By Arlene Bridges Samuels, CBN Israel—
On Sunday, November 28, Jewish families worldwide began celebrating Hanukkah—lighting up their homes each day with candles in their Hanukkiahs, their menorah candelabras. By December 6, when the festival ends, all the candles will be glowing. Children are enjoying eight days of gifts and playing dreidel games, and families are feasting on jelly doughnuts and tasty latkes, the traditional potato pancakes fried in oil.
In recent years, Christians have grown increasingly familiar with the rich Jewish history of festivals and customs. We have joined in the celebration, too, as it also has a special meaning for us. The contemporary Hanukkah (dedication in Hebrew) menorah usually has nine candles, with the center called the servant or helper candle. The servant candle is used each night to light another candle until all are ablaze on the eighth day. In the Christian faith, the servant candle represents our Lord Jesus.
Our Jewish Jesus celebrated the Festival of Lights, as mentioned in John 10:22-23. It is the only passage in the Bible that refers to Hanukkah, then called the Feast of Dedication. It is not considered a major festival like Passover, Shavuot, or Feast of Tabernacles, yet it signifies the victory of the Maccabees as another eventful part of survival in Jewish history.
The apocryphal books, Maccabees I and II, contain the stories of their victory, and for us, the New Testament verifies the fact that Jesus joined in the festivities. The Maccabees rose up in 167 BCE to overthrow their enemy Antiochus IV, the Syrian-Greek (Seleucid) ruler. In addition to outlawing important Judaic practice and laws, Antiochus ordered the desecration of the Second Temple—building an altar to the pagan god, Zeus, and sacrificing pigs. The ancient battle and the Maccabees’ victory in 164 BCE signified once again God’s intervention to save the Jewish people and their faith from extinction.
The Maccabees (also known as the Hasmoneans) then began the process of cleansing the Temple and searching for the pure oil to relight the candles. In doing so, they discovered the seven-branched golden lampstand as described in Exodus 25:31-40, when God gave Moses a detailed design at Mount Sinai to fashion the exquisite menorah. The most skilled craftsman was chosen to make it, hammering it out of a single piece of gold. It weighed perhaps a hundred pounds.
Although the Maccabees found the lampstand, they discovered only a small cruse of purified oil, enough for just one day. Nevertheless, “a miracle happened there” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham in Hebrew), as Jews for centuries have repeatedly declared. The Maccabees decided to use the small cruse of oil. However, they must have been astonished that it lasted eight days! Continue Reading….