Chanukah's eight days afford plenty of time to ponder this festival's meaning, history, and even legitimacy. Chanukah's reason for being is the rededication of the Temple's altar after its intentional desecration, at the bidding of the Seleucid king who ruled over "Greater Syria" (of which the land of Israel constituted one region). Antiochus Epiphanes' cruel edicts against practicing YHVH's laws and Jewish customs spurred a rebellion led by Mattathias the priest, of the order of Jehojariv, and his five sons. Against all odds, they won a number of battles – the few against the many. The historians tell us that, in time their numbers grew as did their military capabilities in guerrilla warfare. But alas, those victories were short-lived, and in the eighth and final battle, they sustained heavy losses. This led them to call upon the Romans, with whom Judah the Maccabee had already made a pact, who were just beginning to step onto the world stage. Their negotiations on the behalf of the Judeans with the Seleucid leadership resulted in almost one hundred years of autonomous rule over a widespread territory.
It was at that time that the Hasmoneans seized charge of the Temple, the center of religious, economic, and political life, as priests (although not Zadokites), as well as, in their third generation, also created a royal dynasty. This was, of course, a great affront to YHVH's laws of clearly separating those two seats of power. What's more, in time, their rule became corrupt and oppressive, with great internal discord. In order to settle matters, the Romans were once again approached. Being only too glad to oblige, they sent their General, Pompey. This move proved to be very costly – territories were taken over and ultimately Judea lost its sovereignty, but not the corruption that was now embedded in the local regime and line of successive leaders.
With all this said, we still celebrate the short-lived and miraculous victory. The rededication of the Temple altar, and the lighting of what appears to have been a make-shift Menorah (since the real one was stolen by Antiochus Epiphanes), draws attention to the Light of the World, by whose Spirit we may purify and rededicate our lives to Him.
Daniel's accurate prophecies in chapter 11 of his book, concerning the military and political events that culminated in the Chanukah story, present a template for the latter days, and once again underscore this feast's significance. The eight days festivities also echo Succot, with its own prophetic connotation, which at that time could not be celebrated at its proper date and was thus pushed forward. The 'cruse of oil' story made its way to Jewish sources only 800 years after the facts and is thought to be the sages' way of diminishing the glory accorded to the Hasmonean family, of whom they did not approve, to say the least. Curiously, the prophet Haggai, in the second chapter of his book, makes three references, with some prophetic significance, to the date which later became the first day of Chanukah, namely the twenty-fourth of the ninth month.
So, how are we to view this somewhat controversial occasion?
This question is reminiscent of Joshua's question to the "man with the drawn sword": "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" (Joshua 5:13). The answer was: "No, but as Commander of the army of YHVH I have now come" (v. 14). When Yeshua was walking in the Temple, in Solomon's porch, during Chanukah, He was well aware of this feast's history, as well as of that which was about to happen to the very edifice that He was now gracing with His presence (ref. John 10:27; Matt. 24:1-2). Living betwixt and between the sordid past with its shortcomings and the foreboding future, in clinging to the Master-Savior-Redeemer we can remain in a safety zone while He sheds light on our present, as in His light we see light (ref. Ps. 36:9).
Amen. Yeshua is the only way to get perspective on all our celebrations! So sad that we have to uncover the "then man began" scenarios!ReplyDelete