Posts Tagged ‘gimel’

Parashah 17: Yitro (Jethro)

Exodus 18:1-20:26

“Now Yitro the priest of Midian, Moshe’s father-in-law, heard about all that God had done for Moshe and for Isra’el his people, how Adonai, had brought Isra’el out of Egypt” (Exodus 18:1).

When Moshe meets Zipporah, her father is called Reu’el. When Zipporah is brought into the wilderness to meet Moshe and the Israelites, her father is called Yitro. This causes confusion as to whether one man has two names or are references to two different men.

Family terminology designating male in-laws are not specific in Middle Eastern culture.   Terms for a woman’s male relatives are the same for her father, brother or even grandfather. The ending ‘-el’ in Reu-el is Hebrew for ‘God’ suggesting he has a relationship with Elohim while Yitro is called a priest. In a patriarchal society, the men were the spiritual leaders of the family and it appears both Reu’el and Yitro have that position either with the title of el or the name Yitro.

Yitro is a Midianite.  The Midianites consisted of the five tribes descended from Keturah, Abraham’s wife after Sarah died.  The Midianites inhabited the desert borders in Jordan from Moab down past Edom (modern-day Saudi Arabia) and were associated with the caravans that bought Joseph from his brothers. Though Yitro is a Midianite priest, there is no mention of the God he serves.

Being a descendant of Abraham, he would have heard of Elohim. The patriarchs worshiped Elohim with different titles like El Shaddai, El Elyon, and El Roi. Until the burning bush, the name of Elohim was unknown to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The essence of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh was unknown to Moshe and the Hebrews until He showed His power and sovereignty over Egypt.

With the proximity of Yitro’s family to the mountain where Moshe met Adonai, it is probable that Yitro was a Midianite priest who worshiped Elohim without knowing His personal name. Yitro hears of the miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt and takes his daughter and grandsons to meet Moshe.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Jethro (His Excellence) or Yitro – יתרו – yod, tav, resh, vav
– finished work of the covenant of highest authority of the binding

Reu’el (Friend of God) or Re’u’el – רעואל – resh, ayin, vav, alef, lamed
– the highest authority understand the binding, first strength urges forward

The Power of Testimony

Moshe takes his father-in-law into his tent and tells him everything that had happened since they last saw each other. This is the description of a humble man giving his testimony of deliverance to another. Though Moshe had observed the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, he has not yet told his personal experiences to anyone. He has not yet verbalized his thoughts and feelings about what Adonai did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. For the first time, Moshe is sitting and relaxing with a priest, a trusted family member, sharing his testimony of Adonai’s deliverance.

Yitro sits in Moshe’s tent and listens to everything he has to say about the stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart, the plagues, the separation of Goshen from Egypt, the blood of the lamb, the death of the firstborn, walking on dry ground across the Red Sea, and watching the Egyptian army drown. He tells Yitro of the quarreling about water, the arrival of manna, the quail, the ‘Rock’ that follows them, the Shabbat, and the battle with the Amalekites.   The words coming from his son-in-law, a mere man, who had obviously been Elohim’s vessel, were so compelling that Yitro rejoiced over all the good that Adonai had done for the children of Isra’el and acknowledged Him as God of all gods.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).

Each of us has a testimony of deliverance from sin and death to life through the blood of the Lamb that is no less miraculous than Moshe’s testimony. Our testimony of Yeshua has the power to make others acknowledge him as Adonai. It has the power to overcome the enemy when faced with death. It will separate us from the darkness of evil, sanctify us, and become the spirit of prophecy within us.

An angel comes to the apostle John and testifies to everything he saw “that is the Word of God and the testimony of Messiah Yeshua” (Revelation 1:2). When John falls at the feet of the messenger, he is told,“Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Yeshua.  Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Yeshua” (Revelation 19:10). Those who hold to a testimony of Yeshua and obey the commandments of Adonai will be persecuted and even beheaded during the Tribulation. They are the sanctified ones who hold steadfast to their faith in Yeshua and keep Adonai’s commandments (Revelation 12:17, 14:12).

