Hanukkah: A Rose by Any Other Name

--[ 15 MIN READ]

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you again. And why behold you the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5).

One cannot condemn xmas celebrations and justify Hanukkah celebrations at the same time, to do so is to be unrighteous in judgement. To legitimize practices surrounding Hanukkah while condemning xmas traditions would be the equivalent of saying John Wayne Gacy was righteous in his actions but Ted Bundy was unrighteous in his deeds.

Many people who refuse to celebrate Xmas, due to its unscriptural roots, have unknowingly adopted another pagan celebration in its place. This happens when we seek to have “alternatives” for items we are giving up. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to celebrate Hanukkah, actually if we hold Hanukkah under the same microscope we use to examine Xmas by, we will find Hanukkah contains many of the same pagan customs of the Xmas celebration. Not only will we find many unscriptural and pagan elements within Hanukkah we will discover how many of the traditions associated with this day have nothing to do with the narrative found within the book of Maccabees.

Did Messiah Observe Hanukkah?

First, I want to deal with the assumption many have concerning Messiah observing Hanukkah. Let’s start by taking a look at the text many use to try and support the narrative that Messiah observed (or kept) Hanukkah: And it was at Yehrushalayim the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Yahushua walked in the Hekal in the porch of Shelomoh. Then came the Yehudim round about him, and said unto him, How long do you make us to doubt? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly (Yochanan (John) 10:22-24).

The first thing we should notice is how the text does NOT state Messiah observed (or kept) Hanukkah, it simply gives His location. Furthermore, if one looks into the Greek, they will find that the words “the feast of” do not appear in the text. The actual Greek text reads: And the dedication in Yehrushalayim occurred, and it was winter, and Yahushua was walking in the temple [Hekal], in the porch of Shelomoh (Yochanan (John) 10:22-23).

Most have been led to believe this is describing the feast of Hanukkah; however, the text does not specify this was a feast. In the Tanak we find several dedications listed, none of which are the feast of Hanukkah:

This is the dedication of the altar, in the day of its being anointed, by the princes of Yisra’el: twelve silver dishes, twelve silver bowls, twelve golden spoons; a hundred and thirty shekels each silver dish, and each bowl seventy; all the silver of the vessels is two thousand and four hundred shekels , by the shekel of the set-apart place. Golden spoons are twelve, full of perfume; ten shekels each spoon, by the shekel of the sanctuary; all the gold of the spoons is a hundred and twenty shekels ; all the oxen for burnt-offering are twelve bullocks, rams twelve, lambs, sons of a year twelve, and their present; and kids of the goats twelve, for sin-offering; and all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace-offerings are twenty and four bullocks, rams sixty, he-goats sixty, lambs, sons of a year, sixty; this is the dedication of the altar, in the day of its being anointed (Bemidbar (Numbers) 7:84-88).

Then the children of Yisra’el, the priests and the Lewites and the rest of the sons of the exile, did the dedication of this House of Elohim with joy, and offered at the dedication of this House of Elohim one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Yisra’el twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Yisra’el (Ezra 6:16-17).

And at the dedication of the wall of Yerushalayim they sought out the Lewites in all their places, to bring them to Yerushalayim to perform the dedication with gladness, and with thanksgivings, and with singing, cymbals, harps and lyres (Neḥemyah (Nehemiah) 12:27).

And on the eighth day they held an assembly, for they performed the dedication of the altar seven days, and the festival seven days (2 Chronicles 7:9).

If we take a moment to look at the text of Yochanan (John) 10:22-23 we will notice two items which help us identify the dedication which is being referred to. The first item is that it was winter and the second item is found in Yochanan 11:55 where it states; “Now the Passover of the Yehuḏim was near, and many went from the country up to Yerushalayim before the Passover”.

With the help of these two items we can determine that this dedication was the one referred to when the Second Hekal [temple] was dedicated:

And this House was completed on the third day of the month of Adar [winter], which was in the sixth year of the reign of Sovereign Dareyawesh. Then the children of Yisra’el, the priests and the Lewites and the rest of the sons of the exile, did the dedication of this House of Elah with joy, and offered at the dedication of this House of Elah one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Yisra’el twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Yisra’el. And they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Lewites to their divisions, over the service of Elah in Yerushalayim, as it is written in the Book of Mosheh.

And the sons of the exile performed the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, for the priests and the Lewites had cleansed themselves – all of them were clean. And they slaughtered the Passover for all the sons of the exile, and for their brothers the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Yisra’el who had returned from the exile ate together with all who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the gentiles of the land in order to seek YHWH Elohim of Yisra’el. And they performed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for YHWH caused them to rejoice, and turned the heart of the sovereign of Ashshur toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the House of Elohim, the Elohim of Yisra’el (Ezra 6:15-22).

Herod held his Dedication in the same month Ezra did. From aish.com: Adar 12 marks the dedication of Herod’s renovations on the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 11 BCE. Herod was king of Judea in the first century BCE who constructed grand projects like the fortresses at Masada and Herodium, the city of Caesarea, and fortifications around the old city of Jerusalem. The most ambitious of Herod’s projects was the re-building of the Temple, which was in disrepair after standing over 300 years. Herod’s renovations included a huge man-made platform that remains today the largest man-made platform in the world. It took 10,000 men 10 years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount; the Western Wall that we know today is part of that retaining wall. The Temple itself was a phenomenal site, covered in gold and marble. As the Talmud says, “He who has not seen Herod’s building, has never in his life seen a truly grand building” (http://www.aish.com/dijh/Adar_12.html).

The Miracle of The Oil

So now that we have shown that Messiah did not observe (or keep) Hanukkah let us move on to take a look at the story concerning “the miracle of the oil”. One thing which should jump off of the pages as one reads the Books of the Maccabees is how there is no mention of a miraculous supply of oil which supposedly caused the Menorah to burn for eight days. Josephus, as well as 1st and 2nd Maccabees say nothing concerning a miracle in connection with Hanukkah, although mention is made of miracles having occurred in earlier times among the Yehudim (2 Macc.10:1-7; 1:18ff; 2:1ff). Thus, the familiar miracle story of Hanukkah, a small cruise of consecrated oil sufficient for one day lasting eight days, appears only in the Talmudic sources.

Gemara Shabbos 21b: What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day’s lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving.

In short, there exists not a single source, aside from the Gemara [Talmud], that mentions any miracle of oil lasting for eight nights. So, if the miracle really occurred, why would the historical accounts concerning Hanukkah omit this fascinating detail if it truly happened? The answer, the miracle of the oil never took place, it is nothing more than a Talmudic myth.

The Hanukiah

“And you shall make a lampstand of clean gold – the lampstand is made of beaten work. Its base and its shaft, its cups, its ornamental knobs and blossoms are from it, and six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side; three cups made like almond flowers on one branch, with ornamental knob and blossom, and three cups made like almond flowers on the other branch, with ornamental knob and blossom – so for the six branches coming out of the lampstand.

“And on the lampstand itself are four cups made like almond flowers, with ornamental knob and blossom, and a knob under the first two branches of the same, and a knob under the second two branches of the same, and a knob under the third two branches of the same, according to the six branches coming out of the lampstand. “Their knobs and their branches are of the same – all of it one beaten work of clean gold. “And you shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall mount its lamps so that they give light in front of it. “And its snuffers and their trays are of clean gold (Shemoth (Exodus) 25:31-38).

The Talmud (Menahot 28b) states that it is prohibited to use a seven-branched menorah outside of the Temple. The Hanukkah menorah therefore has eight main branches, plus a ninth branch set apart as the shamash (servant) light which is used to kindle the other lights. This type of menorah is called a hanukiah in Modern Hebrew. — Birnbaum, Philip (1975). A Book of Jewish Concepts. New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. pp. 366-367

While the Talmud may prohibit the use of a seven-branched menorah outside of the Hekal, where is that command found in The Torah? Furthermore, where does Torah allow for the creation of a nine-branched menorah?

Clearly another echo of Lucifer the “light bearer,” this heathen shining star deity is seen in the Tanak as Chemosh. His worship is echoed in the Hanukkah ritual, for the religious celebration involves a special menorah which holds nine candles. The Hebrews call it a Hanukiah, and the outside eight candles, supposedly signifying the eight days, are in two groups of four, with a prominent middle candle referenced in Talmudic lore named the shamash. The “shamash” is the ignition candle which is used in the Hanukkah ritual to ignite the other eight candles. The ancient Yehudim imported the worship of “Shamash” from the heathen nations around them, culminating in Solomon’s grandiose apostasy:

Then Shelomoh built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Mo’ab, on the hill that is east of Yerushalayim, and for Molek the abomination of the children of Ammon (1 Kings 11:7).

The worship of the “Festival Of Lights” star god Shamash continued through the ages. To the Babylonians he was Tammuz, whose pageant included the cutting down of a green tree to commemorate when his light was extinguished during the Winter Solstice.

He is always associated with lights, and shining. The Latin Lucifer (the shining one) is the Greek Kronos, also identified with Helios – a term frequently applied to the sun. He is also Phaenon, which also has a literal meaning of The Shining One.

The ‘servant candle’ on the hanukiah is called the ‘shamash’ and supposedly comes from the Hebrew word for servant. This word ‘shamash’ does not appear in Scriptural Hebrew anywhere. However, there is a common Scriptural Hebrew word for servant, and it is ‘eved’. Is it coincidence that this made up word for the hanukiah ‘shamash’ is very closely related to the Hebrew word for sun, which is ‘shemesh’?

Shamash is a pagan god of Babylon and Canaan. This is a hymn sung in honor of Shamash: “You, Shamash, direct, you are the light of everything … The whole of mankind bows to you … Shamash, the universe longs for your light … It is pleasing to Shamash, and he will prolong his life … You observe, Shamash, prayer, supplication, and benediction … They in their reverence laud the mention of you … And worship your majesty forever … Which are the regions not warmed by the brightness of your light? … Brightener of gloom, illuminator of darkness … Dispeller of darkness, illuminator of the broad earth.”

Shamash was a native Mesopotamian deity and the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Canaanite, Hebrew, and Babylonian pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria.

The Hanukkah festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Hanukiah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to 8 on the final night. The typical Hanukiah consists of eight branches with an additional RAISED branch in the middle. The extra light is called the SHAMASH and is GIVEN A DISTINCT LOCATION, usually ABOVE the rest. The SHAMASH sun god candle is elevated above all the others.

The rabbinic blessing for lighting the hanukiah candles goes like this: “Blessed are You, Adonai our Elohim, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of hanukiah.” Funny, but after over forty times through The Scripture I have found no such command in all of Torah to light hanukah candles; however, I do find this:

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the sight of YHWH your Elohim. When YHWH your Elohim shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you displace them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to yourself that you are not snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto YHWH your Elohim: for every abomination to YHWH, which he hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their gods. Whatsoever thing I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor take away from it (Debarim (Deuteronomy) 12:28-32).

The Festival Of Lights, on which Hanukkah is fashioned after, actually predates the Maccabean revolt by over a thousand years, so the ceremony in which the Yehudim re-dedicated the Hekal [temple] with a celebration association with ritual lights is just another adaptation of the Saturnalia – the same path of transmission associated with the lighting of the “Christmas” tree, and the practice of placing lights around the house during the seasonal celebration.

It is seen in ancient Egypt twenty centuries before Hanukkah in what was then called The Feast of Lamps. The ancient historian Herodotus, hundreds of years before the Maccabeans, wrote of the ancient Egyptian practice:

“There is one night on which the inhabitants all burn a multitude of lights in the open air around their houses….the Egyptians who are absent from the festival observe the night of the sacrifice, no less than the rest, by a general lighting of lamps; so that the illumination is not confined to the city of Sais, but extends over the whole of Egypt” (Herodotus II, Rawlinson translation).

