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Feast of Dedication / Festival of Lights


Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication. Although not mentioned in the scriptures, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire which ended with the rededication of the second temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of a candle placed on a nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah on each day of the festival. It may occur at any time from late November to late December, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar.

The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised or lower branch. The extra light is called a shamash and is given a distinct location. Traditionally, the shamash candle has an exclusive job, to light all the candles on the Hanukkiah. Rather than lighting each candle with a match, as using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than publicizing and meditating upon Hanukkah is forbidden.

The menorah in use during the first and second temples had seven branches, but after the second temple was destroyed, a tradition developed not to duplicate anything from the temple including the menorah's seven branches causing the use of a six-branched menorah.

The only mention of it in scripture is found in John.

John 10:22 "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter."

So how did this festival get started, and how was it originally observed? The only places it can be found is in 1 and 2 Maccabees,

In the celebration today, work is allowed on these days, the family gathers around the father as he lights candles with a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the liberation of His people from the persecution of the oppressor. Presents and money gifts are distributed to the children. During the evening games are played with the posing of riddles and exchange of jokes. In Europe the special table dish for the occasion was pancakes.

So how did this festival get started, and how was it originally observed? The only places it can be found is in 1 and 2 Maccabees,

1 Maccabees 4:49-59 "They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. Then they burned incense on the altar and lighted the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the temple. They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors. There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed.  Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev."

2 Maccabees 10:5-8 "Now upon the same day that the strangers profaned the temple, on the very same day it was cleansed again, even the five and twentieth day of the same month, which is Casleu. And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts. Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place. They ordained also by a common statute and decree, That every year those days should be kept of the whole nation of the Jews."

2 Maccabees 10:6-8 "They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year".

Antiquities of the Jews book12 chapter7:7 "Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival."

So according to Maccabees, Hanukkah began as a public edict and ratified by a vote to be celebrated in the same way as the festival of booths.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906:

The Feast of Dedication, also called "Feast of the Maccabees," celebrated during eight days from the twenty-fifth day of Kislew (December), chiefly as a festival of lights. It was instituted by Judas Maccabeus, his brothers, and the elders of the congregation of Israel, in the year 165 B.C., to be celebrated annually with mirth and joy as a memorial of the dedication of the altar (I Macc. iv. 59) or of the purification of the sanctuary (II Macc. i. 18). Three years earlier, on the same day, Antiochus Epiphanes had caused a pagan altar to be set up at the altar of burnt offerings in the Temple at Jerusalem, and sacrifices to be offered to his idol (I Macc. i. 41-64; II Macc. vi. 2). The idol called "Zeus Olympius" was probably also called "Ba’al Shamayim," of which seems to be a cacophemy (Dan. xi. 31, xii. 11; I Macc. i. 54; see Hoffmann, "Ueber Einige Phönizische Inschriften," 1889, p. 29).

After having recovered the Holy City and the Temple, Judas ordered the latter to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the one polluted, and new holy vessels to be made. When the fire had been kindled anew upon the altar and the lamps of the candlestick lit, the dedication of the altar was celebrated for eight days amid sacrifices and songs (I Macc. iv. 36), similarly to the Feast of Tabernacles (II Macc. x. 6; comp. ib. i. 9), which also lasts for eight days, and at which during the Second Temple (Suk.v. 2-4) the lighting of lamps and torches formed a prominent part. Lights were also kindled in the household, and the popular name of the festival was, therefore, according to Josephus (“Ant.” xii. 7, § 7), Πῶτα = “Festival of Lights.” accessed 11/05/17

So what is the Talmud?

The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law and Jewish theology. The Talmud was the centerpiece of Jewish cultural life and the foundation of all Jewish thought and aspirations. It contains the teachings and opinions of thousands of rabbis, dating from before the Common Era through to the fifth century, on a variety of subjects, Jewish ethics, philosophy, customs, history, and folklore, and other topics. The Talmud is the basis for Jewish law.

When did the gift giving and home decorations come into practice?

In countries where Christmas was widespread, those rituals began appearing in the Hanukkah celebrations, for example, exchange gifts and decorating ones home. 

Celebrating Hanukkah in the manner of the festival of booths has been lost, and based upon the facts above, it appears that lies and paganism has over taken this festival.

When celebrating Hanukkah, keep in mind what Jesus said,

"For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." (Mark 7:7-9)


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