miracle of God.
Similar to the shamash, Yeshua/Jesus first came as the Mashiach ben Joseph, or suffering/ servent Messiah. He came not only to be a servant, but to teach us to be servants as well:
Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”
At His Second Coming, when He comes as the Mashiach ben David, or conquering Messiah, He will stand tall and reign with his people:
Revelation 11:15, ” The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!”
Yeshua/Jesus also identifies Himself as the light of the world:
John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
John 9:5, ” As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John 11:9 “Aren’t there 12 hours in a day? ” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world.“
Messiah is the light of the world, and through Him, we as believers, are the light of the world!
Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.“
So, through the candle lighting celebration, we can see the servant Messiah, the light of the world, serving others through His sacrifice on the cross. He is lighting our lights, and each night this light gets brighter and brighter, until our whole being and the the whole world will be filled with the light until there is not anymore darkness! Not only did Jesus/Yeshua celebrate Chanukah, but He was likely conceived during Chanukah, serving as the light to the world like the shamash candle.
Remember, Antiochus Epiphanes IV was a prototypical anti-christ (a prophetic foreshadow). His terrible reign was prophesied by Daniel, and his actions and fall can be seen in many ways as a parallel to not only the end times battle between Messiah and the anti-christ, but also in our daily struggle over the forces of this world.
Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
By defeating Antiochus IV and rededicating the temple, we can see victory by Jesus over the evil one, and through His victory on the cross, He has allowed each of us, as a temple for the Spirit of God, to be reclaimed and rededicated to Him by the blood of the Lamb!
Make no mistake, there was a miracle that occurred on Chanukah (Hannukah), and it was not just a simple eight day supply of oil. God, in His great power, took a ragtag band of homeless, outnumbered, and out-armored warriors and gave them victory over one of the most powerful and tyrannical empires the world has ever known (Grecian). God did not accomplish this for sacred oil, temples, cities, or land, but to show His mighty faithfulness to the covenants that He makes, and to preserve the lineage by which He would bring about the Savior of the world, Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus Christ! It is not by accident that “Judah” Maccabee would lead the forces that would destroy the armies of the prototypical anti-christ, and the Messiah, Yeshua, would come from the “Tribe of Judah”, be called the “Lion of Judah”, and will ultimately destroy the anti-christ and reign forever! Amen and Hallelujah! This eight day celebration starts tonight, December 6th-14th. Amen, amen, and amen.