Hanukkah Article Bookmarks
This holiday can be spelled more than one way as some Hebrew letters have no exact English equivalent. The two most popular spellings are Hanukkah and Chanukkah. The Hebrew word Hanukkah is translated as dedication. Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication, the Days of Dedication, and the Festival of lights.
There is no Old Testament reference because the event that the holiday commemorates occurred in between the writing of the Old Testament and the writing of the New Testament sometimes referred to as the 440 silent years. In the New Testament, John refers to the festival in John 10:22 as the "Feast of Dedication."
Then came the Feast of Dedication [Hanukkah] at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yeshua was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Yeshua answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me… (John 10:22).
Non- canonized references include Book of Judith, 1Maccabees, 2 Maccabee's, and Josephus. Talmudic reference includes Rosh HaShana 24b, Yoma 16a, Megillat Taanit chapter nine, ;Mishna Bikkurim 1:6.
Note: Prophetically Daniel may be mentioning these events even though they had not yet occurred in Daniel 8:11 and 11:21-35.
Candles are lit each night for eight consecutive nights to remember the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabee's and the return of the daily sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple. This return to the sacrificial system occurred on the 25th day of Kislev. This date is the start of the Hanukkah celebration observed every year on the Hebrew calendar.
This holiday goes back to around 175 B.C. Antiochus 1V (also known as Antiochus Epiphanes), a general and Syrian king of the Seleucid Dynasty, was in charge at the time. He liked the Greek culture and observed many of its customs and traditions. He received his kingdom when Alexander the Great died, and the kingdom was divided into four parts, one of which went to Antiochus. He called himself Antiochus Epiphanes which can be translated as "the visible god" or "god manifest." Antiochus considered himself to be divine, although he also recognized Zeus Olympius (the main Greek god) and tried to get everyone to believe as he believed, including the Jews. Some Jews did welcome the new Greek culture. Others chose to remain faithful to Biblical Judaism that recognized a different God than the Greeks worshiped.
Antiochus decided to forbid any celebration of the Jewish holidays and went as far as to burn their religious books. Antiochus also stopped the temple sacrifices and had people killed if they wouldn't bow to his Greek gods, Zeus and Jupiter. In 168 B.C., Syrian soldiers confronted an elderly Hasmonean Jewish high priest named Mattathias. He was a very respected leader from Modin, which was a small town north of Jerusalem. The soldiers wanted Mattathias to bow down to Greek gods and to do other Greek customs such as eating pork that had been sacrificed to Zeus on the brazen alter in the temple. In Israel, Hanukkah is celebrated with the lighting of candles and torches. There is a torch relay race from the ancient town of Modin up to the city of Jerusalem. Sometimes Handel's oratorio, Judas Maccabaeus, is performed. Large menorahs are placed on top of public buildings.(1)
Sacrificing a pig and the eating of the pork was forbidden to those Jews who chose to remain faithful to God's Old Testament laws. When Mattathias saw other Jews giving in to Antiochus' demands by praying to Zeus and eating pork, he became mad and killed one of them along with a soldier standing nearby. He then yelled out, "Whoever is for God, follow me!" and he ran off into the mountains. Mattathias had five sons: John, Simon, Judah, Eleazar, and Jonathan. His sons followed him. Judah who became the most well known son, receiving the nickname of maccabee, which means "hammer." Mattathias died during this time but before dying, he put Judah in charge. Judah became the leader of the entire rebel group known as the Maccabee's. This period of time is historically known as the Maccabean revolt. The group is said to have ranged in size from 800 to as many as 3000 depending on when you counted its soldiers during the short three years of its existence.
The Maccabee's would make simple weapons, come down from the mountains and attack the soldiers, and then go back up to the mountains and hide. They were successful even though Antiochus' soldiers had a larger army at least ten times their size. After three years of these short attacks, the Maccabee's defeated the other soldiers. The Maccabean success is credited to knowing the land better and because God was with them. In Jerusalem, where the temple was, they found things like statues of Zeus and slain pigs on the altar. The temple was a mess because Antiochus and his soldiers had defiled it. So Judah decided to clean it up and rededicate it to God. They had to undue some of the work on the altar that Antiochus had done and made some new vessels to be used in the temple service. They burned incense on the alter and put loaves of showbread on the table. God used the Maccabee's to help save Israel as a nation, with faith in Him, complete with its own culture and identity.
