Hanukkah: A Hammer and a Flame

Jewish Days of Distinction--A Messianic Study of the Jewish Feasts and Holidays

By Bonnie Saul Wilks, MJBI Staff Writer
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Posted in HanukkahJewish Holidays on December 9, 2014

Feast – Hanukkah, Feast of Dedication, or Festival of Lights


In 167 BC, Antiochus IV persecuted the Jews by prohibiting study of the Torah and outlawing Jewish religious practices. He defiled the Temple by requiring that pigs be sacrificed on the altar. A remarkable and faithful band of fighters vanquished the enemies in Israel. Marching into Jerusalem and waging war, Judah Maccabee (“hammer” in Hebrew), purified and restored God’s holy place. His small army, with God on their side, destroyed the foreign idols and resurrected a new altar. Jewish artisans crafted new vessels and a date was set for re-dedication—the 25th of Kislev. For the dedication service, only one vessel of specially-prepared oil was found to burn in the lamp stand—only enough for one day. The miracle of Hanukkah is that it burned for eight consecutive days while a courier was dispatched to bring more oil. Truly Maccabee became the hammer of Hanukkah! No one would be celebrating if God didn’t use his courage and force to deliver the Jewish people and reignite light.

In Israel and the Diaspora, a nine-branched menorah called a hanukkiyah is the center of modern celebration. It has one branch for the “servant” candle, which is used to light the others for eight-consecutive days. While considered a minor holiday with normal work taking place (similar to Purim), it is still widely celebrated and enjoyed. The spiritual focal point is “the miracle of the oil and light” and thanksgiving to God for supernaturally providing for His people.


Then came Hanukkah in Yerushalayim. It was winter, and Yeshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Shlomo’s Colonnade. So the Judeans surrounded him and said to him, “How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly!” (John 10:22-24, CJB).

Hebrew Words

Hanukkah is the Hebrew word meaning “dedication,” “establishing,” or “consecration.” Maccabee means “hammer.” Or means “light,” and emet means “truth.”

Devotional Thought

“This was the true light coming into the world which gives light to everyone entering the world” (John 1:9).

“For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

Although Hanukkah is not listed among the three Jewish festivals required by the Hebrew Scriptures in Deuteronomy 16, it is still a sweet and meaningful holiday. Its lessons pertaining to the significance of light to humankind and the need for the miraculous in every-day life are essential and inspiring. Hanukkah is a tiny, ancient miracle of the multiplication of a day’s supply of oil, which shined in a newly dedicated Temple. Its old story morphs into a modern-day application of the overwhelming power and place of light in Jewish observance and tradition.

Light or that specific beam of illumination that leads the journey can be traced through all of Jewish history beginning to end. It is evident from God’s creation of light in the beginning to the fire by night that lead the Israelites through the Sinai, to a flaming bush in the desert that was never consumed, to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and finally to tongues of fire in the New Covenant that rested upon the heads of those early disciples of Yeshua who waited in the Upper Room in Jerusalem for help from the Holy Spirit.

“The fire that burned always led to the fountain of life, the one true God, in whose light we see light” (Psalm 39:6).

The Creator of light placed such a premium on the place and importance of spiritual and physical illumination in the world that His only Son became the ultimate metaphor and living example of revelation for a blind people sitting in darkness, bound by sin. He is called the Light of the world, and He is the true light that shines in darkness (John 1:5). Lesser lights compete to captivate the allegiance of human hearts, but God’s radiance alone in the form of Yeshua the Jewish Messiah (Hebrews 1:3), is the true luminosity that brings men into paths of right living.

“This was the true light coming into the world which gives light to everyone entering the world” (John 1:9).

The Hebrew words for “true light” are or emet. Several Hebrew words derive from the verb emet meaning “to support or make firm” — truth, true, faith, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and faithful ones. In reality, Yeshua is the true light that comes into the world to support and make firm our lives as we walk before Him on life’s journey.

Presently in this life, I have never experienced such a dark time of uncertainty and chaos. Daily current events are replete with threats of fear, unbelievable and heart wrenching occurrences. The swirling news “wars and rumors of wars, diseases, and men’s hearts failing them for fear” from Scripture have more meaning to me in the last few years. It has been the steadying power of the true light that shines in these evil and dark times that has been a comfort and saving grace.

Just as the candles of Hanukkah grow brighter and brighter as one is added each evening for eight days, the light of the righteous grows brighter and brighter until the full day. Light must increase as knowledge of the Messiah increases.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining ever brighter until full daylight” (Proverbs 4:18).

We live in dark times, but we know the Light of the World, Yeshua, who has flooded our souls with hope and joy. The small, ancient Jewish miracle of oil and light becomes more beautiful and meaningful as we draw near to our Lord’s return. Someday He will sweep us home, where we will live in a prepared place where there will be no need for the sun to shine by day, for He will be our Light.

“And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).


Father, illuminate the dark places in the world that threaten me with fear. Flood me with Your glorious light so that I may see and trust the path You have laid before me. Give me confidence to understand the future hope that is mine through Yeshua. I declare that YOU are my light and my salvation, and in You I have nothing to fear. Amen.

Holiday Celebrations and Traditions:

As with all Jewish holidays, food is central. Since it celebrates the miracle of the oil, Hanukkah centers on fried foods or those made with oil. Favorites include potato latkes (or pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts). Activities include lighting a nine-branched menorah, or hanukkiyah, while reciting special prayers at sunset for eight days in a row. A special game is played by children using a dreidle (or top), which is spun to win chocolate coins called gelt. Each of the four sides of the dreidle has a Hebrew letter, which is an acrostic for “a miracle happened there.” In some communities especially in the West, it is customary for small gifts to be exchanged on each of the eight nights (similar to Christmas).