The Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah is celebrated in remembrance of the Temple rededication in 165 BCE, following the
liberation of Jerusalem from Greek rule. An important part of the eight day celebration of Hanukkah is the daily lighting of candles held in a
special nine-branched menorah. This daily lighting is symbolic of a miracle that is said to have occurred during the Temple rededication: a
one day’s supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days, until the supply could be replenished.
The story of Hanukkah has deeper meaning and symbolism, however. The events leading to the liberation of Jerusalem from Greek rule are
symbolic of end time events which are prophesied to occur.
The same concepts promoted by the Greeks before their defeat are also strongly promoted in our world today. As Mattathias, a Jewish priest and
his family made a stand against the evil promoted by the Greeks, we too must make a stand against the evil in our culture.
The year was 336 BC and the winds of change were blowing across Europe. This was a time that would change the world forever. Darius the Third
had just become king of the Medes and the Persians. At the same time, an even more significant king, Alexander, rose to power over a small Greek
state. Alexander, a young 20 year old, was a brilliant military commander. Soon his tiny Greek city state of Macedonia began to spread
its power throughout the known world. Even the massive, powerful kingdom of the Medes and the Persians could not stand against Alexander. By the
time he was thirty years old, he had conquered the entire known world —
down to Egypt, as far east as India, all of Europe. Alexander the Great was a student of Aristotle, who taught him the Greek culture. His goal
was to spread his Greek culture, Hellenizing the entire world.
Before Alexander the Great died in Babylon, he divided his kingdom among four of his commanders.
RISING OF “A GOD”
In 171 BC, a very interesting and notorious person rose on the scene of history: Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus was the king of the Syrian
empire just north of Israel. Antiochus Epiphanes was a harsh, cruel, ruthless man. He was called “the madman” by his detractors. Antiochus
believed he was a god — in fact he had changed his name to be Antiochus Theos Epiphanes because he felt everyone should know that he was
“Antiochus the visible god.”
It was Antiochus’ ambition to have a one world power in which he was the king of a Hellenistic world. He tried to spread the following three
basic concepts of Hellenism throughout the world: (1)the deification of nature — that meant that God was in everything, (2)a pantheon of
mythological gods and (3)Hellenism, which promoted widespread immorality.
These same three forces are moving across the world today, with an abundance of support from the New Age movement, from the Environmental
movement and from the media.
A PEACE TREATY SIGNED
As part of his attempt to rule the world, Antiochus Epiphanes signed a peace treaty with Israel. A brother of the high priest of Israel, Joshua
(who changed his name to the Greek name Jason) offered Antiochus a peace treaty that gave Antiochus power to rule over Israel in return for
protecting Israel. The treaty also offered Antiochus money in return for making Jason high priest in Israel. Jason also promised to build a
temple dedicated to the Greek God Phallus and a gymnasium in Jerusalem which would be dedicated to Greek athletics and which would be a
recruitment center. Citizens of Israel and of the world could come to the gymnasium and sign up to become citizens of Antioch in significant
alliance with the Greek world government.
Antiochus accepted the peace treaty, Jason became high priest in Israel and Antiochus marched off to Egypt to expand his empire. As he marched
into Egypt, Antiochus was successful with his armies in conquering the Egyptian kingdom south of Israel. As he was winning a big battle, a
message was sent through a messenger from the Senate in Rome: “Give up Egypt or Rome will invade and attack Syria.”
Antiochus tried to stall and tried to negotiate out of it. The messenger took out a sword and drew a circle with it in the sand around Antiochus
and said “you may not leave the circle until you give your answer to Caesar.” Antiochus was forced to make a decision — he chose to back
down and give up Egypt, which made him very angry. In his wrath, Antiochus marched up from Egypt through Israel. Then an infuriating bit
of information was shared with him.
THE PEACE TREATY BROKEN
Jason had lost his high priesthood and was fighting to get it back. In addition, he had received the incorrect message that Antiochus
Ephiphenes was dead. Jason was now fighting to take over the kingdom. This word got back to Antiochus. Imagine how Antiochus Ephiphenes felt
after just having lost Egypt and now finding that people in Jerusalem were fighting over his kingdom, thinking he was dead in Egypt. He was so
angry that he ordered his lead commander to destroy Jerusalem. History records that they did just that. They killed thousands of Jews taking
many of them into slavery. They hacked and knocked over the porticoes in the Temple. They robbed many of the Temple vessels.