After the temple was clean, it came time for the rededication ceremony and the return of the daily burnt offering, but there was a problem. They used a special olive oil for the temple services, however, and there was only one jar of oil that still remained undefiled with the seal of the high priest on it. That meant only enough oil for one day. The usual dedication ceremony lasted at least a week (2 Chronicles 7:9).
The lighting of the Eternal Light representing God's Shekinah (light of glory) was an important part of the rededication ceremony and a regular part of temple service and worship. The eternal light was required to burn continuously 24 hours a day seven days a week. The eternal light used a special oil (known as a cruse of consecrated oil) that took eight days to make and there was only one jar of oil (enough for one day) that still remained undefiled with the seal of the high priest on it. They decided to put the oil in the eternal light and light it anyway. This is where one of the miracles of Hanukkah occurred.
It was already considered a miracle that a small group of rebels could defeat the powerful army and regain control of the Jerusalem temple. The oil was lit on the 25th day of Kislev 165 B.C., exactly three years since the original abomination on the temple altar by Antiochus and the revolt that followed. Tradition teaches the oil burned not just for one day but also miraculously for eight days. This gave the Jews enough time to make more oil for their temple services. It also showed God's hand in retaking the temple back and getting rid of idols of Zeus.
Today, to help celebrate this holiday, on the eighth night of Hanukkah, eight candles are lit by a separate servant candle in a candle holder known as a menorah or hanukkiyah. One candle represents each day the oil burned. It is believed that because of this miracle, Judah the Maccabee declared it to be an annual holiday to be celebrated. He also may have become the high priest. The Megillat Antiochus may be the earliest Jewish source of literature that mentions Hanukkah. This is probably where the tradition of the miracle, the oil burning for eight days, originated from. It may also be where the name Festival of Lights originated from.
The story of the miracle behind the oil is not included in all literature that tells of the Maccabbian revolt. It may not have been part of the holiday celebration for the first few hundred years. It is possible that this event it is not 100 percent historically accurate or completely true. Either way it is a tradition that is part of the holiday today. The candle light from the menorah is much more than a reminder of the miracle as great as that is. It should also produce a feeling of inspiration and illumination during our daily lives.
The Talmud refers to these occurrences with a slightly different date of around 140 B.C.(2) The term "miracle" is not used in 2 Maccabees. The phrase "Hanukkah miracle" was first made popular in the Talmud.(3) Many feel there is meant to be a connection between the Hanukkah and the Feast of Tabernacles. There are different opinions as to why the temple dedication lasted eight days instead of seven. The possible connection between these two holidays may be one reason the holiday is celebrated for eight days instead of seven.
It is believed that when the first Hasmonean coins were minted they contained a palm branch as a symbol of freedom.(3) It is popular to eat foods fried in oil (such as doughnuts) to remember the miracle of the oil. One of the more popular meals include latke's (potato pancakes) with applesauce for a main dish. This is considered a Hanukkah treat. Here is a good Latke Recipe. It is also fun to make cookies with children. Here is a Dreidel Cookie Recipe. In some homes, gifts are exchanged. This was not an original part of the holiday. It was most likely added by Jewish parents because Christian children would receive "Christmas presents," and the Jewish parents didn't want their children to feel left out. Some parents give their children a small gift each night for eight consecutive nights, often saving the best gift for the last day. Some Jewish households have also added a Hanukkah bush to resemble a Christmas tree for the same reason. Sometimes money is the gift. This is often referred to as "Hanukkah gelt." For younger children the money comes in the form of chocolate candies that are wrapped in tinfoil to resemble a coin. Hanukkah is believed to be one of the two most celebrated holidays by Jewish people living in the United States. The date on which Hanukkah falls on, had a biblical history before this event took place. The prophet Haggai prophesied two separate times on this date. Tradition teaches that this date was also the date that the tabernacle built in the desert was finished. It seems that this date, the 25th day of Kislev, was predetermined to have a role with the establishment and dedication of the temple. The story of the military victory involving Judah the Maccabee can be found in the Hanukkah prayer Al Hanisim. This prayer was probably written around the eighth century. Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday which begins in one month (25th of Kislev) and goes into the next month (Tevet).