Yitro says a blessing “Blessed be Adonai who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that Adonai is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly” (Exodus 18:10).

Yitro brings burnt offerings and sacrifices to Adonai. Aaron comes with all the leaders of the Hebrews to share a meal before Adonai with Moshe’s father-in-law. Yitro as a priest understands what Abel knew, what Noach knew, and what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob understood about worshiping the Creator of the Universe. This offering is known as a shalom or fellowship offering and was offered before Torah at Mount Sinai. A fellowship offering was a free-will offering of thanksgiving for fulfillment of a vow (Acts 18:18).

The Calling of Leaders

The following day Yitro watches Moshe sit from morning until evening settling disputes among the Hebrews. He understands that Moshe must continue to guide the children of Isra’el, but he also knows that he will eventually become weary of the task.

Yitro suggests that Moshe find “honest and incorruptible God-fearing competent men” to be leaders over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  They would settle the small disputes among themselves and bring only the difficult cases to Moshe. Yitro knows that Moshe will only do what Adonai desires and puts the final decision between himself and Adonai.  Moshe respects Yitro’s wisdom and does everything he suggests.  Once the judicial system is established, Yitro returns to his own country.

“If you do this – and God is directing you to do it – you will be able to endure; and all these people will arrive at their destination peacefully” (Exodus 18:23).

The ‘judgment seat of Moshe’ began in the wilderness with Yitro’s wise advice. Whoever sat on this judgment seat had the authority to decide conflicts between people.  By the time of Yeshua, this judgment seat had become so corrupt that he reminds the people to do what comes from the mouth of the one who sits in the judgment seat, but not to act like them because their words and actions do not match.

“Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and his disciples: ‘The Torah teachers and the P’rushim (Pharisees),’ he said, ‘sit in the seat of Moshe.  So whatever they tell you, take care to do it.  But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act’” (Matthew 23:1-3).

The Third Month

“In the third month after the people of Isra’el had left the land of Egypt, the same day they came into the Sinai desert” (Exodus 19:1).

The Hebrews left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month.  They are now in their third month of travel –– to the day –– making it 45-46 days since they began their journey.  They set up camp in the Sinai desert at the base of Mount Sinai. Moshe goes up to Adonai who tells Moshe to remind the people of what He did to the Egyptians. He continues to speak to Moshe with prophetic words for the nation.

“I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of priests for me, a nation set apart” (Exodus 19:4-6).

While living in Alaska, I had the blessing of observing two Bald eagles, a male and a female, sit in their large nest, fish along the river, and soar across the never-ending sky. A couple of times, the eagles would fly so low that it was possible to see their talons, their large bodies, and huge wingspan. When one flew right over my car, I had to catch my breath at its magnificent size and beauty.

Eagles develop from birth through four different molting processes until they reach adulthood. Molting birds are generally weaker during those times so when their new plumage comes in, they will have attained a new phase of maturity and regained their strength.

In Scripture, eagles are used to describe how Adonai cares for His people. Within these passages, one learns a lot about eagles. A female eagle stirs up her nest, hovers over her young, spreads out her wings, takes her young and carries them as she flies (Deuteronomy 32:10-11). Eagles soar in the wind currents with outstretched wings. Their strength and youth are renewed (Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 103:6).

“If you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples” (Exodus 19:5).

“If … then …” Scriptures are often taught without the conditional part. For example, it is easy to like “then you are really my disciples” without embracing the “if you hold to my teachings” (John 8:31).  “You will remain in my love” is a beautiful promise of Elohim’s unconditional love, but it has a condition: “if you will obey my commands” (John 15:10). To be a friend to Yeshua like Abraham was to Elohim also has a condition, “If we do what He commands” (John 15:14).   “Peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea” is conditional to paying attention to Adonai’s commandments (Isaiah 48:18).

Then you will be my treasured possession” is an extraordinary promise, but it also has a condition.  In order for Isra’el to be Adonai’s treasured possession from among all the nations, the children of Isra’el must pay careful attention to His words and keep His covenant.  Up until this time, there has been no covenant given to the children of Isra’el. There has been a covenant given to Noach and a covenant given to Abraham. A third covenant is coming that will build upon the first two. When it is revealed, the people of Elohim must keep it in order to be His treasured possession.