On Kislev 25 in the year 168 BC, Antiochus marched into the Temple and built a statue in the outer courtyard to the god Zeus, the chief god in
the Greek pantheon. He made the face of the statue of Zeus look like himself. Then he sacrificed a pig to this statue. Not only did he offer
the pig as a sacrifice, he took the blood from the pig and he sprinkled it in the Holy of Holies. He poured its broth on the Holy Scrolls before
cutting them to pieces and burning them. Then he ordered his men to make all the Temple a shrine to Zeus.
As we recall, Antiochus had signed a peace treaty with Israel in which he had guaranteed to protect Israel. Next he broke that treaty and came
up with a new law, which he spread throughout the land. This new law abolished all the religious practices of Israel. Antiochus abolished the
sacrifices, allowing only the swine, an unclean animal to be sacrificed. He abolished circumcision. If a Torah scroll was found in a house, the
entire family would be put to death. All the dietary laws had to be abandoned. If anyone was found eating what we call “Kosher,” they and
their family would be killed. This new law spread throughout Israel and was accepted by many apostate priests. The news spread from town to town
and Israel began to become poisoned as men and women accepted this new law.
A STAND FOR GOD
The new law worked its way out from Jerusalem to a town called Modi’in. Antiochus sent a commander to this small town to make the people worship
Zeus. The commander set up a statue to Zeus in Modi’in for all the people to see. The commander brought all the people of the town together
to have them all sacrifice so they could become world citizens of Antioch. The commander had to pick somebody out of the crowd that was a
leader to come and be the first to sacrifice. He knew if he chose a leader that the people respected, and that leader came and sacrificed,
all the people would follow in turn.
We celebrate Hanukkah because that commander picked the wrong man out of that crowd — a man who feared God. That commander looked into the crowd
and saw a man that had a full head of gray hair. Standing beside him were five young men. The commander probably recognized the old man’s
priestly garments and thought “this man looks like the right choice.” The commander looked at the old man and ordered him to come forward.
Mattathias walked forward. In front of all the people of Modi’in, the commander told Mattathias that he would be rewarded, granted great
riches and given authority if he would sacrifice the pig on the altar.
Mattathias stood in defiance. He replied that even if the whole world went along with the commands, Mattathias, his family and his brothers
would not obey. They would not depart from the laws of Moses. Then out of the crowd stepped an apostate priest, a counterfeit, who agreed to
perform the sacrifice. He walked up to the altar to sacrifice the pig.
Mattathias saw that this apostate priest was ready to offer a pig on the altar. If he did and the people went along with it, they would all lose
the Torah, they would all fall away from the law. There swelled up within Mattathias a Holy anger. He took a sword and he slew the false
priest. He killed the commander. His sons simultaneously rose up against the troop of men and slew them all.
THE BATTLE WON
Mattathias and his sons fled to the hills, and along with their supporters, began a guerrilla war against the Greeks and their Jewish
allies. Jewish officials were hostile to Mattathias’ movement and most of the Jewish community was so far into the process of assimilation that
they were ambivalent about the loss of their faith. Consequently, Mattathias and his sons fought the guerrilla war for three years until
they were able to gain enough support to be a serious threat. Before dying of old age, Mattathias passed the leadership on to his son Judah
the Maccabee. Judah led his forces against a series of Antiochus’ troops and defeated them. Finally, Judah the Maccabee and his forces freed
Jerusalem. On Kislev 25, 165 BCE on the third anniversary of its desecration by Antiochus, Judah the Maccabee reclaimed the temple and
rededicated it. It is said that they could only find enough oil to light the Temple menorah for one day. It would take eight more days to prepare
new oil. They lit the menorah and the oil miraculously burned for eight days. The celebration of Hanukkah today focuses on the miracle of the
oil that burned for eight days.
WHAT WE MUST LEARN
This is an inspirational story about the people’s strength of faith and the miracle of the oil burning for eight days, yet it provides other
The story has strong parallels with end time happenings described in the books of Revelation and Daniel. Antiochus is a type of the antichrist.
Just as happened under the rule of Antiochus, Daniel prophesies in Daniel 9:27 that in the end times a ruler will sign a peace treaty for
seven years. In the middle of the treaty he will put an end to sacrifice and offering and will set up an abomination that causes desolation in a
wing of the Temple.
The story is also a lesson for today. Many of the same forces promoted by Antiochus are prominent in our world today. The deifying of nature —
that God is in everything and everything is part of God; the promotion and acceptance of many gods; and the acceptance of widespread immorality
are all very much a part of our culture today.
We must come out from the culture that seeks to entangle us and to assimilate us. One like Antiochus stands at the door and knocks in our
culture and our time. We must come out from that culture, be different and fear the Lord. History will record the stance that we make in this
generation, as it records the stance that Mattathias made in his.
Copyright 1995 by Return to God, P.O. Box
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