The menorah is probably the most recognized symbol of the Hanukkah holiday. It's a candle holder and is also called a "hanukkiyah." Although the Hanukkah candle holder menorah or lamp is technically called a hanukkiyah, most people call it a menorah anyway. During the holiday the candle holder should not be used with candles for anything other than its holiday purpose. This means people should not work by the light of the menorah. (Today we have electricity but 2000 years ago they needed other sources of light like a flame). All together there are 44 candles that are used in the complete eight night Hanukkah candle lighting celebration. There is a wide range of candle colors and sizes. Some menorahs even burn olive oil. The light from the flame should be visible for at least 30 minutes after nightfall. The candles should be lit after dusk in a front window or doorway.
This menorah is not a typical Hanukkah menorah. It resembles the first menorah that was used for the first tabernacle built when the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years with Moses. This was also the design of the one used in the first temple period. It is not a legal Hanukkah menorah because it does not have enough candle holders on it. For more on the Temple Menorah check out the Temple Menorah.
A Hanukkah menorah must have nine. This menorah represents a typical menorah used for Hanukkah. Notice it has room for eight regular candles plus a candle that is raised up higher than the others, for a total of nine candles. This raised candle is known as the shamash (servant) candle and is used to light the rest of the candles. When counting candles at Hanukkah, the shamash candle is exempt. (i.e., on the first night of Hanukkah when only one candle is lit, there are actually two candles lit. The shamash candle and then the shamash is used to light the first candle). There are many different menorah designs today including ones that incorporate a messianic theme.
There are a few guidelines that are used which allow a menorah to be acceptable for the Hanukkah celebration. The Shamash candle must be elevated higher than the rest of the candles. The other eight candles can be the same height as each other or different heights. The candles must be far enough apart so that the flames do not blend together.
A menorah can be made out of anything (preferably things that do not burn). Some menorahs burn a traditional oil (sometimes olive oil) instead of candles. Some have light bulbs that you screw in for each night of Hanukkah, although this is questionable as to fulfilling the candle lighting tradition of the holiday. There are a total of 44 candles used during the eight days of Hanukkah. There is a procedure to correctly light the Hanukkah candles. To learn more about this read the Hanukkah Candle Lighting Procedure article in the library.
Sabbath Note: If you light candles on a Friday night to welcome in the Sabbath the Hanukkah candles should be lit before the Sabbath candles and the Hanukkah candles should not be relit until Sat. evening after the Havdalah (separation between Sabbath and weekday) prayer is recited. After the Havdalah prayer is said the Hanukkah candles can be lit. This custom helps to preserve the custom of not creating any fires on the Sabbath.(4)
What's so special about this toy called a Dreidel? It is recognized as perhaps Judaism oldest toy. It is used in a popular game during the holiday of Hanukkah. Some believe the origins of this toy date back to around the original holiday of Hanukkah and that this toy has been in use for 2000 years. Some call it a top because it spins. It has four sides and each side has a letter marked on it. To learn more about this toy and the games that are played with it read about the Dreidel. Since 1948, when Israel became a nation, a specific dreidel has been made for those who live in Israel. Those dreidel's have one letter that is different from all other dreidel's. It changes the meaning of the words that the letters on the dreidel represent, from, a great miracle happened there (meaning Israel) to a great miracle happened here (meaning here inside of Israel where we currently are). Dreidel's come in hundreds if not thousands of different sizes and styles.
Dreidel is a Yiddish word meaning something that spins or turns. In hebrew, the correct word would be sivivon (also meaning spinner).(5)
Some scholars believe that the prophet Daniel predicted the historical event that took place when Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar. This section of scripture is found in Dan. 11:30-31. The abomination of desolation was the sacrifice of the unclean and forbidden pig on the altar. There are also those who believe that this abomination that Antiochus caused was only a shadow of the bigger abomination yet to come. They feel that Dan. 11:32-45 teaches of a day still to come, where from inside the rebuilt third temple another abomination occurs. This abomination is believed to be caused by the Antichrist. Going immediately to the next verse, Dan.12:1 is thought to be connected to the same view as Mat. 24:21. This is known as the Tribulation Period or the Time Of Jacob's Trouble.
