by Glen Penton

1. What is the basic message of Hanukah?

Hanukah, like its neighbor Christmas, is a reminder that God keeps His promises to His People Israel. That's why we have the jingle,

Christmas and Hanukah
God keeps His promisa.

If you've missed hearing the jingle, you haven't missed a thing. I made it up.

If you miss out on His good promises, you'll have missed everything.

2. How did Hanukah start?

A century and a half before Messiah's first arrival, at a time of deep disaster for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, a Hellenistic king, Antiochus (pronounced ann-TIE-a-cuss) IV, banned all expression of the Jewish faith in the Land and sacrificed a pig in the Holiest Place in God's Temple in Jerusalem. God raised up one family of cohens, the Maccabees, who successfully lead Israel in a revolution against Antiochus IV. The Maccabees then rededicated the Temple to the true God, and restored Torah-true worship in the Land. Israel could not celebrate the eight-day thanksgiving festival of Sukkot at its proper time in the autumn, because the Temple was desecrated at that time. But we celebrated in the winter when the Temple the Maccabees had rededicated the Temple. So God took care of His People, His Land, and His Word as He had promised. And we thank Him by our celebration each year.

3. What royal title did Antiochus adopt for himself?

Antiochus Epiphanes. Epiphanes is Greek for "god in human form".

4. What royal title did Antiochus have when his secret police were not listening?

Antiochus Epimanes. Epimanes is Greek for "nutty as a fruit cake".
Maybe that is why people often exchange fruitcakes this time of year?

5. What natural event happens near the time of Hanukah each year?

The winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the time when the weather is cold and the nights are the longest. At such a time people are in special need of real hope. So many of the peoples of the world have a holiday at that time of year--a holiday that emphasizes joy, generosity, and light in the darkness. For us there is Hanukah; for Christians, Christmas; for African-Americans, Kwanzaa; for secular Westerners, New Year's. Our Shamash Candle, God's Messiah, is the Light of the World, the Fulfillment of the longings of every nation and every heart.

6. What is the literal meaning of the Hebrew word "Hanukah"?


7. Where is Hanukah mentioned in the Bible?

In the New Covenant portion, the part that most people think of as not-so-Jewish. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verses 22-30. It recounts how at Hanukah-time of the last year that He was physically among us, Yeshua taught about God's protection for those who would trust Him.

{22} Then came the Feast of Hanukah at Jerusalem. It was winter, {23} and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. {24} Some of the Judean leaders gathered around Him, and said, "How long will you keep us guessing? If you are the Messiah tell us plainly."

{25} Yeshua answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in My Father's Name speak for Me, {26} but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. {27} My sheep listen to My Voice; I know them, and they follow Me. {28} I give them eternal Life, and they will never be lost. And no one can snatch them out of My Hand. {29} My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all the others. And no one can snatch them out of My Father's Hand. {30} I and the Father are one."

8. Why do we play with dreidels and Hanukah gelt?

We play a game of chance, as a reminder that we often have very little control over what happens to us in life, that God alone gives prosperity or takes it away, in accordance with a plan that we are unable to fathom, for the ultimate salvation and well-being of His People.

9. Why are Hanukah menorahs made with candle-holes of non-standard size?

We cannot easily use inexpensive tapers or birthday candles in a Hanukah menorah, because they don't fit. That encourages us to buy the more expensive Hanukah candles, to make an investment in the community of God's blessing.

10. Why do we eat latkes, the potato pancakes fried in olive oil?

The underground growth of the potatoes and onions reminds us of the plight that is so often a part of the human condition: so far down we are looking up to the earthworms, made from the dirt and soon to return there. Yet in our deepest distress, God's Spirit (represented by the olive oil) is still right there for us. We can safely trust Him to bring us through our darkest, coldest night into His magnificent Light. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He took our darkness upon Himself, and died and was buried for us in the ground. But He came back to life for us to enjoy, by following Him, God's Light and Life, and the fulfillment of all His promises.

My interpretations of our Hanukah customs may seem whimsical, or even silly, to you.
That's fine.

Just please don't miss out on the joy and light God offers through His Messiah Yeshua.

return to home page
Hanukah greeting
historical introduction to the promises
what to do in the dark
more about our Shamash Candle
basic information about the Light
Jacob's experience of Hanukah