Posts Tagged ‘Judah Maccabee’

Hanukkah Word: Hammer

The dictionary defines a ‘hammer’ as “a tool with a heavy metal head mounted at right angles at the end of a handle, used for jobs such as breaking things and driving in nails.”

The noun ‘hammer’ is found only a few times in Scripture. The first time is when Ya’el, the wife of Heber, uses a hammer to pound a tent stake into the head of Sisra piercing his skull and crushing his temple (Judges 4:21). With this act, she sets Israel free from God’s judgment for worshiping idols. The second time it is used when Solomon built the Temple. That stones were prepared at the quarry so that no ‘hammer’ could be heard while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7).

Though King David lived long before the Maccabean Revolt, but he reveals how the sanctuary of Adoni was destroyed when Israel was taken captive for worshiping idols. ‘Hammers’ were used by the enemies of God’s people to destroy the Temple, specifically to smash the intricately carved woodwork (Psalm 74:6).

The Word of God is like a ‘hammer’ that shatters rocks and changes the heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He breaks the rock-hard heart so it will obey His commandments (Jeremiah 23:28-29).

The Hebrew word for ‘hammer’ is maqqebeth or ‘Maccabee.’ The leader of the Jewish revolt against the Syrian armies of Alexander the Great was called Judah ‘Maccabee’ or ‘The Hammer.’ As a small army of ‘hammers,’ the Maccabees fought against the brutal and overpowering armies of Alexander the Great who wanted to Hellinize the Jewish people.

Judah and his ‘hammer’ rebels fought for their freedom to worship the God of Israel. With faith in the ‘Word’ of Elohim, and the help of the ‘Commander of Elohim’s Armies,’ they ‘hammered’ against their enemies for four years until they regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem re-dedicated it back to God.

As ‘hammers’ were used to destroy the Temple, ‘The Hammer’ was used to restore its glory.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

Bubbe’s Hanukkah Poem

Hanukkah: The Truth in the Tradition

When I think of the word ‘tradition,’ I immediately hear Tevye’s booming voice singing ‘Tradition’ in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Along with singing the word ‘tradition’ repeatedly, he explains the purpose of traditions:  “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you! … I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

I remember hearing a similar statement years ago: “It’s not that the Jews keep traditions; it’s that the traditions keep the Jews.”

The Jews aren’t the only people to have traditions. Some people macro-tradition and follow the ways of their ancestors in carving a turkey, ethnic meals or educational institutions. Some micro-tradition with how they wash their clothes, wear their hair, and brush their teeth. Traditions not only help order a daily life, but they maintain a sense of family identity throughout the generations.

Tevye doesn’t know from ‘where’ he received the traditions of keeping his head covered and his talit katan. He doesn’t know from ‘where’ the traditions of how to sleep, eat, work and wear clothes came either. Tevye does know, however, that the traditions express who he is, who God is, and how he is expected to live God’s way. His traditions bring balance to his life and, from what I can tell, Tevye’s traditions do not break any commandments; they are expressions of those commandments in his life.

“He [Yeshua] answered, ‘Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?‘” (Matthew 15:3).

“Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this” (Mark 7:13).

Hanukkah and the Temple

In John chapter 10, it is winter and the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has arrived. Yeshua is walking around in Solomon’s Porch, the covered area on the far eastern side of the Temple. It connected with the Court of the Gentiles where God-fears could come to the Temple and worship the God of Isra’el. It was in this area of the Temple that Yeshua’s Jewish brothers and sisters surrounded him and demanded that he reveal his identity.

This was a dangerous confrontation because they had already seen that Yeshua had no problem rebuking anyone who lives contrary to the will of God. He had already chastised some of the Jewish leaders regarding the ceremonial hand washing. He called other Jewish leaders blind fools and white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. He completely discouraged the rich young man who wanted to follow him on his own terms. And, he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”

If Yeshua believed that Hanukkah was a man-made tradition, he would have spoken up. He would have walked over to the Altar and rebuked the priests. He would have entered the Holy Place and overturned the Temple Menorah. He would have cried out in a loud voice in the Temple area for everyone to hear, charging them with sin and idolatry in their man-made tradition of Hanukkah, He would have reprimanded them for celebrating the re-Dedication of the Altar when it wasn’t in Torah.

Instead of acting like a lunatic, Yeshua tells them that his sheep hear his voice. He reminds them of the miracles he has done in his Father’s name. Whether he lit a hanukkiah, played dreidel or ate latkes, no one knows, but he did not rebuke anyone for being in the Temple at Hanukkah.

Yeshua’s own Jewish ancestral heritage is tied up in the miraculous victory of Judah Maccabee and his small army over the Greeks. His own Jewish cultural history included the desecration and restoration of the Temple in which he was now standing. He knew that had Antiochus Epiphanes annihilated the Jewish people, he wouldn’t be standing in their presence speaking about his sheep and his Father. Had the Maccabees not had victory over the Greeks, his Father’s house would have remained a desecrated and unholy place. There would be no account of him teaching in the Temple at Passover nor would he have overturned the tables of the money changers. He would never have been able to quote the prophets that his Father’s house is a “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13).

