Yeshua and Hanukkah

Author // Batya WoottenPosted in // News / Teachings

In 168 B.C., on the 25th day of Kislev (corresponds to November/December), the army of the Greek-Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Temple of the God of Israel. This infidel ordered the sacrifice of a pig on the sacred altar, had pagan idols brought into the Sanctuary, and forbade all worship of the God of Israel. He also forbade practicing the Instructions of the Torah, 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, asking Him to aid them in their battle, and even though 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. (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.

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, which means “Dedication,” was 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" (Zechariah 4:6).

For eight consecutive days Jewish people light candles on a nine branched Hanukkah Candelabrum (as opposed to a seven branched Menorah like that found 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 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 because the rabbis felt the people 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 Temple/Tabernacle.

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.

Every generation should honor the brave stand of the Maccabees and people like them. As people of the God of Israel, we must stand together for righteousness. We celebrate Hanukkah because it reminds us of the Father’s deliverance and protection. It speaks of being “good shepherds” or leaders in Israel, like the Maccabees.

But how should the non-Jew who loves Israel relate to this Holiday?

Does it have meaning for us?

Are we simply to follow the traditions of our Jewish brothers, or is there something more for us to see here?

Messiah Yeshua and Hanukkah

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 (left standing from Solomon's time). Nonetheless, we do know that 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 other words, "If you are the Messiah, when are you going to begin to lead us like a Messiah?"

To answer, Yeshua affirmed His oneness with YHVH, said that He was leading His people, and He told them, "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."

When He said this, "the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him," saying they did so "Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God" (John 10:24-32).

Yeshua had told them some time before that He was "the light of the world" (John 8:12), but they refused to recognize Who He was, and now they were doing it again.

When questioned about His Messiahship during Hanukkah, why did Yeshua answer by telling of YHVH's divine protection over His sheep, and by declaring that His sheep hear His voice?

Why? Because they were putting great emphasis on physical deliverance from their oppressors and wanted Him to crush the Roman oppressors like the Maccabees did the Syrians.

But Yeshua wanted something more lasting for His followers. Thus, He affirmed that His flock was under His Messianic guidance, and that they were being protected by the Holy One. But His questioners could not understand the eternal things of which He spoke, because they did not belong to Him.

If they had ears to hear, they would have known that the One standing before them wanted His people to focus on cleansing a different temple, one that is being built up by His Holy Spirit. And that those who would respond to Him would be protected and even granted the gift of eternal life.

Sadly, those standing before Him thought their greatest enemies were the Romans, when in truth man's greatest enemies are most often found within.

Cleansed Temples and Pure Lights

We are called to be temples of the Living God. We need to allow the Ruach HaKodesh to cleanse our Holy of Holies—which is our hearts. When we allow Him to have His way in our lives, He will pour in a goodly supply of oil, and thus we will be living examples to all the world of the protection and provision that is found in YHVH Elohim (2 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 5:14; John 8:12).

Messiah Yeshua is the Servant named Israel. He came to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel. He is especially "a light to the Goyim," to those once destined to become a melo hagoyim, or "fulness of the Gentiles." He is the Shepherd God of formerly scattered Ephraim Israel (Isaiah 49:6; Genesis 48:19; Hosea 1-2).

YHVH promised to search for His scattered sheep and to "set over them one Shepherd—that being His "Servant," Yeshua. He also said, "I will be their God and....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..." (Isaiah 8:14; Ezekiel 34:11,23,24,28,30; 37:15-28; Amos 9:9).

The sheep who follow the Good Shepherd do not need to fear oppressors; they can trust in Him, and thus be filled with His light (Isaiah 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9,10; Hosea 1:2-11; 2:23; Luke 1:33).

At this Hanukkah season, let us rededicate ourselves to our God. Let us ask Him to give us ears to better hear the voice of our Shepherd, to have the Holy Spirit cleanse us, and to empower us to be wholly dedicated to the restoration of His Kingdom over the whole house of Israel.

During this season of lights, let us acknowledge that the One to whom we belong is a greater protector than even the courageous Maccabees. Let us remember that He is both the Light and Shepherd God of Israel. And that, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).

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