Chanukkah, and The Miracle of Israel's Survival

by Joseph Hunting

The nation of Israel has been in existence barely thirty years, yet during that period this tiny nation has had to fight for its right to exist against overwhelming odds in manpower and weapons in four major wars. These wars were desperate and decisive. They were desperate because Israel's very survival was at stake. Had Israel been defeated in 1948, '56, '67 or '73 an Arab victory would have spelt extinction to the Jewish State and the nineteen century dream of a homeland on the soil promised to Abraham would have disintegrated. And they were decisive because of the dramatic short-term conflicts which were waged with the world's most sophisticated weapons.

Not only do Bible students regard the rebirth of Israel as one of the greatest miracles of our time, but its survival as a nation in spite of these wars is also regarded as a miracle equal in magnitude to the victories of Joshua and David in Bible times.

On December 5th Israel commemorates a victory that isn't recorded in Tenach (the Old Testament) yet strangely enough the anniversary of this military success is recorded in the New Testament when the Messiah went up to Jerusalem for Chanukkah, the festival which commemorates the dedication of the Temple during the Maccabean revolt. "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch." (John 10:22-23)

One hundred and fifty years prior to this event Gentiles had defiled the Temple with an act of indescribable desecration when Syrian soldiers dragged a sow into the Holy Place and sacrificed it upon the altar. A band of Jews under the leadership of Judah surnamed Maccabeus (the hammer) recaptured Jerusalem and then set about cleansing the Temple and sanctifying it for worship and daily sacrifices. The task was completed on 24th Kislev and the Menorah was relit with barely one day's supply of oil on hand, yet it burned miraculously for eight days.

It may not generally be known that on the anniversary of Chanukkah sixty years ago there was a highly significant event that triggered off the liberation of Jerusalem. On December 9th 1917 (24th Kislev in the Hebrew calendar) the Allied armies under General Allenby freed Jerusalem after 400 years of Turkish domination. Then after a further fifty turbulent years of Gentile control the Holy City was totally liberated during the Six Day War of 1967. This fifty year period was especially significant for under the Law given at Mt. Sinai the fiftieth year, or the Year of Jubilee, was called the year of liberty or release. How wonderful then was Jerusalem's total liberation from the Gentile control which had spanned a period of 2,500 years!

Just as Messiah sanctified the observance of Chanukkah with His presence in the Temple, He also prophesied that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)

The full significance of Jerusalem's role among the nations has not yet been recognized. Even so, this city and its destiny is inseparably linked with the return of the Messiah. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee." (Psalm 122:6)