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Celebrate Hanukkah at Home.  Get out of the Christmas Rat Race.Hanukkah or Chanukah (Hebrew, "dedication") is an annual festival of the Jews celebrated on eight successive days. It begins on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar (November or December). Also known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication, and Feast of the Maccabees, Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 BC after the Temple had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes ("god manifest"), king of Syria and overlord of Palestine.

Antiochus ordered the Jewish people to reject God, their religion, customs and beliefs, and forced them to worship the Greek gods. There were some who did as they were told, but many refused.

1 Maccabees 1:10-25, 43-50 (NJB)

Antiochus Epiphanes: Israel infected with Hellenism

10. From these there grew a wicked offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the 107th year of the kingdom of the Greeks. 11. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. "Come," they said, "let us ally ourselves with the gentiles surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us." 12. This proposal proved acceptable, 
13. and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the gentiles' observances. 14. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the gentiles have, 15. disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to gentile rule as willing slaves of impiety.

First Egyptian campaign and pillage of the Temple

16. Once Antiochus had seen his authority established, he determined to make himself king of Egypt and the ruler of both kingdoms. 17. He invaded Egypt in massive strength, with chariots and elephants (and cavalry) and a large fleet. 
18. He engaged Ptolemy king of Egypt in battle, and Ptolemy turned back and fled before his advance, leaving many casualties. 19. The fortified cities of Egypt were captured, and Antiochus plundered the country. 20. After his conquest of Egypt, in the year 143, Antiochus turned about and advanced on Israel and Jerusalem in massive strength. 21. Insolently breaking into the sanctuary, he removed the golden altar and the lamp-stand for the light with all its fittings, 22. together with the table for the loaves of permanent offering, the libation vessels, the cups, the golden censers, the veil, the crowns, and the golden decoration on the front of the Temple, which he stripped of everything. 23. He made off with the silver and gold and precious vessels; he discovered the secret treasures and seized them 24. and, removing all these, he went back to his own country, having shed much blood and uttered words of extreme arrogance. 25. There was deep mourning for Israel throughout the country:

43. and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath. 44. The king also sent edicts by messenger to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, directing them to adopt customs foreign to the country, 45. banning burnt offerings, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary, profaning Sabbaths and feasts, 46. defiling the sanctuary and everything holy, 47. building altars, shrines and temples for idols, sacrificing pigs and unclean beasts, 48. leaving their sons uncircumcised, and prostituting themselves to all kinds of impurity and abomination, 49. so that they should forget the Law and revoke all observance of it. 50. Anyone not obeying the king's command was to be put to death. 

In 168 BC, on a date corresponding approximately to December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, the Temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus Olympius by order of Antiochus. An altar to Zeus was set up on the high altar.

1 Maccabees 1:54-61

Installation of gentile cults

54. On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 the king built the appalling abomination on top of the altar of burnt offering; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah 55. and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. 56. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned. 57. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king's decree sentenced him to death. 58. Month after month they took harsh action against any offenders they discovered in the towns of Israel. 59. On the twenty-fifth day of each month, sacrifice was offered on the altar erected on top of the altar of burnt offering. 60. Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death according to the edict 61. with their babies hung round their necks, and the members of their household and those who had performed the circumcision were executed with them.

We understand this as the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy found in Daniel 11:21-23,28,31-32:

21. `In his place will rise a wretch: royal honours will not be given to him, but rather he will insinuate himself into them at his pleasure and will gain possession of the kingdom by intrigue. 22. Armies will be utterly routed and crushed by him, the Prince of the covenant too. 23. Through his alliances he will act treacherously and, despite the smallness of his following, grow ever stronger. 28. Then the wretch will return greatly enriched to his own country, his heart set against the holy covenant; he will take action and then return to his own country. 32. Those who break the covenant he will seduce by his blandishments, but the people who know their God will stand firm and take action.

One who refused was a man named Judah. He and his four brothers formed an army and chose "Maccabee" ("hammer") as their family name.

1 Mac 2:1-6,14-16,19-30,42,43.

Mattathias and his sons

1. About then, Mattathias son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the line of Joarib, left Jerusalem and settled in Modein. 2. He had five sons, John known as Gaddi, 3. Simon called Thassi, 
4. Judas called Maccabaeus, 5. Eleazar, called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus. 6. When he saw the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem.  14. Mattathias and his sons tore their garments, put on sackcloth, and observed deep mourning.

The ordeal of the sacrifice at Modein

15. The king's commissioners who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein for the sacrifices. 16. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart. 19. Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, "Even if every nation living in the king's dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, 20. I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. 21. May Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances. 22. As for the king's orders, we will not follow them: we shall not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left." 23. As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein as the royal edict required. 24. When Mattathias saw this, he was fired with zeal; stirred to the depth of his being, he gave vent to his legitimate anger, threw himself on the man and slaughtered him on the altar. 25. At the same time he killed the king's commissioner who was there to enforce the sacrifice, and tore down the altar. 26. In his zeal for the Law he acted as Phinehas had against Zimri son of Salu. 27. Then Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, "Let everyone who has any zeal for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me." 28. Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town.

The ordeal of the Sabbath in the desert

29. Many people who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there, 30. taking with them their sons, their wives and their cattle, so oppressive had their sufferings become. 

42. Soon they were joined by the Hasidaean party, stout fighting men of Israel, each one a volunteer on the side of the Law. 43. All the refugees from the persecution rallied to them, giving them added support. 

