Friday, December 7, 2012
Although much of the historical background of Hanukkah, including the miracle of the oils is part of extra biblical Jewish sources, the following from the Apocropha in some of our Christian Bibles, relates the period of cleansing and rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem following it’s desecration by the Syrians. It is these scriptures which Christians can refer to for an understanding of the joyfulness of the Jewish Hanukkah celebration.
Although Hanukkah is often referred to as "the festival of lights," the original Hebrew meaning of the word is "to dedicate." It was the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem that was the focus of the early celebration. The rededication involved God’s miracle provision of the oil, which allowed the one-day supply of temple oil to burn for the entire eight days required to press, make ready and sanctify the new oil. Enjoy the reading.
The First Book of the Maccabees, Chapter 4
4:36 Then said Judas and his brethren, Behold, our enemies are
discomfited: let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the sanctuary.
4:37 Upon this all the host assembled themselves together, and went
up into mount Sion.
4:38 And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar
profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the
courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the
priests' chambers pulled down;
4:39 They rent their clothes, and made great lamentation, and cast
ashes upon their heads,
4:40 And fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an
alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven.
4:41 Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were
in the fortress, until he had cleansed the sanctuary.
4:42 So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had
pleasure in the law:
4:43 Who cleansed the sanctuary, and bare out the defiled stones into
an unclean place.
4:44 And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt
offerings, which was profaned;
4:45 They thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach
to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled
4:46 And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a
convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what
should be done with them.
4:47 Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a
new altar according to the former;
4:48 And made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the
temple, and hallowed the courts.
4:49 They made also new holy vessels, and into the temple they
brought the candlestick, and the altar of burnt offerings, and of
incense, and the table.
4:50 And upon the altar they burned incense, and the lamps that were
upon the candlestick they lighted, that they might give light in the
4:51 Furthermore they set the loaves upon the table, and spread out
the veils, and finished all the works which they had begun to
4:52 Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is
called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year,
they rose up betimes in the morning,
4:53 And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of
burnt offerings, which they had made.
4:54 Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it,
even in that was it dedicated with songs, and citherns, and harps,
4:55 Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and
praising the God of heaven, who had given them good success.
4:56 And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and
offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice
of deliverance and praise.
4:57 They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold,
and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed,
and hanged doors upon them.
4:58 Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the
reproach of the heathen was put away.
4:59 Moreover 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.
PRAYER: Thank you holy God for your miracles and your provision. Thank you for times and seasons that remind us not only of your great power, but also of our need to cleanse and rededicate ourselves to you. Amen.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Thinking of lighting a candle or nine to honor God’s miracle of the oil?