Hanukkah history, traditions, & applications to Believers, part 1
During the reign of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), Syria, Egypt, and Palestine experienced much freedom and were allowed to practice their own religions. Under Alexander the Great’s relative benevolent rule, many Jews adopted much of the Hellenistic culture, language, customs, and dress of the Greeks. However, a century later, under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Jews were severely oppressed. In 168 BC, the Temple was desecrated. There was not only worship of Zeus in the Temple, but a statue of Zeus was erected and pigs were sacrificed on the Altar. Jews were ordered to bow down to Greek gods.
A remnant of Jews resisted and refused to worship false gods, and a rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid/Greek monarchy. Mattathias and his five sons led the resistance. Following Mattathias’ death, his son Judah took over. They called themselves the Maccabees (an acrostic of the Hebrew Mi Kamocha B’Elim Adonai (Who among the mighty [other gods] is like You, Lord?) Thru guerilla-type warfare tactics, the Maccabees were successful and regained control of the Temple. Judah then called for the Temple to be cleansed, rebuild the Altar, and light its menorah, which was to be kept burning every night. According to tradition, the Jews discovered there was only one vial of undefiled oil. Nevertheless, the menorah was lit … and it continued burning for eight days, until more oil could be made.
Though this event occurred after the close of the Tenach (Old Testament), it is referred to in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) when Yeshua (Jesus) was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (“It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication,” John 10:22 NLT).
As Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf stated, the Jewish people are a “tiny and ill equipped people [who] was prepared to take on the superpower of its day.”[Are we, as believers, willing to follow God even when we are facing formidable enemies?]
|Four things Hanukkah celebrates
|Application to a Believer
|1. God enabled a small rag-tag army of farmers, who believed God, to overcome one of the strongest armies in the world.
|1. HE enabled the weaker and less significant (the Jews) to overcome the most powerful (the Seleucid/Greek army).
How much more does He want to enable us to overcome seemingly insurmountable circumstances!
|2. Victory over assimilation. Jews’ resistance to becoming totally Greek in action, thought, language, and culture.
It is interesting to note Jews do not glorify military victory, only the resulting events. For example, the reclaiming of the Temple in 164 BC (Hanukkah) and the Western Wall in 1967 (Reunification of Jerusalem) are what is commemorated and celebrated in Israel today.
|2. He enabled Jews to overcome pressure to assimilate.
How much more does He want us to resist conforming to the world, our friends, society!
He wants us to walk as He walked. Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12b NIV.
|3. The Rededication of the Second Temple. (Another name for Hanukkah is the Feast of Dedication.)
|3. HE allowed the Jews to rededicate the Temple to Him.
By the same token, He allows us to constantly rededicate our lives to Him (our lives are our earthly temples).
Daily His mercies are new and daily we should sanctify ourselves afresh to Him.
|4. The much-loved story of the miracle of the Temple’s one vial of oil lasting for eight days, not one.
|4. HE intervenes in our daily lives.
He continuously brings into our lives miracles of expanding natural objects (eg, our finances when we tithe), protection (eg, unknown accidents), etc.
Many times we are not even aware!
“LORD, we bless You!!! Help us to reflect You in all our actions! Be with those in government – silence those who would seek ways contrary to Your ways. Bring Your peace to Israel; give Prime Minister Netanyahu wisdom & strength to carry out Your purposes; give the soldiers wisdom and protection. We pray for safety of the hostages, for the healing of all who have been rescued. Be with Israel, Your love, and the love of so many of us. In the Name of our soon-coming Messiah, Yeshua, we ask these things.”