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Hanukkah - Light in the Darkness

Upon entering Jerusalem, Yehudah and his brother priests were dismayed to see the Temple desolate, the altar profaned, the gates burned, and the holy courtyard overgrown with weeds. They tore their garments, cried out to heaven, and sounded the shofar.

Before the last enemy had even been rooted out of the strongholds of Jerusalem, Yehudah set about restoring the Temple.

They tore down the defiled altar and built a new one. They made new implements and furnishings from what was available. One scrap of legend has it that they made a menorah of iron bars they found in the Temple.

Another famous legend has it that when they searched the Temple, they were only able to find one cruse of olive oil with the priestly stamp upon it. It was enough to fuel the lamps of the menorah for only one day. It would take eight days before they could procure more olive oil fitting for use in the menorah. Uncertain of what to do, they decided to keep the mitzvah of lighting the menorah as best they could. They lit it, fully expecting it to go out that day.

Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be obtained. Some say this is the reason Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.

It was on the 25th day of Kislev, exactly three years after the first swine had been sacrificed on the altar, that Yehudah and his men reinstated the daily burnt offerings to the Lord . They celebrated the rededication of the Temple for eight days. The days of dedication came to be remembered and celebrated as the festival of Hanukkah.

Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is,the month of Kislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight [165 BCE], they arose and offered sacrifice according to the Torah on the new altar of holocausts that they had made. On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.

For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the façade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.

Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev. (1 Maccabees 4:52–59)

The Second book of Maccabees (1:9; 10:1–5) records that the eight-day dedication ceremony of the first Hanukkah was meant to correspond to the eight days of Sukkot at which Solomon consecrated the First Temple.

It says that the eight days were celebrated “with gladness like the Feast of Tabernacles remembering how, not long before, during the Feast of Tabernacles, they had been wandering like wild beasts in the mountains and the caves. So, bearing wands wreathed with leaves and fair boughs and palms,they offered hymns of praise” (10:6–8).

Another ancient name for Hanukkah is “Sukkot of Fire” (1:18). Just as the altar fire had been ignited from heaven at the dedication of the altar in the days of Moses and at the sanctification of the Temple of Solomon, so too the heavenly fire was said to have returned in the days of Yehudah Maccabee (1:18–36; 2:8–12; 14; 10:3).

Whether or not the legends of miraculous fire and miraculous oil are historically reliable is not important here. What is important is to acknowledge that a great miracle happened there—a verifiable, historical fact. The Torah-honoring Maccabees won a great victory against overwhelming odds. Light shone in the darkness.

Likewise we as believers of Yeshua are commanded to let our light shine in the darkness of this world, which will be the topic of our next post.


From: Light in the Darkness - FFOZ


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