The following article was previously published in a House of David Herald Newsletter.
Batya enlarges on the subject in her feast book, Israel’s Feast and their Fullness – Expanded Edition. In it, she points out that the Hasmoneans forced conversions and began a Dynasty that took leadership from King David’s House – so they were opposed by some from his line (See Maccabees). The Hasmoneans also mandated its celebration, which is unscriptural (Deu 4:2). This may be why Messiah Yeshua was watching the celebration off to the side, while walking (treading? Strong’s # G 4043) in Solomon’s Portico (John 10:23). He was from King David’s house and would have been aware of the error of usurping the calling that was upon the House of David.
Zechariah apparently recognized a separation between Judah and the House of David. Speaking of Israel’s endtime return to the land, he said, “The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah” (Zec 12:7).
Hanukkah began as a late Tabernacles celebration, but later became a symbol of Jewish perseverance (see the Apocrypha, 2 Maccabees 10:6-9).
In 168 B.C., on the 25th day of Kislev, which falls during November/December, the army of the Greek-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Temple of the God of Israel. He also ordered the sacrifice of a pig on the Temple altar, had pagan idols brought into the Sanctuary, and forbade all worship of the God of Israel – as well as following the Law of the God of Israel. Those who chose to obey the Holy One rather than man, were seen as violators – the decreed punishment being execution.
Under the leadership of Judah the Maccabee, who was also known as the “Hammer,” a faithful remnant resisted the Syrians. They called on YHVH Tsavaot, the God of the Armies of Israel, and asked Him to aid them in their battle. Although they were greatly outnumbered, the Maccabees managed to regain control of Jerusalem in 165 B.C.
According to tradition, the Almighty then caused a one day supply of Menorah oil found in the Temple to last for eight days, while fresh oil was being consecrated – thus giving light in the Temple. (Note: There is no historical record of this miracle in the early accounts of Hanukkah and it is contested by many.) The Maccabees then cleansed the Temple, and on the 25th day of Kislev, exactly three years after the Syrians had profaned the Sanctuary, a new altar was dedicated.
It is said that in commemoration of this victory over evil, and because they had been unable to celebrate Sukkot/Tabernacles at its proper time, for eight days the Jewish people celebrated – giving glory to their God for delivering them from their enemies.
Hanukkah means “Dedication” and is thus thought to be a “Sukkot” type celebration that ultimately took on a life of its own.
In the Apocrypha, in I Maccabbees 2-4, we read of these zealous Israelites who refused to bow down to false gods. To honor the event in our day, worship services in synagogues around the world include the prophetic passage from Zechariah:
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts” (Zec 4:6).
For eight consecutive days Jewish people light candles on a nine branched Hanukkah Candelabrum (as opposed to a seven branched Menorah like the one that was in the Temple). Just before sunset, families gather to light the first candle during this “Festival of Lights.” Children are given gifts of gelt (money) and chocolate, and a dreidel game is played using a special spinning top and beans. Hanukkah songs are sung and the story of redemption is retold.
The center, or otherwise prominent candle of the Hanukkia Lamp is traditionally called the shammas or servant. Each night, it is used to light the other candle(s). On the first night, it is used to light one candle (starting on the right), on the second night two; adding one candle each night until, on the last night, all eight are lit by the shammas, which is lit every night. Nine-branched Hanukkah lamps were created for this occasion because the rabbis felt Jews should not reproduce anything that was in the Temple. These should be called Hanukkia lamps, to distinguish them from the Spirit-inspired seven-branched Menorah that was in the Tabernacle and Temple.
Long ago, the Maccabees won a great military victory for our Jewish people. They won because they were faithful to the Almighty alone. Due to their faith-filled actions (coupled with YHVH’s grace), the Temple was rededicated and freedom to worship the God of Israel was restored. In and through them, the God of Israel once again confirmed His desire to preserve His people.
