By Miriam Nadler and Natalia Fomen
"Let’s take a look at what transpired during these so-called silent years,
where the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has its origin."
Have you ever felt that God is silent? Or perhaps it seems like He is not listening to your prayers, nor is He concerned about your particular situation? Since Malachi, God had not spoken through His prophets to the Jewish people for about 400 years. Some historians call this era the silent period - but is God ever truly silent? Let’s take a look at what transpired during these so-called silent years, where the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has its origin.
How It All Started
It all began when a brilliant army commander
named Alexander was conquering the entire known world including
Europe and Egypt in 332 BCE. At the age of 30, he sought to unify
all his conquered lands through the cohesive force of Greek culture
known as Hellenism. I think Alexander would have definitely been on
several People Magazine covers as the world’s youngest conqueror.
But alas, Alexander the Great died at 33 years of age, leaving his
empire divided between four generals.
Faithful Unto Death
Antiochus, with his well-trained Syrian army, the best in the world, entered Jerusalem. They took over the Holy Temple, defiled it by erecting an idol of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek temple in the courtyard of the Holy Temple, and worst of all, offered a pig as a sacrifice on the holy altar. But they did not stop there. These powerful, cruel Syrian soldiers went from town to town forcing the local leaders to defile their altars with swine’s blood and flesh. If people refused to obey their orders they would face a slow and torturous death. However, God broke the silence through His faithful remnant. These faithful servants never gave up their faith in the God of Israel. In fact those martyrs, during this period of history who were tortured for their faith became an inspiration to the first century believers as they gave up their lives for Yeshua.
The Silence Is Broken
God’s silence was finally broken through one
priestly family. When the Syrian soldiers came to the small town of
Modi'in, a few miles northwest of Jerusalem, they demanded that the
elderly priest Mattathias Maccabee and his five sons sacrifice a
pig, but they refused. Instead they chose to stand firm in their
faith. This act of zealousness and courage was the beginning of a
three-year battle. Of course, the Israelis were not only
outnumbered, but also lacked weapons. But little did the enemy know
that the Jewish people possessed a secret weapon and a defense that
had no equal. The Lord Himself is Israel’s protection and an
everlasting refuge. And miracle of miracles after three years of
struggle, on the 25th of Kislev (December) the Jewish people were
given a victory. The Temple was recaptured, cleansed, and
rededicated. And that’s how Hanukkah began exactly three years from
the day of the Temple’s defilement by the enemy. From that time
forward Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication became a yearly
remembrance of the victory that God gave Israel.
Messiah Celebrates Hanukkah
When Yeshua went up to the Temple to celebrate
Hanukkah, He used this occasion as a teaching opportunity. John
10:22-23 informs us, At that time the Feast
of the Dedication [Hanukkah] took place at Jerusalem; it was winter,
and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
The Jewish people were looking for another deliverer who could give
them victory, this time over the oppressive Roman regime. I imagine
that many felt that God was silent, nevertheless the messianic hope
burning within their hearts was not extinguished, and this is why
they peppered Yeshua with questions about who He was.
Instead of giving them a yes or no answer. Messiah tells them that if they will listen to His voice then they will have eternal life and His eternal deliverance. He alone has the authority to not only save, but also to keep them.
God Still Speaks
In retrospect, when the people of Israel were
merely looking for temporary and physical deliverance, He
accomplished far beyond their expectations. Messiah, though His
atonement, provided freedom from the bondage of sin and life
everlasting. Likewise today when we heed His voice, and answer His
call to follow Him, He will do the same for us.