If one has eyes to see and ears to hear, it becomes easy to recognize how Hanukkah is nothing more than the eight day winter festival of Saturnalia. It is impossible for people to condemn the pagan origins of xmas and hold onto the celebration of Hanukkah without being hypocritical. Christianity and Judaism both reject the truth concerning Messiah Yahushua. Sadly, the Messianic Movement as well as many in The Torah Observant belief have traded “all things christian” for “all things judaic” without any investigation into matters. Relationship has given way to religion and being Set-Apart has been replaced with social groupings.

The lack of investigation and research in this day of information as well as people accepting everything which their religious and political leaders hand down to them brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

“In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”. ― Mark Twain.

The same historical information which exposes xmas as a pagan celebration also brings to light the truth concerning Hanukkah. The celebration of Hanukkah is not a Feast of YHWH, that alone should cause anyone who truly loves Messiah to abandon the festivity: If you love me, keep my commandments (Yochanan (John) 14:15). However, when people are made aware of the fact that the day has roots within pagan celebrations and is built upon myths as well as a symbol of a menorah not found in Scripture, people who love YHWH should be running for the exits.

A word concerning the Maccabees

While Yehuda Maccabee was courageous and zealous, he was only concerned with killing those who threatened his religion. He slaughtered both Yehudim and Gentile in the name of YHWH, he was not a good shepherd who loved people as Messiah Yahushua did. Messiah also burned with a zeal for the Hekal [temple]; however, it was a righteous zeal which sought to cleanse the Hekal of all uncleanness, including religious uncleanliness, and transform it into a “House of Prayer for all nations” (YeshaYahu (Isaiah) 56:7; Matthew 21:13).

The historical nature of Hanukkah was liberty through war and self-effort, not the life-redeeming, intervening power of YHWH. Furthermore, the spirit of Hanukkah was, and is still, anti-Gentile, how does that temperament fit with the mission to be a light to the nations? Yahushua refused to promote a Maccabean type of revolt against Caesar, instead He taught His Talmidim: You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the tax collectors so? Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).

The House [Hekal] Yahushua built and dedicated consist of people who have been cleansed through the Word which He spoke:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If a man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is my Father magnified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my talmidim. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love (Yochanan (John) 15:1-10).

The philosophy of Yehuda Maccabee was in direct opposition to the command of the Father which through His spirit revealed to Kepha (Peter) how he should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).

In Galatia Sha’ul dealt with a group of gentile believers who had turned from the simplicity of belief in Messiah, and due to misguided Yehudim influence they were once again starting to walk according to the traditions of men. Notice what Sha’ul stated to this assembly: But then, when you knew not Elohim, you did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after you have known Elohim, or rather are known of Elohim, how turn you again to the WEAK AND BEGGSRLY ELEMENTS, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain (Galatians 4:8-11). These people had not turned back to pagan practices but practices of those who were wanting them to keep the traditions of the Yehudim.

Hanukkah does not contain any redeeming qualities and should not be celebrated by those who seek to have a relationship with the Father through Messiah Yahushua, just as christian tradition stands in opposition to Messiah [and His true Torah] so does Judaic tradition. Messiah told the woman at the well; Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, NOR YET AT YEHRUSHALAYIM, worship the Father. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation comes from Yehuda. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in SPIRIT and in TRUTH: for the Father seeks such to worship him. Elohim is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH (Yochanan (John) 4:21-24).

So the question for each one of us is, will we lay aside the world and worship The Father in Spirit and Truth or follow the world and cleave to the flesh and falsehood?

It is time to lay aside all things christian as well as all things Judaic, and follow after ALL THINGS MESSIAH. ~ William Moore


1st and 2nd Maccabees

Herodotus II, Rawlinson translation

A Book of Jewish Concepts: Birnbaum, Philip (1975)- New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. pp. 366-367

The Babylonian Talmud Gemara Shabbos 21b

Hanukkah and Yeshua by Paul Sumner

Hanukkah – Truth or Tradition? by Craig Stevenson with F. Martin

The Heathen Roots Of The Hanukkah Bush by James Lloyd


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