Hanukkah in History
Last week’s Eye of Prophecy article (The Virgin Birth … How and Why?) was posted on Christmas Eve, which “just happened” this year to occur on the first day (eve) of Hanukkah. This week’s article falls on the final (eighth) day of what some say is the most widely celebrated festival of the Jews, religious and secular alike. On most Jewish calendars you’ll find the oft used Hebrew spelling of this happy holiday … Chanukah. That’s because of the more accurate pronunciation of the hard “Ch” syllable (Kahnukkah), instead of the soft “hah” sound.
Like Purim that is normally observed in the Gregorian calendar month of February, Hanukkah is not one of the Biblical festivals required by God as given in the Mosaic Law. Whereas Purim was (Biblically) instituted by Mordecai and Queen Esther as an annual Jewish observance, Hanukkah is not found in Scripture. It wasn’t even recorded in any extra-Biblical Jewish religious literature; although the secular Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus provided a narrative of this event in his book, Jewish Antiquities XII. However, the circumstances surrounding Hanukkah were added to the Jewish Talmud (written collection of Jewish oral teachings and history) some 600 years after the time of the Maccabees.
Rather, we find Hanukkah’s captivating chronicle through the Books of the First and Second Maccabees, which are not part of the Biblical canon; but are considered by many Biblical scholars as historically accurate. Why the story of the Maccabean revolt that led to the “miracle of Hanukkah” is not part of the Old Testament Bible, would take far more time/space than this week’s article can afford. Thus, I’ll offer just two brief reasons:
(1) It occurred some 250 years after God’s last appointed prophet (Malachi) spoke God’s words to his people. The composite four-hundred year span of God’s silence was a transition time between the Old Covenant of the Law and New Covenant of Grace. Not until the next Jewish prophet John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah of the New Covenant, did God reveal himself again to the Jews and also, this time, to the whole world.
(2) Due largely to reason number one, God chose (for other reasons known only to him) not to directly inspire the recording of the events leading to Hanukkah through any of God’s chosen authors of New Testament times/books.
Based on the title of today’s article, you might get the impression that Hanukkah was predicted in Scripture by one or more of the Old Testament prophets. It was not, at least not the results of the Maccabean Jewish victory over an evil Syrian ruler. Those results were twofold, constituting the essence of this remarkable Jewish holiday. They were (A) Restoration and rededication of the Jewish Temple after the Jews defeated the Syrian/Greeks against all odds; (B) One day’s supply of the sacred oil used to light the Menorah, lasting for eight days until more purified olive oil could be produced.
(Replica of the Original Biblical Menorah … During a Trip to Israel, I Stood Next to This Menorah in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem)
Thus, respectively, in direct connection to A and B listed in the preceding paragraph, Hanukkah is also referred to as the: Festival of Dedication and Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is the Hebrew word meaning “dedication.” Although the 2nd Temple was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, observant Jews still emphasize dedication (loyal observance) of their lives to the principles of holiness (consecrated separation) found in the civil, ceremonial, and moral features of the Law of Moses. Hanukkah serves as a serious but also festive reminder of this dedication.
Yet, when it comes to the equally vital component part of the Mosaic Law (Levitical Sacrificial System), the Jews are unfortunately in denial that there is no atonement for sin without the sacrificial shedding of innocent (animal) blood. Instead of recognizing and accepting the New Covenant established through the once for all substitutionary sacrifice of their very Messiah (Yeshua), they hope that mitzvot (good deeds … acts of love and giving) will merit salvation.
(I would encourage you to read the trilogy of Eye of Prophecy articles entitled: Where is the Temple? I, II, III. Posted in November and December, 2014).
HOWEVER, the sequence of events that produced the marvel of Hanukkah were, in fact, predicted by the prophet Daniel some 370 years before they took place, including dramatic details about the malicious Syrian ruler who would devastate Israel and profane the Temple. Followed by even more amazing information about another wicked tyrant (the little horn of Daniel Chapter 7 and the beast of Revelation 13 & 17 … Antichrist Nero) who would follow in the warped footsteps of his evil archetype predecessor. Hanukkah was a direct result of this fulfilled prophecy.
The original Kingdom that would split into four parts—one of which this 2nd century BC Syrian despot would rule over—was also prophesied by Daniel.
