Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication, is a celebration of a very important victory of the Jewish people. This celebration is Jewish as when it was instituted, the northern tribes had already assimilated into the nations. All the events that this holiday commemorates are recorded in the extra-biblical books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
Hanukkah is not a mandated Feast, but it is a valuable tradition that holds many important lessons for believers today. Hanukkah remembers a dark time in Jewish history, wherein they were occupied by the Greeks. Instead of conforming to the ways of the world, the Jewish people stood firm and guarded the Torah of Yahweh, refusing to be defiled to the point of death. The theme of resisting defilement and cleansing are central to this joyous celebration.
When the temple is taken over, an idol of a false God raised up, and the altar defiled with sacrifices of swine, the brave family of the Maccabees stands up and fights the more numerous and fortified Greek army for freedom from oppression and to restore God’s people and temple to holiness. Because they could not celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, a mandated feast, they institute Hanukkah as an eight day feast dedicated to the re-dedication of the temple. The only direct mention of Hanukkah in the Bible speaks of Yeshua celebrating it.
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” ~ John 10:22-23
There are many fun traditions that surround the Feast of Dedication, and it is a fun time of year to spend with family and fellow believers. Customarily, a nine-branched menorah called a Hanukkiah is lit every night, adding one candle each evening after the center one (the Shamash) is lit. The center candle is the “servant” candle, and is responsible for lighting all the others. Every night, different passages of the Torah/Bible that speak of light are read. Just like how Yeshua, as the light of the world, lights up our understanding of the passages in the Torah and the Bible!
Other traditions include the eating of fried foods (especially potato latkes), and playing a dreidel game. The dreidel has 4 Hebrew letters inscribed upon it, a nun, gimmel, hey and shin, or pey in Israel. They stand for the Hebrew saying “Nes gadol hayah sham/po,” or “a great miracle happened there/here.” The dreidel game commemorates the Jewish people’s way of continuing to study the Torah, even when it was outlawed. When Greek patrols came by, they’d hide their scrolls and pretend to be playing a dreidel game.
A time of faithfulness to the ways of God, rejection of idolatry, standing firm in faith that Yahweh can deliver, and a time to shine our lights to the rest of the world, the Feast of Hanukkah is a wonderful time of year to remember God’s goodness toward His people. Yahweh’s right arm is not too short that it cannot save, and He is near those who turn to Him in repentance, seeking to know and guard the ways of God, whatever it takes. We as a body make up the spiritual temple of God. How much are we fighting to see it holy and undefiled? What idols must we purge out? Remember, you were bought at a price!
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”