After three years of fighting, the Maccabees were finally successful in driving the Hellenists out of Israel and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees wanted to clean the building and to remove the hated Greek symbols and statues.

1 Maccabees 3:1-2; 4:12-22,36-40

The eulogy of Judas Maccabaeus

1. His son, Judas, known as Maccabaeus, then took his place. 2. All his brothers, and all who had attached themselves to his father, supported him, and they fought for Israel with a will.

12. The foreigners looked up and, seeing the Jews advancing against them, 13. came out of the camp to join battle. Judas' men sounded the trumpet 14. and engaged them. The gentiles were defeated and fled towards the plain 15. and all the stragglers fell by the sword. The pursuit continued as far as Gezer and the plains of Idumaea, Azotus and Jamnia, and the enemy lost about three thousand men.

16. Breaking off the pursuit, Judas returned with his men 17. and said to the people, "Never mind the booty, for we have another battle ahead of us. 18. Gorgias and his troops are still near us in the mountains. First stand up to our enemies and fight them, and then you can safely collect the booty." 19. The words were hardly out of Judas' mouth, when a detachment came into view, peering down from the mountain. 20. Observing that their own troops had been routed and that the camp had been fired, since the smoke, which they could see, attested the fact, 21. they were panic-stricken at the sight; and when, furthermore, they saw Judas' troops drawn up for battle on the plain, 22. they all fled into Philistine territory. 

36. Judas and his brothers then said, "Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it." 37. So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion. 38. There they found the sanctuary deserted, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt down, and vegetation growing in the courts as it might in a wood or on some mountain, while the storerooms were in ruins. 39. They tore their garments and mourned bitterly, putting dust on their heads. 40. They prostrated themselves on the ground, and when the trumpets gave the signal they cried aloud to Heaven.

On the 25th day of the month of Kislev, the Temple was rededicated to God with festivities that lasted eight days.

1 Mac 4:41-56

41. Judas then ordered his men to keep the Citadel garrison engaged until he had purified the sanctuary. 42. Next, he selected priests who were blameless and zealous for the Law 43. to purify the sanctuary and remove the stones of the "Pollution" to some unclean place.

44. They discussed what should be done about the altar of burnt offering which had been profaned, 45. and very properly decided to pull it down, rather than later be embarrassed about it since it had been defiled by the gentiles. They therefore demolished it 46. and deposited the stones in a suitable place on the hill of the Dwelling to await the appearance of a prophet who should give a ruling about them. 47. They took unhewn stones, as the Law prescribed, and built a new altar on the lines of the old one. 48. They restored the Holy Place and the interior of the Dwelling, and purified the courts. 49. They made new sacred vessels, and brought the lamp-stand, the altar of incense, and the table into the Temple. 50. They burned incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lamp-stand, and these shone inside the Temple. 51. They placed the loaves on the table and hung the curtains and completed all the tasks they had undertaken.

52. On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year 148 they rose at dawn 53. and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of burnt offering which they had made. 54. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of hymns, zithers, lyres and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the gentiles had originally profaned it. 55. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration and then praised Heaven who had granted them success. 56. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering burnt offerings, communion and thanksgiving sacrifices. 

According to tradition, only one cruse of pure olive oil ("mercy drops"), sealed by the high priest and necessary for the rededicatory ritual, could be found. Dedication-quality oil was rare and only made once per year. But this tiny amount burned miraculously for eight days, until more might be secured. 

The following is the English translation of the account found in The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 21b: "What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Hasmoneans] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day's lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving." 

A principal feature of the present-day celebration, commemorating this miracle, is the lighting of candles, one the first night, two the second, and so on until a special nine-branched candelabrum is completely filled.  The ninth candle is the shammah that lights the other candles.

Hanukkah is mentioned in an important juncture in Yahshua / Yahshua' life:

Yahshua claims to be the Son of God

22. It was the time of the feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23. and Yahshua was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. 24. The Jews gathered round him and said, "How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us openly." 25. Yahshua replied: I have told you, but you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father's name are my witness; 26. but you do not believe, because you are no sheep of mine.  27. The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  28. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand.  29. The Father, for what he has given me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal anything from the Father's hand.  30. The Father and I are one (an echad).

What is Yahshua saying about his messiahship in the context of Hanukkah?

Consider the words of Marty Goetz closely for a Messianic understanding of how we might observe Hanukkah.

Make my life your temple, Lord, at this season’s start
To pull down every idol I have raised up in my heart
On this Hanukkah, On this feast of dedication
I dedicate myself to you

Take my defiled altar, Come and cleanse and come repair
So every time I falter I can run to meet you there
On this Hanukkah, On this feast of dedication
I dedicate myself to you

And with every candle on the menorah
That illuminates the night
Comes a prayer you’ll kindle in me, Yahshua
A desire for your fire, for your light

O make of my mortal body
A house worthy of your name
Rid me of what’s ungodly
And every hidden thing of shame
On this Hanukkah, On this feast of dedication
I dedicate myself to you

And with every candle on the menorah
That illuminates the night
Comes my prayer you’d kindle in me, Messiah
A desire for your fire, for your light

Take my supply of oil, Not enough to burn long, I fear
But oh how I pray I may one day say A great miracle happened here
On this Hanukkah, On this feast of dedication
I dedicate myself to you
My Yahshua – I dedicate myself ... to you