by Beth Piepenburg
Hanukkah is a religious and cultural holiday celebrated by Jews. One of the main themes is the lighting of candles and blessings for eight days. Introduced during the “400 Years of Silence”, what connection does it have to Scripture or to the Messiah? Was God really silent or was He moving in the Jewish nation? Was Hanukkah a manmade holiday or was it inspired? Is Scripture silent about Hanukkah? As an inspired eight day feast, Hanukkah has much to do with prophecy, history, astronomy, Scripture, and the Messiah.
In the sixth century B.C., Daniel the prophet, received several visions about four nations that would appear in the destiny of the Jewish nation. The first vision described an image of four elements which was smashed by a stone. In the second vision, four winds came forth over a great sea, with four beasts coming up from the sea, and then the Ancient of Days appeared. In the third vision, Daniel saw himself in the Elami palace by a stream and saw a ram with two horns, one higher than the other. As this ram pushed himself in every direction over those around him, then a he-goat with a conspicuous horn between its eyes arose from the West, and smote the ram. The table below summarizes the three visions. (Dan. 2:31-45; Dan. 7:1-9; Dan. 8:1-8, 15-22)
In the third vision of the he-goat, the large horn was Alexander the Great who reigned between 336 B.C. and 323 B.C. After leaving his homeland, Alexander conquered many lands. When the Levant fell in 333-332 B.C., he paid a visit to Jerusalem, but continued to conquer Egypt and Persia in 331 B.C. After Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided among his four generals, denoted by the four smaller horns in the vision. From one of the four kingdoms comes forth a small horn that persecutes the Jews for 6.33 years and desecrates the Temple. (Dan. 8: 9-14, 23-27; Dan. 11)
Under the Seleucids, Antiochus IV Epiphanes began persecuting the Jews around 170 B.C. He appointed a Hellenistic High Priest to the Temple, prohibited the study of the Torah, and desecrated the altar with the sacrificing of a pig. Desiring to switch over to the rule of the Ptolemies, the Jews rebelled in 167 B.C., and Antiochus had 40,000 Jews murdered. In 165 B.C. a high priest named Matthias joined forces with his youngest son, Judah Maccabee (the hammer), against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Ousting the Seleucids, the Jews were able to rededicate the Temple on the 25th of Kislev, Dec. 13, 164 B.C. (148 SE). Kislev is the ninth month in the Hebrew calendar, and the feast began on the first day of the week of that particular year. While the Jews had enough undefiled oil to last one day, the oil miraculously lasted eight days. Although Hanukkah means dedication, the feast is also known as the Festival of Lights. How interesting that the number eight and oil symbolize the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, respectfully.
From an astronomical view, a spiritual battle is portrayed in the skies. During this particular week, the sun is positioned in Keshet the archer, whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. The moon will move into several constellations during the week. In five mornings, the moon has journeyed through three constellations: Moznayim the scales of justice, Ophiuchus the serpent bearer who attacks Akrab the scorpion, and Keshet the archer whose bow is directed at Akrab the scorpion. During the remaining evenings, the moon progressed through two constellations: Gedi the Atonement goat, and Deli the water bearer.
Where is Hanukkah mentioned in Scripture? In the Gospel of John, the theme of Hanukkah is introduced by demonstrating that Jesus forgives, heals blindness, and identifies Himself as the Light. When a woman is caught in adultery (Jn. 8), the scribes and Pharisees bring her to Jesus in an attempt to accuse Him. Although she deserved death, Jesus forgave her. Shortly afterwards, Jesus identifies Himself by declaring, “I AM the Light of the world…” On a following day (Jn. 9), Jesus expresses to his disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”; and proceeds to heal a blind man. Then Jesus leaves the Pharisees to ponder their own blindness.
There are several key words in the Hanukkah passage in John 10:22-30. On the Feast of Dedication, winter had arrived and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Aha! The Feast of Dedication is Chag CHanukkah in the Hebrew! Although the Feast of Dedication had commenced on the evening of December 17, 32 A.D., winter arrived on December 22, which is on the 5th day of Hanukkah that year. Therefore, we know that Jesus was at the temple in Solomon’s porch between December 22nd and 25th. Remarkably, the porch of Solomon was the original part of Solomon’s Temple. Is it any surprise that the Jews are full of suspense if Jesus is the Messiah? Yet, when he reveals, “I and the Father are one,” they are ready to stone Him.
As a result of the animosity, Jesus goes to the Jordan and many come to Him there. The beautiful story of Lazarus being raised from the dead (Jn. 11) foreshadows the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Hanukkah Menorah directs us to the eighth day, the Resurrection Day.
What was happening in the starry skies? A similar scene of the first Hanukkah was on display this year. The sun and the moon are the signs and moedim in the skies that are mentioned in Genesis 1:14. They are not to be worshiped, but only serve to point out specific themes. On the evening of December 21 and the morning of December 22, the moon was enveloped by the sun, testifying that “I and the Father are one.” On the evening of December 22, two things had happened. First, the New Moon ushered in the tenth month called Tevet; second, the moon was in the constellation of Gedi, the Atonement goat which represents Christ.
Although Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday, Christians can appreciate its spiritual significance, too. Not only did the observance of Hanukkah preserve a memory of a historical and religious event that occurred during the 2nd century B.C., but it would be symbolic of the Light. The prophetic background seen by Daniel and the witness in the starry skies add further testimony to the story of Hanukkah and to the Messiah. Therefore, take the time during Hanukkah to reflect upon the significance of the holiday by lighting some candles or reading Scriptures pertaining to light and oil..
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017.