Momentous Dates For Israel

Hanukkah is a festival that has its origin outside the scope of Tenach, the Old Testament. On the other hand it is directly associated with Jerusalem and has been observed annually for over two thousand years. It had its origin when the Jewish people were being cruelly persecuted by the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes.

On his way back from Egypt, where he had been robbed of the fruits of victory by the intervention of Rome, Antiochus entered Jerusalem on a Sabbath day in the year 168 BC. The pious Jews would not defend themselves it being the Sabbath, and multitudes were butchered. In a supreme act of desecration he sacrificed a sow on the altar in the Temple and mingled its blood with that of the priests. All observance of the Jewish religion was forbidden on pain of death.

Syrian soldiers in the town of Modi'im a few miles from Jerusalem commanded a sacrifice to be made to the Greek gods, and when one man stepped forward to comply, Mattathias an elderly priest slew him, and then fled to the Judean hills, as he knew what the consequences of his action would be.

This was the signal for an uprising, and the hand of God was very evident in the events that followed. In the year 165, Judah, one of his sons led his guerillas into Jerusalem and routed the Syrians from the city. After three years of Syrian desecration the Temple was cleansed and rededicated on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar.

During the rededication the seven-branched menorah was relit, but there was sufficient oil for only one day's burning, and it is said that the menorah burned miraculously for eight days till new oil was prepared. So the rededication was thereafter commemorated annually on the 25th Kislev (about December), and the festival became known as Hanukkah, Festival of Lights.

The Scriptures record the occasion when the Messiah was in the Temple, and "it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch" (John 10:22-23). He had already proclaimed: "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).

Earlier, the rebuilding of the Second Temple had been commenced on the 24th day of Kislev, which is the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar. The date was stated three times by the prophet Haggai with a three-fold reminder to consider it. Surely the repetition is important in view of the fact that "the glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former . . . says the LORD of hosts" (2:9).

The 24th day of Kislev is significant because it pin-points the day when the foundation of the Temple was laid, and also contains the promise of future blessing: "Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid - consider it . . . from this day forward I will bless you" (2:18-19).

Just as Hanukkah had its origin in the deliverance of Jerusalem on the 25th Kislev, 24th Kislev is also a significant date in that it is related to a later deliverance of the Holy City under vastly different circumstances.

Liberation of Jerusalem in 1917

Twenty-four centuries in Israel's turbulent history from the date given by Haggai saw the destruction of the Second Temple. It saw Jerusalem ploughed over, and the long dark night of dispersion among the Gentile nations begun.

In 1917 the Allied armies under General Allenby wrested the Holy Land and in particular Jerusalem from the power of the Ottoman Empire. Under cover of darkness on December 8th the Turkish forces were evacuated from Jerusalem, leaving the city undefended, and so the enemy stronghold was captured without a shot being fired, even though reconnaissance aircraft flew over the city shortly after dawn on December 9th (24th Kislev that year.)

It was certainly significant that the prophet Isaiah had written: "As a lion roars, and a young lion over its prey . . . so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion and for its hill. Like birds flying about, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem. Defending, he will also deliver it; passing over, he will preserve it" (31:4-5).

Liberation of Jeruslaem in 1967

The full meaning of Haggai's prophecy has not yet come to pass together with the blessing associated with it. However, there is a sequel that is bound up with the destiny of Jerusalem and its liberation from Gentile bondage.

Under Mosaic Law the Year of Jubilee was to be observed every fifty years when property reverted to its original owner, and all Israelites serving as bondmen were freed: "You shall consecrate the fiftieth year . . . it shall be a Jubilee to you, each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family" (Leviticus 25:10).

Fifty years after Jerusalem was partially liberated from Turkish (Gentile) domination in 1917 the Old City was totally liberated on June 7th 1967. This dramatic event ended almost two thousand five hundred years of non-Jewish control and overlordship when it was returned to its original owners.

Perhaps the most significant event of our time was this liberation of Jerusalem in the light of Haggai's prophecy, and the great sign given by the Messiah Yeshua regarding the end of Gentile control of Jerusalem. He was speaking of His return and the end of the age:

"And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).

Gentile nations are yet going to attempt to control the city of Jerusalem. They will even be prepared to go to war about it, and we can see the stage being set. But according to the Word of God, though they will succeed for a time - that is "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will have the last word. He will make "Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62:7), as it is His city. "the city of the great King" (Psalm 48:2).