What is Hanukkah? Is it simply a Jewish alternative to Christmas?
Few people outside of Judaism and unfortunately even those within Christianity understand what Hanukkah is and what it means. Many people seem to consider the timing to indicate that this was simply an alternative to the commonly celebrated Christmas. To understand this we have to go way back to ancient Israel.
Originally when Israel was first established you had 12 tribes (well kind of 13, but you don’t count Levi (num 1:49) or if you do you count Manasseh and Ephraim as half tribes or if we are speaking Rev 7 you exclude Dan (not sure why), anyway…). These 12 tribes eventually split after king Solomon’s reign. You ended up with 2 kingdoms, the north and south. The northern kingdom is Biblically referred to as Israel and the Southern Judah which would be the head tribe of the southern kingdom made up of Judah, Benjamin and some of Levi. This is where you get Jewish from, a Jew is from the southern kingdom or even specifically of the tribe of Judah. Now the temple was in Jerusalem which was in the southern kingdoms territory.
In the 700’s BC the northern kingdom was captured and defeated by the Assyrians. They were dispersed and relocated to different regions and it remains a mystery exactly where they ended up.
The southern kingdom was later taken into captivity by the Babylonians in the early 500’s BC and the Temple was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon on the 9th Av 586 BC in the Hebrew calendar. but by the late 500’s BC Babylon fell and Jews came back to Israel and began rebuilding the Temple.
Now move forward to 167 BC and the Temple is defiled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sacrifices a pig on the altar and halts the Temple worship.
Enter the history of Hanukkah… Three years later Judas Maccabeus liberates and cleanses the Temple. This is commemorated by the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah means dedication, consecration or inauguration). The Hasmoneans then rule Israel until the Roman invasion.
Move forward some more to the life of Jesus ~4BC-~30AD. The earthly life and ministry of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) fulfils more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. Through His death on the cross, the New Covenant with the house of Israel and the House of Judah was ratified (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-12 and Matthew 26:26-28). Shortly before His crucifixion Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the people until ‘the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’. (Luke 21:24)
Then in 70 AD the second Temple is destroyed by the Romans, again on 9th Av in the Hebrew calendar. Approximately one million Jews are killed and most of the survivors are sold into slavery or scattered into the nations. However, a small remnant of Jewish people remained in the Land throughout the dispersion.
So is it Biblical for a Christian to Celebrate Hanukkah? Absolutely! Jesus himself attended the celebrations and it’s recorded in John 10:22-24. I find it very intriguing the more I look into the celebration that so much is prophetically tied to Christ and him bringing the Light to the world and of course it’s no wonder Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights!
I encourage all of you to celebrate with your Jewish brothers and light up those candles each night of Hanukkah! Fun fact, the Menorah is the only religious symbol designed directly by God himself! Though you don’t have to even have a Menorah, just set up some tealight candles in a row and celebrate that Christ has now made those who trust in him and follow his ways the rededicated Temple of God! Shalom my friends and Happy Hanukkah!



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