Is Hanukkah Prophetic?

Before I believed Yeshua (Jesus) to be the Messiah, I didn’t understand that anything about Hanukkah could be prophetic. Every winter when I was a child, as Christmas trees and manger scenes filled the world around me, I confess: I dreaded Hanukkah.

Growing up in a non-Jewish part of town, as a Jewish child in a world where ethnic diversity definitely was not celebrated, Hanukkah left me the odd girl out.

But through the years, God was doing in me great work for His purpose. I was learning that those who follow Him are in the world but not of it (not that Christmas is necessarily worldly). I didn’t know it then, but Hanukkah was showing me how to overcome.

The Backstory of the Holiday

After the close of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), many in Israel (Judea) fell away from faith. Compromise with the world sadly overtook them until the majority of God’s people embraced the Hellenistic culture of their age.

Before long even the priesthood grew corrupt. The chosen people abandoned a biblical lifestyle for pagan hedonism. The few who remained faithful to God’s Word were persecuted by other, more liberal Jews.

As a result, not unlike much of the West today, conditions in Israel were ripe for anti-God leaders and policies to set in. In 175-164 BC, a Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) emperor named Antiochus IV rose to power across the Middle East.

The Prophesied Enemy

As prophesied in portions of Daniel 7-12, Antiochus sought to rule the whole, then-known world as one people. With great arrogance, he surnamed himself “Epiphanes,” meaning Manifest God.

Antiochus Epiphanes made it illegal to preach or teach the Word, on punishment of death. With widespread murderous tortures, he aimed to destroy the worship of God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The crisis reached its tipping point when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Holy Temple (see Daniel 9:27).

At that point, the Maccabee family of priests rose up to resist. Eventually, they defeated Antiochus Epiphanes. The ruler himself died a natural, or rather supernatural, death.

Prophetic Significance of Hanukkah

Yeshua refers to prophecies about Antiochus Epiphanes in the book of Daniel when speaking to His disciples of the future (Matthew 24). A second Hanukkah-like fulfillment would occur not long after His death and resurrection.

In A.D. 70, the Temple would again be desecrated, even destroyed, and Israel would be overrun. But another, consummate fulfillment of portions of Daniel 7-12 would take place shortly before the Messianic Age.

Again the temple would apparently be desecrated (Matthew 24:15). At that time, the spirit of antichrist would be embodied in human form—until defeated by the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:22, Revelation 19:11-20).

family reading a story

Looking Beyond the Obvious

Some Christians have stumbled over these prophesies, trying to squeeze them into one and only one fulfillment (usually, A.D. 70). Most traditional Jewish teachers, however, find multiple fulfillments or manifestations at varying levels through history.

These fulfillments all reflect the same principle: The worship and reign of Yawheh is devilishly contested on earth. Ultimately, however, His people are victorious and His kingdom comes.

The Maccabees Overcame

The Maccabees were a tiny band of priests, seemingly insignificant. Though vastly outnumbered, they clung passionately to God’s Word and rallied others to Him.

They repented on behalf of Israel and embraced a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. The family of priests learned how to battle militarily. Courageously enduring heinous tortures, they loved not their lives unto death.

God used this obscure remnant to preserve the Jewish people and biblical faith, preparing for Messiah’s first coming.

The Maccabees’ faith is so stirring that the New Covenant Scripture honors their acts of heroism and martyrdom as well (Hebrews 11:35-38).

The Aftermath

The Maccabees’ story would not be complete without mentioning that about 30 years after the Hanukkah victory, they too became corrupt. Sadly, after they secured positions of power in the land, their fiery dedication to God faltered.

But their end needn’t be ours. So, is the Maccabee’s Hanukkah story prophetic? 

By the grace and power of Holy Spirit, the last days’ bride of Messiah will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and word of their testimony, shining like the brightness of heaven (Revelation 12:11, Daniel 12:3).

mom and son opening a gift

Supernatural Intervention

According to legend, when the Jews regained control of the temple, they found in it just one cruse of oil. The oil was sufficient to keep the seven branched temple lamp stand (menorah) burning only one day.

Miraculously however, the oil burned for eight days. 

Not coincidentally, according to Scriptures, it takes a week to ritually purify oil. But more importantly, God also mandated eight days for the Feast of Tabernacles.

On that holiday, the Jewish people dedicated both the first and second temples to God. The original Hanukkah (meaning “Dedication”) was actually celebrated as a type of delayed Feast of Tabernacles, to rededicate the temple.

What Does That Mean?

Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights. Since then, to celebrate Hanukkah Jewish people light a special menorah called hanukkiah.

It has eight branches instead of the usual seven. An extra branch, ninth, called the servant (shamash), ignites the remaining eight. Not coincidentally, “Branch” and “Servant” are both references to Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Today, Hanukkah can be a perfect time to rededicate your own living temple to God. He will supply all the oil you need.

Hanukkah and Prophetic Foreshadowing

In the Hanukkah story, the anti-Jewish/anti-Christ spirit animating Antiochus Epiphanes sought to annihilate the Jews. Had he succeeded, the Messiah of humankind could not have been born.

But in a divinely ironic twist of events, the Scriptures indicate Yeshua was likely conceived during Hanukkah. If that is true, the Light of the World was appropriately incarnated during what was known as the Festival of Lights.

The number eight represents new beginnings in Scripture, so that could also fit prophetically with the timing of His conception. In any case, Hanukkah was significant enough for Yeshua to have observed it (John 10:22-23).

You and I can be richly blessed by gladly doing the same. This Hanukkah, as you stand firm in truth, unwavering in Messiah’s love, may your light shine bright.

Hanukkah Guide: Free PDF Download

More than just “the Jewish answer to Christmas,” what is Hanukkah exactly? Where did this holiday originate? How did Jesus celebrate it? How do we celebrate Hanukkah today? 

You’re about to get these answers to these questions and uncover the symbols, prophetic meaning and traditions of Hanukkah.

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The article originally appeared in Charisma News on December 8, 2015. Republished with permission. It has been reedited for the purposes of this publication. 
Sandra Teplinsky
Sandra Teplinsky is an Israeli Jewish believer and has been in Jewish ministry for over 30 years. She is president of Light of Zion, an outreach to Israel and the Church. From an Orthodox Jewish background, Sandy obtained a J.D. from Indiana University School of Law, B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois and Bible training from Talbot Seminary in Los Angeles. A former attorney, Sandy speaks and teaches on the role of Israel today among the nations and the biblical relationship between Israel and the Church. She has mobilized prayer for Israel and the Jewish people in several nations, including the Muslim Middle East.
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