How Do You Spell Chanukah?
Let’s get this perplexing question out of the way before beginning this article. Is the word spelled with Ch or H? Are there one or two N’s? Are there one or two K’s? And is there an H at the end of the word? The spelling combinations seem endless and confusing. Many different transliterations have evolved because Hebrew terms are difficult to translate. The most common spelling appears to be Chanukah. More important than the spelling of the word is the rich significance and history of the feast that is unknown to many people.
The events that resulted in the institution of the Feast of Chanukah occurred during the Intertestamental period, an interval of approximately 400 years between the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures: Tenakh = TNK) and the New Testament (the Greek Scriptures). This time period is frequently referred to as the “silent years,” a long, spiritually desolate season in Israel’s turbulent history when the prophetic voice was not heard. Even though the oracles of God and His prophets were hushed for a season, the Almighty was still working actively in the lives of His chosen people. If the events of the silent years had been recorded, we can assume the great miracle of Chanukah would have been included in the biblical text.
Historical Background of the Feast of Chanukah
Chanukah commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the Jews in 168 B.C. through the heroic efforts of Judas Machabeus and his five zealous sons. This courageous family, along with a ragtime band of local patriots, matched wits against the military forces of the Greco-Syrian invader, Antiochus Epiphanes. The Maccabean Revolt, as this event came to be known, was a successful three-year war against Hellenism, the growing influence of Greek culture upon God’s chosen people.
Hellenism, which began during the reign of Alexander the Great, included the adoption of Greek manners, customs, dress, language, and the most dangerous assimilation of all, pagan religion, a strict prohibition for the children of God. Many Jews, including some members of the priesthood, willingly assimilated into Greek society, allowing themselves to fall into the enemy’s trap. The weakening of traditional Jewish society and biblical values caused much internal conflict between the God-fearing Jews and the Hellenistic Jews. Many Jews willingly surrendered their religious obligations of circumcision and Sabbath worship, now prohibited by law, while others courageously fought and died to preserve and restore religious freedom as stipulated in the Law of Moses.
It was the adversary’s intention to obliterate all traces of Jewish culture and religion from Israel. Alexander the Great attempted to accomplish this agenda by commanding his soldiers to marry non-Greek speaking women in order to teach the Greek language and culture to their wives and children. In less than a generation, Koine Greek became the lingua franca of the realm. Even the Jews were speaking Greek during the days of the Greek and Roman empires, prompting the need for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures known as the Septuagint.
When Antiochus Epiphanes invaded the land, he removed the golden Altar and the Lampstand (Menorah: the seven-branch candlestick) from the Temple, as well as the Table of Showbread, the libation vessels, the Veil, and the priceless golden decorations that adorned the front of the edifice. Epiphanes sacrificed a pig, an unclean animal, in the House of God after dedicating the Temple to the Roman god, Zeus. Adding insult to injury, he poured the sacrificial broth over the sacred scrolls and slaughtered the inhabitants of the city by the thousands, as he continued to loot, desecrate, and destroy everything in his path. The following quote gives an account of Epiphanes’ actions, as recorded in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees: 5:11-14:
“Raging like a wild animal, he [Antiochus Epiphanes] set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.”
In essence, Epiphanes made being Jewish a crime worthy of death. It is no wonder the Jews refer to the despot as harasha, meaning “the wicked.” The defilement caused by Epiphanes was a partial fulfillment of the “abomination of desolation” described in Daniel 11:36-45 and 12:11, a prophetic passage that discusses the actions of the anti-christ who is yet to appear. When the evil one does emerge on the world stage, he will exalt and magnify himself above all gods, and will speak monstrous things about the true God. The ultimate prophetic fulfillment will occur when the anti-christ, to whom Antiochus Epiphanes pointed prophetically, will enthrone himself in the Temple and demand the worship of the masses.
Immediately following the Jewish victory, the work of rebuilding, cleansing, and re-dedicating the Temple began in earnest. It was soon discovered that only one vial of sacred oil, enough to light the Menorah for one day, had survived the brutal destruction. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days until an additional supply could be pressed and prepared according to the biblical mandate, a process that required a week. The following statement discusses the prophetic symbolism and purpose of the light of the Menorah:
“It has been said that the Menorah is a symbol of the nation of Israel and our mission to be “a light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a Menorah, and G-d explains: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit.” Jewish Virtual Library
I am praying Chanukah blessings for you and your loved ones during this holy season of divine light.
Coming soon! This teaching is taken from the book, By Divine Appointment, Celebrating the Feasts of the Lord and the Feasts of Israel, by Dr. Noreen Jacks, available from noreenjacks.com and bibleinteract.webtv/store.