The Story of Hanukkah


The story of the Maccabees is one often recounted in Catholic worship and it has always been a favorite of mine.  pl


"The Festival of Lights' history begins almost two and a half millennia ago, when Antiochus, a Syrian king, ruled Judea. He attempted to assimilate the Jews into Greek culture, commanding them to worship Greek gods while oppressing Jewish culture and religion. One priest in particular, Mattathias, was asked to participate in a ceremony of bowing to an idol and eating the flesh of a pig, both forbidden acts. He refused, but another villager stepped forward and volunteered to do it instead. Angered, Mattathias killed the man and the officer who had asked him to take part in the ceremony. His five sons and other villagers followed suit and killed the other soldiers.

Mattathias' family went into hiding and were soon joined by a large number of Jews who wanted to fight the Greeks. A year later, Mattathias died, but before he passed away, he put his son, Judah Maccabbee, in charge. Led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers, the Jewish people, after a three-year struggle, overthrew their Syrian oppressors.

When they reclaimed Jerusalem's Temple, the Hebrews found it defiled by statues of the Greek gods and other religious artifacts. As part of their campaign of oppression, the Greeks had systematically defiled any Jewish religious item they could find. The Hebrews cleared out the foreign icons and rededicated the temple on the 25th day of Kislev. When the time came to light the N'er Tamid, the Eternal Light of the Temple, the Jews could find only one sanctified jar of oil marked with the seal of the High Priest. It was only enough to last one evening. The lamp was lit with this small jar of oil and, miraculously, stayed lit for eight days, until more oil suitable for the temple was made."

Happy Hanukkah.  pl

This entry was posted in Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Story of Hanukkah

  1. The role played by Antiochus in Maccabean times and the role played by the United States in Iraq today parallel each other.
    In both instances, imperialistic Western powers attempt to impose their values upon an Asiatic population, which finds this attempt to be offensive.
    In both instances, this effort sparks a revolt.

  2. Ferdinand says:
    This may be of interest:
    Article about the historical validity of the mythology
    surrounding the origin of Chanukah.

  3. Mike says:

    There is a sequel to the story of the Maccabean rebellion. The Maccabees succeded in expelling the Hellenistic Seleucid rulers from Judah and established the first independent Jewish/Hebrew state to exist since 590 BC, the time of the Babylonian conquest. The brothers of Judas Maccabaeus and their offspring established the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Judah until the coming of the Romans. Unhappily, though they had fought for the freedom of the land and people of Judah, their rule over the decades became increasinglyarrogant, despotic, and corrupt; they pursued a policy of imperialistic expansionism intending to push the boundaries of the kingdom of Judah might to include all the territories ruled by King David nine centuries before. One of the Hasmonean kings forcibly converted the gentile inhabitants of Galilee to Judaism ( no doubt a painful experience for the male converts ); many Jews refused to recognise the Hasmoneans as legitimate rulers who had siezed for themselves not only the title of king, but also the office of High Priest of Zion even though they were not descended from the ancient family of high priests. Many Jews who opposed the Hasmoneans died as martyrs.
    The dynasty came to an end when a civil and dynastic war broke out between two rival claimants to the throne; the Romans intervened, and their appointee Herod claimed the throne for himself, murdering the last of the male Hasmoneans and marrying Marriamne, the Hasmonean grand daughter daughter of the last King/High Priest. The descendants of those who had fought fiercely and heroically for Jewish freedom became oppressors of neighbouring nations and creators of nartyrs and finally allowed that freedom celebrated in the Feas of Hannukah to be extinguished.

  4. YT says:

    Col., sir : Stumbled on this after spottin’ someone loggin’ on this post from Oranienburg, Brandenburg. Danke schön for another lesson on history.

  5. Will says:

    “Antiochus, a Syrian king, ruled Judea.”
    Antiochus, an heir to Alexander the Great’s Macedonian empire, located geographically in Syria but absolutely not a Syrian or Aramaean.
    Why is this distinction important? One need not ask?
    While the city of Tyre (“Tsur” -Sur (rock) resisted Alexander the Great, much to its detriment, Judea accepted his rule, falling out later with the Macedonians.
    For those interested in philology, the modern Lebanese-Syrian word for parsley “bakdunis” is derived from the Turkish “makdunis” for Macdeconia where the Turks first became acquainted with the plant. The term has supplanted the aramaic word for the garnish.
    The namesake city of Antioch became one of the great cities of the Eastern Roman Empire and many of the Eastern Churches consider it their Holy See.

