What is Hanukkah

In 2018, Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 2 and lasts until sundown on Monday, Dec. 10. The date varies a little, but always is around the start of Winter.
What is Hanukkah?
It is an eight-day festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 164 B.C. Hanukkah (Chanukah) means dedication. Hanukkah, which is Hebrew for “dedication,” is the Festival of Lights.
It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek army, and the subsequent miracle of rededicating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and restoring its menorah, or lamp.
The miracle of Hanukkah is that only one vial of oil was found with just enough oil to illuminate the Temple lamp for one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days.
How Do You Celebrate Hanukkah?
We celebrate Hanukkah at home by lighting the menorah (each night we light one additional candle to the number from the previous night), playing dreidel, and eating special foods unique to Hanukkah. Some people also sing Hanukkah songs or exchange gifts after lighting the menorah, which is also called a hanukkiah. Many people host and attend Hanukkah parties.
What Are Hanukkah Foods?
Many Hanukkah foods are deep-fried in oil, symbolizing the oil from the menorah used in the Temple. These include latkes, or potato pancakes, and jelly doughnuts. Other favorites include the Sephardic delicacy bimuelos and use, of course, applesauce as a latke topping. Chocolate gelt, a candy that gets its name from the Yiddish word for money, is another popular Hanukkah treat.
Hanukkah is sometimes called the Celebration of Lights because the lighting of the Menorah is a prominent part of the event. Menorah means “a place of light”. Unlike the regular Menorah, which is a seven-branched candelabrum, the Hanukkah Menorah contains eight lights, one for each day of the feast and an additional light (making a total of nine). The additional light is called the “Shammas” (servant), which is used to light the other eight. The custom is to burn one candle the first evening, two the second and progressively increase until all eight are lit on the eighth night. Facing the Menorah the first candle to be lit is the one on the far right.
If I were celebrating Hanukkah, the shammas would be very important to me. Remember it is the light that lights all the other lights. The word means “servant”. So every time I take the shammas in hand I would think of The Servant of Isaiah 49:78
“This is what the LORD says–the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel–to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to THE SERVANT of rulers: Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” NIV
I would think of The Light spoken of in Isaiah 10:17, “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame…” NIV
I would celebrate Jesus, the One Who John declared to be The Light of the World!
What a message there is in the Hanukkah Menorah!
The Menorah is lighted as soon after dark as possible. Then the candles burn for a half hour. While holding the shammas but before lighting the Menorah blessings are recited. On the first night these two blessings are spoken:
The first says,
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to the kindle the Hanukah light.”
To understand the second we must know some of the history behind this feast. The events celebrated at Hanukah occurred during the time between the Old and New Testaments and are briefly recorded the 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC Judea became a buffer zone between Egypt and Syria. After years of conflict in the middle of those two superpowers, Syria finally got possession of Palestine in 198 BC. The Assyrian-Greek regime adopted a policy of hellanization. They believed they could unite their diverse kingdom by forcing everyone to give up their faith and adopt the paganistic Greek customs. The refusal of Jews to renounce their faith and worship idols brought great persecution. The Hitler of that day was a man name Antichous Epiphanes. He forbade the study of the Torah. In fact, the Torah was publicly burned. No circumcision was allowed on penalty of death. No Jewish celebration or sacrifices were allowed at the temple.
In 167 BC Antichous desecrated the temple by offering a pig on its altar and dedicating the temple to the Greek God, Zeus. He plundered the temple and put out the “Ner Tomid” or “Perpetual Light. Ex 27:20 required that the oil from this light be pure and that the light is to never go out. “”And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.”
A priest named Mattathias and his five sons led a revolt against Antichous. They became known as the Maccabee family. After conducting guerrilla warfare against overwhelming odds, his son, Judah Maccabeus drove the Syrians out. On the 25th day of Kislev in 164 BC (exactly 3 years after the defilement of the sanctuary) they entered the temple and rededicated it to the service of God. When they rekindled the light in the temple they found there was only enough oil to last one day. This was significant because the oil had to be pure and prepared under the care of the High Priest and sealed with his seal. It was impossible to prepare it before the eight-day celebration. That’s when a miracle occurred. The oil lasted for the full eight days.
