10 Dec Did Jesus (Yeshua) celebrate Hanukkah?
Hanukkah (Chanukah) is an eight day celebration that begins on Kislev 25 (evening of December 12th) unto Tevet 2 (evening of December 20th). Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights. Unfortunately, most of the western Church, including Gentile Christians, believe Hanukkah is only to be celebrated by the Jewish people (children of Israel). However, as we will discover, Hanukkah is actually a prophetic festival of God and Jesus (Yeshua), and it should be observed by Jews and Gentiles. In this article, we will explore Hanukkah’s origin and history. In the next article (Monday), we will discover how Hanukkah will occur again after Messiah’s second coming.
The Origin and History of Hanukkah
The inter-testamental period, which is 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 biblical prophecies were fulfilled. It is within this time frame that we discover the origins of Hanukkah.
In 333 B.C., the Medo-Persian Empire (Iran) was overthrown by Alexander the Great and the Grecian Empire (Turkey). Shortly after Alexander’s premature death, the Grecian Empire was eventually divided into four regions ruled by four of his generals: Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassandra, and Lysimachus. In 175 BC, an evil king, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who was a prophetic foreshadow to the Antichrist, rose to power from the Seleucus division (Dan. 11).
During Antiochus’ reign, he sought to expand his empire by invading Egypt (Ptolemic Empire) and other regions, aggressively dominating the cultures of which he ruled, which included Jerusalem and the Jewish culture. Antiochus was regarded as a tyrant ruler who was erratic, violent, and volatile, thus incurring 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 the Torah, the pure Jewish traditions, and the levitical priesthood.
In his attempt at the hellenization of the Jewish people, Antiochus IV disposed of the rightful Jewish High Priest (Kohen-haGohdol) 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 (Levi). 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 became angry and set out to destroy the Jewish people.
Antiochus attacked Jerusalem in 167 B.C. and killed approximately 40,000 Jewish people and sold another 40,000 into slavery. He banned all the Jewish 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 (Dan. 11). 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 army were exiled and lived 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 re-dedication of the Temple in 164 B.C. Thus, the festival of Hanukkah (feast of rededication and festival of lights) was instituted, which commemorates the Maccabean victory over Antiochus IV.
While much of these amazing events are recorded in the extra biblical books of the Apocrypha and other historical accounts (book of Maccabees), modern-day Hanukkah tradition is primarily focused on the famous “miracle of the oil.” However, this was not included in the original Hanukkah traditions or historical writings, but was added in the Talmud approximately 600 years later, around A.D. 450-500. This tradition proclaims that after the recapturing of the Temple in 164 BC., there was only enough holy oil to light the menorah (Hanukiah) for one day, but due to a miracle from God, the oil burned for eight days! This is why the menorah (Hanukiah) is lit for eight days in remembrance of the successful Maccabean rebellion during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV and the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. Additionally, it is the reason it is referred to as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah (חנכה) literally means “dedication”.)
Did Yeshua (Jesus) celebrate Hanukkah?
Given this history, many Gentile Christians may ask, “Is Hanukkah a Jewish holiday? Why should Gentile Christians celebrate it?” The simple answer is that Yeshua, our King and Messiah, celebrated Hanukkah, which is the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication!
John 10:22-30, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? 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, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
Clearly, Messiah is in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. Keep in mind, He was not from Jerusalem, and for Him to travel in Israel during the winter was no small undertaking, thus showing us the importance He placed on the festival of Hanukkah. During this feast, Yeshua 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 the Father (God), who has ultimate authority over all of creation.
Please note: Hanukkah is very significant to Messiah’s prophetic timeline. He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, on Tishri 15*. Tishri 15 usually occurs on the Julian/Gregorian calendar in mid/late September or early October. Count back nine months, September, August, July, June….and what month does it come to? December-January! This corresponds to Kislev 25 (Dec) – Tevet 2 (Jan), the exact time of Hanukkah. On the prophetic event of Hanukkah, we can understand that Messiah was conceived into the world during the Festival of Lights/Feast of Dedication, and born during the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15) in order to “tabernacle with men!” (See Luke 1-2)
John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world (Festival of lights-Hanukkah). Anyone who follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Furthermore, if we look at the traditional celebration of Hanukkah, 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, with a recited blessing with the lighting of each candle. Each night the Chanukiah becomes brighter and brighter, as the shamash (servant) lights more candles, until the 8th night when the entire Chanukiah is lit, with the shamash (servant) 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, the servant candle, Yeshua (Jesus), the servant of God, first came as the Messiah Ben Joseph, or suffering servant Messiah (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22). He came not only to be a servant, but to teach us to be servants, as well.
Isaiah 49:5-6, “And now the Lord (Yeshua) says, Who (God) formed Me (Yeshua) from the womb to be His (God’s) Servant, to bring Jacob (Israel) back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He (God) says, ‘It is too small a thing that You (Yeshua) should be My (God’s) Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I (God) will also give You (Yeshua) as a light to the Gentiles, that You (Yeshua) should be My (God’s) salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (See Matt. 20:25-28)
Please note, the Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshua (Hebrew Strong’s #3468), which translates to Jesus in English.
At Messiah’s second coming, when He comes as Messiah Ben David, or conquering King, He will stand tall (shamash) 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 also identifies Himself as the light of the world!
John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in 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.”
Messiah is the light of the world (shamash) 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.”
Therefore, through the candle lighting celebration of Hanukkah, we can see the servant Messiah (shamash), the light of the world, serving others through His sacrifice on the cross. He (shamash) is lighting our lights, and each night this light gets brighter and brighter, until our whole being and the whole world will be filled with the light until there is not anymore darkness!
The Glory of the New Jerusalem
Within the Holy Bible, the number eight is often used to represent the time for renewal or dedication. There are seven days in a week, and the eighth day symbolizes the “new day.” There will also be seven millennia (7,000 years), with the eighth being the “new millennium,” which is Eternity. (We are about to enter the 7,000 year or seven millennia, when Messiah will rule for 1,000 years until the 8th).
In the book of Revelation, it prophesies about the glory of the New Jerusalem, where there is no need for sun or moon, as the glory of God illuminates (lights) the new heaven and earth, the 8th millennia!
Revelation 21:23-27, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb (Messiah) is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
On the Chanukiah, there are eight candles, all lit in turn by the one shamash (servant) candle. Here we see the time of dedication for the eighth new millennium, where the New Jerusalem will be eternally lit by the light of the Lamb of God, the true Servant (shamash) and Light of the world, Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Messiah!
Assuredly, there was a miracle that occurred on Hanukkah (Chanukah), and it was not just a simple eight day supply of oil. God Almighty, in His supreme and sovereign power, took a 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-Syrian). God did not accomplish this for sacred oil, temples, or cities, but to show His mighty faithfulness to the everlasting covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, New Covenants) that He promised, and to preserve the lineage by which He would bring forth the Messiah of the world, Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah!
Without the miraculous victory by Judah “the Hammer” Macabee, the birth of the Lion of Judah, Yeshua, would not have occurred. We praise and give thanks to the God of Israel for this miraculous victory during Hanukkah!
This eight day celebration begins on December 12th-20th, and I pray that you will join us in celebration of this prophetic festival of God Almighty and the Light of the World, Messiah! Amen, Amen, and Amen!
Will Hanukkah occur again after Messiah’s Second Coming? Stay tuned …