One of the most cherished Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the Menorah, or Hanukkiah. Jewish people all over the world do it for eight days every year, but they don’t realize they are honoring Messiah Yeshua. This nine-stemmed candelabra, unlike the seven-stemmed lampstand in the Holy Temple, is an integral part of the holiday observance. It represents the miracle of one day’s supply of sacred oil burning for eight days in ancient Israel.
In those days, circa 168 BC, the Temple had been desecrated at the hands of the evil Greco-Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. A three year revolt led by the Maccabean family succeeded in re-capturing the Temple, allowing for it to be restored for God’s purposes.
As part of the re-consecration of the Temple, the Jewish rebels needed to re-light the holy lampstand. God had specified in Exodus 27:20, “And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.”
However, there was only one day’s worth of sacred oil certified by the priesthood to kindle the holy lampstand. The legend has it the victorious Israelis lit the lampstand anyway, and it miraculously burned the eight days it took to properly purify an additional supply.
So every year, we remember God’s provision of light through the Menorah. The first night, one candle is lit, the second, two, and so forth until all are involved on the eighth night. Now here’s the amazing part. While each of the eight nights of the holiday are represented by equal height stems on the menorah, there is a ninth stem called the shamash. It stand higher than the others.
In Hebrew, shamash means servant. This candle’s role is to light the others. Indeed, none of the eight night candles are lit directly. The shamash is lit first, then used to light the others. Normally, a servant’s place is lower than those he serves; but the place for the shamash is higher. It’s just like Yeshua, Jesus. Although He is higher than we are, He came to serve. He clearly stated that in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” He made the point even more dramatically in Luke 22:27. At the Last Seder (Last Supper) just before His arrest, Messiah explained, “ For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
Furthermore, just like none of the candles in the menorah representing a day are lit directly, but get their light from the shamash, we have no light of our own, but Yeshua gave us His light.
In John 8:12, He declared, I am the light of the world.” And in Matthew 5:14, He said, “You are the light of the world.” We’re kind of like the moon, which has no light of its own, but shines brightly as it reflects the light of the sun.
Another part of the Hanukkah tradition calls for the menorah, after it is lit each night, to be placed in a window for those outside to see. In Matt 5:16, Jesus told us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Judaism has built a symbol of Messiah into the Hanukkah celebration. Let’s pray that this year my Jewish brethren will see the true light.
The tradition of the Jewish religion embraces the legend that one day’s worth of holy oil burned for eight days in the holy lampstand in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Exodus 27:20 commanded the children of Israel to, “ . . . bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” Since it took eight days to purify a new supply, thus the miracle of Hanukkah.
Do we believe God could do that - of course! However, there is no biblical evidence to authenticate it. Indeed, the events surrounding Hanukkah occurred in the mid-160's BC, during the inter-testamental period, between the last writings of the Tanakh and the books of the New Covenant.
The backdrop to this alleged miracle was the revolt against the Greco-Syrian Emperor Antiochus Epiphanes, whose dynasty included the land of Israel. In what we would today call guerilla warfare, the greatly out-numbered and out-equipped Israeli rebels, led by the family of Maccabees, fought for three years before re-capturing the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Antiochus had been extremely oppressive against the Jewish inhabitants, slaughtering many, and essentially outlawing Judaism. He desecrated the Temple, sacrificing an unclean animal on the Holy Altar, and erecting a statue of Zeus. He further allowed the flames of the holy lampstand to be extinguished. When the Temple was back in Israeli hands, the first order of business was to restore its holiness, to re-dedicate it to the Lord. Thus the story of the one day’s oil.
Hanukkah in Hebrew literally means dedication. While it is often called the Festival of Lights, it is actually the Feast of Dedication. Take note of John 10:22 & 23, “ Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.” Although it is not the most important miracle of the holiday, the significance of the Jewish religion’s emphasis on lights is amazing. It points right to Messiah Yeshua.
Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, based on the legend of the
oil. A nine-stemmed menorah (lampstand) is used to
commemorate those days, candles lit each night to represent the
day of the Feast - one candle on the first night, two on the second,
and so forth. However, the individual candles are never lit directly,
but only by the shamash, or servant, candle which is placed in a
stem higher than the others.
It’s a picture of Jesus. He is the servant (Mark 10:45, Luke 22:27)
Who stands higher than those He serves. And while we are to be a
light to the world, we have no light of our own, but that which we
receive from Him. Furthermore, many Jewish households will put
the lighted menorah in a window each night . . . letting their light so
Yet the true miracle of Hanukkah is embedded in how the events of the Feast mirror God’s plan of salvation.
The Temple in Jerusalem was fashioned for God’s holy purposes. But it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes, rendering it unuseable. At the cost of much bloodshed, it was redeemed and was re-dedicated, literally re-consecrated, so it could fulfill God’s mission, its lights (often called the eternal flame) re-lit.
Likewise, we humans were fashioned by God for His holy purposes. But we have been desecrated by sin in our lives. However, at the cost of the greatest bloodshed ever, the blood of Messiah Yeshua, we have been redeemed. Therefore, by faith in Jesus, we can be re-dedicated to the Lord to fulfill His plan for us, and to let our light shine.
As written in 1 Corinthians 6:19 & 20, “ Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Jesus is the true miracle of Hanukkah!