So often we hear that Hanukkah is Judaism’s answer to Christmas, but is that true? What came first – Christmas or Hanukkah? That one is easy – Hanukkah. Oh, not what we see the holiday has morphed into but then again, Christmas itself has done it’s own morphing.
For instance, the day we celebrate the birth of Messiah has changed from what it might actually have been. We know that everything God does, he does in order and at an appointed time – his moedim, his feasts. I’ve heard evidence for Yeshua’s birth taking place during Sukkot in the fall, as well as during the month of Nisan in the spring. Both arguments have validity, and both discuss a feast of the Lord. As to December 25th, there isn’t an appointed time of the Lord here. And it wasn’t until Constantine made the decision to place the birth of Messiah on December 25th (without any evidence for validity) that this eventually became the fixed date we celebrate Messiah’s birth.
But we’re not here to discuss Christmas, we’re here to talk about Hanukkah. In John 10 we read:
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (vs 22-23)
Wait Ro, I thought you said there wasn’t a feast of the Lord in the winter?! Correct, there isn’t one. The Feast of Dedication came about during the time of the Maccabees, about 160 years before the birth of Yeshua of Nazareth. It falls on the 25th day of the ninth month known as Kislev.
We find the details of this feast in 1 Maccabees 4, but our key verses are 53 through 59:
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built.
At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.
So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors. There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
And there you have it. Yeshua was in Jerusalem celebrating the dedication of the altar with gladness and joy for eight days.
But, did he light candles for eight days? Did he give gifts like they do today? Did he eat latkes and sufganiyot? Come back later this week for the answers. In the meantime, I highly recommend you read 1st and 2nd Maccabees to look for the miracle of the oil that kept burning.