THE FIRST DAY OF HANUKKAH
The first day of Hanukkah began December 12 at sundown. Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights. The Feast of Dedication is the biblical name.
HANUKKAH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The only mention of Hanukkah in the Bible is in the New Testament. “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (NASB).
THE HISTORY OF HANUKKAH
I and II Maccabees highlight the events leading up to Hanukkah. I and II Maccabees are historical books in the *Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was compiled around 280 BC–in the gap between the Old and New Testaments.
After Alexander the Great died, his generals divided his empire into four kingdoms. One of them was the Seleucid (Syrian) dynasty. Between 175-164 BC, Antiochus IV reigned over the Seleucid dynasty. He conquered Jerusalem and subjected the Jewish people to Hellenism. He outlawed the daily sacrifices, circumcision, Torah reading, and Sabbath observance. Antiochus desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and setting up a statue of Zeus.
Antiochus IV’s arrogance is summed in his title, Antiochus Epiphanies, meaning “god manifest.” (Epiphanies is the origin of the word “epiphany.”)
Judas Maccabees, head of the Maccabean clan, led the Jewish revolt against Antiochus IV and defeated him. The temple was cleansed and rededicated to God. The one-day supply of oil in the menorah burned for eight days instead of one, and that is the miracle of Hanukkah.
ANTIOCHUS IV, FORERUNNER OF THE ANTI-CHRIST?
Many believe that Antiochus IV is a prototype of the anti-christ (1 John 2: 22). In fact, during his end-time discourse, Jesus referred to Antiochus IV’s idol as “the abomination of desolation.”
“So when you see ‘the abomination of desolation,’ which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the Holy Place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not go down to take what is in his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! Pray that your escape will not happen in winter, or on Shabbat. For then there will be trouble, such as has not happened since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24: 15-21, Messianic Jewish Family Bible, TLV).
To learn more about “the abomination of desolation,” read Daniel 11, especially verse 32. It’s prophetic.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Antiochus IV set up a statue of Zeus (perhaps with his own face on it) defiling the temple. Likewise, the future anti-christ will desecrate the holy place by proclaiming himself to be God. The Maccabees defeated Antiochus IV. Jesus the Messiah (Yeshua Hamashiach) will defeat the anti-christ, “the man of lawlessness,” described in 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4.
WHY DON’T CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE HANUKKAH?
That’s a good question.
Although Hanukkah is not one of the feast days outlined in Leviticus 23, it’s significance as a historical event cannot be overstated. The defeat of Antiochus IV and the cleansing and re-dedication of the temple set the stage for the birth of the messiah.
Why not celebrate Hanukkah? Jesus did.
*Maccabees I and II are not in the Protestant Bible. You can read Maccabees in the Apocrypha or in the Catholic Bible.
Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights. Blue and white are traditional Hanukkah colors. Decorate! Have fun! And don’t forget the latkes and doughnuts. Oily foods remind us of the oil in the menorah that lasted eight days.