That’s why the second blessing recited on the first day says,
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe who has performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.”
The particular miracle celebrated in the lighting of the Menorah is the multiplication of the oil.
The Dreidel game (which is played during Hanukkah) is also a celebration of the oil miracle. The game uses a four-sided spinning top. Each of its four sides has one Hebrew letter (Nun, Grimmel, Hay or Shin). These letters stand for Hebrew sentence “Nes Gado Hayah Sam” meaning “A great miracle happened there”.
Jewish tradition says that during the Syrian persecution the Jews would have these tops. Although they were forbidden to study the Torah they would study it anyway. When the Syrians would come upon them they would quickly put the Torah away and pull out these tops so the Syrians would think they were only playing a game.
A particularly humorous event in the Maccabean conflict happened when the Assyrian-Greeks were sent 100,000 men against the Jews. Their heavy armor was 32 elephants trained for warfare. When the Maccabee brother named Elazer saw the tallest one dressed in royal armor he thought the king was on it. So he ran under the elephant and stabbed it from underneath and killed it. The only problem—the elephant fell on him and killed him.
So what does all of this have to do with our text?
The Feast of Dedication that Jesus attended in John 10:22 was Hanukkah. Much of its custom was derived from the Feast of Tabernacles But the Feast of Dedication occurs two months after the Feast of Tabernacles. So between John 10:21 and John 10:22 we have a two month period of time. Luke 10:1 to 13:22 records some of Jesus’ activity during that time. He ministered in Galilee and sent out the seventy who were powerfully used by God.
Now Jesus comes back to this feast and picks where he left off with the Jews in Jerusalem. In this text, Jesus is a wonderful example of effective evangelism.
I. He comes to where the people are. The multitudes have once again come to Jerusalem for a great celebration. It is not a celebration commanded in the Old Testament like the Feast of Tabernacles was. But somewhat like our Independence Day, it is a national celebration of liberty. It is recognition of God’s goodness to His people.
Notice how Jesus adapts himself to the culture in Judea. He is no recluse. He is no weirdo. He is walking where the people walk—participating in their lives. He spends time alone with the Father. But then he goes where the people are and brings them the good news.
Two months earlier he was here in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles offering salvation to the lost. There was a mixed response and for the most part, the leaders continued to reject him and oppose him. But what an example of patience and forbearance we find here in Jesus. Instead of writing these people off, he goes the proverbial second mile to reach them. His absence has given them time to consider his message.
Remember in the first part of John 10 how he presented himself to them as “the good Shepherd?” We’ve talked about the significance of that In the light of Ezekiel 34.
Now Jesus returns to the temple court and these Pharisees are waiting for him. They confront him with a demand, “If you are the Christ tell us plainly.”
Jesus answer provides more insight on effective evangelism.
II. He addressed their concerns. He patiently converses with them.
1st he reminds them that he has told them who he is but they would not believe. Then he brings them back to the conversation they had two months ago. “You do not believe because you are not my sheep.”
This passage provides a powerful contrast between those who are his sheep and those who are not his sheep. Notice the wonderful promise made to those who are his sheep.
John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” NIV
In other words, if you belong to the Lord, no hellish demon can take you from him.
He and his Father are greater than all. So we don’t have to live in fear of our adversary. God’s keeping power goes beyond our staying power and that is a source of great comfort for God’s people.
John 10:28 is often quoted as an assurance of security for the believer and indeed it is a bold statement concerning the security of the believer.
But we must not separate verse 28 from verse 27. Verse 27 tells us who have that security. It is not a security for the unbeliever. It is not a security for the person who has chosen to pursue a life of sin and selfishness with perhaps a little religious veneer.
That’s the kind of people Jesus has identified with in verse 26 as not being his sheep. The promise of verse 28 is to whom? It is to his sheep. And how does Jesus describe his sheep in verse 27?
