by Beth Piepenburg
Hanukkah is known as a Jewish religious and cultural holiday celebrated by the lighting of candles and the offering of blessings for eight days. Commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple, Hanukkah actually means Dedication. The feast is also known as the Festival of Lights. 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 during this time? Is Hanukkah just a cultural 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 336-323 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)
After the death of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies controlled Israel until the Seleucids took control in 198 B.C. 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. 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 in the first Hanukkah. During the week, the sun is positioned in Keshet (Sagittarius) the archer, whose bow is directed at Akrab (Scorpio) the scorpion. However, the moon will travel through several constellations in this week. On the 25th of Kislev the moon rises in the constellation Moznayim (Libra) the scales of justice. This imagery showed that justice has been served in behalf of the Jews and against their enemy.
At the end of the sixth evening, the New Moon appears in Gedi (Capricornus) the atonement goat, a prophetic picture of Christ’s death. In conclusion on the eighth evening, the moon progresses into the constellation Deli (Aquairius) the water bearer, a picture of the Resurrection and the Holy Spirit.
Besides the Maccabees in the Apocrypha, where is Hanukkah mentioned in Scripture? The Gospel of John mentions Hanukkah. Subtly, the theme of Hanukkah is introduced by demonstrating that Jesus forgives, identifies Himself as the Light, and heals blindness. 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 forgives her and identifies Himself by declaring, “I AM the Light of the world…” On this same Sabbath 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. Both these events happened on the 5th day of Hanukkah 32 A.D. as a symbol of grace.
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 was on the 6th day of Hanukkah that year. Therefore, we know that Jesus was at the temple in Solomon’s porch between December 22nd and the 24th. 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.
In the Messiah as in Hanukkah, victory over the enemy, the Light, the Holy Spirit are common themes.
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, the historic events, and the witness in the starry skies, and the Gospel of John 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 and reading Scriptures pertaining to light and oil.
Copyright by Beth Piepenburg, 2017, 2018.