Hanukkah, Part 1: The Name

Hanukkah (or Chanukkah) did not begin with Moses, and nor is it to be found in the Old Testament. Rather, this feast arose during the inter-testamental period. Nevertheless, the events that brought about Hanukkah were predicted in the Daniel, and Yeshua Himself observed it when He went to Jerusalem.[1] See also our new MP3 study on Hanukkah here.

The Name

Hanukkah is a Hebrew word that means “dedication.” It is called “the Feast of Dedication” because it marks the occasion when the Jewish Temple was rededicated after it had been desecrated by the Greeks. It is also called Hag Ha-Orim, which means “the Feast of Lights.” This name, based upon a legend, is found in the writings of Josephus (Antiquities, 12.7.6-7; 316-325).[2] This legend states that when the Jews rededicated the Temple and wished to rekindle the lampstand, they found enough oil for only one day. It would take eight days to make a new supply, but they decided to kindle and burn up the one-day supply of oil anyway. By a miracle, the legend states, the oil lasted for the eight days. So it became known as Hag Ha‑Orim, the Feast of Lights. The historical books that speak of the Maccabean Revolt, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, make no mention of any such miracle; it is found only in later rabbinic tradition.[3] Actually, no such miracle took place. But because of that legend, the most common English name for this feast today is “The Feast of Lights.” In Hebrew, the most common name is Hanukkah (“the Feast of Dedication”).

[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.

[2] καὶ ἐξ ἐκείνου μέχρι τοῦ δεῦρο τὴν ἑορτὴν ἄγομεν καλοῦντες αὐτὴν φῶτα. “And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, calling it ‘lights.’”

[3] See especially 1 Macc 4:36-59 for a description of the Temple dedication.