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV) If that describes me—if I am listening to his voice and following him—then I can know that I am secure in Christ. But if that description does not apply then neither does the next statement, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
2. Jesus follows up with a bold statement about his relationship with the Father. This also is in answer to their question concerning who he is. John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” NIV
What kind of “one” is he talking about? He can’t mean one person, because the Greek word used here for one in neuter not masculine. He is not saying we are one person. He is saying we are one in essence and power.
Some have tried to water down his statement by saying he simply meant we are one in will and purpose. But that does not fit in the context. What has Jesus been talking about? “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” He’s talking about power. God is omnipotent and none can pluck from His hand. “I and my Father are one.” God the Son is equal with God the Father in power.
These Jews understood Jesus well enough to want to stone him for blasphemy. They knew he was claiming to be God.
In verse 34 Jesus is quoting Psalm 82:6 “I have said, you are gods (Elohiym) you are all sons of the Most High. The Psalmist is recognizing the dignity of God’s delegated authority. God had given authority to these judges and in that sense they represented Him. So Jesus is saying if you will grant that kind of dignity to those judges who received their authority by a word from God, how much more should you accept the one “whom the Father has set apart as His very own and sent into the world.”
But by referring to Psalm 82 Jesus is also calling their attention to the judgment awaiting them as Ezekiel 34 false shepherds. The Psalm lists their unfaithfulness to duty as God’s representative and then says, Ps 82:6 “I said, `You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
Now here comes the follow-up, Verse 7, “But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” NIV That was like a final warning.
III. Then Jesus departs from these people and reaches out to other people. He doesn’t leave until they have firmly made up their minds against him. But once they have made their choice he leaves to take the message to others.
He goes back north to where John had been baptizing—back to where his ministry had begun. It was probably a place where he could get alone with God and prepare for the cross which is now only a few months away. But a great evangelistic crusade takes place in that part of the country. For the most part, he was rejected in Jerusalem. But here the response is awesome. Many hearts were ready to receive him and many believed.
John 10:22-42
22Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33″We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, `I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them `gods,’ to whom the word of God came and the Scripture cannot be broken- 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
40Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed 41and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42And in that place many believed in Jesus. NIV
Who is God sending you to with the message of life? Does he have you in a “Jerusalem” where the hearts are hard and the response is discouraging? Are the people where you work receptive or deceptive? Jesus patiently ministered to people who opposed him. But he also found good soil. He also found souls ready for the message. We too can expect both kinds of soil. Our responsibility is to keep sowing the word—be faithful to the message and let God give the increase.
The Temple would ultimately be destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. Its purposes had been fulfilled. God himself had torn the curtain in half at the moment of Jesus’ death on the Cross. All people may now enter the real Holy of Holies in Heaven, by means of the Blood of Jesus Christ. Through genuine faith in Him, we can stand in the very presence of God.
Key Points
• 8:15-20: Medo-Persian Empire
• 21-22: Alexander the great and the four generals who divided the Greek empire at the time of his death
• 23-24: Introduction to the character and abilities of Antiochus IV
• 25: He will cross a line and will drop dead by direct divine judgment.
• 26-27: Events from 400 to 550 years in the future from Daniel’s time.
Events of Hanukkah
• Around 170 BC the Greek-Syrian army conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar.
• Judaism and all of its practices were forbidden by Antiochus.
• In 166 Mattityahu, his sons, and a few followers started a hidden military resistance. They fought from caves in the hill country.
• Judas Hasmonea of Maccabee (Mattityahu’s son) was a brilliant fighter and tactical genius.
Events Continued:
• These resistance fighters, now called the Maccabees, conquered and drove out the Syrian-Greek occupiers in 164.
• They immediately sought to cleanse and re-dedicate the Temple
o This process takes 8 days.
o Only 1 day’s supply of oil could be found for the Temple’s Menorah.
o By a miracle of God’s provision, the one day supply of oil lasted the full eight days it was needed.
How did this End?
• Antiochus became enraged upon hearing of this.
• He gathered his full army and vowed to destroy Jerusalem and annihilate all the Jews.
