At this time of Hanukkah, once more the world is trying to destroy Israel with this UN vote declaring Israel has no right to its promised land. But as in the time of Hanukkah we know they will not succeed as the God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. This He has proven to the People of Israel and the world countless times throughout history. And as before the promises of God can never be undone by the plans of man.
Feast of Hanukkah
FEAST: Hanukah (Dedication)
This is not a Biblical feast, however we get a lot of questions about it so I will include it in this paper and my thoughts on it.
Time: Sometime from the end of October to the middle of December, it depends on the lunar calendar.
Commemorates: This feast tells of therededication of the temple in 164 B.C. after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated it. Hanukah tells of the relighting of the Menorah in the Temple at this time.
Prophetic Message:- The light coming into the world and the darkness not being able to overcome it. John 1:5.
Description of Feast:
On Hanukah (the festival of lights) the Jewish people celebrate their victory over the Greeks and their rededication of the temple, which the Greeks had desecrated by sacrificing a pig on the altar and dedicating the Temple to the Greek gods. Through lighting a new candle each day for eight days, the Jewish people commemorate the miracle of the Temple's holy menorah. When they came to rededicate the Temple they had only one day's worth of consecrated oil, but it burned for eight full days, the time needed to press and consecrate more oil.
The Story of Hanukah:
From the Apocrypha, 2 Maccabees 10 vv. 1-8
Maccabaeus with his men, led by the Lord, recovered the Temple and Jerusalem. He demolished the altars erected by the heathens in the public square and also in their sacred precincts. When they had purified the sanctuary they offered a sacrifice for the first time for two whole years, and restored the incense, the lights and the Bread of the Presence. This done, they prostrated themselves and prayed to the Lord not to let them fall any more into such disasters, but, should they ever happen to sin, to discipline them with clemency and not hand them over to blasphemous and barbarous Gentiles. The sanctuary was purified on the 25th of Kislev, the same day of the month as that on which the foreigners had profaned it. The joyful celebration lasted for eight days; it was like the Feast of Tabernacles, for they all recalled how, only a short time before, they had kept the Feast while they were living like wild animals in the mountains and caves; and so they carried garlanded wands and branches with their fruits, as well as palm-fronds. They chanted hymns to the One who had so triumphantly achieved the purification of His Temple.
The public assembly passed a measure to the effect that the entire Jewish race should keep these days every year.
The Feast of Dedication celebrates the end of the Hellenistic oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes IV. The level of resistance to that oppression shows us to what lengths the religious Jews will go to hold on to the Word of God and its commandments. It is said that Bethlehem is only a short distance from Jerusalem so Joseph took his wife there as there was no room in Jerusalem. The Word of God clearly states why they went to Bethlehem. The distance from Bethlehem to the old city of Jerusalem is approximately 12 Kilometers. A long walk in the time of our Lord before tar sealed roads, especially for a heavily pregnant woman. Although Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for the census, many other Jews would have had to go to other towns much further away. They would have not have done this if it had been the time of Tabernacles, as it would have meant going against the Word of God. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
Hanukah is a non-Levitical feast, as it occurred long after the Exodus, but one that Yeshua did attend. John 10:22 According to Albert Whalley in “The Red Letter Days Of Israel” It was at this time of the year, at Hanukah, that the very early Believers celebrated the birth of Yeshua.
However, there have been many attempts to understand when the Lord was born, as the time is not stated in the Scriptures. People have tried to work things out with the result being some reasonable assumptions that could make sense. However most of these calculations are worked on man’s understanding.
For example was Yeshua ever born? The simple answer is yes. Was He conceived? The answer to this is not quite so simple. The scriptures say that Mary conceived but did she conceive Yeshua or was He placed in the womb? We humans in translating God’s Word understand conception but would we understand “He was placed in the womb”? I do not know the answer to this but what I do know is that He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13:8). So if He was the same yesterday, the day before He was born He was the same. The day before He was “conceived” He was the same. The day before Abraham saw His day and rejoiced, He was the same. Before creation He was the same. Yeshua has existed for all time so when was He born? As He is without end so is this question. Maybe this is why God the Father did not reveal in the scriptures the time of His Son’s “birth” because Yeshua has always been.
So let us look at the understanding that Yeshua was born at Tabernacles. If we count so many days from and then add them to, we come up with the value of X.
The Late Lance Lambert once said in one of his tapes that the time of service of a Priest could be delayed or advanced, if the wife of the Priest was to have a child or was sick; so as in algebra the value of X is always changing. I have just read an article where the early Church Fathers using the same calculations about the birth of John the Baptist came to the conclusion that Yeshua was born on the 25th of December. We do not know the date of the birth of Yeshua but what we do know is He was born at the time of the census.
The political authorities of the time in this area would not have called for a census that required people to leave where they were living and go to the town of their families at a time when they were commanded by God to be in Jerusalem. (Deuteronomy.16:16). If nothing else these people were zealous for God and His commands. Quirinius, the Governor of Syria, who knew the customs of the people, would have known that this would cause much unrest and rioting and no such riot is recorded at the time of the birth of Yeshua.
