Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Non-Biblical Festivals - Hanukkah

The Non-Biblical holidays of Judaism

Since we are covering the feasts of Israel, it would be neglectful to not take a look at the non-mandated-by-God festivals that they observe. We have seen how traditions have crept into the Biblical festivals and while Jews can’t understand many of these traditions, we as Christians can see the importance of them as they relate to Christ and His comings. That God allowed other festivals to come into the traditions may be of significance. As we shall see, one of them is based upon a book of the Bible, Esther, so we do need to consider their content.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev which falls anywhere from late November to mid-December. The word Hanukkah means dedication. It is the re-dedication of the temple that is the focus of this holiday. The common version of this historical event is as follows. In the 4th century B.C., Alexander the Great conquered the Near East including Israel. After he died, his empire was split into four dynasties. Israel came under the Seleucid dynasty which ruled the region of Syria. In 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes (the king of this dynasty) wanted to hellenize all the people. He outlawed Jewish rituals such as the Sabbath and circumcision. He then set up a statue of Zeus in the temple which he forced people to worship, and he had pigs sacrificed on the altar. Many Jews went along with this, but others resisted and died as martyrs. One day the Greeks came to the village of Modi’in and set up an altar commanding the Jews to sacrifice a pig. An old priest, Mattathias was so outraged when he saw a Jew about to make the sacrifice, that he killed him. He and his five sons then fought the Greek detachment and fled to the mountains to begin guerilla warfare against the Greeks and Jews who were their accomplices. When Mattathias was near death, he passed on the leadership to his son Judah the Maccabee. Judah led his forces against a series of armies sent by Antiochus Ephiphanes. The Maccabees defeated them all. Finally they liberated Jerusalem and reclaimed the temple. Legend says they could only find one small cruse of oil, enough to last a day, and re-lit the temple menorah with it. The menorah burned eight days - a miracle. That is why the festival lasts eight days.

The interesting thing in this story is that there is nothing in the historical accounts that mentions the cruse of oil and the miracle. The only place this miracle is mentioned is in some late rabbinic writings. Not even the earlier writings refer to this legend. For some reason, it just appeared at some point, and the festival formerly celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, became instead a celebration about the miracle of the oil lasting eight days.

While there is no Scriptural basis for this festival, it is mentioned in the Bible in John 10:22. It is called the Feast of Dedication and is said to be in the winter.  Although not a Scripture based feast, I ran across some interesting statements concerning it. The menorah is “a reminder of the Light that is ever present in this world”. This quote is from a Jewish book and the word light was capitalized, which is interesting in that Jesus is referred to as the Light of the world. While seven is the perfect number, the number of completion and the one that is used over and over - 7 day week, 7 year week, etc., eight is (again according to a Jewish writer) beyond completion. Seven marks the limit of time. Eight is beyond time and therefore signifies the eternal. Another interesting connection is the one Hanukkah has with Sukkot. The Maccabees celebrated for eight days in the manner of the Feast of Tabernacles. Just as the hallel is recited every day of Sukkot, it is also recited every day of Hanukkah. A tradition says that the Tabernacle construction was begun on Sukkot and finished on the same day as Hanukkah.

Jews say that metaphorically Hanukkah represents a time of dedication and renewal. The old altars, which have become impure, are torn down and new ones are built. It is a time of re-dedication to the service of God. The importance of the connection between the dedication of the temple and the miracle of the oil may be that the light stands for the Light of the world, Jesus, and He will never stop “shining”. We no longer need the temple because He was the ultimate temple sacrifice giving us access to God. A 19th century Hasidic rabbi said something interesting. He said that on Hanukkah the Jews are given a part of the primordial light, which has been hidden away since Creation and is preserved for the righteous in the world to come. With this light, you could see from one end of the earth to the other. With this light, God’s people are not allowed to kindle mundane lights; they can kindle only other holy lights - the souls within each of us. What an accurate description of the Lord Jesus Christ, although He is no longer hidden; however, they don’t realize that. It is also a description of what we are supposed to be and do, lights in the world to lead others to the Lord.

It is possible, and we will consider it much later, that this festival will be the festival that celebrates the re-dedication of the millennial temple that Antichrist has defiled, exactly like his predecessor Antiochus Epiphanes, after God’s wrath has concluded and the millennium is about to commence. God does like to reuse dates so it is highly possible.

The following are a list of traditional readings that can be used for the week of Hanukkah.
Two that are traditional are Psalm 30 and Psalm 44:2-8. The following are a list of readings given on a daily basis. These readings are quite interesting and are worth the time to look up and read. They need to be read in the order given, as there is a continuity of thought in the way they are laid out.
1st night: Gen 1:2-5, 14-18.
2nd night: Is.5:20-24
3rd night: Ps. 115:5-6, Job 24:13,17; 18:5-6; 12:25, Jer. 25:10, Ez. 32:8, Is. 42:18
4th night: Is. 42:5-7; 45:7, 42:16
5th night: Ps. 13:4; 139:12, Dan. 9:17, Ps. 43:3; 36:10; 18:29; Prov. 20:27, Ps. 56:13, Job 33:29-30
6th night: Ps. 27:1; 104:1-2; 119:105; 19:9, Prov. 6:23
7th night: Prov. 4:18, Ps. 97:11-12, Is. 9:1, Ex. 10:23, Is. 60:1; 2:5
8th night: Is. 30:26, Zech. 14:6-7, Is. 60:19-20

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