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The Festival of Dedication, or Chanukah, does not just commemorate a battle of Greeks vs. Jews, but it was a civil war as well. Hellenized people of Israel fought against Israelites loyal to God and His instructions for life, the Torah. Antiochus IV (Epiphanies) only got involved when the Hellenized asked him to intervene to avoid losing to the “rebellious” faithful.
When asked if He were the Messiah on one Chanukah, Yeshua told the leaders of Israel, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (John 10:25). His faithfulness to the original and true intent of the words of God testified to His messiahship.
Texts: 1st Maccabees 1:11; 2:42-48; 3:5-6; 2nd Maccabees 6-7; John 10:22-39
Why isn’t the four books of Maccabees included in the canon of Judaism or Christianity? There were many books of historical merit that were relegated to the Apocrypha, but the reason of the exclusion of the books of the Maccabees is largely due to the second book’s mystical nature that doesn’t match other parts of the Bible.
Historical background of Chanukah
Alexander the Great and his four childhood friends grew up to first conquer Greece and then conquer the world. Upon his deathbed, Alexander commanded his four friends to split up the empire amongst themselves and told them not to fight each other. They agreed and obeyed Alexander’s final will and testament. Their heirs, however, went to war with each other for generations.
The two families that matter to this story are the Ptolemy and the Seleucids.
The Seleucid dynasty were ruled by men with the title Antiochus. The first few generations were good to Israel and allowed Israel to do their own thing as long as they paid their taxes. Antiochus III (Antiochus Epiphanes’s father), who was the king of the Seleucid’s when Anias was High Priest was told not to touch the Temple because the God who controlled that temple was a strong God not to be messed with.
Antiochus Epiphanes had been raised under Roman house arrest because of the wars between Rome and the Seleucids and grew up to be a corrupt and horrible man. He was not raised by his own father so he did not learn his father’s lessons in regards with how to rule Israel peacefully.
A man named Jason bribed Antiochus Epiphanes into making him High Priest by promising to make the Jewish people turn their loyalty and tithes away from God and towards him. Since Antiochus Epiphanes was required to pay heavy tribute to Rome and needed the money, he agreed to appoint Jason High Priest.
One of Jason’s first acts as High Priest was to build a gymnasium in Jerusalem. The gymnasium system’s sole purpose is for the participants to show off their muscular physical form for the spectators. It’s a forum for self-aggrandizement. You notice that the Bible does not discuss sports because sports do not glorify God but the individual.
All the Hellenized Jewish intelligencia participated in the gymnasium system. But people started to rebel.
Then Antiochus Epiphanes fought against Egypt and won that war. He turned around and came through Israel and plundered the Temple. God punished the people for the gymnasium by allowing Antiochus Epiphanes to plunder the temple. They put themselves in front of God and God took Himself away.
God gave the people a two-year reprieve after this to repent but they did not repent. Jason was still the High Priest and the gymnasium was still there. Instead of repent and go back to their Jewish ways, they strove to be even more Hellenized than before, which was a direct rebellion against God’s command to be a peculiar people.
Antiochus Epiphanes came two years later and plundered Jerusalem again. He commanded Jason the High Priest to slaughter pigs on the altar of the Temple and to eat pork. It was because Antiochus Ephiphanes wanted to put himself above God Himself.
The real lesson of Chanukah
But there were renegades, Jews who refused to be Hellenized. In 2nd Maccabees 6, Eliazar, a 90-year-old man, was asked to eat some of the swine flesh sacrificed in the temple. He had a choice to make: eat it and live another day, or refuse and die. Eliazar understood that he was not just living God’s law for his own sake but for those around them. He knew that his actions would be followed one way or another. The Hellenists knew this too. That’s why they asked him to eat the sacrifice first. Eliazar refused to eat and was brutally beaten and died.
We aren’t called to follow God’s law until it’s too hard for us. We are to follow God’s laws regardless of what mere mortals can do to our bodies because God preserves our souls. When you love God, you are willing to follow Him and obey Him in life and death.
The sages say that we are follow the Torah to life and not to death; it’s OK to break the Torah to save a life. But that is not biblical.
The holiday of Chanukah celebrates rebelling against assimilation. The real miracle of Chanukah is that a pathetically small group of men who refuse to assimilate. They would rather die in battle than see their country wiped out slowly by assimilation.
The outward symbols of Chanukah such as the dreidel (which is German), latkes (which are Eastern European), and the jelly donuts (which are Greek) are not Jewish at all.
Faithfulness to God’s words and Yeshua’s testimony in the temple on Chanukah
Yeshua’s message for Chanukah was in response to a direct question about His messiahship. Yeshua told them that his actions speak of who He is. He also told them that His sheep know Him by His voice, but those who who do not know His voice are not His sheep and do not have a part of him. The unbelieving pharisees were just as assimilated as the Hellenists were in the Maccabee’s day. It was more convenient for them to stay as they were than to follow Yeshua and be peculiar and different.
Speaker: Daniel Agee. Reader: Bill Chapman. Summary: Tammy.