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Hanukkah is for Christians Too

Many people think of Hanukkah as a strictly Jewish holiday. However, the rich history and teachings of Hanukkah are relevant for all Believers in Yeshua.

by William L. Nowell
Hanukkah 2017 will begin at sunset on Tuesday, December 12 and ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 20.

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is an eight-day commemoration of a David-and-Goliath type victory over forces determined to wipe out every trace of Judaism and Jewish culture. The word Hanukkah is Hebrew for "dedication." The Bible refers to Hanukkah as the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). In addition to the great victory, Hanukkah also commemorates the rededication of the Jewish Temple.

Hanukkah in Prophecy and in History

The events surrounding the battle leading to the celebration of Hanukkah are prophesied in the book of Daniel. The details of the battle are recorded in the extra-Biblical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. These books, though not part of the divinely inspired Bible, are historically accurate. The books of Maccabees tell how the Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus IV attempted to impose Hellenistic culture on the Jews. In the beginning, he sought to assimilate the Jewish community into Hellenistic culture peacefully. However, enraged after experiencing a crushing defeat in battle, he began a reign of terror. In a fit of violent anger, he took out his fury on the Jewish community. He banned the reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, outlawed Sabbath observance, stopped the daily sacrifice, forbade circumcision, forced non-kosher diets on the people, and attempted to stamp out every distinctively Jewish custom; with the penalty for non-compliance being death. In addition, he placed a statue of the pagan god Zeus in the Holy Temple of God. The statue of Zeus was carved with the face of Antiochus. He then gave himself the title Epiphanes, meaning "god manifest" i.e. "visible god." By his actions, he claimed that he (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) was god in the flesh.

Maccabean Revolt

Eventually, a small band of Jewish freedom fighters, called the Maccabees, rose up and fought against the tyranny being forced on the people. Though vastly outnumbered, they won a great victory in their battle against oppression. The culmination of the war (the Maccabean Revolt) was the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple to the One and only true God El Shaddai ("God Almighty", the "God the All-Sufficient One"), Yahweh (Jehovah).

The events leading up to and surrounding the Maccabean Revolt were prophesied with amazing detail in the book of Daniel (Daniel 8:9-14, 23-25; 11:21-35). Daniel predicted these events hundreds of years before they happened. And we know from history that his prophecies were fulfilled with 100% accuracy.

Antiochus IV foreshadowed the soon to come Antichrist of whom Daniel also prophesied. If we can believe Daniel's prophecies concerning Antiochus IV, then surely we must believe his prophecies concerning the Antichrist coming in the Great Tribulation. Just as Antiochus IV saw defeat at the hands of the Maccabees, the Antichrist will see defeat at the Hands of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In the end, we win.

Selected Reading:

1 Maccabees 1:12, 22, 57, 59, 63-64 | 2 Maccabees 5:5, 11-12, 14, 6:1, 6-9, 16

Complete Books:

1 Maccabees | 2 Maccabees

Three Reasons Why Christians Should Observe Hanukkah

Reason 1:

The two most important events in God's plan of redemption for mankind are (1) the Incarnation (God becoming and man), and (2) the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) - without which there would be no salvation. The Incarnation of the Son of God took place at His conception, not at His birth.

To find when Yeshua was conceived we have to study the circumstances surrounding John the Baptist's conception. Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, was a Levite priest who belonged to the division of priests named after Abijah (Luke 1:5 and 1 Chronicles 24:10). During his Temple service, Zacharias learned that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child. Shortly after serving in the Temple, Zacharias returned home and Elizabeth conceived. This would've been in June (late Sivan on the Hebrew calendar). Yeshua's conception came six months later (Luke 1:24-27, 36). This places the time of His conception in December (late Kislev on the Hebrew calendar). The 25th of Kislev is Hanukkah. Yeshua (the "light of the world") was most likely conceived on Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights). Why then would a Christian not celebrate Hanukkah?

When Was Yeshua (Jesus) Born?

If Yeshua's conception happened on Hanukkah, then His birth would have been in late September, not on December 25. It is most likely that Yeshua was born on the Feast of Tabernacles, not on Christmas Day. The December 25 date of birth for Christ was chosen to coincide with pagan festivals already occurring at this time of year. December 25 is a prime example of Christian compromise, but that's a topic for another article.

Reason 2:

History is soon to repeat itself. When Yeshua spoke of the Antichrist who is to come in the Last Days (Matt 24:15), he referenced the Book of Daniel. He said, “When you see...” speaking of a future fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy. At the end of the Great Tribulation, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), Israel's modern day Maccabees, won't be needed to defeat the Anti-Christ. Instead, it will be King Yeshua (Jesus) Who comes down from heaven to defeat the Antichrist in the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16, 19:11-20:3).

When we observe Hanukkah, we do more than celebrate a great victory that happened in the past. More importantly, we look forward to an even greater victory coming when Yeshua (Jesus) returns. The fact that we do this on the anniversary of His Incarnation makes this time even more special. Hanukkah ties both the first and second comings of Christ together in one joyous time of rededication.

Reason 3:

About 3 months before His crucifixion, Yeshua used the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) at Jerusalem to announce publicly that He was indeed the promised Messiah. He also used this occasion to state, in no uncertain terms, that He gives eternal life, and that He and the Father are one (John 10:22-30). Furthermore, He announced His Deity on Solomon's Porch. According to the historian Josephus, Solomon's Porch (also called the portico of Solomon) was part of the original Temple that survived and was still standing in Yeshua's day. Solomon's Porch was part of the Temple that, just a few generations earlier, the Maccabees rededicated to God. Yeshua could have announced His Deity in any place and at any time, yet He chose Solomon's Porch and the Feast of Dedication. Obviously, Yeshua saw significance in the Feast of Dedication. Since it was important to Him, it should be important to us, His followers.

Jesus_Walking_on_Solomons_Porch

Hanukkah Resolutions

It's traditional to make New Year's resolutions, but I propose we start a new tradition. Let's make Hanukkah resolutions. Hanukkah is all about rededication, making it the perfect time to focus on things that really matter.

The urgent situations in our lives have a way of crowding out what's truly important. For instance, I have a demanding job. No matter how much I do, it is never finished. There's always another lesson to plan, a test to write, papers to grade, reports to complete, and the list goes on without end. Even worse, everything must be done NOW. There just aren't enough hours in a day. And these are but some of the urgent things in my life.

What are the urgent things in your life? Do they crowd out activities that have lasting value, such as spending time in the Word of God? What seems so urgent now will be forgotten before long. Your eternal relationship with the Savior is far more important than these urgent matters that soon pass away. Hanukkah is the perfect time to re-dedicate (or dedicate as the case may be) ourselves to what's truly important. What might our Hanukkah resolutions be? Consider, for example, taking time daily to read/study the Word, becoming a prayer warrior, and/or supporting ministries that make a difference. In this way, we transform an eight-day celebration of re-dedication into a yearlong journey of spiritual growth.


Related article: The Arm of Antiochus
Three Crosses