“For all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).  Adonai is the Creator of the Universe, inclusive of the heavens and the earth. Therefore, He can do with the earth as He pleases. If He chooses a parcel land for Himself, it is His.  If He chooses to give that parcel of land to a certain group of people, He can.  If He chooses one person through whom He will reveal His glory, He can choose that one person.  Adonai causes some nations to rise and others to fall. He creates some people for noble purposes and others for contemptible purposes.  The earth is not ours; it does not belong to us. We have been given stewardship over it, but we will return to the very dust of the earth from which we came.

“But you are a chosen people,  the King’s priesthood a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Adonai’s desire for the children Isra’el is to make them a kingdom of priests and a nation set-apart for Him.

“All the people answered as one, “Everything Adonai has said, we will do” (Exodus 19:8).  This is the response of people who fear Adonai and want to obey His every command.

Moshe reports the response of the people to Adonai who gives specific instructions for the Hebrews to meet with Him.

“See I am coming to you in a thick cloud, so that the people will be able to hear when I speak with you and also to trust in you forever” (Exodus 19:9).

The people consecrate or sanctify themselves by washing their clothes, their outer garments.  The Hebrew word for ‘consecrate’ in this passage is kadosh and means ‘holy.’ Cleanliness is obviously a holy attribute that Adonai desires along with a heart ready to worship.

The Hebrews were given three days to prepare for this ‘appointed time.’   A line was drawn around the mountain that they were not allowed to cross until a specified time.  Any person or animal that crossed the line before the ‘appointed time’  would die.    In the event that it happened, the person or animal was not to be touched by human hands, but to be shot with an arrow or stoned to death. This seems like a harsh consequence for crossing a line, but it is a line established by Adonai. He continues to test the people to see if they will obey His commands.  The wages of sin, of disobeying His commands, always was and always will be death (Romans 6:23).

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud on the mountain. A trumpet sound was so loud the people trembled. Moshe led the people out of the camp to the base of the mountain which was covered with smoke like from a furnace. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh descended onto the mountain in fire and the mountain shook violently; the blast of the shofar grew louder and louder.

Moshe is told to come to the top of the mountain to receive instructions for the people.   No one is to force their way to see Adonai or they will die.  Even the leaders who were allowed to draw closer were to keep themselves set-apart otherwise Adonai may break out against them. Moshe takes Aaron with him to meet ‘I Am.’

The Hebrew word for ‘force’ is haras and means to ‘tear down or destroy.’ There is protocol in meeting with Adonai. Some quote the Scripture that we can go “boldly before the throne of grace” with an emphasis on boldly. In Hebrew the word is bitach and means ‘trust in Elohim.’ In Greek, boldly is parresias and means ‘openness, especially in speech.’ Parresias is translated as ‘confidently’ and is taught that one can now approach the Throne of Adonai without any type of protocol. There is no action or proper attitude taught, only a sense of hurried impatience and brashness. This is not how anyone would approach the king of an earthly nation, why would anyone approach the King of Kings this way? All who are born again may now enter His presence, but it should be done with humility and reverence with faith in Adonai.

The people hear the thunder and the loud shofar blast. They see the lightning and the smoking mountain.  They become so afraid that they fear they will die.  They remain at a distance while Moshe approaches the thick darkness.  Their faith has been tested and they want to do everything Adonai says, but they don’t want to hear His voice for themselves. They are so afraid of His presence that they ask Moshe to intercede.

Allowing another person to hear the voice of Elohim instead of listening yourself has great dangers.  Words can be twisted and opinions inserted.   During the Dark Ages when the Scriptures were inaccessible to the general population, those in leadership said and did whatever they wanted and claimed it was the Word of Elohim. False doctrines and heresies crept in and deceived the people. This created a huge division between the leaders and the people –– a misrepresentation of the one High Priest and his priesthood.

