Hanukkah, the Season of Miracles!
While Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is not one of the Biblical feasts God's people celebrate this holiday in remembrance of the victory of a small band of Jews over the occupying army of Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, a Hellenistic Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who ruled over the Syrian section of what was Alexander’s empire. Antiochus, who came to power in 175 B.C.E. forbade the Jews to practice their religion, and desecrated their Temple ... but YHWH caused it to backfire!
Here's a quick overview of Hanukkah:
Hanukkah in a nutshell:
Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication) is an eight-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. It is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a very special candelabrum, a nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. An extra candle called a shamash is also lit each night for the purpose of lighting the others, and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.
When lighting the candles of the Hanukiah each night, it is customary to say the following prayers:
Blessed are You, YHWH, King of the universe,
Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this season.
Blessed are You, YHWH, King of the universe,
Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
And now, back to the history:
More than 2000 years ago for a time the land of Israel was part of the Syrian Empire, dominated by Syrian rulers of the dynasty of the Seleucids. In 167 B.C.E. an elderly Jewish priest, Mattiyahu, was confronted by a group of Syrian soldiers in his town of Modi'. The soldiers attempted to coax Mattiyahu and his five sons to worship at an altar they had erected to Zeus, but he refused, and boldly tore down the altar. He then fled to the mountains along with his sons and a few followers.
This small group, known as the Maccabees, later initiated a revolt against the Syrian army and, fighting with little more than sticks and farm tools, won victory after victory over the Syrian army. On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem, and took back the Temple.
The story goes, because the Syrians had left it in a state of grievous ruin, the men set out to restore it, and the first thing they did was to light the golden menorah, which was supposed to burn continuously. Unfortunately, they only had oil enough to keep the menorah burning for 24 hours. But, as they worked fervently day after day to clean and repair the Temple, the oil in the Menorah never ran out. The Menorah burned for eight days, long enough for new oil to be made.
Thus, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, beginning on the 25th of Kislev. Hanukkah actually means "Feast of Dedication", because the Temple was restored to a holy place of worship and rededicated to the God of Israel, Adonai Elohim Tzva'ot. Hanukkah commemorates not only the miracle of the Menorah, but also the victory of the Maccabees. How the Maccabees won, to this day, is both a mystery and a miracle - perhaps similar to the victory the tiny outnumbered state of Israel experienced in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Yes, it's true we can't "prove" that the "oil story" is actually true, but we can prove they lit candles to commemorate the first Hanukkah. The story in every other respect is confirmed in the two primary, although "uncanonized" sources of 1-2 Maccabees and Josephus. (Non-canonized references include Book of Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabee's, and Josephus. Talmudic reference includes Rosh HaShana 24b, Yoma 16a, Megillat Taanit chapter nine, Mishna Bikkurim 1:6.)
But honestly, if celebrating Hanukkah was good enough for Y'shua (see below), why wouldn't it be good enough for us? He actually revealed His identity at this time! No one can say for sure, but it seems he was celebrating the event of Hanukkah because of the fact that John mentions "it was the Feast of Dedication" to give context to Messiah's appearance. This was no ordinary day....
By the way, Yeshua our Messiah - the "Light of the World" was conceived during "The Festival of Lights" and he participated in the feast of Dedication! (You can count exactly nine months from Hanukkah to Sukkot!)
John 10: 22 Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, 23 and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo's Colonnade. 24 So the Judeans surrounded him and said to him, "How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly!" 25 Yeshua answered them, "I have already told you, and you don't trust me. The works I do in my Father's name testify on my behalf,
26 but the reason you don't trust is that you are not included among my sheep.
27 My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, 28 and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands. 29 My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them from the Father's hands. 30 I and the Father are one."
31 Once again the Judeans picked up rocks in order to stone him. 32 Yeshua answered them, "You have seen me do many good deeds that reflect the Father's power; for which one of these deeds are you stoning me?" 33 The Judeans replied, "We are not stoning you for any good deed, but for blasphemy -- because you, who are only a man, are making yourself out to be God [Hebrew: Elohim]." 34 Yeshua answered them, "Isn't it written in your Torah, `I have said, "You people are Elohim?'"
35 If he called `elohim' the people to whom the word of Elohim was addressed (and the Tanakh cannot be broken), 36 then are you telling the one whom the Father set apart as holy and sent into the world, `You are committing blasphemy,' just because I said, `I am a son of Elohim'? 37 "If I am not doing deeds that reflect my Father's power, don't trust me. 38 But if I am, then, even if you don't trust me, trust the deeds; so that you may understand once and for all that the Father is united with me, and I am united with the Father." (CJB)
Please note, on Hanukkah we use a nine-pronged menorah instead of the usual seven-pronged one for daily use - the one YHWH Himself designed!