Alexander the Great
It all began when Alexander the Great soundly defeated the Persians, spelling the end to an empire even greater than that of Babylon, at least in terms of longevity. In 334 BC, Alexander launched a campaign that would engulf most of the civilized world, establishing a Grecian dynasty that would last some 300 years with ongoing influence of Greek civilization in the Roman Empire for another 500 years. Alexander’s realm would not be equaled until the Roman Empire reached its zenith. Yet even Rome was heavily saturated with Greek language and culture.
(Bust of Alexander the Great)
Alexander died a mysterious death in June, 323 B.C. at the young age of 32. History is unclear whether he was murdered (poison) or died from natural causes (fever). Yet his passing was so abruptly unexpected that no heir had been appointed to his domain. Subsequently, the Grecian Empire was divided into four regions: Ptolemy of Egypt; Seleucid of Mesopotamia and Central Asia; Pergamon; and Macedon. It’s the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties that are referenced in Daniel Chapter 11, long before they came into existence.
The Greek empire was one of the four world kingdoms revealed by God to Daniel in the form of four “huge beasts.”
“Then the third of these strange beasts appeared, and it looked like a leopard. It had four bird’s wings on its back, and it had four heads. Great authority was given to this beast” (Daniel 7:6).
These four beasts were initially in the form of a four-part statue seen in a dream by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel Chapter 2). The figurative imagery recorded by Daniel clearly matches subsequent world history, confirming that the third beast was Greece.
Later, Daniel is given more information about the great ruler of this third empire, which history also affirms as none other than Alexander the Great. Included in this subsequent revelation to Daniel (which I strongly believe was given by the Pre-Incarnate Messiah Jesus), were meticulous details to confirm the (four-part) division of the third beast—the leopard (four wings and four heads). Plus intricate details of ensuing rulers of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid domains, specifically Antiochus IV Epiphanes; followed by an evil despot (Antichrist) who would be even more ruthless than Antiochus.
Concerning Alexander the Great and the dominant Grecian Empire, we read:
“Then a mighty king will rise to power who will rule with great authority and accomplish everything he sets out to do. But at the height of his power, his kingdom will be broken apart and divided into four parts. It will not be ruled by the king’s descendants, nor will the kingdom hold the authority it once had. For his empire will be uprooted and given to others” (Daniel 11:3-4).
Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Time/space does not allow us to cover the first part of Daniel Chapter 11 through verse 27, which predicted what history has termed, “The Seleucid Wars” that culminated in 198 BC between Egypt and Syria. The armies of Seleucid King Antiochus III defeated Ptolemy V and took over Judea and Samaria, which had been part of the Ptolemaic realm. Instead, we will fast forward to 175 BC, when Antiochus IV ascended the Seleucid throne.
Antiochus IV arrogantly added Epiphanes to his name, which means, “manifest god.” He and his subsequent counterpart (Antichrist) Nero considered themselves divine, God on earth. He was the first Seleucid king to have his divine image printed on coinage. Later, Caesar Nero did the same thing.
(Antiochus IV Coinage)
To assert his power and enhance his sphere of influence and to prevent King Ptolemy VI of Egypt from expanding the Ptolemaic dynasty, Antiochus IV launched a preemptive strike against Egypt in 170 BC, conquering all of the Egyptian kingdom except Alexandria. This is precisely what Daniel said would happen. As was Antiochus’ second campaign against Egypt predicted by Daniel.
In Antiochus’s first campaign, “The king of the north will then return home with great riches. On the way he will set himself against the people of the holy covenant, doing much damage before continuing his journey” (Daniel 11:28).
The “people of the holy covenant” were the Jews (Israel). During his return home from Egypt, Antiochus IV made it clear that he would do something about this stubborn people, most of whom refused to yield to his authority, and resisted assimilation into the Greek Hellenistic culture that he was trying to instill throughout as much of the territories conquered by Alexander as possible. Unlike his predecessor, Antiochus III, who allowed the Jews extensive sovereignty under their High Priest, Antiochus IV began a pernicious persecution of the Jews to force Greek Hellenization on them.