It is miraculous how faithful Moshe remains to Adonai writing everything He tells him in the ‘book of the covenant’ so the children of Isra’el have a testimony of Adonai’s Words. Those same people throughout their generations guarded the Torah and the prophets so we have our Scriptures today –– Scriptures that are identical to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The event at Mount Sinai happened 50 days after the exodus or on Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. It is at this ‘appointed time’ that Adonai gives the people His instructions. Torah becomes the foundation of the covenant Adonai makes with the children Isra’el. The covenant transforms the Hebrews into the nation of Isra’el, and is considered a marriage covenant or ketubah, the written vows from a Husband to his wife.

The Ten Commandments or the Ten Words are the spoken word of Adonai and the Israelites hear the voice, Yeshua. The instructions are written by Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’s finger on tablets of stone establishing His power and authority over Torah.

The Ten Words

“Yeshua replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’”
(Matthew 22:37-40).

The Ten Commandments could be thought of as the Table of Contents for the instructions of Adonai.  According to Yeshua, every commandment in the Torah, the prophets, the writings, and even the gospels and letters expound on the ways to love Elohim, our neighbor and ourselves because “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Torah with all of its instructions is the foundation of ‘all Scripture.’

“Then God said all these words…” (Exodus 20:1).

Adonai did not speak in Greek or Latin nor did He write the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with Roman numerals.  He spoke in Hebrew, and with His finger wrote right to left.   If they were numbered, each would have been represented by one of the first ten letters of the Hebrew alef-bet, a word picture depicting each command, thus Ten Words.

א Alef – An Ox means ‘first strength.’

“I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the abode of slavery.  You are to have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

Adonai is to be the only Elohim the Israelites have. He is to be their strength because He brought them out of Egypt with His mighty hand.  He is their leader, their deliverer. Adonai desires to be the sole object of their worship; He is a jealous God or El Kanna.

ב Bet – A House means ‘house’ or ‘family.’

“You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, or the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline.  You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, Adonai am a jealous God punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

When Jacob leaves Laban, Rachel steals her father’s household gods.  This type of ‘other god’ worship was as common in the ancient world as it is today.  Every world religious system creates images to worship. Some require a sacrifice or personal meditation. More often than not, these images and offerings of sacrifice and worship are done in the home.

The word ‘jealous’ is better rendered ‘zealous’ meaning ‘vigilant in guarding a possession.’  Adonai’s jealousy isn’t bitter or vindictive; it’s compassionate and protective as seen in His hovering over the children of Isra’el after bringing them out of Egypt.  He is fully aware of the enemy who tries to steal away their devotion through idolatry.

Adonai will not tolerate sin and punishes the sins of the parents through the third and fourth generations.   The word for ‘sin’ in this verse can be ‘iniquity.’  Iniquity is birthed in the heart and sin occurs when one transgresses the line established by Adonai in His Torah (1 John 3:4) Yet, in His justice, Adonai displays grace to the thousandth generation of those who love Him by obeying His commandments.

ג Gimel – Camel means ‘lift up’ or ‘pride.’

“You are not to use the name of Adonai your God in vain (lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely) for Adonai will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

The name of Adonai is not to be lifted up in vanity or excessive pride. The priests to whom the name was given did not want it profaned among the nations. Unfortunately, the name also became lost to the people chosen by Elohim to know it.

ד Dalet – Door means ‘pathway.’

“Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.  You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God  On it, you are not to do any kind of work – not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates of your property.  For in six days, Adonai made the heavens and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for Himself” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath is the pathway to enter Adonai’s rest, a rest from physically being creative and working. The seventh-day Sabbath is holy because Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh separated it from all other days. According to the Hebrew Word Picture, Shabbat is a ‘sign’ that His holy day consumes the family home.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Sabbath (Cease) or Shabbat – שבת – shin, bet, tav
– the covenant consumes the house

The first four commandments instruct us how to love God above all other gods, how to worship him without idols, and how to honor His name. The final six commandments instruct us how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which Adonai your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

This is the first commandment with a promise –– long life in the Land which Adonai is giving to His people.  To bring honor to one’s parents means to not bring them dishonor among the people with whom you live.

ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’

“Do not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

Though we are to be good stewards of the earth, the plants and animals, murder in this instance refers to taking human life.

ז Zayin – A Weapon means ‘divide.’

“Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

 Adultery divides the relationship between a husband and wife and cuts off the marriage covenant.

ח Het – A Fence means ‘protect.’

“Do not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Fences keep people and their property safe within them; fences keep people out who want to steal.

ט Tet – A Snake means ‘to twist.’

“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

The ‘snake’ is responsible for the first lie by twisting the truth of Adonai’s instruction in the Garden.

י Yod – Closed Hand means ‘a finished work.’

“Do not covet your neighbor’s house, do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

Be content with your finished works and do not desire whatever it is your neighbor has.

Even without a Tabernacle, the children of Isra’el are given instructions for making offerings to Adonai. They are not to make gods of gold or silver; they need only an altar. They are not make steps up to the altar so that they are indecently uncovered. On the altar they may make burnt offerings and peace offerings with sheep, goats, and cattle.

The altar could be made of earth, but had to be made a specific way in order to be holy or kadosh –– ‘set-apart for Adonai.’ Kadosh is interchangeable with the Greek word hagiazo, both meaning to sanctify. They are also allowed to make an altar of stones; however any use of tools to cut the stones would profane the altar. It would make the altar chol or common.

One of the responsibilities of the priesthood was to teach the people the difference between the holy and common and enable them to distinguish between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ (Ezekiel 44:22).

“In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21).

There is blessing in the name of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, especially when He causes it to be mentioned.  It is a move of the Spirit of Adonai to restore His name so He can bless those who speak it.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Holy (Set-Apart) or kadosh – קדש – kof, dalet, shin
– what is behind the pathway of chaos

Profane (Make Common) or chol – חל – chet, lamed
– protect and urge forward

Yeshua and Torah

“The true Torah was in his mouth, and no dishonesty was found on his lips; he walked with me in peace and uprightness and turned many away from sin” (Malachi 2:6).

“Philip found Natan’el and told him, ‘We’ve found the one that Moshe wrote about in the Torah, also the Prophets — it’s Yeshua Ben-Yosef from Natzeret!’” (John 1:45)

“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yod or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20)

“He [Yeshua] said to them, ‘So then, every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid [disciple] for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old’” (Matthew 13:52).

“In the acharit-hayamim the mountain of Adonai’s house will be established as the most important mountain. It will be regarded more highly than the other hills, and all the Goyim will stream there. Many peoples [nations] will go and say, ‘Come, let’s go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the house of the God of Ya’akov! He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of Adonai from Yerushalayim” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

Psalm 119:17-24 (Gimel)

Psalm 119 is about loving God’s Torah, His statutes, commands and precepts.  It is broken up into sections with strange looking words or letters which are the Hebrew alphabet.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, each line of each section starts with a word beginning with this letter.  This is called an acrostic poem.    Each Hebrew letter also has a  word picture associated with it giving greater meaning and symbolism to each line of the specific letter-ed section.

Word Picture - Camel

ג Gimel – Camel

Lift up or pride

“Deal generously with your servant; then I will live and observe your word. Open my eyes, so that I will see wonders from your Torah. Though I’m just a wanderer on the earth, don’t hide your mitzvot from me. I am continually consumed with longing for your rulings. You rebuke the proud, the cursed, who stray from your mitzvot. Remove scorn and contempt from me, because I observe your instruction. Even when princes sit and plot against me, your servant meditates on your laws. Also your instructions are my delight; they are my counselors.”

In our western culture founded on personal rights and freedoms, obeying God’s mitzvot makes us feel that we are losing our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, when we chose to become part of God’s Kingdom, we choose to give up our earthly rights to follow His commandments as His adopted children.

