A Hanukkah Ending The Beginning Of True Light

by Susan Miller – Fellowship of Messiah

For those who already have a working knowledge of the historical Hanukkah story, this one is for you.

The history of Hanukkah helps our understanding of what was happening during those so-called “silent” years between the so- called “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.” Let’s say it this way, the years between Malachi, Matthew and Luke were not “silent.” They were very noisy and disruptive as a world in conflict was in the midst of change. One can feel the rumble of history as Alexander the Great made sweeping changes in culture – leaping across the landscape to the east – conquering as he went, and all in ten years time! The Greek philosophy of Hellenism spread and proved to be an idea that, in many ways opposed the Holy Scriptures written since the days of Moses. The age of man-reasoning-with-man instead of man-reasoning-with-God had arrived, and it remains to this day.

The “new” thing was that the gods of men were no longer merely objects or animals, they were taking on the form of man: Zeus, Mercury, Jupiter, Diana and such. The ultimate result of these changes (man declaring himself to be god) eventually led to a Greek General, Antiochus Epiphanies, planting a graven image of Zeus on the Temple Mount. (Never a good idea.) This man brought the Hellenism of the Greeks into the Land of Judea with a vengeance, along with the full force of the Greek Empire, defiling the Temple of YHVH around 139 BC. (Keep in mind that at this time, the Ten Tribes of the North had been gone for about 600 years, and those of Judah who had returned from Babylon had been back in the land for over 300 years.)

The traditional ending of the Hanukkah story leaves us with “fairy-tale-thinking”; with the idea that they lived happily ever after. We are led to believe that the great Greek Empire had been defeated by a ragtag small group of Jewish rebels, the Hasmonean family, who were from the priestly line of Levi. We tend to think that they were firmly in charge. The story goes that the Temple had been cleansed and re-dedicated, beginning on the 25th of Kislev, which was in the winter. The single cruise of oil found in the Temple, which was only enough for one day, is said to have miraculously lasted for eight days, thus giving rise to the famous saying, “A great miracle happened here.” That event marked an end of the Greek tyranny and abuse and it offered a time of limited independence for Judah.

As we close the story books written of this time we assume all is well. And now, some 2200 years later, we celebrate the legend of the cruise of oil with a nine-branched candle holder. We celebrate the fact that the Greeks were thrown out of the Temple. The “miracle of the oil” is now celebrated with the “dreidel” game. But, let’s continue the history lesson and see where the trail leads us. (Know for certain that this is not just some little additional footnote.)

First: Macabee, which means “hammer” in Hebrew, is actually an acronym for [Mee ka mocha b’eleem] or “Who is like thee oh God.” The family name of “the Macabees” was Hasmonean. These men were legitimate priests from the tribe of Levi. The Macabee Revolt led to Hasmonean rule in Judea after their 3 year war, as well as winning independence from the Greeks for about 75 years, until Rome conquered Judea in 63 BCE. However, there was internal unrest during that time.

According to Torah, priests were to come from the line of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, and kings were to come from the line of David of the House of Judah. The Macabee family ruled for about 75 years and eventually combined the offices of priest and king (which opposes Scripture). Before the end of their rule, the size of their territory approximated that of King David – including Idumea, which is the land of Esau. People in the newly acquired territories from military victories were required by the Hasmonean Dynasty to accept Judaism. (Forced conversion to any religion is never a good idea.)

Internal political factions continued. Two sects, during the time of Hasmonean rule, known as Pharisees and Sadducees emerged, along with their oral traditions. Both civil strife, and abundance and prosperity continued during this time. In fact, their history reads like an accounting of a monopoly game between the Hasmonean ruling elite, the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Idumeans. Wealth, military power and legalistic religious rule and subversion were the goals of this game; and they all played it well. (Power in the hand of man corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.)

After 75 years with neither peace nor stability reigning in Judea, Rome, the next emerging Empire, dismembered the Hasmonean government when Pompey came through the Land. Eventually, Rome appointed an Idumean to rule over Judea; we know him as “King Herod.” One of his wives was Marianne, a Hasmonean. (She was one of his ten wives. Can you see in part Jacob’s trouble rising?)