In this story we see a picture of deliverance for those who follow “good shepherds” – leaders like the Maccabees. The focus of the celebration is on faithfulness, on being dedicated to righteousness. We are to be faithful and righteous even as is our God. But how should the non-Jewish Believer in Messiah relate to this Holiday? Are they to simply to follow the traditions of our Jewish brothers, or is there something more for us to see here?
In John 10:22-24, we read, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.”
Some feel these verses prove that Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah. Others feel they portray Him as being off in the distance, looking on, from Solomon’s portico. Regardless, we know He was there, and that, at that time, some from Judah asked Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.
In response, Yeshua affirmed His oneness with YHVH, and He made it clear that He was leading His people. He said, “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 the Father are one.” We read that, when He said this, “the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.” They told Him they did this, “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:24-32). This is the second time they sought to stone Yeshua. The first time was during a Feast of Tabernacles when they were lighting the great menorahs and He cried out, “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
When questioned about His Messiahship during Hanukkah, why did Yeshua answer by affirming His Oneness with YHVH, and by talking about His sheep hearing His voice, and about them being protected by the Father?
Because the people were putting great emphasis on physical deliverance from their oppressors. Even Judas Iscariot wanted a Messiah who would crush the Roman oppressors like the Maccabees did with the Syrians. But Messiah Yeshua wanted something greater and more lasting for His followers…
Cleansed Temples and Pure Lights
Messiah Yeshua wants people who do not love their lives even unto death. He seeks those who will focus on cleansing a different temple, one that is being built up by His Holy Spirit. As his people, we are to be temples of the Living God, and we are to allow His Ruach HaKodesh, His Holy Spirit, to cleanse our hearts. In that way, Yeshua’s light will shine forth from our inner man. Messiah Yeshua will pour in the oil (which symbolizes the Holy Spirit) and we will become living examples to all the world of His protection and provision (2 Cor 6:16; 7:1; Heb 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Mat 5:14; John 8:12).
Messiah Yeshua is the “Servant” named “Israel” who was sent to “raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel.” Yeshua is especially “a light to the Goyim (Gentile Nations),” to those who were once destined to become a melo hagoyim, or “fulness of the Gentiles.” He is the Shepherd God of formerly scattered Ephraim Israel, those of the supposedly “Lost Tribes” (Isa 49:6; Gen 48:19).
YHVH said He Himself would search for His lost sheep. He also said. “And I will set over them one Shepherd, My Servant…He will feed them Himself and be their Shepherd… will be their God and My Servant David will be Prince among them…. They will live securely, and no one will make them afraid…. Then they will know that I, YHVH their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are My people….For, I will take…Ephraim and Judah and their companions…and make them one stick in My hand…and they will be one nation in the Land…” (Isa 8:14; Eze 34:11,23-30; 37:15-28; Amos 9:9).
Those who follow the Good Shepherd do not need to fear oppressors. They simply need to trust in Him and be filled with His light (Isa 2:5; 1 Pet 2:9,10; Hos 1:2-11; 2:23; Luke 1:33).
At this Hanukkah season, let us celebrate by rededicating ourselves to our God, to the Holy One of Israel.
Let us ask the Father to empower us to: Better hear the voice of our Shepherd – Help build up His Holy Temple in the Spirit – Be willing to be cleansed when the Ruach shines His light on our sin – Be more dedicated to the restoration of His Kingdom to the whole house of Israel.
So gather family and friends, light the menorah, and meditate on verses of Scripture that have to do with light, such as:
Night one: John 1:1-12; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36.
Night two: Psa 4:6; 27:1; 56:3; 89:15; 119:105,130.
Night three: Isa2:5;10:17;Mat5:14-16.
Night six: Eph 5:8-15; Pro 6:23.
Night seven: 1 Pet 1:1; 2:9-10; 1 John 1:5-9.
Night eight: John 3:19-21; 1 John 2:9-11.
Father, we ask You to cleanse us and to help us to walk in a way that causes our internal light to shine before men, so that they too might find hope and safety in You.
During this season of lights, help us to lift up the One Who is both the Light and Shepherd God of Israel. For “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHVH has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).
Batya Ruth Wootten
For the Patrol
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