The Feast of Dedication – Hanukkah
The feast of dedication is mentioned in the New Testament in the gospel of John (ch. 10:22). Rabbinical literature names the feast Hanukkah, meaning “dedication.” Judas Maccabaeus founded the feast of dedication to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple and the restoration of its services after it was defiled by Antiochus Ephiphanes. This Greek ruler reigned from 175 to 164/163 B.C. (Daniel 11:14).
Antiochus Ephiphanes caused a national crisis to the Jews due to his policy of Hellenization. For he attempted to force the Jews to give up their religion and culture, and to adopt in its place the language, faith and culture of the Greeks. During his short rule of 12 years, Antiochus almost eradicated the identity of the Jews. He ripped the sanctuary of all its treasures, robbed Jerusalem, left the city and its walls in destruction, killed thousands of Jews, and took others into exile as slaves.
The ruler commanded the Jews to abandon all ceremonies of their faith and to live as heathen. He forced the Jews to build pagan altars in all the Judean towns, to offer swine’s meat upon them, and to give up every transcript of their Scriptures to be burned. In addition Antiochus offered swine before a pagan idol set up in the Jewish Temple. Thus, his stopping of the Jewish sacrificial services threatened the survival of the Jewish faith.
The Jews’ Victory
Eventually, the Jews revolted and kicked the forces of Antiochus from Judea. They even succeeded in preventing an army sent by Him to destroy them as a nation. And they restored the Temple, set up a new altar, and resumed their sacrificial services (1 Macc. 4:36–54). Few years later, the Jews made an alliance with Rome (161 B.C.), and had about a century of relative independence and success under Roman rule. This peace continued until Judea became a Roman anarchy in 63 B.C.
The Jews set time to commemorate the cleansing of the Temple and the restoration of its services after the defilement. According to 1 Macc. 4:59 “Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.”
The historian Josephus recorded that the festival was named “the festival of Lights” (Antiquities xii. 7.7 ). This feast was celebrated in fairly the same manner as the Feast of Tabernacles (2 Macc. 10:6, 7). And it took place in the month of Casleu (Kislev, or Chisleu) which parallels our Nov./Dec.
In His service,