Hanukkah commemorates the dedication of the Temple in 164 BCE. Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jewish people revolted against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and regained control of their Temple and traditions. Many years have passed since the first Hanukkah, or “dedication” (חנכה), but the ancient Jews who chronicled the event believed that the defilement of the Jerusalem Temple was tantamount to the end of the world, and that its rededication marked a new creation.

First Maccabees draws on prophetic rhetoric in its description of the Temple’s desecration: Jerusalem’s “sanctuary became desolate like a wilderness; her feasts (ἑορταὶ; eortaì) were turned into mourning (πένθος; pénthos)… her exaltation was turned into mourning” (1 Maccabees 1:39-40). This language recalls the prophecy of the day of the Lord according to Amos: “On that day, says the Lord God… I will turn your feasts (ἑορτὰς; eortàs) into mourning (πένθος; pénthos)…. I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day” (Amos 8:10 LXX). In echoing Amos, 1 Maccabees suggests that, for Jews of the second century BCE, the defilement of the Temple signaled the destructive day of the Lord; put another way, it was the end of the world!

Yet, the story of Hanukkah does not end with desolation. When the Maccabees defeat the Seleucids and rededicate the Temple, God inaugurates a new creation. At Judah’s behest, the priests “made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the Temple. Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light (ἐφαίνοσαν; ephaínosan) in the Temple…. Thus, they finished all the work they had done (ἐτέλεσαν πάντα τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐποίησαν)” (1 Macc 4:49-51). The activity in the Temple recalls the first day creation: “God said, ‘Let there be light (φῶς; phõs) and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 LXX). At the end of the Lord’s initial creation, “God finished (συνετέλεσεν) his work that he had done and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done (πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ ὧν ἐποίησεν)” (Gen 2:2 LXX). In drawing on the Greek translation of Genesis, 1 Maccabees presents the Temple’s dedication as a new creation. The Jews of the Second Temple period experience the end of the world and come out the other side. God rescues the people of Israel from devastation, and inaugurates a new creative act at the first Hanukkah.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Morning Dr. Anna Gromova refer me to write ny request here. My son wants to register his ministry and wants the name in Hebrew- "Holy Fire Ministries." We don't want to do direct translation that would probably be wrong. Can you help me for the correct phrase?
    • It kind of depends on one's translational philosophy, Pepler. There's not really an exact equivalent in Hebrew to "ministries" as a Christian would think of it. You may want to go with the biblical word שרת (to minister or to serve) -- it's the word used for ministry at the Tent of Meeting in Exodus. Thus, "Holy Fire Ministries" would be:
      שירותי האש הקדושה
  2. Hi Dr. I am part for more than a year now. I have put my studies uphold for the last few month's to study for my doctral in my country. I am finish now, and tend to continue in January again. Due to loyalty received full acces. HASHEM BLESS iBC
  3. Shalom Prof. My attention was caught by Pepler's seeking of advice from you and I wondered if, really, there is a difference between an Assembly of the called (the church, as Paul would describe it) and Ministry? Is there a difference between the two, Prof?
    • Ministers are certain workers within the broader assembly; i.e., some members minister, others teach, others administer, etc. (see 1 Cor 12:28-29).
  4. Others believe that the name of the assembly must always have the name "The Church of God" or "Church of Christ" or "Saints of Christ". Apparently this is consistent with how Paul named the churches he established in the lands of the nations. Does this claim have any biblical support?
    • Insofar as Paul never used the English word "church," it is not necessary for assemblies to have "church" it their names. In Paul's time, there weren't "names" for "churches" as there are toady.
  5. Hi Prof, hope you enjoyed the sabbath rest yesterday. I am bit conflicted. As a hobby, I built myself a small table in my garage on the Sabbath. Did I break the Sabbath for doing such? It’s a hobby after all, not any recreational work. Your thoughts please.
    • Thanks for your questions, Thandu. I'm not a rabbi, so I'm not an authority on Jewish law. What I can say is that the Bible itself is not explicit about what it deems "work" on the Sabbath. The latter rabbis would explicate all sorts of work (39 kinds of creative activities, to be exact), but Israel's Scriptures don't go into too much detail (see Exodus 35:3; Numbers 15:32; Jeremiah 17:19-27). If one is not an adherent of rabbinic halakhah, my thought would be that if the activity is recreational, and if it's a joy rather than a burden, then it's appropriate for the Sabbath. I'm not an authority, this is just my personal opinion. More, if one is a Gentile, the New Testament isn't even clear about the extent to which non-Jews should observe the Sabbath -- the day is rarely mentioned as an expectation for the church (cf. Col 2:16; Heb 4:9).
  6. Prof, Shalom. Does using an electric stove on the sabbath for warming or cooking food equal to lighting a fire Are there any fences built for us so that we don’t really break the actual Sabbath commandment? So many things like driving a car on Sat, eating at restaurants.
  7. Hi Prof. Rev 12:5-6. Is it safe to say that the son is Yeshua? What is the identity of this woman? At what year was the end of the 1260 years? Where is the women today? Is Rev 12:5-6 talks about the same events as Daniel 7:25? Your thought please.
    • The woman in Revelation 12 is a symbol of Israel, rather than a real person. After she gives birth to the child, she becomes a symbol not only of Israel in general, but of Jesus-followers in particular. The event in Dan 7:25, in its original context, refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes persecuting Jews in the 2nd century BCE. Revelation refers to events in the first century CE.
  8. Shalom Prof. Exo 12:13 suggests that the Passover was celebrated in the houses where they were staying. Exo 12:16 suggests that people must observe an official day for a holy assembly on the 1st and the 7th day of the feast of Unleavened Bread. Where was the 2 days (1st day and 7th day)of the holy assembly held? In their houses or in a plain field? The text does not give me any clues. I am aware of 2 Chro 30, 1st time that the Passover was held at the Temple in Jerusalem.
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