Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Festival of Dedication

A priest lighting the oil lamps of the Temple Menorah

At John 10:22 the Festival of Dedication is mentioned. As explained in one article,[1] this festival was held in “wintertime” and commemorated the rededication of Jehovah’s Temple in 165 B.C.E. It was held for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Chislev, close to the winter solstice. This festival is thus late and is not mentioned on the Hebrew Bible, and it is also the direct product of the Maccabean Revolt.

What sparked this insurrection? In 168 B.C.E., the Greek, Syrian Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) made an earnest effort to eradicate Jewish worship and customs, and to complete this purge, he had a pagan altar erected atop the altar in Jehovah’s Temple in Jerusalem. Upon it, he had sacrifices offered to the Greek god Zeus, including swine—animals considered unclean in Jewish worship.—Leviticus 11:7, 27.

As you can imagine, the Jewish reaction was nothing short of outrage and open revolt. Who took the lead in this uprising was Judah Maccabee, and he succeeded in recovering Jerusalem from the Seleucids, and then had the defiled altar demolished and a new one built in its place. Exactly three years after the altar had first been desecrated, Judah rededicated the cleansed Temple to Jehovah, and relit the sacred Temple Menorah lamp (which according to legend miraculously continued to burn after exhausting its oil supply). This “festival of dedication” (Hebrew, chanuk·kahʹ) has been celebrated in December by the Jews ever since. Today, the festival is known as Hanukkah.

Origin of the surname Maccabee
In the early days of the rebellion, Judah received the surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba, “hammer” or “sledgehammer” in recognition of his ferocity in battle.

It is also possible that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the words found in Exodus 15:11 Mi Kamokha Ba'elim Jehovah (מכבי), “Who among the gods is like you, O Jehovah?”, his battle-cry to motivate his troops.[2]
What were the odds of success?
One scholar explains:
Realistically, the Maccabees had absolutely no chance of winning. The [Greek] Syrian army consisted of more than 40,000 men—it was another David vs. Goliath scenario—but, as in the story of David, God performed a miracle, and after a series of battles, the war was won.

When the Maccabees, miraculously, recaptured the Temple, they had to cleanse and restore it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrians.[3]

Did the Maccabean Revolt enjoy divine support and intervention?
Answering this question:
There is no direct statement in the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah gave Judah victory and directed his repair of the Temple, its refurnishing, the making of utensils, and finally its rededication. Yet, for the prophecies regarding Jesus and his ministry to be fulfilled and for the Levitical sacrifices to continue until the great sacrifice of God’s Son would be accomplished, the Temple had to be standing and its services in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Joh 2:17; Da 9:27) Jehovah had used men of foreign nations, such as Cyrus, to carry out certain purposes as regards His worship. (Isa 45:1) How much more readily might he use a man of his dedicated people, the Jews.[4]

Another source repeats:
Nevertheless, the Christian Greek Scriptures do record the fulfillment of Messianic Hebrew Scripture prophecies in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Some of these prophecies required that the Temple be in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Daniel 9:27; Haggai 2:9; compare Psalm 69:9 with John 2:16, 17.) Thus, unless the Temple was cleansed and rededicated to Jehovah, these prophecies could not have been fulfilled. Clearly, God wanted the Temple to be rededicated. But was Judah Maccabee his chosen instrument for accomplishing this?

In the absence of an inspired record, we cannot say for certain. Of course, Jehovah had in years past used non-Jews, such as Cyrus the Persian, to carry out certain aspects of his will. (Isaiah 44:26–45:4) How much more so might God use someone from among his dedicated people, the Jews![5]

Did the Maccabean Revolt fulfill Bible prophecy?
This would be totally remarkable, and yet there are two scriptures in the 12 Prophets that seem to do so. The first is Micah 5:7-9.

These sources explain:
They would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity, and they would be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Mic 5:7-9) This latter prophecy apparently had a fulfillment during the Maccabean period, resulting in the preservation of the Jews in their land and the preservation of the Temple, until the Messiah’s coming.[6]

A remnant from among the exiled Jews did indeed return to Judah and revive the worship of Jehovah at the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. In the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes, this remnant would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity. They would also be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Micah 5:7, 8) This latter expression may have been fulfilled during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the family of the Maccabees expelled their enemies from the Promised Land and rededicated the Temple, which had been defiled. Thus the land and the Temple were preserved so that another faithful remnant would be able to welcome the Son of God when he appeared there as the Messiah.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 1:13-17, 67-79; 3:15, 21, 22.[7]

This prophecy may have had its first fulfillment during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the Maccabees expelled their enemies from Judah and rededicated the Temple. This made it possible for a remnant of the Jews to welcome the Messiah when he appeared.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:15-22.[8]

Second, there is Zechariah 9:13 foretelling the successful warfare of the ‘sons of Zion’ against Greece.[9] Spectacularly, this was specifically fulfilled during the successful warfare of the Maccabees.

In conclusion, we can see that the Maccabean Revolt was a sincere and devout rebellion lead by someone with great love for his God Jehovah and for pure, undefiled worship. Additionally, as it paved the way for Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled, and evidently fulfilled Bible prophecies in the process, it certainly enjoyed divine support in a mighty way, until its purpose was fulfilled.

[1] Watchtower, 2011, 9/1 p. 14, seen here:

[2] Wikipedia, Judas Maccabeus

[3] Hanukkah Reflections for Christmas

[4] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Festival of Dedication p. 825

[5] Awake! 1990 12/8 p. 13 Hanukkah—Is It a “Jewish Christmas”?

[6] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 Remnant p. 770

[7] Watchtower, 2001 11/1 p. 11

[8] Live with Jehovah’s Day in Mind p. 170 footnote

[9] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Javan p. 1258

Additional reading:
Hanukkah: Fact and Fiction by Nehemia Gordon He presents the case that the alleged miracle of the oil never actually happened.