However, to avoid antagonizing the new burgeoning empire of Rome, which supported the Ptolemaic realm, Antiochus withdrew his armies from Egypt and left Ptolemy VI as a puppet king. But this megalomaniac tyrant couldn’t keep his autocratic face out of the picture. With an apparent assumption that Rome would no longer interfere, in 168 BC he led a second assault on Egypt, and also sent a large naval fleet to Cyprus. Before Antiochus IV reached Alexandria, a Roman ambassador warned him to withdraw or risk a war with the Roman Republic.
We read on: “Then at the appointed time he will once again invade the south, but this time the result will be different. For warships from western coastlands will scare him off, and he will withdraw and return home. But he will vent his anger against the people of the holy covenant and reward those who forsake the covenant” (Daniel 11:29).
Antiochus was humiliated by his failed plans to again invade Egypt. He threw a temper tantrum and decided to take out his “tail-between-the-legs” retreat on the Jews. He would ratchet up the time table of a more peaceful integration of Hellenism into Jewish culture. Through brutal force he would bring an end to Judaism in Judea and Samaria. Whether he thought of it or not, his intentions were every bit as malevolent as the Persian ruler Haman, whose sadistic strategy was genocide of the Jews. Antiochus IV became further enraged when he learned that Jason, the Jewish High Priest that he had deposed, had initiated a surprise attack against Menelaus, the high priest appointed by Antiochus IV.
He ordered a halt to all Jewish sacrifices and worship rites in the Temple, commanding the Jews to worship Zeus. When they refused, Antiochus IV dispatched his armies to crush what he considered an insubordinate Jewish revolt against his kingdom.
Even if you know little about Antiochus IV, you probably have read or heard that during this onslaught against the Jews his troops ransacked the Holy Temple, and sacrificed a pig to the Greek god Zeus on the altar in the Holy of Holies. What occurred in 168-167 BC is one of the bloodiest, saddest chapters of Jewish history. But out of it came one of the greatest triumphs and miracles ever experienced by the Jews. Which is what the celebration of Hanukkah is all about.
Here is an account of Antiochus’ brutality:
“When these happenings were reported to the king, he thought that Judea was in revolt. Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery” (2 Maccabees 5:11-14).
Antiochus IV’s atrocious actions fulfilled Daniel’s amazingly accurate prophecy.
“His army will take over the Temple fortress, pollute the sanctuary, put a stop to the daily sacrifices, and set up the sacrilegious object that causes desecration” (Daniel 11:31).
(Depiction of Zeus Erected by Antiochus IV in the Jewish Temple)
Before we examine the following verse 32 of Daniel’s remarkable prophecies, let’s look at an excerpt from a Wikipedia article concerning Antiochus IV and the Maccabean revolt that began not long after Antiochus desecrated the Temple, then slaughtered and enslaved tens of thousands of Jews.
“Traditionally, as expressed in the First and Second Books of the Maccabees, the Maccabean Revolt was painted as a national resistance to a foreign political and cultural oppression. In modern times, however, scholars have argued that the king was instead intervening in a civil war between the traditionalist Jews in the country and the Hellenized Jews in Jerusalem. According to Joseph P. Schultz: ‘Modern scholarship on the other hand considers the Maccabean revolt less as an uprising against foreign oppression than as a civil war between the orthodox and reformist parties in the Jewish camp.’”
Still referring to the actions of the “king of the north” (Antiochus IV), Daniel goes on to say:
“He will flatter and win over those who have violated the covenant. But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him” (Daniel 11:32).
For modern scholars to contend that Antiochus IV Epiphanes was simply “intervening in a civil war” between the Hellenistic Jews and the observant religious Jews of Israel is an oversimplification; it is not an accurate analysis of everything that actually took place. Nor does it track with Scripture’s preview of what would occur, i.e. “the people who know their God will … resist him” (the king of the north which would be Antiochus IV).
These people who know their God were the Maccabees representing Jews who remained faithful to God. Their resistance was directly against Antiochus IV; only indirectly against the Hellenistic Jews (those who have violated the covenant). It was the Hellenistic Jews that Antiochus IV would, “flatter and win over.” Likewise, Antiochus military assault against Israel was designed to stop the Maccabees in their revolutionary tracks, not to preemptively intervene in what may have become a full-fledged Jewish civil war.