• On the way there, he died suddenly and mysteriously, thus fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy.
• His army went back home.
The Jewish Celebration of Lights: Hanukkah
• The Jews have commemorated this amazing event for more than 2000 years now.
• The Menorah was the nine-branched, oil burning candlestick. It was the only source of light allowed in the Temple and was essential to its cleansing and dedication.
• Hanukkah means Dedication.
More about Hanukkah
• It is mentioned as the “Feast of Dedication” in John 10:22-23. It had been celebrated for over 100 years at that point in time.
• This feast lasts for eight days in commemoration of the eight days that the Maccabean priests took to cleanse and dedicate the Temple.
• Special foods such as Latkes (potato pancakes) are cooked in oil and eaten in remembrance of the miraculous oil supply.
• Special gifts are given and games are played as part of this annual observance.
Wrapping this up
• The date varies a little, but always is around the start of Winter. This year Hanukkah began at sundown on December 14 and runs till sundown on December 22.
• The Temple had to be preserved for 200 more years. Messiah (Jesus) had to be dedicated there on the eighth day after his birth.
• God will never allow the Jewish people to be wiped out. Tyrants still try to destroy them. The Devil keeps trying.
• The prophets Anna and Simeon (Luke 2:21-39) spoke over the baby Jesus at his dedication. They had been prepared by God through their faithful service at the Temple. The Temple had been restored and preserved supernaturally.
Must-Know Hanukkah Words and Phrases
Key vocabulary for the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Al Hanisim — Pronounced ahl hah-nee-SEEM. Literally “on the miracles,” the prayer added to the Amidah prayer and Birkat Hamazon (blessing said after meals) during
Dreidel (also commonly spelled dreydel) — Pronounced DRAY-dull. A spinning top with four sides, each marked with a different Hebrew letter and each indicating a different play in this game.
Gelt — Yiddish for money, which was traditionally given on Hanukkah. Today, it is more often used to identify foil-covered chocolate coins, which are included in many Hanukkah celebrations.
Hanukkah (also commonly spelled Chanukah) — Pronounced HAH-nuh-kuh. Literally “rededication,” an eight-day holiday commemorating the Maccabees recapturing the Temple from the Greeks.
Hanukkiyah — Pronounced hah-noo-kee-YAH or hah-noo-KEE-yuh (oo as in boot). Literally “Hanukkah lamp,” it is more commonly referred to as a
(see below). It contains nine candle-holders, one for each night of Hanukkah and one to hold the Shamash
Latkes — Pronounced LAHT-kuhs, sometimes LAHT-kees. Pancakes, usually potato ones, fried in oil and eaten on Hanukkah.
Maccabees — Pronounced MACK-uh-bees. The family of religious zealots who triumphed over the Syrian Greeks and liberated the Temple.
Menorah— Pronounced muh-NOHR-uh. Literally “lamp,” it originally was used only to describe the seven-branched candelabrum that was used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. However, the hanukkiyah (Pronounced: kha-new-KEY-uh, Origin: Hebrew, a candelabra with eight branches used for Hanukkah candles. Also known as a Hanukkah menorah.) used on Hanukkah is commonly referred to as a menorah.
Nes Gadol Hayah Sham —Pronounced ness gah-DOHL high-YAH shahm. Literally “a great miracle happened there,” the letters on the dreidel (nun, gimmel, hey, shin) represent these words. In Israel, the shin is replaced with a peh, so the letters spell out Nes Gadol Hayah Po, or “a great miracle happened here.”
Sevivon — Pronounced suh-vee-VOHN. The Hebrew word for dreidel.
Shamash (also often spelled shammash) — Pronounced shah-MAHSH. Literally “the helper,” the candle on the Hanukkiyah that is used to light the other candles.
Sufganiyot — Pronounced soof-gahn-ee-YOHT. Doughnuts, usually jelly-filled ones, fried in oil and eaten on Hanukkah
Hanukiah At Jerusalem Western Wall
Hanukiah At Jerusalem Western Wall




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