The re-dedication of the Altar had great significance to Israel and the Jewish people. Without an Altar there could be no place for the burnt offering, grain offering, guilt offering, fellowship offering or sin offering –– all offerings that brought fellowship with God. All of these offerings pointed to the coming One, the Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant written about in Isaiah 53.

Yeshua is the Menorah, the Light of the world, walking around the Temple in a human flesh body. Whether the Talmudic story of one flask of oil lasting eight days is true or not, John wrote that Yeshua stood inside the Court of the Gentiles during the Feast of Dedication and revealed to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ his identity: “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30).

Yeshua is God’s voice to Israel and the world. He uses the events from the days of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt to give prophetic vision for the time of his return and the end of days (Matthew 24:15). He says there will be another ‘abomination of desolation’ in the Holy Place of his Father’s House. We need to understand the prophetic vision which comes from knowing the historical events surrounding the days of Judah Maccabee. Without prophetic understanding, the coming darkness will envelope us until we fall into great deception of the end times.

The traditions surrounding Hanukkah do not nullify the commands of God. Traditions define us as individuals and join us as family. As part of the Commonwealth of Israel, lighting an eight-branched menorah unifies the family of Jew and God-fearing gentile as ‘one new man.’

World leaders wield great power to challenge and even subdue our faith in the God of Israel along with cherished traditions. As the dreidle spins with its Hebrew letters, it is important to remember how many centuries of Jewish men, women, and children lived, fought the forces of evil, and even died so “salvation could come from the Jews” (John 4:22). From their persecutions, traditions have arisen that have kept them alive and united as a nation for millennia.

Yeshua is Jewish. He celebrated Hanukkah with his Jewish brothers and sisters. With his words in Solomon’s Colonnade, the history and traditions around Hanukkah become part of our spiritual history and prophetic vision. Nes Gadol Haya Sham, ‘A Great Miracle Happened There!’ Yeshua, the Menorah, revealed himself to be One with his Father in the Temple in Jerusalem, the greatest miracle of all at the Feast of Dedication.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

Hanukkah Word: Elephants

Many years ago, I was the turkey mascot for the National Home Brewing Association. The next year, I wore the same turkey costume to ride an elephant. Yes, I rode an elephant named Stoney in a turkey costume. According to Chazal, a Talmudic sage, “When we are lucky enough to see an elephant we should bless God and say, “Blessed is the One who varies the creatures.” I was very blessed to not only see Stoney, but to have the privilege to sit on his back.

Elephants really are unique creatures. Apart from being massively large and inordinately smart, they are social, gentle, and loyal. Stoney was trained to kneel down, almost lying flat, on the ground so I could climb on him. His gait was gentle as he lumbered slowly from side to side. I grabbed onto his nect to stay secure and felt tiny stiff hairs all over his body. And social? He loved the attention he received from the awe-struck crowd. Sometimes he would try to ‘hug’ with his trunk.

Throughout history, elephants were used like military tanks in Asian warfare. Though they were not native to the Middle East, the Seleucids rode elephants to terrify the Jewish fighters during the Maccabean Revolt.

“His [Antiochus’] army numbered a hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war” (1 Maccabees 6:30).

“Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver” (1 Maccabees 6:37).

“All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong” (1 Maccabees 6:41).

At their first encounter, Judah Maccabee and his men defeated 500 men and killed one elephant, but had to retreat. They were not expecting elephants in their battle plans. Perhaps it was at this juncture that the Maccabees began to say ‘stronger and smarter than an elephant’ as they prepared for further military encounters with these massive animals.

Sometime later, “a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes” came to the Judean village of Moedin (2 Maccabees 13:2).

At this second encounter Judah left “the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhort[ed] his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws [Torah], the temple, the city, the country, and the government…. Giving his troops the battle cry “God’s Victory,” he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked force of the bravest young men and killed about two thousand in the camp. He also stabbed the lead elephant and its rider. Finally they withdrew in triumph, having filled the camp with terror and confusion. Day was just breaking when this was accomplished with the help and protection of the LORD” (2 Maccabees 13:14-17).

There are those who say these elephant stories never happened or were embellished. Others say they were a metaphor for God’s Hand in the battles.

Hebrew Word Picture

Elephant – pil – פיל

פ Peh – A Mouth means ‘speak’ or ‘source.’

י Yod – Closed Hand means ‘finished work.’

ל Lamed – Shepherd’s Staff means ‘leader who urges forward.’

The Hebrew word picture for elephant: source of the finished work of the one who urges forward.

This meaning suggests that these mighty elephants were God’s trumpeting mouthpiece.

Bring on the elephants!

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.