Chanukkah: History and Identities
The history of Chanukkah
Chanukkah: a brief description of the history of Chanukkah is that around 200 B.C., Judea came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion altogether and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.
Antiochus approached Mattathias a Priest who was highly esteemed by the people. He tried to get Mattathias to worship Zeus in order to influence the people to follow his example. Antiochus offered him great wealth and lands and other bribes to seduce him. But Mattathias was not moved by these things and he and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus starting with Mattathias killing first a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus’s order to sacrifice to Zeus and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government’s behest (1 Mac. 2, 24-25).
In 168 B.C., Antiochus’s soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple declaring it an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls, and in fact upon its altar.
Now the desecrated Temple and Altar had to undergo a process of re-dedication because it was not fit for the use of worship to YaHoVaH.
By 165 BC the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple now liberated could begin the process of purification and the Priests wanted to perform the rededication. The festival of Chanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. It is called Dedication to YaH. The altar must be dedicated in this manner as directed by Moses.
The story goes– and it is more than likely only a story– is that they only discovered one flask–enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. It was a true miracle and the Jewish sages declared an eight-day festival to commemorate the miracle of liberation from the iron fisted rule of the Seleucids and God’s hand in reestablishing worship.
To begin the understanding of Chanukkah one must first establish a basic comprehension of the Jewish Identity. There has always been a separation between Jews and the rest of the world’s people. This is in large part because God entrusted them with the Torah. God chose one people, revealed to them His identity, and gave them the promise of intimacy, (Covenant) if they followed His laws, statutes and ordinances, which kept them abiding in Covenant. The protections and provisions of YaH’s side of the Covenant served all three facets of the human being: spirit, soul and body and for this reason He asks that we love Him with all our hearts, mind soul and strength, which encompasses the entire man. (Y’shua asked Peter three times…)
Romans 3:1-2 (KJV)
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
(The term; ‘Oracles of God’ indicates that even before the finger of God wrote the laws down for them, the protocol for covering sin with a sacrificial offering was already in place. We see that with the first family of YaH back in the Garden of Eden. God, being a merciful Being, as a matter of vital importance, told them what sin was and what He expected of them. He could not have provided a covering for sin and not explained what sin is. So, we know that the “Oral Laws were part of the heritage of the Jewish people back to Adam. I personally believe that it is the “Birthright” that Jacob was to gain, even if it was not the birth order. God was demonstrating that it’s given only to those who honor His laws. Y’shua said he hated Esau…)
We may understand why Christianity has been unsuccessful in opening the hearts of Jews to Y’shua and not accepted by them if we get a perception of their identity. Not simply how we perceive them, but how they define themselves. Why? Because they perceive us as the same threat to them as the Greeks and Seleucids were when they tried to destroy them as a people. They really understand Chanukkah. They know how important their Torah centered lives are to keeping them a people group. Here comes “Christianity” with its total disregard of the Torah, new traditions that have the pagan idolatry they know to avoid, and a new God to worship named “Jesus” and they run. No Jew was ever named Jesus. All of this is foreign to them. Roman, Greek and pagan. Paul explains the crux of the matter, which if today’s Christians could grasp would bring them to their knees in repentance of dead works.
Paul explains about the differences and how there is a “wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles. Let’s read it and then take it in parts to really grasp it.
Ephesians Chapter 2
1 Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins.
2 You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
3 All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God’s anger just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much,
5 that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)
6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms– all because we are one with Christ Jesus.
7 And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. You were called “the uncircumcised ones” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though often it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.
12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from God’s people, Israel, and you did not know the promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.
13 But now you belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ.
14 For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us.
15 By his death he ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups.
16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
17 He has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and to us Jews who were near.
18 Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
20 We are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.
21 We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.
22 Through him you Gentiles are also joined together as part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
Throughout these verses we see how it is Gentiles are now made part of the Jewish Family of God. I submit to you that if we were to portray this perspective to the Jews, they might be able to see the salvation of Y’shua HaMaschiach. I want to reiterate: God took one people group, revealed Himself to them, told them what things to do and not to do to honor Him, made a Covenant with them based on these things, (Laws), gave them prophets to speak through to give them hope for a future Messiah who would come and save them so they could be resurrected on the last great day of the world. This is also our identity!
From verse one through ten we see how salvation is of belief in Messiah Y’shua and not due to good deeds, even as a Jew Paul explains this. Jews today think they do good deeds to earn the right to enter Heaven upon the resurrection of the dead at the end of time on Earth. We need to understand it because we are not living under the laws of sin and death anymore. The Law is our Covenant and we are grafted into the family of God. He is Hebrew. Why is this important? Verse 11 explains that we were outsiders at birth. Verse 12 shows us we were living apart from Christ and excluded from God’s people. (YES, Christ is all throughout the Torah and Tanakh!) Every week in Temple we say thank you to God for His Y’shua.
The Wall of Hostility is the ideology that says, “Jews have community with other Jews and Gentiles can believe and even attend our festivals but they will not truly be accepted into our community.” The Gentiles perceived this as hostility against them and it is at the heart of anti-Semitism.
