Sunday, January 25, 2009
Restoring Hanukkah - A Type and Shadow of Revelations
The Purpose of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is an annual festival of the Jews celebrated on eight successive days to honor the restoration of divine worship in the Temple after it had been defiled by heathens. The return of their religious liberty was to them as life from the dead, in remembrance of it, they kept an annual holiday on the 25th day of Kislev. Kislev is the third month of the Jewish calendar corresponding , approximately to mid December in the Gregorian calendar.
Jesus kept this festival.
The principal source for the story of Hanukkah is found in the Talmud. The biggest lesson of Hanukkah was the power of the spirit, the ability of God's people to live by God's commands. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6)
In between the Testaments, around 164 BC, the Maccabees (aka Hasmoneans), led by Judah Maccabee, wrested Judea from the rule of Seleucids-Syrian rulers who supported the Greek religion and culture. Hannukah commemorates the recapture of the Jerusalem by the Maccabees and the establishment of the Temple. The Temple had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epipanes, king of Syria and overlord of Palestine. The Maccabees ruled Judea until Herod took power in 37 B.C.E.
Hanukkah centers around a 9 branch menorah. The Temple menorah has 7 branches. The Hanukkah menorah has 9 branches - 8 to remember the 8 days of Hanukkah and one that is the shamus, the candle used to light the other candles (this is usually either higher or separate from the other eight branches.)
The History of Hanukkah
Nearly 2200 years ago, the Jewish people had returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian Exile, and had rebuilt the Holy Temple, but they remained subject to the reigning powers: first, the Persian Empire, then later, the conquering armies of Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided among his generals. Judea was caught in the middle and ended up under the system of the Seleucid Dynasty, Greek kings who reigned from Syria.
The Jews under Syrian Rule
A Syrian tyrant, Antiochus IV, was the new king who ruled Judea. He worshipped the Greek gods, but he did allow the Jews to worship YHWH.
During the years of the Greek power, many Jews started to embrace the Greek culture and its Hellenistic, pagan way of life. These Jewish Hellenists helped Antiochus's goal to abolish every trace of the Jewish religion.
Desecrated the Temple
Eventually, King Antiochus decided to go into Jerusalem and take the treasures of the temple and forbid the Jews from keeping their holy traditions, such as the Sabbath, kosher laws, studying their holy books, and the practice of circumcision. To prove his point he desecrated the Holy Altar by sacrificing a forbidden, unclean pig on it.
The Temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeuss Olympus. An altar to Zeuss was set up on the high altar. The Jews were forced to bow before it under penalty of death. The Holy Temple was invaded , desecrated, and pillaged of all its treasures. Many innocent people were massacred, and the survivors were heavily taxed. Antiochus went so far as to proclaim himself a god, taking the name Epiphanes - God manifest.
A Wicked High Priest
Some Jews drifted into the Greek ways, changed their names from their Hebrew names, and followed the Greek "modern" practices, giving up the "old" ways of their ancestors. One hellenized Jew's Hebrew name was Joshua, but he changed it to the Greek name Jason. He offered King Antiochus a bribe so he could take over the position of the High Priest.
The "High Priest" Jason constructed a gymnasium near the Temple, and demoralized his fellow Jews with pagan customs and licentious behavior.
Another Hellenized Jew came along offered a bigger bribe and Jason was replaced. Jason then gathered an army and attacked Menelaus in the Holy City, slaughtering many of the Jews. Antiochus interpreted this civil squabble as a revolt against his throne, and sent his armies into Jerusalem, plundering the Temple and murdering tens of thousands of Jews. Altars were erected with statutes of Greek gods and goddesses in every city and town. Soldiers forced Jews to make offerings, to eat forbidden foods, and to engage in other immoral acts.
Many other Jews resisted, and refused to follow Greek practices, and would not bow down to the Greek's pagan idols. The Greeks tried to get Jews to abandon the Torah and commandments, but God was in charge. Many times God had fought the Jewish battles, against all odds, delivering the evil to the righteous and the outnumbered. God helped the Jews to organize all the common people, farmers, workers, and servants, and they began to fight the Syrian persecutors.
This small group of Hasmoneans, under the leadership of Judas Maccabee, employed guerrilla warfare and drove the Syrians out. The Maccabees regained control of the Holy Temple, and began the task of purifying it. The altar which had been defiled by the sacrifice of a pig upon it was torn down and rebuilt. All new holy vessels were crafted. A date for the rededication of the Temple was set - the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which occurs approx. in the Roman month of December.
Taking unhewn stones, as the law commands, they built a new altar on the model of the previous one. They rebuilt the Temple and restored its interior, and consecrated the Temple courts. They renewed the sacred vessels and the lampstand, and brought the altar of incense and the table into the Temple. They burnt incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lamp-stand to shine within the Temple. They decorated the front of the Temple with golden wreaths and ornamental shields. They renewed the gates and the priests rooms, and fitted them with doors. When they had put the Bread of the Presence on the table and hung the curtains, all their work was completed. The temple was then rededicated to God with festivities that lasted eight days.
When the Jews cleaned out the temple idols, they found only a small cruse of oil with only enough oil for one day to light their holy lamps. They decided to light the Menorah even with the small amount of oil. To everyones amazement the menorah miracously burned for eight days until new oil was available!
The congregation of Israel decreed that the rededication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness at the same season each year, for eight days. The light of the menorah is the symbol of the light of Yahweh. The fact that the light burned even when no supply was left is a perfect symbol of the eternity of God's Word.
