February 22, 2021

The Feast of Dedication

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The Feast of Dedication was a Jewish festival observed on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (the ninth month according to the sacred calendar, which corresponds to December according to the solar calendar); it was not part of the Law of Moses.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. Jn 10:22–23

The Greek Empire (Greece), which had conquered the Medo-Persian Empire, was divided into four separate kingdoms by four generals after the death of Alexander the Great: Kingdom of Cassander (Macedonia), Kingdom of Seleucus (Syria), Kingdom of Lisimachus (Asia Minor), and Kingdom of Ptolemy (Egypt). Each of the kings of these new kingdoms claimed to be the successor of Alexander. Afterwards, the kingdom of Lysimachus in Asia Minor was destroyed by the kingdom of Seleucus in Syria, and there remained three kingdoms.

Judah, which had been under the colonial rule of Babylon and the Medo-Persian Empire, came under the rule of the Greek Empire. Judah was originally a part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, but after about 100 years it was incorporated as a vassal state into the Assyrian Empire as Egypt was defeated in the war against Syria (around 198 BC).

When Antiochus IV (hereinafter just “Antiochus”) of the kingdom of Seleucus (Syria) was enthroned, he forced all his colonies to worship the Greek gods and began to carry out the policy of Hellenization; he put to death those who kept on worshiping their own gods. This policy was carried out widely throughout the whole empire, with influences raging from individual lifestyles to social factors.

There were Jews who welcomed the policy of Hellenization and cooperated with Antiochus by throwing away their traditional lifestyle and faith and following the Greek way of life; they served the gods of Greece, participated in sports at a gymnasium or agora, and wore Greek clothes.

The kings of Syria accepted bribes from the Jewish priests who were amicable to them and appointed one of them as the high priest. Some of the Jews even tried to purchase the position of the high priest by promising to give a bribe to the king later. They just remained spectators when Antiochus plundered the temple of all its sacred vessels, and they even stole the articles of the temple and sold them to give the king a bribe as they had promised.

Antiochus kept the Jews from practicing circumcision and from observing the Sabbath and the feasts. He also forced them to worship the Greek gods, and put to death those who would not obey his order. The temple of God was filled with various kinds of idols (the sculptured images of many Greek gods) including a statue of Zeus, erected by Antiochus. So the temple became a place of idolatry, where the Greeks and the Hellenized Jews—the apostates—worshiped the Greek gods.

The godly Jews had to flee to the mountains and deserts to avoid persecution. When they were found to be keeping God’s decrees and laws, they were executed by order of the king. Many of the God-fearing Jews were killed.

At that time, a leader appeared among the people who tried to follow the laws of God. He was Matthathias from the tribe of Levi, who had five sons. Matthathias and his sons gathered those who wanted to observe God’s laws and led a rebellion against Antiochus, crying out in the city with a loud voice, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!”

Then the officials of the king approached Matthathias and tried to persuade him to change his mind with the lure of wealth and honor, but he did not waver in his faith. He left the town along with those who wanted to keep the laws of God, and fled to the mountains. They organized an army to fight against Antiochus and tore down the Greek idols and altars which were set up in many places.

After Matthathias died, his third son, Judah Maccabee, became the leader of the Jewish army. He was so brave and passionate that he spread the struggle for religious liberty throughout the country and inspired many Jews to take up arms in the battle. At that time, Antiochus was at war with the Parthians, and he was unable to send his main army to put down the Jewish revolt. Even so, he sent a large force which was beyond compare with the Maccabee army. Though greater in number and equipment, his force was defeated by the Maccabees several times and he had to withdraw his troops. Judah Maccabee and his followers purified the temple by throwing out all the idols and cleaning everything, and re-dedicated the temple to God on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. For eight days from the 25th day of Kislev, the Jews celebrated the restoration of the temple. This eight-day festival is called the Feast of Dedication.

The Feast of Dedication is not a feast of God, but it is just a national holiday of the Jews. That is why we do not keep the Feast of Dedication. However, we must engrave in our hearts the mindset of those who worshiped only God and tried to preserve the temple even though they went though many hardships while living uncomfortable lives in the mountains and deserts.

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