Today is the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the 8-day Festival of Lights.
OK, good Christians, scan through your Bibles to find reference to this Jewish festival! You won’t find it in Deuteronomy or Leviticus. In fact, unless your Bible contains the Apocryphal Books of 1 & 2 Maccabees, you won’t find it in the Bible at all.
So, just what is Hanukkah?
Following the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided into four parts. Each was led by one of his generals. Egypt was given to Ptolemy. The Ptolemies governed Egypt through the reign of Cleopatra (a Greek) and Marc Antony.
Syria became known as the Greek Seleucid Empire. The Jewish nation of Israel lay between these two competing Empires. This had happened many times before as related in the Old Testament.
In the second century BC, the Seleucid King Antiochus invaded Israel and captured Jerusalem. This was a period of Hellenization of all nations under Greek control. All things “Jewish” were banned including worship and dietary practices. Jews who refused to be Hellenized were persecuted and purged. Hellenization in Israel rivaled and even exceeded the Holocaust.
Antiochus cleared the Second Temple of all things Jewish and converted it to a Temple dedicated to Zeus, an act that rivaled the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
In 168-167 BC, the Jews led by the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and recaptured Jerusalem. This was the establishment of the Hasmonean Empire. The Hasmonean Empire lasted until it was defeated by the Romans in the 1st century BC.
Having been defiled by the Greeks, the Jews cleansed the Temple and rededicated it to God. In celebration, they lit an olive oil lamp. They only had enough oil to burn for one day. Miraculously, the lamp burned for eight days, the time it took to process and consecrate oil.
Today, this is celebrated in the Jewish community as Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights.