Each of the 7 festivals, or moedim, is significant to the life of Yeshua. In our article on the Feast of Tabernacles (“Temporarily Dwelling Here and Now”) we talked about how Yeshua was born during Tabernacles and how He died on Passover. This month we look at how Yeshua also relates to one of the very important “minor holidays” of the people of Israel – Hanukkah.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Hanukkah, a great read for you during this time would be the 1st and 2nd Book of Maccabees. They recap the history of what marks the beginning of Hanukkah.
The second temple was taken over by Greek Syrian oppressors of the Jewish people about 150 years before Yeshua was born. In 167 BC Antiochus IV desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. For years the Jews tried to spark revolts against their oppressors but gaining very little traction. It marks one of the saddest seasons in Jewish history. Up until a man named Mattathias Maccabee came along!
God’s people overcome!
Mattathias was a priest at the temple, and it was his son Judah Maccabee who became the hero of the story. Nicknamed “the hammer,” Judah ultimately led a great revolt against the Greeks that would prove victorious. Greatly outnumbered and camped out in the hills, the Jewish people had to fight with unconventional tactics. Led by Judah, they were able to overcome their oppressors, retake the Temple and cleanse it. The system of sacrifices, offerings, and the priesthood resumed, just as God described in Leviticus.
Why light candles?
Interestingly enough, the 1st and 2nd Books of Maccabees don’t mention the miracle of multiplication of the oil in the menorah – the 7-branch lampstand that stood in the Temple. However, there is a well-known tradition that speaks of the Levites who intended to light the menorah, but only found enough oil to burn for one day. As the story goes, the oil ended up supernaturally burning for 8 days, until more oil was prepared and brought to the Temple.
The lampstand remained lit day and night, as Scripture prescribed. This is why each year the people of Israel light a hanukkiah for eight days during Hanukkah. This modified menorah has nine candles/lamps rather than seven – the servant candle that lights the other eight on each day of the holiday. Celebrations traditionally include eating fried foods (because of the oil), remembering the victory God gave Israel over their enemies.
So, how does Hanukkah relate to Yeshua?
Let’s look at two ways in which Hanukkah relates to Yeshua. Firstly, Judah “the Hammer” Maccabee appears to be very much a type-and-shadow of Yeshua. Although, the Messiah did not come in on the scene armed like Judah did. He did, however, come in with authority and power, correcting the religious spirit that had ransacked and oppressed the people of Israel in the 1st century. Yeshua brought a fresh revelation and directive how to have a relationship with the Father. He came to bring freedom and life to God’s people. See the similarities?
Secondly, it is very likely that it was during the celebration of Hanukkah when Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) became pregnant with Yeshua. If we are to believe that the Messiah was born during the Feast of Tabernacles and died on Passover, then the timeline fits just right for His conception to happen during Hanukkah. The holiday is also called the Festival of Lights, and Yeshua was born to be the Light of the World. It seems fitting for the Light of the World to be conceived during the Festival of Lights!
Let’s all join together and celebrate the Lion of Judah who came to this world with miraculous power, bringing us freedom and life. He overcame sin and death, so this Hanukkah season be sure to cherish the Light of the World revealed to you!