Originally called Chanukkat haMizbeach ('dedication of the altar'), Hanukkah is a minor eight day military holiday held by the Jews to commemorate the rededication of the Temple Altar after its defilement by the Greek pagan antichrist Antiochus Epipheanes. When the Jews cleaned out the temple idols, legend has it they found only one small cruse of oil with only enough oil for one day to light their holy lamps. They decided to light the Menorah (the Temple candelabra) even with the small amount of oil. To everyone’s amazement the menorah miraculously burned for eight days until new oil was available. Unfortunately, this miracle almost certainly never happened (it does not appear in the first and second books of the Maccabees that record the event twice in some detail) but was invented by the Pharisees to bolster their political power. The fact that the dedication lasted 8 days strongly suggests that Chanukkat haMizbeach was in fact a late Sukkot (which lasts 8 days), the inspiration coming from the permission granted Israel to have a late Passover or Pesach sheni (Second Passover) a month later when absolutely needed (Num.9).
The original Hanukkah was therefore a well-intentioned, once-only, though scripturally unwarranted late Sukkot combined with an altar dedication. Ordinarily a 12 day dedication is required by Torah (Num.7:11). As such, then, it was historically a 'once off' Sukkot sheni or 'Second Tabernacles' (2 Mac.1:18; 10:6), taking its inspiration from Solomon's 15 day-long dedication of the temple (2 Chr.7:9; 2 Mac.2:12) that later mutated into something it was never originally intended to be, containing a fake miracle to legitimise it as a separate festival all of its own. That mutation incorporated a 'feast of the fire' and magical nephtha-oil (2 Mac.1:19-22,31-32,36).
During Hanukkah Yah'shua (Jesus) spoke of His miracles (John 10:37-38). Yah'shua wanted the people of his day to see His miracles, point to his divine and messianic identity, and believe in Him as a result. But He did not observe the festival. Why?
- 1. Hanukkah was not a scriptural feast - Yahweh nowhere commanded Israel to observe it;
- 2. The historical essence of Hanukkah was liberty through war and self-effort, not the life-redeeming, intervening power of Yahweh;
- 3. The spirit of Hanukkah was anti-gentile - Yah'shua welcomed gentiles into the Kingdom;
- 4. Yah'shua refused to promote a Maccabean-type rebellion against Caesar; and
- 5. The spirit of the temple leaders was unreceptive to a man who cam as Son of Elohim to liberate people from sin.
Yah'shua did not therefore endorse the spirit of Hanukkah which commemorates the re-establishment of the Kingdom by violent means, contrary to the way of the Gospel. However, there is no reason why we cannot use the history behind the original, unembellished Hanukkah as an an opportunity to teach believers about coming days of persecution and tribulation when the Antimessiah (Antichrist) comes to power. Remember, the celebration of Hanukkah, with its special lights and ceremonies, is not commanded by Yahweh anywhere in Scripture and some of its elements are an outright fabrication. Moreover, there is strong evidence that these ceremonies borrowed from the pagan Saturnalia, like Christmas has. Therefore the festival is not observed by this ministry though we do use the 25th day of the 9th month to teach the facts behind historical events.