To try and understand when the Lord was born we have to look at the purpose of the Feasts and their fulfillment. We need to look at the Feasts and see how Yeshua fitted into each of them. The purpose is easy, they are a shadow of things to come. (Colossians 2:16-17). Their fulfillment is not so easy, some people say that they have been partially fulfilled. However they are either fully fulfilled or they are not. If they are an example of what is to come, the Lord is going to fully come or He is not.
To summarise the Biblical Feasts of the Lord:
Passover – He was our Passover Lamb.
Feast of Unleavened bread (Symbol of being without sin) – He was without sin.
Feast of First Fruits – First fruit from the dead.
Shavuot – Feast of weeks – when the Holy Spirit revealed to the people the Truth of what Yeshua was saying to them.
All of these were fulfilled in and through Yeshua. We can remember Him through these Feasts but we also have Him to look forward to in the remaining Feasts, the Feasts of the end times.
Rosh HaShanah- known as the ingathering, Kingship and wedding.
Yom Kippur – standing in front of the Judgment seat, our lives laid out before us.
Tabernacles – The Feast – The wedding of the Lamb.
These three have not yet been fulfilled. Some say that Tabernacles has been partially fulfilled but then it would be the only one of all of the Feasts that would be so, and I ask, would God fulfill all but one and do it twice on the most important Feast in the end times, the Marriage of the Lamb to His Bride?
There is another factor to take into account. What does Scripture say about the time of the birth? It says that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem and the reason for this was the fact that Joseph’s family line came from there. Now we come to the point of discussion of the time of the census.
Scripture does not say they went to Bethlehem for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Romans were many things but they were not silly, they did try to get the people within their empire to work with them and not against them. The authorities would have known that the Jewish people, within their religion, were required to go up to Jerusalem three times a year. Passover, Shavuot and Tabernacles. Deuteronomy 16:16.
The Word of God clearly tells us Joseph took his family to Bethlehem and there Yeshua was born in a “manger” Luke 2:7, or in Hebrew yevus. If He was born in a booth or in Hebrew Succah the Word of God would have stated so.
Now these major Biblical requirements seem to have been forgotten. Because of this Biblical requirement, the Jewish people would have obeyed God before man and this would have caused a major uprising, which would have been recorded at the time.
Having lived in Israel and seen how the “modern” Pharisees react when something is placed upon them that goes against the Bible, it is easy to see what their reaction would have been if they were living in Jerusalem and told they had to go to their family home which, for argument sake, was a town somewhere in the north away from Jerusalem.
Now it has been stated that the reason the inns were full in Bethlehem, was because there were so many people who had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. There was no room for them there so they spilled over into Bethlehem. However the Bible clearly says this was the hometown of Joseph and that is where he was required to be for the census. The reason there was no room for them is there was no room at the Inn, so it sounds as if there was only one Inn in Bethlehem at this time and going by the size of it in Biblical times this would most likely be true. It is also recorded in Numbers 2 the arrangements for the tribal camps outside the Tabernacle which would have applied around the Temple. So they would not have needed rooms if they camped as per areas allocated.
The Scriptures say “they watched their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8), so it is said it could not have been winter. We lived in Bethlehem for 16 months and Jerusalem for the remainder of a 3 year period and know that there are several points about the weather that should be taken into account. The first being that the rains come in the winter and this is when the grass grows and the sheep are taken out to graze. It is not so cold that the grass growth is inhibited as the temperature in the day can rise to the mid 20’s. There may be very cold spells but there are also very long warmer days and the Shepherds are out whether it is cold or warm.
At night the animals were put in caves or pens made up of thorn bushes to keep them safe from wild animals. Whatever the case that was used for night shelter the sheep were watched as they are today, day and night, year in year out. Today they are placed in a pen under or next to the shepherd’s home so that he can watch them by night. All this means we cannot take the statement “they watched them by night” to determine the time of year.
There have been many other statements like “He came to tabernacle with us” so therefore they must have stayed in a “booth” when tabernacle means to be together, as God was with His people in the wilderness. Also ‘The wise men saw the star in the heavens, so they must have been in a booth’. Scripture backs none of these, which must be our final authority. The Hebrew word for booth is Sukkah but the Hebrew word for Manger (Stable) in the New Testament is Evus. These are two very different words that do not have the same three letter Hebrew root. If they were to live in a Booth why does scripture say there was no room in the Inn if they would not have needed one?
I have looked at both situations regarding the birth of Yeshua, Tabernacles and Hanukah, and wavered between both. Scripture supports neither but there are some interesting facts about Hanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication, that could relate to the Messiah’s appearance on earth.
So am I saying that Yeshua was born at Hanukah? Maybe He was or maybe He wasn’t, so why celebrate this Feast as it is not a listed Biblical Feast but one that Yeshua did attend? (John 10:22).
