So if you read my post about not being so easily offended by the greetings “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” then you now know that I do not celebrate Christmas. I do, however, celebrate Hanukkah. I’ve had many people ask me why I celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas. I think the best way to explain would be tell you what Hanukkah is really all about.
A Hanukkah History/Antiochus IV Epiphanes
In 200 BC, Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and gained the region of Judea as part of its kingdom. Antiochus III wanted to make peace within his new kingdom so he allowed the Jews to continue worshipping as the pleased and to live a life according to Torah.
But in 175 BC, after killing his two nephews who were the legitimate successors of the throne, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. Antiochus IV Epiphanes’s original name was Mithradates. This is important because if you’ve read my post about the pagan origins of Christmas, you know the name Mithra was another alias that Tammuz/Nimrod went by. Some other names used for him were Saturn, Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Indra, Budda, and Iesus (which later developed into the name “Jesus”). Essentially, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was named after the pagan sun god who was born on December 25, died at the winter solstice (Dec 21) and rose again at the spring equinox.
After assuming the throne, he caught wind of rumors that he had been killed and a subsequent revolt was taking place in Jerusalem. He then stormed Jerusalem, quelled the revolt, and subsequently killed 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery as recorded in 2 Maccabees and Josephus.
In order to strengthen his hold over this region, he outlawed Jewish traditions and practices and, instead, ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. He then sent his army to enforce this decree. They profaned YHVH’s Holy Temple by dedicating it to Zeus, bringing obelisks and other abominable objects into the Temple, and pouring the blood of slaughtered pigs in the Temple and the Holy of Holies. According to Josephus, public worship of YHVH, including sacrifices, was shut down for 3½ years because of Antiochus IV’s proclamation.
Given what you just read about Antiochus IV, I hope you recognize him as a type and shadow of the anti-Messiah in spoken about in Revelation.
After Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree spread, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. This rebel group became known as the Maccabees or “hammer” in Hebrew.
The Maccabean revolt began when Antiochus’ army ordered that Mattathias sacrifice a pig on the altar of YHVH. When he refused, a fellow priest stepped forward to sacrifice the pig in hopes that the army would then leave them alone. Mattathias, rather than see YHVH’s altar profaned and a priest commit blasphemy, killed the priest and afterwards fled to the wilderness with his sons.
There are conflicting dates given for how long the Maccabean revolt actually lasted. Some believe the revolt lasted 20 years, ending only when the entire Judean region had been reconquered and the Hasmonean Dynasty was established. Others, however, believe the revolt lasted 7 years – the first 3 ½ years being when the sacrifices were stopped and ending when the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were reclaimed. Hopefully this all sounds familiar to you.
Rededication of the Temple of YHVH
After several years of living in the wilderness, hiding in caves, and engaging in rebel warfare, the Maccabees emerged victorious. They entered Jerusalem with their hearts full of joy, only to find the Temple of YHVH completely and utterly desecrated.
Pigs had been slaughtered on the altar of YHVH. Pagan asherah poles, obelisks, and a drove of statues had been placed in the Temple. There was fornication and orgies, worship of hundreds of pagan gods, and many more blasphemes that had taken place. So in order to restore that ways of YHVH and Temple workings, the Maccabees began the cleansing of the Temple.
Part of Temple protocol is that the light from the menorah must burn continually. Thus, lighting the menorah was one of the first actions the Maccabees took. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Maccabees could only find enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days and they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple.
Rededication of Our Temples
I want to emphasize the Rabbinic tradition part of this story. The miracle of the oil lasting for eight days is part of the legend of the story, not historical fact. In my personal opinion, Rabbinic Judaism has emphasized the oil lasting and downplayed the Maccabean Revolt in order to overshadow the real miracle of the Hanukkah story — the profaning of YHVH’s ways coming to an end — and thereby keeping hidden their own roots in mixing the holy with the profane.
Something I didn’t emphasize in our little history lesson earlier, was that the Maccabean Revolt began as a campaign against other Jews. This wasn’t senseless violence or hostility among themselves, but, rather, it was a campaign to stop the Hellenization process among the Jews of the region.
Remember the other priest killed by Mattathias which essentially started the entire revolt? He was the embodiment of what was happening at the time — and is still going on today. The vast majority of people were fine with mixing the Greek (i.e. pagan or Hellenistic) system with the ways of YHVH as prescribed in the Torah. That priest was willing to sacrifice a pig, obviously completely forbidden by YHVH, in order to have “peace” with the nations of the world and to save his own skin.
Now, trust me, I don’t think it’s an easy thing to lay down your life for what you believe, but it is a choice that we should settle in our hearts now.
The Bible tells us there will come a day when another anti-Messiah, more powerful, evil, and violent than Antiochus Epiphanes will rise to power. He will demand that the ways of YHVH be discarded. He will demand that he be worshiped as god. What will we do in that day when the choice is your life or the bending of your knee?
It’s not an easy choice to make, but it’s one that YHVH will give you the courage to make.
Today, we are bombarded with reports of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other terrorist groups going into cities and villages and demanding people convert to Islam or die. I heard a story recently of a group of Christian children in Iraq that were beheaded for not renouncing their faith and converting to Islam. There are Christian villages being slaughtered across the Middle East by Muslim extremists. This decision of life or death is a very real possibility for some people.
Not quite as violent, but no less important, example of this in our daily lives is how we choose to live.
Hellenistic practices have taken such deep root in our traditions and values that we don’t even realize that we live contrary to God in certain areas of our lives. Many Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and Church traditions are so pagan you would be sick to your stomach (trust me, I felt this way after doing all the research into Greek mythology for some of my posts).
But Orthodox Judaism isn’t much better most times. Remember those Hellenized Jews I mentioned? Well they made a huge comeback after the Hasmonean Dynasty fell and the Roman Empire took over around the time of Yeshua. During this time, Rabbincal Judaism was solidified as the authority on Torah and Judaism — often times rejecting YHVH’s principles for their own man-made laws!
My point is this: man-made traditions on either side of the aisle will never get it right. The only way to be a truly pleasing offering to YHVH is to obey His Torah and believe in His Son Yeshua as Messiah.
But first, we must cleanse our own temples.
We have to let go of the traditions we have accepted without question in our lives. We have to look truth and fact straight in the face and decide how we will live. We must make the hard choices to leave pagan traditions behind in our pursuit to know and love YHVH more.
I know it’s not an easy choice to make but it’s one that we must have the courage to make.
Maybe you’ve already made the decision to leave man-made traditions and cleave to the ways of YHVH. That’s great! But the cleansing of your temple doesn’t end there. We could always use a little maintenance — things don’t stay clean just because you clean them once.
So this Hanukah season, what areas of your life is YHVH asking you to cleanse and purify? What areas of your life does He want you to rededicate to Him? What wrong things is He wanting to get rid of that have taken His place?
The choice is yours to make. I pray you find the courage to make it.
“And now, fear YHVH, serve Him in perfection and in truth, and put away the mighty ones which your fathers served beyond the [Euphrates] River and in Egypt, and serve YHVH!
And if it seems evil in your eyes to serve YHVH, choose for yourselves this day whom you are going to serve, whether the mighty ones which your fathers served that were beyond the [Euphrates] River, or the mighty ones of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve YHVH.” Joshua 24:14-15