Years ago I heard excerpts from this teacher and I highly recommend reading this teaching online:
The “Dividing Wall” in Ephesians 2:14 What is it? Who Made it? How was it Broken Down? A lecture offered by Tim Hegg, Ingathering, 1996 firstname.lastname@example.org • torahresource.com ©1996 All rights Reserved.
The segregation mindset is what God needed to eradicate in Peter’s mind if Peter was going to be able to bring the Holy Spirit to the house of Cornelius. Peter declares that God taught him not to call any man unclean for what he eats.
Again, much of the dividing wall between Jews and others is due to identity.
Deuteronomy Chapter Six is a Covenantal Chapter. I didn’t write it out in this study and for the lesson will only give some quick citations to specific verses, but please read it for yourselves while studying on your own. Verse 4 says, Hear Shema. Listen with all that you are.
The LORD- Yod Hey Vav Hey is the One True God and Lord of all.
Verses 5-9 are as important: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Do you see from these verses how Torah is a lifestyle? The Laws are to guide us as we do anything; Walk, talk, lay down to sleep, get up in the morning and throughout the day. Keep intimacy throughout the day by walking with and talking with the Creator. God takes one people group…we are adopted into this Hebrew family.
Antiochus Epiphanes grasped the insight of this conceptual lifestyle of Torah Observance. He knew that if he could eradicate their worship by making it illegal, he could destroy them without killing them. Israel does not allow missionaries. To proselytize is against the law there because Christians are perceived as those who would eradicate the lifestyle of a Jew to live as Torah Observant.
Now, let’s look at how our Messiah Y’shua fulfilled this celebration.
The first day of Chanukkah is the day that the Shamash candle is lit along with the first light of the Chanukkiah (Chanukkah Menorah). The Shamash is the Servant Candle and is the ONE that lights all others.
In John 8:12 He stands up and declares in effect that HE is the Servant Candle of the world! The leaders had to be furious! Let’s read it:
John 8:12-30 (KJV)
12 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.
13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.
19 Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.
21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.
22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.
23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
WHAT beginning? The BEGINNING OF THIS DISCOURSE…verse 12—HE IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! What words started the Creation? The Father said, “Let there be LIGHT!!!” Y’shua came forth from within YHVH. (The stars and planets didn’t get created until the forth day, so we can see that Y’shua is the Light that created all things. Nothing was created that was not created by Him and for Him.
Now, Y’shua being born to the virgin, Miriam is the fulfillment of the declaration and plan of the Father! Let’s keep reading…
26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. (Speak to the world—giving light and faith is by hearing.)
27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.
28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.
John 8:31-59 (KJV)
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.
46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.
50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:
55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. Y’shua made Himself invisible and walked right through the middle of them! Hiding the light from them so to speak because He revealed Himself to them and they refused to accept it, so in effect they blinded themselves to the Light. The Pharisees couldn’t see Him to stone Him! He walks out right in the midst of them! They were blind to the light (Light) and so they couldn’t see Him! Now what happens?
Let’s keep going…
John 9:1-41 (KJV)
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 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,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.
29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
SO—a man born blind gains his sight. The Shamash candle lit up his eyes! Then after, He reveals His identity to the newly sighted man–he falls down and worships Him. Verse 39-He opens the eyes of them who see not and those who “see” may see not. The leaders are Rabbis who have studied the Torah and know the Messianic miracles. He was going all over the country performing them. They chose to reject so they become blinded to the Light that lights the souls of men. John 1.
The Feast of Dedication or Chanukkah continues in John Chapter 10 but it is quite a long teaching if I read it all out. Let me just say this: Y’shua is explaining the difference between coming to the Father by way of the door of religion and the door of life (Truth). He is the door. He then describes who the sheep are who hear His voice as He is the good Shepherd. Hirelings are not caring for the sheep but for themselves and so His sheep cannot hear them. His sheep hear His voice and know that they are His.
Verses 15-18 again give identity to us as Gentiles that are adopted into the Family of YaH: John 10:15-18
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Verse 19 shows that this caused division…that wall of hostility again! But wait! He is doing miracles that the prophets of the Tanakh declare would and could ONLY be done by the Messiah. Opening the eyes of the blind is one of them. We see how Y’shua reminds them of this as they pick up stones to throw at Him a few verses down. So, now they ask Him out right: Are you the Messiah? He says, “I told you and you didn’t believe me.” (Right here is where the false teachers of today who say that Y’shua was a good man or just a prophet, are proved false.)
To wrap things up a bit here, Chanukkah saved the Jews from being wiped out as a people that YaH chose to protect and keep the Torah safe. If the Torah was lost, the few hundred years between Chanukkah and when Messiah was born would have been all that was needed to keep Messiah from being born. The Torah would be lost. It was lost once before when Josiah was King and he found it. Then he commanded that the army destroy all the false worship places and only the true altars erected to serve YHVH.
Just imagine what would have happened if the Torah and the people that God chose were removed hundreds of years before Messiah? How important was it for about 300 men defeated a well-armed and extremely well trained army who just finished conquering the known world?
God defended His Word and His people from eradication from the world. So be it or AMEN!