To understand the importance of this time to us as Believers in the living God and the sacrifice of His Son for our sins, we need to look at what this “celebration” is all about.
When the Greek General Antiochus Epiphanies took control of the Jerusalem and the Temple in 168 BC he attempted to destroy the Jewish religion and people. He desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar, and created a temple to Zeus in the Holy Temple of God. He then brought into law several decrees aimed at destroying Judaism. The main ones were:
- No reading of the scriptures.
- No celebration of the Feasts.
- No celebration of the Shabbat.
- No circumcision of the babies.
If he had succeeded with this there would have been no Jewish people for the Messiah to come to, or put another way, “he would have stopped the Messiah coming to the people”. Now if the Messiah had not come as scripture had prophesied where would that leave you and me?
This is a time to celebrate that the Word is truth and that the darkness, even though it tried, could not overcome the light. (John 1:5). It is a celebration of God overcoming evil and showing us His word is truth. It is also a time of dedication and if He did come at this time in a celebration that lasts 8 days, He could have been circumcised on the last day. If the Messiah had not come, it does not bear thinking about where we would be today and where we might be heading. So we celebrate it with rejoicing and praise that we have a future because God saved His people and brought forth the Messiah into the world to save all mankind.
It is also interesting to note that within 500 years the Church did exactly the same as Antiochus Epiphanies did, it brought in laws that prevented the people from:
- Reading of the scriptures.
- Celebrating the Feasts.
- Celebrating of the Shabbat.
Or put another way, “evil tried to stop the people coming to the Messiah”. For this reason as we come into an understanding of all the Feasts we have a double reason to celebrate. First that the Messiah came and also that we came to the Messiah and we have been placed on the path towards the New Jerusalem.
So now we can celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness knowing that our salvation is secure in Him. He has shown us the truth of His word with the joy that comes from celebrating God in the way He has placed before us.
Hanukah, besides meaning dedication, also means education and a new beginning. It is also referred to as a Type of Feast of Tabernacles and a time of joy, a common term is the Feast of Lights, and Yeshua is the Light of the World. [John 8:12]
In summary: we must never let something like this that is not clear or in scripture, be a point of division; discussion maybe, but never division because we could all be wrong. It is important that we do not put it out there as fact with nothing but assumption to support it. We must be very aware of James 3:1. We must be careful not to make our personal assumptions fact.
If it was important for the Father to tell the people when His Son was “born” He would have told us. So whether He was born at Tabernacles or Hanukah, or any other time nobody really knows, and to make a ministry out of our preference for the date of the birth or to be dogmatic about a date may only distract people from the real message, the message of salvation and the path we are to follow to reach the prize at the end of the race.
However, whatever day the Lord Yeshua the Messiah was born on will always be a contentious point of discussion and the Lord said not to concern ourselves with such things. (1 Timothy 6:20) It must always be remembered that Yeshua may have come as a helpless Babe but He will return as a conquering King. This is the event we must prepare ourselves for and not His birth, that is in the past. We have to concentrate on the future and His return, when He will take us home to that room that has prepared for us in His Father House. (John 14:2)
To concentrate on the birth can sometimes blind people to the full picture and hide the path that leads us home, the Feasts of the Lord, our preparation to be Holy as He is Holy, (1 Peter 1:16) for it is written: "Be Holy, because I am Holy."
This time of control over Jerusalem by the Hellenistic Greek authorities is recognised as the first attack on the Jewish religion. Reading of the Scriptures was forbidden, the keeping of the new moon festivals were stopped and therefore the Feasts of the Lord also ceased if successful. The Church of the Roman Empire also forbade the reading of the Bible by any except the priests. Even up to the middle of last century it was still forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church and still is forbidden in many of the Orthodox Churches of the Middle East. It forbade the keeping of the Feasts of the Lord, which the Jews kept, and forbade the keeping of the Shabbat. The Reformation was fought to bring freedom for the laity to read the Scriptures but continued to ignore the keeping of the Feasts and the Shabbat. Celtic Churches as late as the 8th century kept the Shabbat but finally gave in under pressure from Rome. Praise the Lord there is a movement to restore ‘The Feasts of the Lord’ in these last days! The Word of God is being restored to the Church in readiness for the return of the Messiah.
God has painted us a picture; to some it may be abstract and has to be turned and twisted in all directions to make any sense of it. To others it makes no sense at all and they turn and walk away not able to understand. However, to more and more believers this picture is becoming clearer each day and the eyes of many Bible believing Christians are being opened and focused on this wonderful picture of God’s salvation for the world. A picture of Yeshua hanging on the cross is clear enough to anybody that views it, but what does it mean? How does it apply to me and where do I go from here?
These points are answered within the picture painted for us in the festivals. Once we come to understand this path of salvation, we are awakened to the full understanding of the whole Bible - including the Old Testament – and there comes a depth to our faith full of new wonder, excitement and freedom.