The ‘pride of life’ does not come not from the Father, but from the world (1 John 2:16).   When we walk on the earth in pride, God’s needs to deal mercifully with us because we wander aimlessly following the lust of our eyes and flesh.  We need the Spirit of God to open our eyes to the wonders in the Torah so the Word becomes a delight, and we receive the wise counsel desperately needed in this fallen world.  Obedience to God’s instructions removes scorn and contempt from our lives; obedience sets us free from rebuke and draws us into deeper fellowship with our Father. Ultimately, we become more like Yeshua who humbled himself was obedient even to the point of death.

©2014 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

Days of Dedication – Hanukkah

Menorahs and Hanukkiahs for Feast of Dedication

“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…. We will not obey the king’s word by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left” (Septuagint*, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22).

Most people have heard of the holiday called Hanukkah or Chanukkah. Some believe that it is the Jewish alternative to Christmas. However, these two celebrations have nothing in common.

In Hebrew, the word chanak means ‘dedicate.’ Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration also known as the Feast of Dedication. During Hanukkah, a special menorah called a hanukkiah is lit and put in the window. Each of the eight nights of Hanukkah one candle is lit by using the ‘helper candle’ or shamash until all eight candles and the shamash are burning.

The historical account of Hanukkah is not found in the modern versions of the Bible. It was removed from the canon of Scripture by Martin Luther because the festival conflicted with his anti-semitic theological views. However, the events surrounding the eight days of Hanukkah are written in the Septuagint Book of Maccabees, and recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. According to both accounts, the eight days of Hanukkah is to be celebrated every year memorializing the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple and the Altar of Sacrifice.

“So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (1 Maccabees 4:56-59).

“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival” (Josephus 12:5).

A Little History

The events surrounding Hanukkah began in 167 BCE when the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes became king over the Seleucid Empire which included the land of Israel. His name meant ‘antichrist god incarnate,’ and as such, he attacked the God of Israel through the Jewish people. In order to have a one-world religious and cultural system, his goal was to force Hellenistic pagan gods and customs on everyone in his empire , including the Jewish people. He wanted to nullify the Torah, invalidate the Levitical priesthood, cancel dietary laws, outlaw circumcision, and remove the Sabbath –– everything Jewish.

The Jewish battle for independence from Syrian rule began when a Levitical priest named Mattathias was commanded by a Greek official to make a sacrifice to a Greek god. Mattathias not only refused, but killed a Jewish man who began to do so. He also killed the official. When an edict for his arrest was sent out, Mattathias hid in the Judean wilderness with his five sons calling for other faithful Jews to join him. Many did follow him into the wilderness, and with the leadership of his son Judah, a small band of Jewish men began to revolt.

“Let everyone who has zeal for the Torah and who stands by the covenant follow me!” (1 Maccabees 2:17, Septuagint) 

As the Greek armies went on their conquest,  other Jewish men, women and children succumbed to Antiochus’ commands. Those who didn’t follow his orders were imprisoned or murdered.  The Jewish people feared for their very exAs the Syrian armies conquered the land, other Jewish men, women, and children succumbed to Antiochus’ commands. Those who didn’t follow his orders were imprisoned or murdered. The Jewish people feared for their very existence. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, this lawless Greek didn’t succeed with his ultimate plan or there would have been no lineage from which the Messiah could come!

Judah was given the nickname ‘hammer’ or Maccabee, an acronym for Mecha-mocha ba’alim HaShem, meaning “Who is like you among the powers, O God,” became the battle cry of the rag tag Jewish resistance. Judah Maccabee was not only from the Levitical lineage, but he served the God of Israel faithfully, wholeheartedly, and courageously. His words were always filled with the hope and power of the God of Israel just like his predecessor, the warrior King David. The Maccabees who numbered under 12,000 with little to no training or equipment fought fearlessly against the Syrian armies who were highly trained, rode elephants, and numbered over 40,000.

“But Judas said: ‘Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven’” (1 Maccabees 3:18-19)

After three years of continuous fighting, tearing down pagan altars, circumcising uncircumcised boys, and rescuing Torah scrolls from the hands of the Greek, Judah Maccabee and his little army miraculously regained control over Jerusalem. They went into the Temple and saw its defilement. The courts had bushes and thickets, the gates were burned, and the priests chambers destroyed. Pigs had been sacrificed on the Altar and the blood sprinkled throughout the Holy Place. The Menorah was gone, either stolen or melted down for its gold. A statue of Zeus sat in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant should have been. They mourned the desecration, tore their clothes, blew the shofar, and cried out to God.

