Posts Tagged ‘gimel’

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

Self-will or pride (obstinate)

“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.”

Mitzvot is the Hebrew word for precepts and statutes commanded by God.  In our American culture founded on personal rights and freedoms, obeying God’s mitzvot makes us feel as though we are losing our right to choose.  However, when we chose to become part of God’s Kingdom, His family,  we chose 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 and obstinacy, we need God to deal generously (bountifully) with us because we wander aimlessly according to the lust of our eyes and flesh.  We need the Spirit of God to open our eyes  to the spiritual wonders in the Torah so it becomes a delight and the wise counsel we desperately need in this fallen world.  Obedience to His instructions removes scorn and contempt from our lives setting us free from rebuke and drawing us back into fellowship with our Father and ultimately making us like Yeshua who humbled himself and became a man and 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. 

Parashah 5: Hayyei-Sarah (Sarah’s Life)

Parashah 5: Genesis 23:1-25:18

“Sarah lived to be 127 years old; these were the years of Sarah’s life” (Genesis 23:1).

I read a cute little cartoon that had Abraham and Sarah sitting in chairs with their backs to each other.  Abraham says, “I must be getting old.  I just can’t remember what this week’s parsasha is.”  Sarah replies, “The story of my life!”

This parashah is titled with the first few words of the week’s reading as are all the titles of the parashot.   Sarah’s life does not cover two chapters of Scripture, but this is where the rabbis, who developed the Torah divisions, decided to begin this particular one.

Sarah lived 127 years and died in Hebron and Abraham mourned for her.   This is the extent of her life mentioned in this passage. 

After Sarah dies, Abraham buys a plot of land for burying his wife.  He approaches Efron, the son of Tzochar to purchase the cave of Makhpelah with the agreement that he would pay full value for the property, the cave and all the trees around it.  Efron deeded the property to Abraham and it became his possession. Abraham owned the land on which he buried his wife long before Joshua enters the same area and takes possession of it for the children of Isra’el.

Makhpelah means ‘cave of the double tombs.’  Ancient Hebron is found on Tel Rumeida in the modern-day city of Hebron, south of Jerusalem in the mountains. This is the same location where David is anointed King of Isra’el.  Hebron also became one of the six cities of refuge and remained part of Isra’el, known as Samaria, until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

318 and Eliezer

After Sarah’s death, Isaac needs to be comforted.  Abraham decides that his son, who is between 30 and 40 years of age, needs a wife.  Finding the right wife for Isaac has divine importance for the promise El Shaddai gave to Abraham to be realized.  Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, back to his homeland to choose a wife from one of his family members and not from the Canaanites.

When Abraham went to fight Kedorlaomer and rescue Lot, he took 318 ‘trained men.’  The Hebrew word for ‘trained men’ has its root in chanak which means ‘dedicated’ and Eliezer, whose name means ‘my Elohim is help,’ is a ‘dedicated’ servant of Abraham.

Elohim always has a purpose for giving exact numbers so what could be the significance of 318?  In Hebrew, there are no actual written numbers; they are represented by individual letters of the alef-bet.  For example, the number 5 is represented by the letter hey, the number 50 by the letter noon andthe number 100 by the letter koof.  By using this system, the numerical value of Hebrew names and words can be calculated.   

The name Eliezer has a numerical value of 318, the exact number of ‘dedicated men’ that Abraham took with him to fight the king of Ilam.  This could be evidence that Abraham had 318 warriors or Eliezer was the only warrior he needed because Eliezer was Abraham’s help from El Shaddai, the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit)

Putting a hand under the thigh or the ‘loins’ was a symbol of authority and the customary way for taking an oath in ancient times.  Because the thigh is close to the genitals, the oath takers shared a deep love and respect for one another.   Abraham’s ‘loins’ represented the source of his posterity, the covenant blessing of the ‘promised seed.’  Abraham had received circumcision as the ‘sign’ of El Shaddai’s covenant.  While western nations swear on a Bible or place one’s hand over the heart, the Hebrew tradition was to swear on the ‘sign’ of Elohim’s covenant, the circumcision in the genital area. 