At the very least, the modern view of Antiochus’s reason for invading Israel ignores the clear historical record of his virulent hatred of the Jews, expressed in his contempt for the sacred sites and rites of the Jewish faith. Nevertheless, Antiochus courted those Jews who agreed with him that Israel should incorporate Greek philosophy and culture into Israel, even if it meant compromising the Mosaic Law as the governing influence over Jewish life in Israel. However, even the Hellenistic Jews were appalled at the Temple’s desecration and the blatant religious, political, and cultural subjugation of the Jews, whether secular or religious.
Thus, his so-called “intervention into a Jewish civil war” was much more than merely taking sides with the Hellenists. It’s clear that he was infuriated by any Jewish attempt to undermine his authority over Judea/Samaria. He couldn’t have cared less whether the hiloni (secular) Jews or the haredi, masorti (observant, traditional) Jews would have fought and prevailed one against the other. He wanted all of Israel under his thumb.
Daniel says that the people who know their God would be strong and would resist him (Antiochus IV). Which is exactly what the Maccabees were and did. Much like King David and his group of 600 faithful soldiers; then his band of Thirty of Israel’s mightiest warriors led by the even more elite Three, accomplished in Israel before and after David ascended to the throne. The military exploits and fighting skill of these men of valor became legendary with the Jews and with their enemies. As did the extra-Biblical account of the Maccabees and their warriors.
The Maccabean Revolt
Until the ascension of Antiochus IV to the Seleucid throne, the observant Jews had, for the most part, been given sufficient freedom and flexibility to practice their Judaic faith.
But enough was enough. It was absolute anathema to both religious and secular Jews for anyone (let alone a Gentile ruler) to desecrate their sacred Temple and to bring a screeching halt to their religious practices, no matter the degree of observance among varying Jewish factions and sects.
In description of Antiochus IV and his armed invasion of Jerusalem under the pretense of helping the secular faction called the Tobiads—which supported the Hellenistic Jews in particular and the Ptolemaic realm in general—the ancient Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote:
“The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months.”
*Note: Josephus description of this king being “thereto disposed beforehand” validates the premise that Antiochus already had a mindset disposition toward conquest of the Jews.
Here is yet another remarkable correlation between Antiochus Epiphanes’ 3 ½ year reign over Israel and the future ruler also mentioned in Daniel Chapter 11 (Antichrist Nero) who would break a seven-year pact with Israel half way through that treaty, resulting in cessation of Jewish sacrifices and desecration of the (3rd) rebuilt Temple… 42 months as prophesied in Daniel Chapter 9. And as confirmed by Revelation Chapter 13.
Even though the Shekinah glory of God no longer filled the Temple, it was more than many Jews could bear to be deprived their right of circumcision and for pigs to be offered as sacrifices to the Greek god Zeus in the Temple itself. With unrelenting conditions and with ruthless enforcement, Antiochus IV had done away with Judaism. Even the great empires of Assyria and Babylon that had conquered and exiled the Jews; and Persia and Greece (until Antiochus IV) that had reigned over Israel, permitted the Jews to practice their faith.
(Depiction of the Abominable Sacrifice of a Pig on the Temple Altar)
Against overwhelming odds, a Jewish priest Mattathias (Mattiyahu) and his five sons led a revolt against Antiochus IV. When Mattathias died in 166 BC, his son Judah took his place as leader of the rebellion. Less than a year later, against all odds the Jews had soundly defeated the armies of Antiochus IV, recaptured Jerusalem, liberated Temple Mount, cleansed and rededicated the Temple, and reinstated Judaism and the sacrificial system.
That is one of two reasons the Jews instituted this wonderful festival of Hanukkah … which, as indicated, means dedication. Most Jews, but not all, consider this military triumph a miracle in the same vein as Gideon’s amazing rout of the Midianites and modern Israel’s stunning triumph over insurmountable Arab military might in her 1948 War of Independence.
However, all Jews who know anything about the desecration of the 2nd Temple by the most appalling of all Gentile kings ever to rise against Israel (rabbinical sources refer to Antiochus IV as, harasha, “the wicked”) agree that the second reason for celebrating Hanukkah is based on a miracle. There simply is no normal or natural explanation for what took place.
Judah Maccabee commissioned resumption of Temple proceedings which began on the 25th day of Kislev, 165 BC.