Herod, whose ancestors were forced to convert to Judaism, was a descendant of Esau and was from Idumea. Although not a descendant of Judah, but a Roman appointee, Herod was named “King of the Jews” in Rome, and he returned to Jerusalem to rule and reign. Herod set about undertaking massive building projects all over his realm. The most striking of projects was the rebuilding / remodeling the Temple in Jerusalem. It became one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is still known as “Herod’s Temple,” even though it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

Herod’s Temple grounds provided a lavish place for the Sadducees to argue for the rightful priesthood, and for the Pharisees to micro-manage peoples’ lives with their legal opinions of religious oral law, and for the priesthood to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Herod the Great died in 4 BC, but before his death an event took place that has had, and will yet have an effect on everyone. This event was the birth of Messiah Yeshua, the rightful King of Israel and the Priest of the Most High God. His story changed history. He established grace and truth on earth with peace and goodwill toward men. The birth of this King happened in the fall of the year at the appointed time of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Admittedly, this is an abbreviated version of the so called “400 year silent period” between Malachi and Matthew, or the Old and the New Testaments. (It is always a good idea to remove the page between your OT and NT, because it is ONE continuous story.)

Now for the rest of the story.

When John speaks of Hanukkah, he writes that it was “winter,” it being the darkest and coldest time of the year. The day-light hours grow shorter as the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev draws near. There was no light from the moon in the dark night sky when the Maccabees planned their attack.

To commemorate this event in our day, all over the earth, for eight of the darkest and longest nights of the year, lights appear in the windows of the Jewish Children of Israel.

The Hanukkah tradition highlights one of the darkest times in Jewish history; massacre, defilement, forbidden study of the Scriptures, being required to eat unclean meats, and being forbidden to circumcise baby boys. Gross darkness had truly settled over the land and the people.
Let us look to a few Scriptures that speak of darkness:

From the Torah. Genesis 1:1-3 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

From the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 60:2 – For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people.

From the Gospel of John. John 1:1-5 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. And the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Light of which John speaks is Yeshua, our Messiah. If man refuses to come to His Light, then that man gropes about in the darkness. He is like a blind man, one who cannot see. And, if the man refuses to heed the Word spoken from the beginning, then that man is also deaf.

No Light. No Word. No Life. This is a description of a walking dead man with no hope of life beyond this earthly existence.

The last chapter of the last book of the Old Covenant, Malachi, ends with a dire warning. We are told not to forget the Law of Moses and the commandments. Then YHVH promises the following: “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Yah and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” (Malachi 3:3,4,6).

In the Book of Luke the above 400-year-history is briefly reviewed. The people of the time of Luke were indeed in darkness and in need of a Savior! Rome was the ruling power and the Pharisees and Sadducees were facilitating Herod’s Temple. The priesthood was being bought and sold as a commodity, and religious traditions and oral doctrines of men had taken hold in the Land of Israel.

It is into this scene that the angel Gabriel appears to Mary in the dark days of winter, on the 25th of Kislev (which corresponds to December). At the beginning of Hanukkah the angel says these now famous words, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Yeshua. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).

Yes, good news and a great miracle did happen on a Hanukkah night. It would be made manifest forty weeks later, in the fall, when a baby was born in Bethlehem – the House of Bread – at the Feast of Tabernacles. It was at this Appointed Time, on the 15th day of the 7th month, under the bright light of a full moon, that Messiah Yeshua was born. He came to Tabernacle with His people… and to save us… and to help us… and to show us the way to the Father. Yeshua grew in favor and in stature with man and God, and He eventually paid the final price of redemption for all men who will accept the dedicated gift that He freely offers.

The conception of He who would be the Light of the World was announced at a very dark and tumultuous time in human history, probably on the 25thof Kislev, at the time of Hanukkah, during a dark winter season. His birth was 40 weeks later in the autumn harvesting-time of the year. This is a side of Hanukkah that is seldom taught. Judaism doesn’t acknowledge Yeshua’s birth (yet). Christianity is still blinded by its sun-god calendar celebrations, and does not yet see the story of Hanukkah. They do not yet see Yeshua’s true birth date being the Feast of Tabernacles.

Let us pray that this Hanukkah Season might be a true “Season of Light” for “both the houses of Israel” (Isaiah 8:14).

Happy Hanukkah to all!

Susan Miller – Fellowship of Messiah

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