Eliezer and Rebekah

Eliezer takes 10 camels along with gifts on his journey.   He goes to the city of Nachor, the home of Abraham’s brother.  When the women come to draw water from the well, Eliezer makes his camels kneel.

Ten is the number of divine order in Biblical symbolism. There were ten generations from Adam until Noah, ten generations between Noah and Abraham.  There are Ten Commandments, ten plagues that Elohim brought on Egypt, ten spies that were sent to investigate the Promised Land and there were ten virgins who waited for the arrival of their bridegroom.  A gathering of ten men is called a minyan and is necessary for certain observances in Judaism to be completed. Ten or a minyan is the number of men from the nations that will take hold of the tzizit of one Jew saying, “We want to go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).  In this passage, ten camels kneel while Eliezer prays for Elohim’s divine order to come to pass.

The third letter in the Hebrew alef-bet is gimel and means ‘camel.’  The Hebrew letter picture for gimel symbolizes ‘pride’ or being ‘raised up.’ Eliezer has the camels kneel, a necessary action in order to dismount a camel; however, kneeling also is symbolic of humility.  Eliezer humbly seeks the Elohim of Abraham for favor and wisdom.   He also ‘puts out a fleece’ so he will recognize the answer to his prayer.  Elohim is faithful to Eliezer and opens his eyes to see the woman chosen to be the wife for Isaac.

Rebekah or Rivkah is the daughter of Betu’el, the son of Milkah and Nahor, Abraham’s brother and niece.  She comes to the well to draw water and sees Eliezar.  She not only draws water for him, but also for his camels.  This is quite a feat for this young woman.  The water jar she carried on her shoulder held maybe three gallons of water.  One camel typically consumes 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes depending on how far it has traveled.  The distance between Hebron and Haran is about 450 miles with short water stops along the way.  By the time they arrived at the well, the camels needed to be refreshed with water.  In order to provide water “until they finished drinking,” Rebekah would have had to make about 10 trips to the well per camel or 100 trips for all ten camels.  The Scripture says “she went down” to the well suggesting that she had to descend numerous steps in order to retrieve water.   This activity of descending stairs, retrieving water, ascending stairs and pouring the water into the trough took hours to complete. The Scripture continues,

“The man gazed at her in [reverent] silence, waiting to find out whether the LORD had made his trip successful or not” (Genesis 24:21, Amplified Bible). 

According to the dictionary, the word gaze means to ‘look steadily and intently with interest, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought.’  Eliezer watched Rebekah intently with admiration as she faithfully continued to water his camels.  In Hebrew, the word ‘macharish’ is used for ‘silence’ and means ‘speechless.’  His silence came from the fact that her actions rendered him speechless.

When he learns that Rebekah is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Eliezer places a ring in her nose and gives her gold bracelets.  Piercing Rebekah’s nose with a ring was not a fashion statement, it was a Middle Eastern symbol of betrothal.  Though a nose ring or a jewel place on the forehead was a symbol of wealth, Eliezer saw a beautiful woman who exemplified great discretion, humility, faithfulness, strength and a servant’s heart. 

When Rebekah leaves with Eliezer to marry the son of Abraham, her mother and brother bless her,

“Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them” (Genesis 24:60).  

This prophetic blessing is still spoken over Jewish daughters every Shabbat, “May you be like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah” in honor of the faithful matriarchs and the millions of their children. 

Eleazar takes Rebekah along with his camels and returns to Abraham.  From a distance Isaac sees the ten camels and knows El Shaddai’s divine purpose for Eliezer’s  journey has been successful.

The Veil of Betrothal

Rebekah also sees Isaac in the distance and covers herself with a veil.  Veiling was cultural, especially for an unmarried woman who was in the presence of her betrothed. 

The most detailed description of the woman’s veil is found in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.  These verses are usually removed from their spiritual context and attributed to an ancient tradition or some culture where men wore hats, giving it no relevance for the Body of Messiah.  The veil, according to Sha’ul, contains a spiritual aspect regarding the glory of Elohim.  Men, the glory of Elohim, and women, the glory of man, are to reflect the glory of “I AM”. This was understood by all of the Messianic congregations who kept the tradition commended by Sha’ul.   When Sha’ul writes his second letter to Corinth, it is apparent they learned from the first letter the purpose for the veil,

“With unveiled faces, we see as in a mirror the glory of the Lord as we are being changed into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Sha’ul also says the veil is a ‘sign of power.’  According to the prophet Ezekiel, the veils of false prophetesses are removed so they no longer have the power lead the people of Elohim astray (Ezekiel 13:17-23).  Today, the veils of women in western cultures have been removed by Elohim because ‘equality of women’ neglects the importance and value of expressing His line of authority when men and women pray in public. 

