Hanukkah means “dedication,’ referring to the rededication of the Temple after a great Jewish military victory in 164 B.C.E. This feast did not originate with Moses, nor is it mandated in the Bible. It is found in the books of First and Second Macabees in the Apocrypha, the books written in the 400-year “silence” between the Tanakh and B’rit Hadashah. Adonai was not silent in these years, however. He was still at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people. Furthermore, there are good Biblical reasons to celebrate this feast. The first is that Yeshua observed this holiday:
“Then came the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. It was winter and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon’s colonnade” (John [Yochanan] 10:22-23).
Secondly, Daniel prophesied the events at Hanukkah centuries before:
“Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:3-4).
The “mighty king” was Alexander the Great. Then Daniel (Dani’el) goes on to describe Alexander’s successor . . .
“. . . a despicable person . . . and his heart will be set against the Holy Covenant . . .” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:21-28)
“His forces will desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:31).
This prophecy accurately describes Antiochus IV, who reigned from 175-164 B.C.E. He was one of many throughout history who tried to eradicate the Jewish people. The survival of the Jewish people is a firm testimony of Adonai’s faithfulness.
“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis [B’resheet] 12:3).
Yeshua, the Messiah of all mankind, would come through the Jewish bloodline. Antiochus wanted everyone united under Greek Hellenism, thus he was not tolerant of the Jews.
“Then the king shall do according to his own will. He shall exalt and magnify himself above all gods and speak blasphemies against the God of gods” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:36).
As a foreshadow of the Anti Messiah, the king called himself “Antiochus Epiphanes,” “visible god.” He made people bow down to his statues, and if they didn’t comply, the consequence was death! Social and political pressures caused some Jews to follow Antiochus, and they bowed down to his statues.
“By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the Covenant, but the people who know their Adonai will display strength and take action” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:32).
Many Jews took the easy way out and tried to “go Greek.” Others understood that assimilation and elimination of Jewish worship, sacrifices and traditions would be the destruction of Judaism itself . . . making Adonai a liar! The Jewish people faced persecution. Antiochus’ heavily armed soldiers were sent to force people to worship the king and make sacrifices (pigs) on the holy altar. This was the “abomination” Daniel (Dani’el) foretold. The penalty for resistance was, again, death.
Antiochus’ actions foreshadowed Hitler’s axiom to the Jews:
- First: “You can’t live among us as Jews.”
- Then: “You can’t live among us.”
- Finally: “You can’t live.”
In 167 B.C.E., soldiers arrived in Modin outside Jerusalem to force an influential Jewish family, led by Mattityahu (Matathias) and his 5 sons, to adopt Greek worship. Mattityahu would not forsake his faith. He tore down the Greek altar and sounded the call to battle, “Mi Le’Adonai Ehlly,” “Whoever is for Adonai, follow me!” This marked the beginning of the Jewish rebellion. The Jewish people knew they faced great odds, but their banner was “Who among the mighty is like You, Adonai?” (“Mi Kamocha Ba’Elim Adonoi!”) The name for the Jewish heroes of Hanukkah comes from using the first letters of these Hebrew words to form “Macabee.” Mattityahu’s oldest son was nicknamed Yehuda Ha’Macabee, “Judah Macabee,” “the hammer,” because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well-equipped Syrian soldiers.
“The people who know their Adonai shall be strong and carry out great exploits” (Daniel [Dani’el] 11:32).
The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a few, with Adonai on their side, triumphed over a multitude of powerful enemies. Remember: Adonai’s people + Adonai = VICTORY!
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says Adonai Tzva’ot” (Zechariah [Z’kharyah] 4:6; Haftorah reading for Hanukkah Shabbat).
On the 25th of Kislev, the date we celebrate Hanukkah, the Macabees regained Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus. Daniel (Dani’el) also prophesied this date:
“‘How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the desecration of the Temple is avenged and Adonai’s people triumph?’ He replied: ‘For 2,300 evening and mornings; then the Holy Place will be properly restored’” (Daniel [Dani’el] 8:13-14).
This is great confirmation that Adonai’s word is true: the start of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews in 171 B.C.E. until the restoration of the Temple in B.C.E.: 6 years, 3 ½ months = 2,300 days!
How did the tradition of the 8 days and lighting 8 candles begin? When the victorious Macabees were cleaning the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil for “ner tamid” Menorah, enough for only one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days. Another explanation for the 8-day observance is that some rabbis believed it was a delayed celebration of Sukkot, which also lasts 8 days.
The ancient Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus narrates in his book Jewish Antiquities XII, how the victorious Yehuda Ha’Macabee ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Josephus does not say the festival was called Hanukkah but rather the “Festival of Lights”:
“Now Yehuda Ha’Macabee celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored Adonai, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.”
During Yeshua’s time (in John [Yochanan] 10:22), people’s minds were focused on deliverance and rededication, oil and light.
“My sheep shall hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John [Yochanan] 10:27-28).
Yeshua was promising His people deliverance from sin and death . . . not just for a season, but also for eternity!
Earlier in John [Yochanan] 8:12, Yeshua proclaims “I am the light of the world . . . he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The people listening to Yeshua understood what He was saying . . . they knew what Adonai had promised through the prophet:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah [Yeshayahu] 9:2).
“Adonai is my light and my salvation” (Psalms [Tehillim] 27:1).
“Yeshua,” in Hebrew, means salvation in the present tense. Hanukkah is referred to as the “Festival of Lights” (Hag Ha’Urim). And it was during this season that Yeshua described Himself as the “light of the world.”
A future Hanukkah is described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8, where Paul writes about the second coming of Mashiach:
Many will turn away from Adonai (as some Jews did who followed Antiochus’ Helenism).
The “son of perdition exalts himself above Adonai” (as Antiochus Epiphanes did).
Adonai will destroy him with the “brightness of His coming” (we remember this victory when we gaze at the lights of our Hanukkah menorah).
Adonai will usher in His millennial kingdom with the overthrow of the “lawless one” in a miraculous way. (A miracle to consider when we retell the Hanukkah story).
The shammash, or “servant,” is the candle used to light the other candles of the Hanukkah menorah. Yeshua is our shammash:
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew [Mattityahu] 20:28).
Display your menorah in the window to show Adonai’s miracle to the world.
So eat some latkes and donuts already! Oil (the symbol of the Ruach) is associated with the Hanukkah miracle. Fry the latkes in oil, and don’t think about the calories . . . think about the miracle!
The Sehvivon – draydel: The four Hebrew letters mean “a great miracle happened there” (nes gadol haya sham). Children play a game with the draydel where each letter has an assigned value: nes (nothing), gadol (all), hayah (half), and sham (put in).
About The Author
Rabbi Amnon and Rebbetzin Lynette Shor are international conference speakers on prophetic subjects, the Middle East conflict, Biblical holidays, and Jewish cultural life. Rabbi Shor has appeared on many radio and television programs which include CBS, CBN, TBN, and Jewish Voice. He has also worked with Promise Keepers as the international liaison to Israel and the Middle East, and with the Road to Jerusalem Ministry as global spokesman.
Rabbi Amnon Shor, was born in Israel to an orthodox Jewish family. His grandfather Zachariah was a Rabbi in the local synagogue. Rabbi Shor learned the Old Testament and the Jewish Law from early childhood. After his service in the Israeli Army, where he fought the Egyptian Army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he set out to see the world working for EL-AL Israel’s Airlines , where he met his wife of 41 years Lynette. They have three children and seven grandchildren.