*Note: Kislev is the Jewish month that overlaps the Gregorian calendar of November and December. The first full day of Hanukkah is the 25th of Kislev; however, a Jewish day begins at sundown the previous day. Thus, Hanukkah this year (2016) actually began on December 24th. I suppose we could call Kislev 24th, Hanukkah Eve.
But first things first: the treasured Menorah (lamps of which were to be kept burning day and night) must be relit, for it was God’s holy light to illuminate the Temple. In hindsight, this was a shortsighted (or short lighted, if you will!) plan. There had not been sufficient time allowed to produce enough pure (holy) olive oil expressly refined from pressed olives and dedicated by the high priest for the Menorah.
Each branch of today’s menorahs contain candles; whereas, the stem branches of the original Menorah in the Tabernacle and then the Temple were lamp cups in which olive oil was poured and then ignited.
Miracle of the Kosher Oil
According to the story, there was only one flask of consecrated oil … enough to last one full day. Yet, the priests decided to light the Menorah anyway, then wait to start it again after more oil was produced. Evidently, they were so excited and determined to resume Temple rites that they were willing to temporarily waive the requirement that the Menorah lamps must be kept burning continually.
But they didn’t need to light the menorah again. That one flask lasted for seven more days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah!
Although the First Book of Maccabees records the eight-day celebration that began annually for the re-dedication of the Temple and altar, it does not mention the miracle of the oil. But the Jewish Talmud does, which nearly all scholars acknowledge as a historically accurate compilation of Jewish vocal traditions.
Thus, Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Dedication, and also the Festival of Lights.
Jews in Israel and all over the world light the candles of the Menorah, one each day for the eight days that the oil kept burning. Special foods cooked in oil to commemorate the miracle are eaten, such as Latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts.
(Modern Day Hanukkah Celebration and Menorah)
Down through the centuries Jews have debated whether Hanukkah is a religious festival (Holy Day) or just a national secular holiday. True, it is not a festival specifically ordained by the Lord to be observed, as commanded by God for the seven holy festivals. Please refer to a series of five Eye of Prophecy articles on these seven Jewish Festivals and how each feast points to Messiah Jesus. You can find them in the Eye of Prophecy archives, posted 9-24-16 through 10-22-16.
However, Hanukkah is definitely connected to God’s ultimate plan to preserve his chosen people the Jews and his special possession Israel until the time of their final redemption. This joyous festival is a direct result of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the third of the four Gentile nations, Greece. Then more specifically the evil tyrant Antiochus IV tirade against the Jews that is also a foreshadow of the Antichrist who will turn on the Jews half way through the Great Tribulation.
Like Purim, Hanukkah remembers God’s miraculous deliverance of the Jews from disaster at the hands of wicked men and nations that sought to destroy Judaism and even eliminate the Jews (genocide) from the face of the earth. No different than the insidious plot of Muslim nations in today’s world, especially Iran.
The Messianic Menorah Light
Most of all, the light of the Menorah represents Israel’s coming Messiah, who would bring the light of God’s salvation to the Jew first, then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
Yeshua, himself, celebrated Hanukkah. In fact, other than his crucifixion trial in which Caiaphas the Jewish High Priest insisted that Jesus answer his question, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63); and Pontius Pilate posing a similar question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33), an incident that occurred in the Temple was the most notable interrogation of and challenge to Jesus’ Messiahship.
“It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, ‘How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’
“Jesus replied, ‘I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish … for my Father has given them to me … No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’” (John 10:22-30).
At that point the people picked up stones to kill Jesus; because he, in no uncertain terms, claimed to be God (equal to God as His Son). Previously, Jesus had made the same claim to another crowd who also wanted to stone him to death when he said: “…I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:58).
There was no misunderstanding of Jesus’s words. When he said, “I AM,” he voiced the sacred name of God, YHWH (Yahweh).
In the scene of John Chapter 10, Jesus went on to confirm and defend the truth of who he was. Listen to his words:
“…Why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God?’ After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father” (John 10:36-38).
Not long after that Jesus would perform another mighty miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead. And just a few days later, Jesus would prove beyond any doubt whatsoever that he was Messiah, the Son of God, the Light of the world, when he arose from his own grave!
Before the scene during Hanukkah, Jesus declared, “…I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
The Apostle John was only one of many who witnessed the powerful miracles of Jesus and listened to his words of life. Beyond any doubt, John and others knew that Jesus was the Messiah, that he was Divine, just like Isaiah said Messiah would be (Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6).
