HANUKKAH – LESSON 1
Tomorrow (Nov. 29) at sundown begins one of the most celebrated of Jewish holiday festivals called Hanukkah or Chanukah. It mostly falls in December, but sometimes starts late November. It’s start date is based on the Jewish calendar, so it can vary greatly from the Gregorian calendar.
Of the nine major Jewish holidays, seven were given by God for them to keep. The other two, Purim and Hanukkah, were originated by man to commemorate the historical preservation of Judaism.
What we now call Hanukkah, is called the “Feast of Dedication” in the New Testament. Jesus went to Jerusalem for this festival celebration that lasts eight days.
To understand its significance, we need to look at the historical events behind it. From 336 B.C. to 332 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered all the Middle East, North Africa, and into India. This included Judea, the home of the Jews. He was a strong advocate of spreading Greek culture, language, and education to all his conquered territories. This Greek influence was called Hellenism.
Thus, Hellenist culture united all these countries with a common language and culture and religious (pagan) influence. Upon young Alexander’s death from a fever, his four top generals divided the empire among themselves into four sections. One of the four sections was ruled by Syria, under the Seleucids for several generations. They strongly supported the Hellenistic culture, even forcibly imposing it. This included Judea, the home of the Jews.
After about 140 years of this cultural pressure, many Jews had abandoned their Jewish culture and religion and completely accepted this Greek culture and religion. By 169 B.C. the Syrian emperor Antiochus IV decreed all Jewish worship and customs to be illegal. Sabbath worship was banned. This was perfectly okay with the Hellenist Jews which constituted about one third of all Jews. Those caught in observance of the Sabbath were often executed. Persecution of the faithful few was severe.
The Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV, also called Antiochus Epiphanes, went to the greatest extreme measures to obliterate Judaism.
We shall review that tomorrow, and then see God’s answer to it.
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