Moshe veiled himself when he came down from the mountain and the glory of yod-hey-vav-hey radiated from his face.  The veil protected the Israelites from the over-powering glory of Elohim. He only removed it when he was in the presence of yod-hey-vav-hey and spoke directly with Him (Exodus 34:34).

There was also a veil in the Tabernacle which separated the people from the presence of Elohim’s glory in the Holy of Holies.  This veil was torn in two at the time of Messiah’s death revealing the man-glory of Elohim, Yeshua.

As Isaac’s betrothed, Rebekah veiled herself keeping her glory (her hair) only for her husband.  This is a tradition that even modern-day brides use, but its greater significance for the betrothed women in the congregation of the Bride of Messiah has been neglected.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Isaac (He laughs) or Yitz’ak  – יץחק – yod, tzadik, chet, koof

the finished work pulls toward and protects what is behind

Rebekah (To Bind) or Rivkah – רבקה – resh, bet, koof, hey

the head of the house that follows, behold

Abraham’s Other Children

After Sarah dies, Abraham takes another wife named Keturah, meaning ‘fragrant  incense.’   Through her Abraham’s grief is satisfied.  Together they have six children who become tribes that move south and east of Canaan.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Zimran (Musical) – זמרן – zayin, mem, resh, noon

divide the head waters of life

Zimran settled west of Mecca in Zimri

Jokshan (Snarer) – יקסן – yod, koof, samech, noon

finished work behind the twisting of life

Jokshan settled in northern Arabia and became known as ‘Arabs’

Medan (Contention), who settled Indonesia – מדן – mem, dalet, noon

chaotic pathway of life

Became northern Arabian tribes settling near Taima

Midian (Strife) – מדין – mem, dalet, yod, noon

chaotic pathway finished work of life

Became the Ethiopian culture

Moshe’s wife was from Midian and was called an Ethiopian.

Ishbak (He Releases) – ישבק – yod, shin, bet, koof

finished work consumes the family behind

Settled east of Canaan

Shuah (Incline) – שוח – shin, vav, chet

consumed and bound to the inner chamber

Settled on the right bank of the Euphrates River

Abraham’s wives Sarah and Keturah along with his concubine, Hagar, birthed the descendants of three great nations.  Through Hagar came the Arab nations including Saudi Arabia. Through Keturah came the nations of Assyria including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Jordan.  Through Sarah came the nation of Isra’el.

Isaac received the entire inheritance from his father, Abraham, while the sons of Keturah received ‘grants’ and were sent east of Canaan.  When Abraham died, Isaac was 75 years of age.  Isaac and Ishma’el buried their father in the cave on the land that their father owned.

The Tribes of Ishma’el

In the genealogy of Ishma’el, it is recorded that he had 12 sons who became the 12  wandering bedouin tribes around the Middle East.   Many of the names of his sons are found in the Hebrew Scriptures as the lands they possessed.

Navayot (Firstborn)

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, this tribe was known as the Nabateans and were famous for raising sheep.

“All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered for you, the rams of N’vayot will be at your service; they will come up and be received on my altar, as I glorify my glorious house” (Isaiah 60:7).

Kedar (Sorrow)

This tribe settled around the Persian Gulf, Sinai Peninsula and became the  lineage of the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

“For this is what Adonai has told me: “Within a year [and not a day more], as if a hired worker were keeping track of the time, the glory of Kedar will come to an end.  Few of Kedar’s valiant archers will be left. Adonai the God of Isra’el has spoken” (Isaiah 21:16).

Adbeel or Idibilu (God’s Servant)

This tribe settled in northwest Arabia.   Historically this tribe was defeated in battle and became the border guards for Egypt.

