|Jesus of Nazareth observed
Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, a celebration not mandated in the Torah
itself but foretold by the Prophet Daniel.
“Then came the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade” (John 10:22-23).
Kislev 25, 5771 in the Jewish calendar begins at sundown on Wednesday, December 1, 2010, and marks the first day of Hanukkah, which continues on until December 9, 2010. The observance of all Jewish holidays begins at sunset the previous day, and the date for Hanukkah on Christian calendars moves from year to year, so while Hanukkah always takes place near Christmas, it is rare for it to begin on Christmas day itself, as it did at sundown Sunday, December 25, 2005 (Kislev 25, 5766).
The celebration of Hanukkah is based
on a miracle recorded, not in the Bible, but in the Talmud: the
burning of a day’s supply of pure olive oil for eight days, until fresh
jars of clean oil could be brought into the temple. But while this
miracle is not recorded in the Bible, the events surrounding Hanukkah are,
and Jewish people have continued to celebrate Hanukkah from a century and
a half before Christ, down to the present time.
These eight days are reflected in the lighting of the eight candles during Hanukkah, and the eight-branched candelabrum, called a Menorah, has become a symbol of the holiday. Starting with one light on the first evening, the number is increased by one each night until on the eighth night all eight candles are lit.
Hanukkah occurs in December (roughly
corresponding to the
Hebrew month Kislev) and marks the consecration of the
“The king of the North (Antiochus
IV, Epiphanes, 175-164 B.C.) will return to his own country with great
wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take
action against it and then return to his own country . . . Then he will
turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and
show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant . . . His armed forces
will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily
sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation”
(Daniel 11:28-31) .
‘Out of one of them came another
horn (Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, 175-164 B.C.), which started small but grew
in power to the south and to the east and toward the .
The seven year time frame of
Hellenistic Syrian desecration of the
A survey of this history is helpful,
not only for understanding the basis for Hanukkah, but also for
understanding the coming of the Lord Jesus, both in his birth and in his
return. That’s one reason why observing Hanukkah fits in so well
with the Christian season of Advent, pointing as it does to our Lord’s
two advents. Daniel is concerned with the exile of the Jews and how
they survived under foreign oppression. It looks ahead not only to a
return from the exile but to a restoration of the theocratic kingship
under a descendant of King David.
The nine candles of Hanukkah point to the triumph of God’s people over an anti-Christ figure who reigned over a century and a half before the Lord Jesus was born, Antiochus Epiphanes. But that ancient tyrant is a foreshadowing of the final enemy of the people of the Lord, the one “whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The light of Hanukkah points to the light shining in the darkness and the ultimate triumph of the light through him who is the Light of the world (John 8:12).