On the 25th of Kislev 168 B.C., Antiochus went into the temple and sinned greatly. He sacrificed a pig on the bronze alter. Some believe this was a shadow or a preview of the abomination of desolation spoken about in Daniel Chapters 9 and 11.
Many scholars of End Time Prophecy believe Daniel's Prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27) reveals how in the end times the Antichrist will set up for himself, something to be worshiped that the true and living God will view as the ultimate Abomination Of Desolation. This may take place from inside a rebuilt Third Temple (Matt. 24:15).
Jesus made it a point to talk about the miracles that He did. He wanted the people around to see and hear of some of the miracles that he caused to occur. Jesus hoped to use the miracles to prove to others his divine origin. John quoted Jesus saying "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).Jesus may have chosen Hanukkah to talk about them because Hanukkah focused on the miracle that a small group that had God's help would be better off than a much larger group that didn't. Since the overall theme of Hanukkah was miracles, then God's miracles would have been fresh in the minds of the Jews since they were in the process of celebrating the re-dedication of the temple. Jesus wanted the people of his day to see His miracles and believe in Him as a result. His miracles point to his true divine and messianic identity.
Jesus also used this holiday season as an opportunity to declare His divine nature when He cried out; "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). One reason Jesus may have chosen Hanukkah for this bold divine declaration is because of the people involved in the original Hanukkah event. The ruler Antiochus had desecrated the temple with the order to sacrifice to the pig and claimed to be divine himself. Those celebrating Hanukkah in Jesus' day would still remember this along with the miracle of the military victory. Jesus was challenging everyone to look at the miracles that he had done, not just the miracle of the Maccabee victory.
The crowd now experienced the same dilemma as their forefathers who had faced Antiochus' blasphemous claim of being a manifest god. The difference was that Yeshua was not a pagan Gentile, but an observant Jew. Unlike Antiochus, who offered only edicts destructive to Jewish biblical worship, Yeshua magnified the God of Israel and His Word.(6)
There are those who ask the question, "Does a holiday need to be God given in order to be celebrated or observed?" The answer is simply no. Jesus went to the temple to celebrate the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). Although it is clear that without Gods' help Judah the Maccabee would never have been able to defeat Antiochus.
Learn more about The Miracles Of Messiah.
The servant (shamash) candle is always lit first and then used to light the rest of the candles, and Jesus could certainly be seen as a servant. Without this servant candle, there would be no light at all. The only way for the menorah candles to produce light is to receive the servant candle and from its light more lights are made. Candles, just like people, would remain in darkness without the servant candle and the servant Jesus. The Messiah provides the light of life. He takes away darkness. The same way there was darkness before light there was sin before the need of forgiveness.
The Temple candelabrum was a symbol of the eternal presence of God and, as such, was never to be extinguished. "And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually" (Exodus 27:20).(5) In John 8:12, we are taught that "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus taught these words from the temple, possibly with the light from the giant candelabrum near Him.
In Matthew 5:14, Matthew seems to be connecting Jesus with the Illumination Of The Temple ceremony when he says "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." During the Hanukkah season, we should pray, that the world will be able to see the light of Christ in us and through us.
Another interesting read is the Menorah In The Tabernacle.
Pure olive oil was not only used in the Menorah but it was also had the sacred use of anointing someone or something. This meant that they were set apart for service unto God. The word "Messiah" (Moshiach in Hebrew) means "anointed one," so the promise of the coming of Messiah is inextricable linked to oil as well. Hebrews 1:9 links the Messiah being anointed with oil to Psalm 45:7.(7)
This symbol has been used since the time of Christ. It represents the menorah used in the temple with only seven candle holders on it. It is attached to the top point of the Star of David. Below the star of David is a fish. This fish has been the symbol of Jesus the Messiah since He died. When all three of these symbols appear connected together, they represent a believer in Jesus Christ. (These believers recognize and choose to associate with, Jesus' Jewish background. Most of the time these are Jewish believers in Jesus.) This symbol is used today by many messianic congregations and ministries throughout the world. The menorah is another way that Hanukkah and the Feast of Tabernacles are connected.
