Beside the seven feasts of the LORD described in Leviticus 23 we find also some other feasts in remembrance of special historical events in Jewish history. One of them is Purim and the other is Chanukah. Both have to do with the deliverance the God of Israel provided, the salvation He brought to His people.
Origin and meaning
After the death of the Greek king Alexander the Great, his kingdom was divided in four parts. The Promised Land was ruled by the Egyptian Ptolemys for one century and then by the Seleucides of Syria. Under the influence of the Greek dominion, the Hellenistic way of thinking and life was growing rapidly among the Jews. The Hellenists could be found in the whole society, even in the tribe of Levi and therefore with the priests. By contrast there came a conservative party into existence and they called themselves the Chassidim, the pious ones. They were dedicated to the Jewish teachings and traditions.
The Hellenists persuaded the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes to destroy Judaism with violence. In 170 B.C. the Syrians took Jerusalem and in 168 the Temple was dedic
ated to the Greek god Zeus. Judaism was forbidden and a dreadful persecution of the faithful Jews took place.
The Chassidim took up the sword to restore Judaism and the service of the Temple. It was a priestly family, later called the Maccabees, who were the leaders of this revolt against the Syrians. They conquered the Syrian army several times. Their slogan was Psalm 149:6 '”Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand”. In 163 B.C. the Mac
cabees marched into Jerusalem and came into the court of the Temple. It was the 25th of the month Kislev and exactly four years after the defilement of the Temple by Antiochus. The Temple was cleansed and dedicated. There was a feast and in the temple-court the Maccabees lighted lights. In the Temple the Menorah had to be lit again, but according to a certain tradition there was only one small bottle with olive oil that could be used to light the seven lamps. But: during the eight days of the dedication of the Temple the Menorah lamps burned day and night in spite of this small quantity of oil. During these eight days new oil could be prepared for the Menorah. From that time every year the feast of the dedication, where light plays an important role, is celebrated for eight days and is called Chanouka, which means dedication.
We have seen now the origin of Chanouka where the LORD saved and light became the symbol of this feast. When we read Psalm 27 we can imagine that this psalm has a lot to say about the character of Chanouka. Please read this beautiful portion of the Tenach and discover yourself the links with the feast we are dealing with.
The things we have seen are the following. The Psalm begins with the wonderful words: “The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”
Here we hear, when we apply this Psalm to Chanouka, the confession of the Chassidim. It was the LORD Who gave them the victory and, in spite of their small number, they were able by His strength to conquer the larger army of the Syrians.
In verse 4 we see that the Temple is mentioned and from the words of this verse we taste the great desire of the believer to be close with the LORD his God, not for a moment, but for the whole length of his life. We can imagine that the priestly family of the Maccabees recognised themselves in this confession. What a joy it was in those days that the offerings could be brought again to worship the God of Israel as is described in verse 6.
Candlestick as remembrance
In the tradition after 163 B.C. a candlestick came into being to remember this wonderful event. It has eight candles as symbols of the eight days that the Menorah burned in a miraculous way, plus an extra candle to light every day of the feast one of the eight candles so that on the eight’s day all of them are burning. There are many different shapes but in general they look like the Menorah in having a stem from which four pairs of arms are coming forward. The one extra candle-holder is connected with the stem and can be moved from right to left v.v..
Candlestick with an extended message
So the traditional Chanouka candlestick speaks about that wonderful event in Jewish history.
On the picture you see a Chanouka candlestick in quite an extraordinary shape. I made this one with a brother and it has the shape of a cross. There are two holders that bear the cross and they have the Greek characters alpha and omega. The cross shows the Name of the LORD in the Hebrew characters and than the first line from Psalm 27.
This candlestick speaks about a more wonderful event in Jewish history. It speaks about the suffering Messiah Jesus, Who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He had to die at the cross to make atonement for our sins (Ps. 22:16; Isa. 53:3-8). The cross was planned by the LORD Himself, Who is The Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega as we can read in Revelation 22:13. He is the Light and the Salvation and how wonderful if we, if I, can say by grace: The LORD is my light and my salvation!