Monday, December 3, 2018

A Historical Perspective on Hanukkah


The prophet Daniel (in the 6th century B.C) foresaw the rise of the Greek empire, its ultimate division into four parts and especially pointed to the regime of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who came to power in 175 B.C. (see Daniel 11:1-4; 21-25). It was against this king and his vicious edicts that the Maccabean family led a revolt during the years 167-160 B.C, with good reason. The religious prohibitions against the Jewish population in Israel at that time were very severe, resulting in horrendous penalties upon anyone who dared to violet those edicts.  The course of the militant rebellion was short, resulting not only in religious freedom, but also in achieving autonomy for the Jews from the Greek/Seleucid control. From then on the Maccabees, who were a priestly family, took upon themselves the leadership of Judea and acted in various capacities, but refrained from the judiciary and kingly duties (while they did sign a pact with Rome which opened the way for the latter to begin to influence the fledgling state). However, in the year 104 B.C. John Aristobulus I and then his brother Alexander Jannaeus declared themselves kings, thus establishing a royal dynasty, while still holding the position of the high priesthood, as did their successors. Things began to spiral downhill from there, resulting in a moral, spiritual and national decline of the “kingdom”, such as we see a century later at the time of Yeshua. Clearly the family who so miraculously won against all odds a war with a superpower failed to uphold the very principles they had fought for, and betrayed the people of Israel-Judea.

Although these chronicles of the revolt are not part of Scripture, but as we saw above there was a definite reference to what was about to transpire in Judea a couple of centuries beforehand.  Since the commemoration of the re-dedication and cleansing of the Temple (in the year 138 B.C.) is what Hanukkah is (or should be) all about, let us turn to another biblical text (from around 520 B.C) which is solely focused on the Temple of Elohim and its place in the life of the people of Israel, that is the book of the prophet Haggai.  This short book has quite a few things to say about the House of Elohim and its holiness. Moreover, as the historical date of the Hanukkah celebration is the 25th of the 9th month (Kislev), Haggai makes reference 3 times to the 24th of the 9th month (all of which are on the same year, “the second year of Darius”, chapter 2:10, 18, 20) being almost 400 years before the Hanukkah events. In fact, in 2:18 he says “Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of YHVH’s temple was laid -- consider it:” (emphasis added). Haggai lived during the time of the return to Zion, after the 70 year exile in Babylon, at which time the second Temple was being built. That prophet was greatly concerned for the new House of Elohim, its sound foundations and for the proper care and attitude on the part of those who would be attending to it. 

In the book that follows Haggai, Zachariah, the same year (Darius’ 2nd) is being referred to again, with prophecies that pertain to Jerusalem, to Zion AND, once more, to YHVH’s House. But here it is YHVH Himself who declares His zealousness for those places, and His word of promise concerning them: "Proclaim, saying, 'thus says YHVH of hosts: "I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.  I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped -- but with evil intent.”  Therefore thus says YHVH: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says YHVH of hosts, ‘and a surveyor's line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Again proclaim, saying, 'Thus says YHVH of hosts: "My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; YHVH will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem’" (Zach. 1:14b-17).

A few centuries later, Yeshua demonstrated His zealousness for the then existing House of Elohim. Matthew 21:12-13: “Then Yeshua went into the temple of Elohim and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, and He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" He also said to the merchants: “Do not make My Father’s House a house of merchandise” (John 2:16).  “And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple” (Mark 11:16).

It was at the very same scene and location that Yeshua also added, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’  But He was speaking of the temple of His body (John 2:19-21). “The temple of His body”!? Yes, Yeshua’s body, given for us (see Luke 22:19). If we follow this line of thinking a step further, Scripture also tells us that we too are the “temple of the living Elohim”.  Therefore Paul exhorts: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Messiah with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of Elohim with idols? For you are the temple of the living Elohim, as Elohim has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among themI will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate,” says YHVH. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says YHVH Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 emphasis added). 
   
We took a long journey around YHVH’s House or Temple, but isn’t this the essence of the celebration of this time of year? May this Hanukkah indeed be to us a feast of light as we celebrate the One who is “the Light of the world,” and who told us that “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12), and that, like Him, we too are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). With cleansed temples, surely His light through us will “so shine before men, that they may see your/our good works and glorify your/our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


5 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for these thoughts.I have translated it and published on https://tegentlicht.com/2018/12/03/een-historisch-perspectief-op-hanukkah/

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  2. .תודה רבה. חנוכה שמח

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  3. .תודה רבה. חנוכה שמח

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  4. Here is a post I just made that illustrates the reality of Hanukkah today in the modern Jewish State of Israel and how they respond to the on-going attempts of today's "Antiochus IV Epiphanes" wannabes in spirit found in the gross spiritual darkness that is attempting to overcome the nations of the world: https://www.facebook.com/sabba.abushy/posts/2319963768231642

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