The story of Chanukah takes place about two-hundred years before the birth of Christ during the time of the second temple in Jerusalem. A small group of Israelites led by a family of Aaronic priests, called the Maccabees (Hebrew meaning hammer), had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in what is called the Maccabean Revolt. This was not just a fight against a foreign occupying presence, but a spiritual battle against the Hellenization and assimilation of the Jewish people into Greek culture and idolatry.
The temple had been desecrated by the sacrifice of pigs and the priests had become ritually impure by their exposure to men who had died in battle. Rededication of the temple and sanctification of the priests would require seven days according to the Mosaic Law, during which the menorah, the eternal lamp would need to burn continuously. Upon recapturing the temple the priests discovered there was only one crucible of pure olive oil, enough to burn for one day. So they filled the menorah cups and lit the only oil they found.
The menorah miraculously lasted for eight days—enough time for the priests to purify themselves, after which they could prepare more oil to keep the eternal lamp burning beyond the eight days. For this reason, the Chanukah menorah has eight candles as opposed to the seven that were prescribed for the temple. The prophets and rabbis of the ancient judicial courts added seven additional commandments during the first millennium, after the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Included is the festival of Chanukah and the commandment to kindle the Chanukah lights, enacted on the first anniversary of the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek army in the year 139 B.C.[i]
We know that the number seven in scripture is spiritually significant—“And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5, NKJV).[ii] In relation to our created world, the number seven represents the fullness of time, for in seven days the heavens and the earth, and all their host were made. Seven is therefore the number that represents the completion of God’s work in this present creation. However, the number eight is also spiritually significant, in fact even transcendent, and we will see why in a moment?
The rabbis have differing opinions about the precise nature of the miracle of Chanukah. Some say the oil was provided supernaturally, while others say the fire itself was supernatural. Unfortunately, the commandment for the eternal flame required natural elements of olive oil and fire, so a miracle that substituted these natural elements for supernatural ones would violate God’s Law. Therefore, these opinions are not valid. The only acceptable answer is that the olive oil burned with a real flame, but at the same time it didn’t actually burn.
To understand this miracle we turn to the narrative of the Talmud. It says: When they brought the Ark that Moses crafted into the Holy of Holies in the Temple of King Solomon, even though the total width of the Holy of Holies was only twenty cubits, nevertheless the Ark had ten cubits of empty space between it and the wall in each and every direction.”[iii] “And it is written in the description of Solomon’s Temple: ‘And before the Sanctuary, which was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth’ (I Kings 6:20). The place ‘before the Sanctuary’ is referring to the Holy of Holies. It was twenty by twenty cubits. If there were ten cubits of empty space on either side of the Ark, apparently the Ark itself occupied no space.”[iv]
How is this possible? How can something physically occupy space in our temporal realm, but at the same time not occupy it? This is the real underlying miracle. You see, a real flame burned with real olive oil for eight days, but at the same time it didn’t burn. In other words, it transcended our physical realm.
How does all this correlate to Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel? Much in every way. Yeshua said, my kingdom is not of this world.[v] He is the transcendent one born in the natural[vi]—the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end[vii] He is the one who is beyond time, even beyond our created world itself, and yet He walked in our shoes and suffered with us.[viii]
But there is more. The spiritual and natural worlds oppose, even war against each other.[ix] Why? Because the law of nature is about self-preservation, but the law of the spirit is about self-sacrifice. Yeshua is the ultimate example of this law, for “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
The number eight points to a transcendent realm, that of another dimension—a spiritual world that exists within our physical realm, but at the same time does not appear to exist. Likewise, Yeshua is also beyond our temporal reality unless He opens our eyes to see the miracle. “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him” (Luke 24:15-16).
The story of Chanukah is not part of the canonized Old Testament, and still R. Yeshua visited the temple during the Feast of Dedication and revealed Himself as the Christ, the anointed one.[x] Yeshua is the light of the world and the light of all men, so it was appropriate for Him to be revealed during Chanukah—the Festival of Lights.[xi]
The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication” or “induction.” The root of the word “Chanu” means “they rested.” In the book of Daniel we read, “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13). In alignment with the number of days and months given in the book of Revelation chapters 11:2-3, 12:6, and 13:5, the 335th day in the Hebrew calendar comes exactly 75-days after the Day of Atonement, this falling precisely on the Feast of Dedication—Chanukah (Figure 1). This is also the beginning of the millennial kingdom, for the sons of the covenant are circumcised on the eighth day, not the seventh.
We who are in Christ have become the temples of the living God—not circumcised in the flesh, but circumcised in the heart by the burning fire of the Holy Spirit. When Yeshua returns for us, “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Thus as promised to Daniel, we also shall enter our eternal rest.
Our rabbinic sages proclaimed that the Chanukah menorah symbolizes an extension of the golden lampstand that stood in the temple. For this reason the Chanukah lights are considered holy. Unlike other vessels, the golden lampstand was not used in the formal priestly ceremonies. It was simply there to illuminate and to adorn the house of God.
Our sages also proclaimed the blessings associated with lighting the Chanukah candles, emphasizing that the greater blessing was on the placement of the menorah in a window or door viewable to the public so as to proclaim the miracle of God. R. Yeshua made a similar proclamation when He said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Therefore, the story of Chanukah is in actuality a prophetic revelation of the return of Christ and the dedication of His heavenly temple—the church. It is also the promise to rebuild and dedicate His earthly temple in Jerusalem. It points to the complete gathering and full restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests, and includes the reestablishment of the Levitical order. Together with Israel, we have become “one new man” in Christ; purified, made white, and refined. May we enter His eternal rest, and may His eternal light burn forever in our hearts.
[i] Posner, Yecheskel. What Are the 7 Rabbinic Mitzvahs? Chabad.org.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[iii] Talmud Tractate Bava Batra 99A.
[iv] Megillah 10b:16-17.
[v] John 18:36.
[vi] Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:11, Romans 8:3.
[vii] Revelation 1:8.
[viii] Hebrews 2:18.
[ix] Galatians 5:17.
[x] John 10:22-30.
[xi] John 8:12.