The final feast of the year on the Jewish calendar is called the Feast of Dedication; most people know it as Hanukkah.
John 10:22-23 (NLT)
22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.
23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade.
Jesus walked through the Temple in Jerusalem, where He celebrated the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). The Feast of Dedication was not given on Mount Sinai, but was added much later around 170 BC. Hanukkah celebrates the failed effort through persecution to destroy the Jewish religion. Throughout history, God has preserved the Jewish people supernaturally.
The Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks under the reign of King Antiochus the IV, also known as Antiochus Epiphanes, which means Antiochus the Madman. The Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks around 165 BC resulted in the rededication of the Temple after Antiochus Epiphanes defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar of burnt offering and then pouring the blood on the Scripture scrolls. The Maccabees’ victory is recorded in the Books of the Maccabees, which are included in the Apocrypha.
The Apocrypha is not part of our 66 book Bible, but it was included in the early Latin translation of the Bible. From this early Latin version came the Latin Vulgate, which became the common version in Western Europe until the time of the Reformation. The Apocrypha consists of 14 books (including First and Second Maccabees). The Apocrypha is not necessarily unbiblical; it’s simply not divinely inspired according to Jews and Protestants. It’s worth noting that Jesus never quoted from the Apocrypha nor is it referenced anywhere in the New Testament.
However, the Apocrypha does shed some light on historical events found elsewhere in the Bible. For example, in the Book of Daniel (in Daniel chapter 8), Daniel’s second vision includes the transition between Alexander, the conqueror and ruler of the Greek empire, and Antiochus, the subsequent ruler of the Seleucid portion of that empire. (See First Maccabees 1:1-20.)
After a 6-year rout of Egypt, Antiochus came to Jerusalem and did everything he could to completely annihilate the Jewish religion. This led to intense persecution of the Jewish people.
After he desecrated the Temple, Antiochus installed Gentile cults and demanded the Jews to follow them or be killed. The Book of First Maccabees describes the first fulfillment of the abomination of desolation mentioned in Daniel 11:31. In addition to the persecution of the Jewish people and the desecration of the Temple, the atrocities of Antiochus also included killing anyone who wouldn’t follow his Gentile worship. (See First Macabbess 1:54-64.)
The long history of agony the Jews endured under Antiochus Epiphanes did eventually come to an end. The Jewish resistance to Antiochus’ brutal reign began in the village of Modein, located between Jerusalem and Joppa. This town was the home of an aged priest named Mattathias. Mattathias refused to obey Antiochus’ demands, and instead, killed the commissioner of Antiochus, overturned the altar, and fled with his five sons to the hills. They became known as the Maccabees. The most well-recognized son was Judas Maccabeus. Many other Jews joined the Maccabees in all-out guerilla warfare against Antiochus Epiphanes. (See First Maccabees 2:15-25.)
In 165 BC, after more than two years of fighting, the Maccabees finally recaptured the Temple and cleansed it from the abomination of Antiochus Epiphanes. When the Temple was recaptured, the Maccabees wanted to light the sacred Temple candlestick, but they couldn’t find enough oil to keep it lit for more than one day. According to tradition, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, which gave them enough time to obtain a new supply of purified oil to keep the eternal flame burning.
To commemorate this deliverance and the Temple’s rededication, the Jews established the perpetual fest of Hanukkah, a word that means “dedication.” Today the Jews celebrate Hanukkah beginning on the 25th day of Kislev (in late November or December on the western calendar). This event is remembered with the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah. A nine-candle menorah (which symbolizes the sacred Temple candlestick) is placed in a window or doorway where it’s visible from the outside. Each day during the eight day celebration, in late afternoon, one candle is lit in conjunction with the center candle, called a shammash or servant candle, until finally, on the eighth night, all nine candles are burning brightly. Hanukkah recalls the miracle of God’s deliverance and the eternity of God’s presence.