Messianic Significance of Hanukkah
The law did not require Jews to be at the Temple in Jerusalem, as this was not one of the pilgrimage festivals. Everyone observed it in his own place, not as a holy time. Jesus was there that he might improve those eight days of holiday for good purposes.
Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch when the Sadduciens asked him, "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ tell us." They pretended to want to know the truth, as if they were ready to embrace it.
Jesus answered them, "I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in my Fathers name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:25-27)
Hannukah's theme is of a miracle. During Hanukkah Jesus spoke of His miracles: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." (John 10:37-38)
Yeshua personifies the message of Hanukkah: God actively involved in the affairs of his people. Hanukkah reminds us that God is a God of miracles, not just of concepts and ideals.
Jesus is the Light of the World
Jesus preached 3 sermons in which he declared Himself as "The light of the world," and all three would be during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
"Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them." (John 12:35-36)
During Hanukkah - The Feast of Lights - Jesus brought literal light to the blind. "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." (John 9:5-7)
Endtime Significance of Hanukkah
The story of Hanukkah is a type and shadow of the end time happenings described in the book of Revelation and Daniel. Antiochus is a type of the antichrist. Just as happened under the rule of Antiochus, Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9:27 "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
The same powers promoted by Antiochus are in the world today. Worldwide immorality and idolatry are the norm. We must come out and be separate. "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." (2 Cor. 6:16-17)
Jesus conceived on Hanukkah?
Many believe that Messiah, the "light of the world", was conceived on the festival of lights - Hanukkah. The bible does not give the birth date. It was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the 11th week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding 40 weeks, for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover. Six months after John's conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived 6 months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev - Hanukkah.
Starting at Hanukkah, which begins Kislev 25 and continues for 8 days, and counting through 9 months of pregancy, the approximate time of birth for Jesus would be at the Festival of Tabernacles.
Jewish Customs of Hanukkah Today
It is the practice to have festive meals for the 8 days. In addition to Latkes (grated potato and onion pancakes fried in oil), jelly doughnuts fried in oil became popular. Both symbolize the miracle of the oil. Other popular customs are the Hanukkah gifts and Hanukkah gelt (money).
The major ritual ceremony of the holiday is the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah. The 8 days are marked by prayers of thanksgiving, special songs of praise for the miracles and redemption, the Shmoneh Esrei (the central silent prayer) 3 times a day, and grace after meals.
Lighting the Candles
The candles are placed in their holders from right to left, then lit from left to right, so that the last is lit first, and the first is lit last. The candles should burn for at least half an hour. Each day, the number of candles is decreased by one every night.
Since the object of the lighting is to publicize the miracle, the candles are usually placed near windows: to remind others of the holiday and the redemption. It is customary to light the candles right after sundown.
After the destruction of the temple the menorah became the most important Jewish pictorial motif: what had been a holy implement became the symbol of Judaism.
The main prophetic reading of Hanukkah is the prophecy of Zecharia, which ends with , "Not by my might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Zech. 4:6)
A Hallel is a song of praise celebrating God's mighty acts on behalf of His Chosen People, the nation of Israel. The complete text of the song is contained in Psalms 115 through 118. The complete Hallel is recited in the morning service throughout the eight days of Chanukah.
Reading the Torah
The Torah is read each day of Chanukah, specifically the story of the dedication of the Tabernacle in the desert and the special gifts donated by the leaders of each of the 12 tribes of Israel in connection with the dedication. This Torah portion is read on Chanukah because the Tabernacle was completed on the 25th day of Kislev, the same day in which the miracle of Chanukah took place close to one 1000 years later.
Torah Portion: Genesis 41:1-44:7; Zechariah 2:14-4:7; Matthew 21-22
Blessings for lighting the candles
1. Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukah.
2. Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in the days of old, at this season.
3. (to be said only on the first night) Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.
Hallalu: "We kindle these lights to commemorate the saving acts, miracles and wonders which You have performed for our forefathers, in those days at this time, through Your holy kohanim. Throughout the 8 days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make use of them, but only to look at them, in order to offer thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, for Your wonders and for Your salvations."
Hanukkah Nightly Readings
Night one - The Lord is our Light
"The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory." Isa. 60:19
"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Ps. 27:1
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:1-17
Night two - The Word is our Light
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
"The entrance of they words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." Psalms 119:130
"For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." Prov. 6:23
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:18-29
Night 3 - We Should be a Light to Others
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16
"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." Luke 11:33
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:24-35
Night 4 - The Light of the Body is the Eye
"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, they whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness." Luke 11:34
"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:18
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:30-41
Night 5 - The Messiah is the Light of the World
"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not". John 1:4-5
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 8:12
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:36-47
Night 6 - Paul saw the Light
"Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:12-18
Torah Portion: Numbers 28:1-15; Numbers 7:42-47
Night 7 - If Christ is your Light, You are no longer in the darkness of the world
"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:8-11
"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." Ephesians 5:11-15
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. " 1 John 1:5-9
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:48-59
Night 8 - We Need to Shine
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." Phil. 2:14-16.
Torah Portion: Numbers 7:54-8:4
Favorite Family Hanukkah Video:
A favorite family video of Chanukah: Lamb Chop's Special Chanukah Video by Shari Lewis. Although designed for young children, the song in this program is the Macabee story in rhyme that all generations can learn! Ask your bookstore to order it through Youngheart.