How Shall We Keep Hanukkah?
Miracle of the Lights?
Sacred history validates that whenever Israel departs from the instructions given to them by Moses, Divine protection is withdrawn. The seed of Israel then suffers horrific persecution until the unfruitful branches are purged out and those who are left return in a spirit of allegiance to Him. Unfortunately wholehearted allegiance to the Mosaic standards resume at a lower level of piety.This is due to the lawless examples of those they placed their confidence in as their spiritual leaders. Note the downward trend as we look at the events of the famous Judge named Gideon after he delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites.
“The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. YHWH will rule over you." And he said, "I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder…Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.” (Judges 8:22-33) What this has to do with the Celebration of Hanukkah will be evident later.
The ephod mentioned in Gideon's story would have been similar to the breastplate worn exclusively by the High Priest of Israel. The construction of the ephod subtly undermined the High Priest of Israel’s authority who was singularly designated as Israel’s ultimate decision maker. In a time of national weakness, Gideon set himself and his sons up as a rival Priesthood. Consequently Gideon’s idol diminished the role of the High Priest and brought about a deadly power struggle among his own sons. This ultimately resulted in the destruction of one of the most prominant religious cities soon after his death.
What does this story have to do with the celebration of Hanukkah? By taking a closer look at Judah Maccabee and his brothers we will see many similarities between what occurred with the family of Gideon and the 120 year dynasty of Maccabees. We know that the Maccabee (Hasmonian) family led Judah in the struggle to drive out the Seleucid army and retake Jerusalem and it's temple. Once they succeeded, they cleansed the sanctuary area from the ceremonial pollution caused by Antiochus Epiphanies.They began with the Alter of burnt offering and resumed the daily sacrifices. YHWH was pleased with this, but He was not pleased with the events which occurred next.
“When the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over [the Greeks], they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil... enough to light the menorah for a single day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days. On the following year, they established these [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving to God.” (Talmud, Shabbat 21b) There is much here that needs to be understood about “the miracle’ mentioned here to determine whether or not a miracle had even occurred. If it did, the common people would need to take the word of the Maccabees (who were Priests) since no one but the Priests of Israel were permitted to view the Menorah inside the Holy place of the Sanctuary.
As we view more information about the Menorah that was used when the alleged miracle occurred, we find the story about the miracle to be contrived and I will show you why. Jewish historians note this about the Menorah used at the time of the alleged "miracle" "The spits (of the Menorah) were made of iron and they overlaid them with tin. When they grew richer they made them of silver. When they grew richer still, they made them of gold.” (Babylonian Talumd Tractate Rosh HaShana 24a-b) The reason there was no gold at the time was because the Seleucids had previously plundered all of the silver and gold of the nation. Are we to believe that the God of Israel, who destroyed Nadab and Abihu for bringing “strange fire” into the sanctuary, would lower His standards and make a miracle to light a Menorah made of iron? Absolutely NOT! Remember that the Menorah was to be made of pure gold and no strange or unauthorized material was to be used.
We must conclude that the "Miracle of Lights" was a deception of the Maccabees. But one must wonder why the Maccabees would deceive the people and claim that the Menorah burned for eight days,The people were told to gather together to celebrate the Festival of Sukkot (an eight day festival) at a time that was not specified in the scripture. But in reality the Maccabee family, like Gideon,were consolidating power to themselves and cleverly established a yearly festival so that the nation would remember their accomplishments. And like Gideon they desired to consolidate power to themselves. Although the Maccabee family were descendants of Aaron, they were not in the direct High Priestly line. So when they reached Jerusalem, they, like Gideon they resorted to idolatry to assumed a role that did not belong to them. Like Gideon they produced an idol in the minds of the people that became a snare to Israel.
Next we will learn the fate of the Hasmonian (Maccabee) Dynasty and how they deepened their rebellion against the instructions of Moses.