Thus, John began his gospel with this powerful proclamation:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5, NASB).
The Fall of Nations … The Rise of Israel
What about the fate of Antiochus IV Epiphanes?
After this vile ruler dispatched one of his commanders, Lysias, to fight the Maccabees, he set sail with the rest of his forces to do battle with King Mithridates I of Parthia who had made war against the Greeks.
The Second Book of Maccabees records that he contracted some incurable disease, then (in an implied weakened condition), “fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body.” The writer of Maccabees and apparently most Jews of the time attributed the spectacular Maccabean victory against the forces of Antiochus as well as his untimely death to, “…the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him an incurable and unseen blow.”
Antiochus IV and his Seleucid dynasty went the way of even greater empires that tormented, terrorized, and toppled the Jews. The once mighty nations of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are no more. Hitler’s Third Reich that mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and Stalin’s Communist Russia that relentlessly persecuted the Jews are gone.
But Israel was reborn from the floods of dispersion and he fires of Nazi death camps. Their ashes of defeat have turned into the beauty of a strong and vibrant nation … the only democratic country in the Middle East. Their people thrive despite acts of terrorism, UN anti-Israeli resolutions, and threats of annihilation by Muslim nations. They have won four conventional wars against Arab forces much stronger than Israel.
I’ve said it before, and will say it again: What God says will happen, happens. What he says he will do, he does. Miracles and 100% fulfilled prophecies (which also are miracles) separate the true and living God of the Bible and the Judeo/Christian faith from all other religions like Islam; but also from Godless philosophies, which are also religions (a belief system), such as communism and human secularism.
Moreover, the Christian faith is not nor should be separate from the Jewish belief and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, the Christian faith is an extension, a completion, and a culmination of God’s majestic plan for the human race. The New Covenant of Grace fulfilled and replaced the Old Covenant of the Law, because God’s chosen people could not and would not keep that Law. Only one Man did that … Messiah Jesus. His once for all sacrificial atonement for sin is what makes Jew and Gentile united—one new person in Messiah (Ephesians 2:14-16).
Things to Ponder
This year’s Hanukkah is poignantly relevant to Israel’s destiny in two observable ways. (1) It’s no coincidence that Hanukkah began on Christmas Eve this year, the first time since 1978. I believe this is a strong signal that their Messiah (and ours as believers in Christ Jesus), the Light of the World, is soon to come again and make all things right in this war-torn, weary, wicked world in which we live.
(2) Another reprehensible UN resolution (# 2334) was passed on the Jewish Sabbath, which began on December 23rd, the day before Hanukkah began. It was yet another attempt to discredit and delegitimize Jewish settlements in the so-called West Bank (Judea and Samaria … rightfully Jewish land); and also to denigrate and demonize the State of Israel as a whole and the Jewish people individually.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already responded in meaningful ways, including the call back of Israeli Ambassadors from some of the nations that voted yes to the resolution. Perhaps the boldest and most expressive reply of all was to change his plans and participate in the second day lighting of the Menorah in the Old City of Jerusalem.
He said, “I did not plan to be here this evening, but in light of the UN resolution, I thought that there was no better place to light the second Chanukah candle than the Western Wall … And here I would like to light Chanukah candles on behalf of the Glory of Israel. Happy Chanukah.”
And this recent letter from an Israeli soldier to President Obama (in italics):
Dear Mr. President,
You may deny our right to our homeland. You may try to rewrite our history. Just know that we are the most resilient people this world has ever seen. Our lighting of the menorah is proof of that fact. This time will be no different. Not yourself, not the UN, not the terror that you have given legitimacy to. No one will defeat us.
Jews light the menorah to celebrate restoration of Jewish control over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount—thousands of years ago. We were small and vastly outnumbered, but that did not stop us. We came together and we returned to our capital. Our home.
I have no doubt that the lights of our menorah will dispel all darkness. It will lighten the path to overcoming the endless Israel and Jew hatred. It will inspire us, and inspire our Jewish people. It will strengthen the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces. It will bring us together once again, and we will return to our capital. Our home.
Leibel A. Mangel
On this last day of the Festival of Lights—along with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the brave Israeli soldier—I, too, wish you a,
Happy New Year!