“Then said Judas and his brothers, “Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it” (1 Maccabees 4:36).

Judah chose some men to fight against the Syrians remaining in the city. He chose others who were priests and devoted to Torah to clean the Temple. They removed the defiled stones and replaced them with uncut ones. They tore down the Altar and built a new one. They made new holy vessels. They burned incense on the new Altar, put bread on the new Table of Presence.

What About the Missing Menorah?

A midrash from Pesitka Rabatti 2:1 suggests that when the Maccabees entered the Temple and did not find the Menorah, the Levitical priests improvised by putting together a simple Menorah made of spears. The midrash speculates that the spears had been left behind by the Syrian soldiers who fled quickly when they were defeated. Transforming enemy spears into the branches of the Menorah would allow for the light to return to the Temple.

However, when the priests went to light the Menorah, they found only enough consecrated oil to last one day. To consecrate more oil would take eight days. Then, a miracle happened. The one jar of oil lasted eight days and the Menorah burned brightly and continuously as God commanded for an eight-day dedication.

“Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year,  they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built.  At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.  So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise” (1 Maccabees 4:52-56).

A Gambling Game

During the years of Greek persecution, unwanted and surprise visits by the Syrian soldiers often came when Jewish men were studying the Torah. If they were caught, the Torah scroll would be shredded into pieces, and those studying Torah would be put to death. According to tradition, one way they protected their scrolls and lives during an invasion was the invention of a game placed with tops. If soldiers came to the door, the Jews would hide their Torah scrolls, pull out their tops, and begin gambling. This tradition is remembered today with a top called a dreidel that has four letters inscribed on each side: Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin. The letters stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham or ‘A Great Miracle Happened There.’ In Israel, the dreidels have one different letter, the Peh, signifying ‘A Great Miracle Happened Here.

Yeshua and Hanukkah

Hanukkah is mentioned in the John 10:22-39 as the Feast of Dedication. It was winter and Yeshua walked in Solomon’s Colonnade of the Temple. Though Hanukkah was a celebration about the re-dedication of the Altar in the Temple of Jerusalem, the focus of the Jews wasn’t on sacrifices and offerings, but on the miracle of the oil and the light. As they are celebrating miracles, they began asking Yeshua if he is the promised Messiah. Yeshua reminds them of all the miracles he has done “in his Father’s name.”

“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:25-29).

The greatest miracle –– the Light of the World –– stood in front of the Jewish people at the Temple. The Menorah that burned brightly had become flesh and blood. Just as the oil miraculously lit the Menorah, the Spirit of God filled Yeshua and his light illuminated the Temple during the festival of lights. He no longer remained silent about his identity, but answered their question clearly giving them no doubt as to his identity: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). 

Hanukkah and Us

“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you” (Romans 11:1).

Paul teaches that we are to honor God with our bodies because they are the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our temple worship is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. This is the spiritual essence of Hanukkah –– cleansing our Altar of Sacrifice from everything that contaminates and defiles God’s holy dwelling.

“Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises [and miracles], let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The eight days of Hanukkah are the perfect time for Messianic gentiles to do some temple house cleaning in order to hear the voice of our Shepherd more clearly. Each night of Hanukkah Yeshua’s light is present in the shamash that lights each individual wick on the hanukkiah. He is the Menorah from where the holy oil of God’s Spirit flows and illuminates those hidden areas of our lives that need to be purged and burnt up on the Altar of Sacrifice. By the eighth evening of Hanukkah, our physical and spiritual temples should be a reflection of the miracles that occurred in the Temple during the days of Judah Maccabee.

*The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from 2 BCE.  The two books of the Maccabees are found in this translation as well as the Apocrypha.

 For more about Yeshua fullfilling the ‘appointed times,’ purchase Yeshua in His Father’s Feasts.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.