The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, is a Jewish holiday. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. We will look at the Feast of Dedication from a Christian perspective, explaining its biblical basis, traditional observances, seasons, facts, and an interesting section revealing the fulfillment of the Messiah, Jesus Christ through the feast.
Time of Observance:
Hanukkah is celebrated during the Hebrew month of Kislev (November or December). It begins on day 25 of Kislev and lasts for 8 days.
• See Bible Feasts Calendar for actual dates.
About the Feast of Dedication:
Prior to the year 165 BC, the Jewish people who dwelled in Judea where living under the rule of the Greek kings of Damascus. During this time Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greco-Syrian king, took control of the Temple in Jerusalem and forced the Jewish people to abandon their worship of God, their holy customs and reading of the Torah, and he made them bow down to the Greek gods. According to the records, this King Antiochus IV defiled the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and spilling its blood on the holy scrolls of Scripture.
As a result of the severe persecution and pagan oppression, a group of four Jewish brothers, led by Judah Maccabee, decided to raise up an army of religious freedom fighters. These men of fierce faith and loyalty to God became known as the Maccabees. The small band of warriors fought for three years with "strength from heaven" until achieving a miraculous victory and deliverance from the Greco-Syrian control.
After regaining the Temple, it was cleansed by the Maccabees, cleared of all Greek idolatry, and readied for rededicated. The rededication of the Temple to the Lord took place in the year 165 BC, on the 25th day of the Hebrew month called Kislev.
So Hanukkah received its name, the Feast of Dedication, because it celebrates the Maccabees' victory over Greek oppression and the rededication of the Temple. But Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, and this is because immediately following the miraculous deliverance, God provided another miracle of provision.
In the Temple, the eternal flame of God was to be lit at all time as a symbol of God's presence. But according to tradition, when the Temple was rededicated, there was only enough oil left in the Temple to burn the flame for one day. The rest of the oil had been defiled by the Greeks during their invasion, and it would take a week for new oil to be processed and purified. But at the rededication, the Maccabees went ahead and lit the eternal flame with the remaining supply of oil, and God's Holy presence caused it to burn miraculously for eight days, until the new sacred oil was ready.
This is why the feast is also called the Festival of Lights, and why the Hanukkah Menorah is lit for eight consecutive nights of celebration. Jews also commemorate this miracle of oil provision by making oil-rich foods, such as Latkas, an important part of Hanukkah celebrations.
• Learn more about Hanukkah traditions and celebrations.
Jesus and the Feast of Dedication:
John 10: 22-23 records, "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade." (NIV) As a Jew, Jesus most certainly would have participated in the Feast of Dedication.
The same courageous spirit of the Maccabees who remained faithful to God during intense persecution was passed on to Jesus' disciples who would all face severe trails because of their faithfulness to Christ. And like the miracle of God's presence expressed through the eternal flame of God burning for the Maccabees, Jesus became the incarnate, physical expression of God's presence, the Light of the World, who came to dwell among us and give us the eternal light of God's life.
More Facts About Hanukkah
- Hanukkah is traditionally a family celebration.
- The lighting of the Menorah is the center of the Hanukkah traditions.
- Fried and oily foods are a reminder of the miracle of the oil.
- Dreidel games are traditionally played by children and often the whole household during Hanukkah.
- Probably because of Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas, many Jews give gifts during the holiday.
- More about Hanukkah.