The Feast of Hanukkah ... History To Prophecy
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the
honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and
he will seize it through intrigue. (Daniel 11:21)
In 175 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to power in Syria by
stealing the throne from the rightful heir, Demetrius II, the young son of Seleucus IV Heliodorus. The
original Seleucus was one of the four generals who
divided the Greek Empire between them following the death of Alexander the
Great. Thus Antiochus Epiphanes became the eighth
descendant of Seleucus to sit on the throne of Syria.
Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a
prince of the covenant (Onias III) will
be destroyed. With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage
against the king of the South (Ptolemy VI of Egypt). The king of
the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be
able to stand because of the plots devised against him. The king of the North (Antiochus)
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. (Daniel 11:22,25,28)
Soon afterward, on his way to invade Egypt,
Antiochus attacked Israel,
stealing all the gold and silver furnishings from the Temple. He had Israel's last legitimate High
Priest, Onias III, murdered and from then on the office
was sold to the highest bidder, with the money going to Antiochus.
The Birth Of The Sadducees
He began to "Hellenize" Israel and before long many of the
wealthy and influential among the Israelites adopted the Greek style of dress,
cutting their hair short and shaving off their beards as well. They also argued
for a blending of Greek philosophy and culture into the Jewish way of life.
From these advocates of Greek thinking, the political party known as the
Sadducees was born, eventually growing to a position of prominence during the
time of Jesus. It was the influence of Greek philosophy on their approach to
the Hebrew Scriptures that blinded the ruling Sadducees to the fact that
Messianic Prophecies were being fulfilled right before their eyes during the
Lord's life on Earth.
"At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time
the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western
coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. 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. (Daniel 11:29-30)
Initially, this accommodation with Greek culture encountered only vocal
resistance, but that all changed when the Egyptians rebelled and, with the aid
of the Roman Navy, defeated Antiochus and drove him from Egypt. In a
rage, Antiochus again invaded Israel,
this time demanding that he be worshiped as God. (The name "Epiphanes" comes from a title he gave himself, "theos epiphanies" or god made manifest. After this the
Jews started calling him "Epimanes" which
means the madman.) He outlawed the reading of the Hebrew Scripture, punishing
by death anyone found with copies in their possession. Circumcision, praying,
keeping the Sabbath, and worshiping the One True God were likewise proscribed
with severe penalties for disobedience.
"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. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the
covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. (Daniel
Put The Hammer Down
In 168 BC Antiochus again broke into the Temple, converting it into a pagan worship
center in honor of the Greek god Zeus (called Jupiter in Roman mythology).
Instead of the blood of bulls and goats, he sprinkled water in which pork had
been boiled in the Holy of Holies, and slaughtered pigs on the altar. Then he
erected a statue of Zeus in the Holy
Place, with his own face on it, thereby
proclaiming himself to be God. Because it rendered the
for worshiping God, Jewish historians called this act the Abomination that
Causes Desolation, the only event in history so named. It triggered the Maccabean Revolt.
For 3 1/2 years the Jews fought one of the world's first guerrilla wars
under Judeus Maccabeus
(Judah the Hammer) finally defeating the Syrians in 165 BC. Upon regaining the Temple, they smashed the
polluted altar and the statue of Zeus, grinding both to powder, and then built
a new altar from uncut stones.
Next they set out to cleanse the Temple
and re-dedicate it to God, an eight-day process (2 Chron.
29:17). But they could only find enough sacred oil to light the Menorah
(the 7-branched lamp stand in the Holy
Place) for one day, and the law required that it
be lit constantly. Because the preparation of sacred oil was a time consuming
process, they decided not to wait, but to use the oil they had to light the
Menorah immediately, trusting that God would find this acceptable. God was
pleased and made the oil last for the full eight days until the new supply was
ready and the re-dedication complete.
Eight Is Enough
Those who study the symbolic use of numbers in Scripture
know that eight is the number of New Beginnings, and indeed the Maccabean victory over the Syrians ushered in a new era,
known as the Hasmonean Dynasty. During much of this
period, which lasted till about 64 BC, Judea, as Israel
was now known, enjoyed independent nation status, having finally won their
freedom from Syria
in 142 BC. Following other Hasmonean victories, the
Jews regained boundaries that nearly approximated those of Solomon's time.
Jewish rule was exercised throughout the expanded nation and Jewish life flourished
once again. A New Beginning for the Children of Israel.
The Feast Of Dedication
The miraculous burning of the oil is still celebrated in the
eight-day Feast of Hanukkah, from the Hebrew word meaning dedication. It's also
called the Festival of Lights and this year began on the evening of December
To celebrate Hanukkah, a special 9-branched candelabra
is used, with eight branches commemorating the eight days when the oil kept
burning. The ninth branch, called the Shamash, is usually positioned above the
other eight. Its candle is always lit first and then used to light the other
candles, one each day, until on the eighth day of Hanukkah all are lit. The
Hebrew word Shamash means servant, so the Shamash is the servant candle that's
raised up and gives light to all the others.
Incredibly, the Hanukkia, or Hanukkah candelabra,
becomes a beautiful model of the Messiah and His church. It was the Lord Jesus,
the obedient servant, who was raised up (John 3:12) and gives light to
all others (John 8:12). For the Son of Man came not to be
served, but to serve. (Mark 10:45)
If you've read our studies on the Lord's probable birth date, you know I
believe He was conceived during the Feast of Hanukkah and that His life, like
all others, began at conception. If so, the Hanukkia
is a fitting reminder that the Light of the World arrived during the Festival
of Lights, ushering in a New Beginning for all mankind.
History To Prophecy
We know that all the levitical
feasts have both a historical and a prophetic fulfillment. For example,
Passover commemorated the Jews' freedom from bondage in Egypt and
looked forward to the Messiah freeing us all from the bondage of our sins. The
prophetic aspect of the Spring Feasts were fulfilled in the Lord's 1st Coming,
the summer time Feast of Pentecost commemorated the giving of the Law and was
fulfilled in the Church, and the Fall Feasts commemorated God's dwelling among
them and will be fulfilled in the 2nd Coming. Hanukkah is not a Levitical Feast but I think it has an important prophetic
fulfillment like the others.
In reviewing the history of Hanukkah, I'm sure you spotted the similarity to
events yet future to us. One day soon a man will arrive on the world scene.
He'll become very powerful very quickly, assuming a leadership position that's
not rightfully his. Many will give their loyalty to him and he'll conquer most
of the world. Even in Israel,
many will favor accommodation with him, some even thinking he might be the
But then he'll stand in the Holy place and declare that He's God. Another Epiphanes. He'll have a
statue of himself erected and put in the Holy Place to be worshipped. Another
Abomination of Desolation, the one Jesus warned about in Matt. 24:15.
He'll demand to be worshipped as God on pain of death, and make everyone swear
a pledge of loyalty to him. He'll put a stop to the recently instituted Temple sacrifice and try
to erase every trace of the legitimate God from the world. He'll wage war
against those who oppose him, but they'll fight back in another war of
resistance. After 3 ½ years he'll be defeated and the defiled Temple will be cleansed and made ready for
use again during the Millennium. Another Feast of Dedication.
will again experience a period of untold peace and prosperity, expanding fully
to its originally promised dimensions. Jewish rule will be exercised throughout
the expanded nation and Jewish life will flourish once again. Another New
Beginning for the Children of Israel and for all the
world. Happy Hanukkah. 12-16-06