Mivsam (Sweet Smelling)

This tribe is believed to have intermarried with the Simeonites and disappeared from history as a separate entity.

“The sons of Shim‘on: N’mu’el, Yamin, Yariv, Zerach and Sha’ul.  His son was Shalum, his son was Mivsam, and his son was Mishma. The descendants of Mishma: his son Hamu’el, his son Zakur, his son Shim‘i. Shim‘i had sixteen sons and six daughters, but his brothers did not have many children, so their clans did not increase like those of Judah” (1 Chronicles 4:24-27).

Mishma (Obeyed)

This tribe settled in what is known today as Jebel Mishma in the vicinity of Dumah. Dumah or Idumaea, a city located in Canaan, became associated with Edom and Seir.   Dumah el Jandal are at the southeastern end of Al Jawf situated between Syria and Mesopotamia and was an oasis for travel between Syria and Babylonia.  Herod the Great was Idumaean.

“A prophecy about Dumah: Someone is calling to me from Se’ir: “Watchman, how much longer is it night? Watchman, how much longer is it night?” The watchman answers: “Morning is coming, but also the night. If you want to ask, ask! Come back again!” (Isaiah 21:11-12)

Massa (Nightfall)

This is the probable location where the Israelites murmured if they crossed the Red Sea into Arabia.  Found in the records of Tilgath Pileser III saying that Massa and Tema offered him gifts.

“The place was named Massah [testing] and M’rivah [quarreling] because of the quarreling of the people of Isra’el and because they tested Adonai by asking, “Is Adonai with us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)

Hadad (Rolling Stone)

This may be the Hadad tribe in Arabia which are now Christians and located throughout Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Tema (Good News)

Known today as Taima and located in the Nafud desert.  Tilgath Pileser III receives tributes from Tema as well as Massa.  The Assyrian King Sennecherib named one of the gates in the city of Nineveh, the Desert Gate, and records that the Teymeite enter through it.  The father of Belshazzar made the city of Tayma his residence (Daniel 7:1). This land was part of the caravan route from Babylon to Sheba.

“A prophecy about Arabia: You caravans of D’danim will camp in the desert growth of Arabia. Bring water to the thirsty, you who live in Teima, greet the fugitives with food …” (Isaiah 21:13-14).

Y’tur (Rebel)

Was known as a tribe of robbers

Nafish (Genuine)

Kedmah (Scout)

This tribe settled in the wilderness of Kedemoth, known today as es-Za’feran.

Ishma’el also had a daughter named Basemath who became the third wife of Isaac’s brother, Esau.

Yeshua and His Bride

“As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf,  in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion in the mikveh, so to speak, in order to present the Messianic Community to himself as a bride to be proud of, without a spot, wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without defect“ (Ephesians 5:25-27).

“Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give him the glory! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his Bride has prepared herself — fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear. (“Fine linen” means the righteous deeds of God’s people.”) (Revelation 19:7-8).

“One of the seven angels having the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues approached me and said, “Come! I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.” He carried me off in the Spirit to the top of a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God.  It had the Sh’khinah of God, so that its brilliance was like that of a priceless jewel, like a crystal-clear diamond” (Revelation 21:9-11).

“I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning Star. The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let anyone who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let anyone who is thirsty come — let anyone who wishes, take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:16-17).

Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets)

1 Kings 1:1-31

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 8:19-22

Matthew 27:3-10

Luke 9:57-62

James 1:4-24

Midrash Chayei: The Ruach HaKodesh

Discuss the purpose of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) according to Yeshua and Sha’ul (John 16:8-12, Romans 14:16-18).  Discuss why King David asks Elohim not to take His Ruach HaKodesh from him (Psalm 51:13, 1 Samuel 16:14).

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article.  For a hard copy of this Torah portion or the complete cycle, please purchase Open My Eyes, Wonders of Torah.

Days of Dedication – Hanukkah

Menorahs and Hanukkiahs for Feast of Dedication
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’ making Hanukkah an an eight-day celebration centering around the days of dedication.  During Hanukkah, a special menorah called a hanukkiah is lit and put in the window of Jewish homes.  It holds nine candles.   Each of the eight nights  of Hanukkah one candle is lit by using the ‘extra helper candle’ or shamash until all eight (nine) candles are burning brightly.

