Chanukah: Prophecy and memorial for conception of Messiah and declaration of His mission

JeffWhat does ‎Chanukah (Festival of Dedication) have to do with believers in ‎Yeshua (‎Jesus)? It’s in the ‎Bible, and Yeshua celebrated it. In doing so, He gave one of the most startling teachings about Himself (John 10:22-38). As well as a remembrance of the perils of giving up God’s words to fit in or save one’s neck, Chanukah is a memorial of the great miracle of the conception of the ‎Messiah — ‎Immanuel (God With Us) — through Miriam (Mary) (Luke 1; 1Chronicles 24; Haggai 2).

We’ll start our study on these points in John 10, when Yeshua was celebrating Chanukah at the Temple in Jerusalem. This is our launching point, but it’s part of a teaching with Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Shmeni Atzeret (Eighth Day) and Chanukah as bookends. Isn’t it curious that the Feast of Dedication is mentioned in the Gospels?

When Yeshua was in the Temple, He and those there at the time commemorating a historical event that had happened over 200 years before. Though the events of the American Civil war in the 1860s or the War of 1812 don’t seem to have much of a connection to our modern lives, the events of Chanukah weren’t so distant to the people of the first century A.D., as life had a slower pace and the boot of Rome in Israel’s neck was similar to what Israel experienced earlier. 

The immediate history of the area went back to the time of Alexander the Great. After he died, his four generals divided the territory (Daniel 8). The two generals who traded control over the land of Israel were Selucius and Ptolomy. It was one of Selucius’ heirs — Antiochus IV, aka Epiphanes — who caused the events that lead up to the holiday of Chanukah. 

The people of Israel in the second century B.C. didn’t want to be different from the nations around them. They were strongly drawn to Hellenism. The Jewish people of the time were so strongly drawn into assimilation that many men surgically “corrected” their circumcision. Those who stood strong in Torah were a minority. 

A small army of Torah faithful priests and citizens were able to throw off the oppression of Hellenism and restored the Temple service. But simply kicking the Greeks out didn’t solve the root of the problem and the Romans came in to keep the peace. 

Why was Yeshua in the Temple during Chanukah? After all, according to Leviticus 23, He didn’t have to be there at that time. 

The holiday of Chanukah was basically a mini-Sukkot. Both the first and second Temples were dedicated during Sukkot, the idea of putting the temple into action during Sukkot is connected to Chanukah, too. 

Prophetically, there’s a connection between Chanukah and Sukkot too. There’s a prophesy in Haggai 2 that makes the connection. Haggai’s name means “my festival” and that is the theme of the book. 

Zerrubabel’s temple was smaller than the Temple that Solomon had built and was compared with Solomon’s temple poorly. It wasn’t until the Roman largess that Herod brought in that the Second Temple held a similar grandeur to Solomon’s temple. 

There’s a couple of time references in Haggai 2. The first one is the time of Sukkot, specifically the 21st day of the seventh month on God’s calendar. That’s the “greatest day of the feast,” which later in Israel’s history came to have a water-pouring ceremony in the Temple (John 7). The second one is the 24th day of the ninth month, which is when the holiday we now call Chanukah occurred. 

Luke 1 tells us about when John the Baptist was conceived and born. We meet his parents Zachariah and Elizabeth. There’s an important clue in Luke 1:5, 8-9 that Zachariah the priest was “of the division of Abijah” and was serving in the Temple at the time when the angel Gabriel told him his barren wife, Elisheva (Elizabeth), would have a son named Yokhanan (John), who would come in the “spirit of Eliyahu (Elijah).” This “division of Abijah” was first developed by king David (1Chronicles 23-24). The family of Abijah was the eighth of the 24 courses or divisions. All hands were on deck during the festivals, but the family of Abijah were on deck just before Shavuot. Yokhanan was conceived shortly thereafter and counting about 40 weeks later, Yokhanan would have been born around Passover. 

According to the Angel Gabriel, Yokhanan had a special commission: 

“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16–17, quoting Mal. 4:5–6)

Yokhanan would grow up to confront the people and cause them to have to make a decision as to who they would serve, just as Elijah did on Mt. Carmel. The reason we have Eliyahu’s cup at Passover, an ancient tradition, is people were looking for Eliyahu successor to appear, as prophet Malachi foretold. Sages expected that coming to be during Passover. And the mission of Eliyahu did arrive with Yokhanan (Matt. 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17; John 1:21). 

Six months after Gabriel visited Elizabeth, he visited Miriam, in what is now called the Annunciation. Six months after Shavuot would be around the time of Chanukah. Nine months after Chanukah is Sukkot. 

John 1:14 tells us that Yeshua “tabernacled” with us. The Greek word used there is skenoo, the same word used to refer to the Tabernacle of God in Hebrews 7-10 and in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. This is another clue that God’s appointment, or “fullness of time,” for Yeshua’s birth was Sukkot. 

There will be a time when Yeshua will “tabernacle” Himself with us forever (Revelation 21-22). David was embarrassed about the fact that God was living in a tabernacle while he lived in a palace but  when you read Hebrews, it talks about the glory of the Tabernacle, not the Temple. 

Chanukah and Sukkot are bookends of each other. 

“‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.” (Hag. 2:9) 

When did this happen? His conception at Chanukah was when God’s glory came to earth. His visit to the Temple recorded in John 10 is when God’s glory entered the Temple, which was a better glory than had been in the Temple before or since. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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