In a house with many children, each child should try to light their own menorah.
Hebrew Letters Each Have Numerical Values.
The four letters on the dreidel [see photo]: nun (50), gimmel (3), hey (5), and shin (300) add up to the total 358, which is the same number as the word Mashiach Messiah! Some believe that playing the game of dreidel is a way to help usher in the Messianic hope.(5)
Some scholars believe that our Messiah, the “light of the world,” was conceived on the festival of lights—Hanukkah. The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. It was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33); therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev—Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world,” conceived on the festival of lights? Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles.(4)There are traditional songs that are sung during this holiday. The most well know is called Rock of Ages or as it is known in Hebrew, Maoz Tzur. View Maoz Tzur Sheet Music.
For those who already have a personal relationship with the Messiah, you are already aware of your present or blessing. For those who don't, please take the time to consider this promise from God found in the book of Romans. That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10). Please spend a moment in prayer asking God to reveal to you the truth about His Son.
See if you can get together towards the end of the holiday with a Jewish family that lights a menorah. You may even want to have a token gift exchange. A new menorah can be purchased relatively cheap. Sometimes children can easily make a menorah. Perhaps you can take turns lighting the candles. You can even light your own menorah at home inviting the Jewish family over for a meal of traditional potato latke's and applesauce or some other foods fried in oil. To a Christian, the holiday of Hanukkah can be about rededicating ones life to Jesus Christ and service to others. To the Jewish person, lighting the Hanukkah candles is a symbolic observance of the rededication to a temple that no longer exists. To the Christian, since we are God's temple we can rededicate ourselves to follow Christ teachings of love. Both Jews and Christians should be able to respect the dedication that the Maccabee's had to obey God's word and to persevere with victory. It has also become a popular custom to send a Happy Hanukkah card the same way we mail out Merry Christmas cards.
For a list of future holidays dates check the Master Calendar Table.
Since Hanukkah represents dedication it's a good time to reflect on our own dedication to our spiritual life.
Articles that reflect upon the Hanukkah holiday include:
Jesus was the "True Temple." If you look up John 2:18-21 you'll see that Jesus refers to His body as a "temple." Believers in Jesus are also said to have bodies that are temples because the Holy Spirit is inside of them.
In some ways, Hanukkah, is about Anti-Semitism. It's about someone else not wanting Jews to be Jews. In this case the process of wanting everyone to worship Greek Gods instead of the God of the Bible meant assimilation. A person could wonder how many Jews, converted to the Greek culture, and gave up their heritage and traditions because of the threat of death to them and their children. It may very well be that some people today have a Jewish heritage they are unaware of.
Hanukkah may be the Jewish holiday that most people are familiar with.
The nights of Hanukkah are the longest and darkest of the year, but the light kindled during those eight days takes us back to the Holy Temple where God supplied light for His People. In the same way, Yeshua is a non-extinguishable light given by God to His People to illuminate the darkness. Thus Hanukkah moves us from dedication to decision, for every person at this season of the year must decide - will they follow God's greater light and dedicate themselves to Yeshua the Messiah of Israel and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?(6)
Please share your understanding of the Messiah being the light of your life. Victor Frankel is quoted as saying "A Candle loses nothing by lighting another candle."
1). The Feast of Israel by Bruce Scott of Friends of Israel ministries.
2). The Jewish Timeline Encyclopedia by Mattis Kantor.
3). Information from The Biblical And Historical Background Of The Jewish Holy Days, by Abraham P. Bloch is copyrighted material and was used with permission of the publisher. KTAV Publishing, 900 Jefferson Street. Box 6249, Hoboken, NJ 07030-01024).
4). Chabad of Peoria Jewish Art Calendar 5766.
5). Written by June Levine for The Messianic Times: November/December 2009.
6). Randall Price writing for Jewish Voice Today, November/December 2009.
7). Jews for Jesus December, 2006 Newsletter.
7). Written by June Levine for The Messianic Times: November/December 2009.
Information was used by permission from http://BiblicalHolidays.com. This web site offers many insightful remarks concerning Jewish holidays and is recommended.
Image of dreidels from http://www.messianictimes.com/images/stories/articles/4letters.jpg
Chosen People Ministries.