The Feast of Dedication – What is it?

The Feast of Dedication is a Jewish festival mentioned in John 10:22–23. It says, "At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon" (John 10:22–23). Today, this Jewish festival is perhaps better known as Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights.

This winter holiday is an eight-day festival observed starting on the 25th of Kislev, which occurs in late November or December depending on the lunisolar Jewish calendar. During the Feast of Dedication, Jews celebrate the dedication of the second temple as recorded in the books of First and Second Maccabees in the time between the Old and New Testaments.

The history behind this holiday begins around 198 BC when the Syrian empire with King Antiochus III took over Judea and Samaria. Antiochus III was fairly tolerant of the Jews and allowed them to continue to live according to their custom. However, around 175 BC, his son Antiochus IV ascended to the throne. Around 168 BC, he massacred many Jews, outlawed Judaism, and looted the temple. Around 167 BC, Antiochus IV went so far as to erect an altar to Zeus in the temple and defile it by sacrificing pigs there. The remaining Jews were horrified, so Judah Maccabee (meaning Judah "the Hammer") led a revolt. Around 165 BC, Judah Maccabee and his followers were successful in recapturing the temple and began the Hasmonean Jewish kingdom, which lasted until 63 BC when Jerusalem fell to Roman rule.

When Judah Maccabee recaptured the temple, he ordered it to be cleansed, a new altar to be built, and new holy vessels to be made. After these steps, the temple was rededicated to the Lord. However, unadulterated, undefiled, pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest was needed for the menorah (or lampstand) in the temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. Unfortunately, only one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day. Yet when the Jews poured in the oil and lit the menorah, it burned for eight days! Of course, eight days is the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. It is this miracle that is commemorated during the Feast of Dedication.

Today, this festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum (or menorah) with nine branches, called a hanukkiah. Each night, one candle is lit by the special shamash candle until all eight other candles are lit on the final night of the holiday remembering the eight days the oil lasted at the rededication of the second temple. The recitation of Psalm 30:1–12 is also an important part of the Feast of Dedication because of its themes of God-given victory over enemies and the replacement of mourning and sorrow with hope and joy. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes.

The Feast of Dedication has been observed for thousands of years celebrating God's protection and the victory He gives His faithful people who are willing to bravely continue to worship Him in the face of persecution. Since it is also referred to as the Festival of Lights, let us remember that Jesus declared himself "Light of the World" in John 8:12; and Revelation 21:23 says that in the New Jerusalem "… has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." This holiday can remind Christians of the faithful, light-giving God we serve.

Related Truth:

God is light – What does that mean?

Is Hanukkah (Christmaskah) something Christians should celebrate?

What is the history of the intertestamental period?

What are the different Jewish festivals in the Bible?

How is the meaning of each of the Jewish feasts fulfilled in Jesus?

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