While Christians certainly aren’t under any kind of mandate to celebrate the Jewish holidays, they can learn a lot by studying them. It is interesting that all of the feasts and observances in the Old Testament point directly to the Messiah. For example, the Passover foreshadowed the sacrifice of the perfect lamb.
One Jewish holiday in particular that is well-known throughout the world is Hanukkah. Other names for this holiday include Chanukah, Feast of Dedication, Festival of Lights, and the Feast of the Maccabees. This eight-day festival always begins on Kislev 25. This date usually occurs in December, but on rare occasion, Hanukkah can begin in November. Sometimes, Hanukkah and Christmas occur simultaneously.
So what exactly is this Jewish holiday and how does it point to the Messiah?
A Brief History of Hanukkah
One hundred and seventy-five years before the birth of Jesus, the Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV ruled over all of Israel. Antiochus IV wanted to suppress all Jewish laws. Worse than that, thousands of Jews who refused to worship pagan gods were killed. In the midst of the tyranny, violence and oppression, a few brave Jews became heroes of their faith.
One day, men under Antiochus came to a village called Modin. It was here where an old priest named Mattityahu resided. When a Syrian officer created an altar of pagan gods and demanded the village dwellers to make sacrifices, Mattityahu boldly declared his loyalty to the covenant his ancestors had made with God. As another Jew who was not so bold, made his way to the altar to pray to the pagan Gods, Mattityahu grabbed his sword and killed the Syrian officer. His sons and friends took on the Syrian army that day and destroyed the altar.
During the next three years, other Jews joined them to take on the Syrians. Just before Mattityahu died, he named Yehuda as his successor and leader of their small army called the Maccabees. Antiochus and his army were determined to defeat them but twice they failed. After acquiring an army of over 40,000 fighters, they tried one more time.
“Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple”, Yehuda had exclaimed upon hearing the news of the invasion.
One month before God helped them to their miraculous victory, they were supposed to have observed an eight-day festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the occupation of the Temple by the Syrians, they were unable to do so. After defeating the Syrians, they observed the Feast of Tabernacles as soon as they could get back into the Temple. In the midst of rededicating the temple back to the Jewish people, they could not find the golden menorah so they made a new one. They were only able to find enough oil to light it for one day. Miraculously, the little bit of oil lasted eight days, the entire duration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Jesus Is the Light of the World
The word Hanukkah means dedication. This is why it is called the Feast of Dedication in the New Testament. In John 10:22-23 you will see in the scriptures it was winter and that Jesus was in the temple area during the Feast of Dedication. But it was not a dedication to the brave warriors who miraculously defeated the Syrian army, instead it was a dedication to the Temple of God and the freedom to worship Him once again.
In the same way that God provided the miracle of light for the Jews, He has given us Jesus, the light of the world. Even the book of Isaiah declared, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6b
While in the Temple Jesus made this declaration, "I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" John 8:12. Later in the book of John, Jesus said, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)
Have you as a Christian ever wondered about the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah? Have you seen miraculous victories in the midst of darkness in your own life? How grateful are you that God has given us Jesus, the light of the world especially during the troubled times in which we live?
© 2021 Cari Jean