The historical account of Hanukkah is not found in our modern Bibles.  It was removed from the canon of Scriptures by Martin Luther because it conflicted with his anti-semitic theological views.   However, the complete events surrounding the days of dedication are recorded by the historian Josephus and the Septuagint book of Maccabees.  According to both accounts,  the eight days of dedication were to be held every year in memory of 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

Hanukkah is the memorial to a period of time beginning in 167 B.C.E. when the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes became king over the Seleucid Empire that included Israel.  His name meant ‘antichrist god incarnate’, and as such, he attacked the God of Israel.  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 battle for independence from Syrian Greek rule began when a Levitical priest named Mattathias was commanded by a Greek official to make a sacrifice to a Greek god.  He not only refused, but killed a Jewish man with him 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 and called for other 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!” (Septuagint 1 Maccabees 2:17). 

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 existence.  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, this lawless man 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, also an acronym for mi komocho ba’alim Hashem, “Who is like you among the powers O God,” – the battle cry of the rag tag Jewish resistance.  The Maccabees who numbered under 12,000 with little to no training or equipment fought courageously 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 fighting, tearing down pagan altars, circumcising uncircumcised boys, and rescuing Torah scrolls from the hands of the enemies,  Judah Maccabee and his little army miraculously regained control over Jerusalem.  They went to 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 their blood sprinkled throughout the Holy Place.  The Temple Menorah was missing, 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 and tore their clothing.  They 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).

This is what they did.  Judah chose some men to fight against those remaining in the city.   He chose priests who were devoted to the Torah to clean the Temple.  They removed the defiled stones and replaced them with uncut ones, they tore down the Altar of Sacrifice and built a new one.  They made new holy vessels and brought them into the Temple.  They burned incense on the Altar, put bread on the Table of Presence and lighted the lamps on the Menorah. 

Whether or not it’s a true, a story is told in the Talmud (written down oral tradition) about the Menorah. When the Levitical priests went to light the newly made Menorah in the Most Holy Place, they found only enough pure oil to last one day.  To consecrate more oil would take eight days.  Then, a miracle happened.  The one vial of oil lasted eight days and the Menorah burned brightly and continuously just 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 found, the Torah scroll would be shredded into pieces and those studying would be put to death.  According to tradition, a way of protecting their scrolls and their lives  during an invasion was invented with a gambling game played with a top.  If suddenly disrupted by soldiers, they 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: Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin.  The letters are symbolic for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham or “A Great Miracle Happened There.”   In Israel, however, the dreidels have one different letter, the Peh, signifying “A Great Miracle Happened HERE.”

Yeshua and Hanukkah

Hanukkah is mentioned in the Gospels in John 10:22-39 as the Feast of Dedication.   It was winter and Yeshua walked in Solomon’s Colonnade or porch.  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.  Since 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 stood in front of the Jewish people right there at the Temple.  The golden 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 who he was: “I and the Father are one.”  They struggled with this declaration and picked up stones to kill him. 

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 because we have been bought with price of Yeshua’s blood, 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 our lives as a holy sacrifice.  This is the essence of the season of Hanukkah and cleansing the Altar of Sacrifice from everything that contaminated and defiled God’s holy dwelling. On that same altar we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

“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 a unique time for believers in Messiah to do some temple house cleaning.  In order to hear the voice of our Shepherd more clearly, like the Jewish people at the Temple, we must turn from spiritual idolatry that perverts a pure worship of God.  We must cleanse everything causes physical contamination in and outside our temples in order to be completely holy and rededicated back to God.

Each night of Hanukkah Yeshua’s light is present in the helper candle, the shamash, that kindles each individual wick on the Hanukkiah.    He is the golden Menorah from where the holy oil of God’s Spirit flows and illuminates those hidden and not so hidden areas of our lives that need to be purged and burnt up on the Altar of Sacrifice.    By the eighth evening of Hanukkah, each heart and mind should be more purified out of reverence for God reflecting each miracle that occurred during the days of Judah Maccabee: the rededication of the Temple, the Altar of Sacrifice, and Holy Oil in the Golden Menorah.

*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.

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