  6. Will says:

    No account of Antiochus or Antioch could be complete without the following:

    Act 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

  7. JohnH says:

    An appropriate parable for these times–how long will the oil last?

  8. Charles I says:

    Thanks. I knew the bit of oil burned 8 days, knew of and Judah Maccabee, and even Mattathias, but not the coherent historical story you’ve so concisely laid out.
    You know I think all organized religion and scripture gibberish notwithstanding the Beauty Grace and Glory religion has afforded man in so many ways, but the history and religious function of are fascinating and you never fail us.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours Pat.

  9. Allen Thomson says:

    And the Book of Daniel, rooted in the Maccabean period but retconed back 400 years.
    Happy Thanksgiving/Chanuka to all!

  10. This greeting may be inappropriate — in which case I would ask those greeted to forgive me.
    But I would like to express thanks to three Jewish contributors to this blog from whom I have learned a great deal: Adam Silverman, Michael Brenner, and jdledell. Whatever good wishes are appropriate, I wish them.

  11. turcopolier says:

    There are many more from among the “sons of Abraham” who are guest authors here. pl

  12. Charles I says:

    You know who else had a beautiful and educated mind was Sidney O. Smith III, had a real man crush on him, hasn’t been here in ages, hope it means married life’s too good.

  13. Closer says:

    Charles 1
    Are you referring to Sidney O. Smith III, the toothless, hare—lipped guy from Georgia? Good God, man, what is wrong with you? That guy believes that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a genius, more so than any of that high falutin’ CSA aristocratic crowd that ignored him, most particularly Braxton Bragg from NC.
    In the art of war, some say that Longstreet was one generation ahead. And Forrest? According to SOS 3, that guy was a 100 years ahead. A Picasso. According to SOS, read Wyeth and imagine that when Forrest crossed the Tennessee River, he was in Vietnam in the 1960’s. Just imagine it and see what percolates up in your mind.
    Yet, the Federal political elite – Congress — falsely accused Forrest. But the real Yankee geniuses did not. Grant recognized Forrest’s genius. Sherman knew it and feared it greatly. But no one in the CSA would listen to Forrest because he was just a hick from Tennessee. Didn’t have the right damn blood lines. At least that is what SOS III contends.
    And just because SOS III loves Canada, particularly British Columbia, doesn’t mean a thing. Don’t be fooled, my man.
    What is wrong with you, Charles I?

  14. Closer says:

    Hey Charles I
    Don’t worry and don’t be fooled. If, in mid “19th Century US history”, the South had invaded the North instead of the other way around, in all likelihood, you would seen several geniuses like N.B. Forrest arise from the North (meaning Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and the such) than if it had been the other way around.
    But there ain’t no one like Forrest. No one. Read Wyeth’s book. You will love Forrest after doing so. Love him deeply.
    In re: Chilliwack, British Columbia. Been there. Simply beautiful.
    Perhaps the women in British Columbia are so breathtakingly beautiful because the air is so clean, but who knows…they are so beautiful though. Been there. I know. Brings tears to my eyes.
    And trust me, there ain’t there no one in the US who can top the following from Canada. Sooooo breathtakingly beautiful. Listen to following and celebrate your tremendous heritage.

  15. Huckleberry says:

    >When they reclaimed Jerusalem’s Temple, the Hebrews found it defiled by statues of the Greek gods and other religious artifacts.
    And now their supposed descendants, welcomed as guests, have defiled everything once held sacred by our ancestors.
    The level of cognitive dissonance required not see what is right in front of your nose must be exhausting.

  16. Allen Thomson says:

    Just to keep things going, it was in the post-Maccabbean Hasmonean and Herodian periods that the apocalypticism that led to John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul and thence Christianity really got going. So, in a sense, there is a bit of historical continuity between Hanukkah and Christmas.
    Anyway, Happy Hanukkah and Christmas to all!

  17. Babak Makkinejad says:

    These festivals fall, generally, around Yalda, still observed in Iran, on 21 of December – the longest night of year (ergo the allusion to it in Hanakkuh). Yalda is the festival of re-birth of Light and Sun.

  18. Nakib Ahmed says:

    Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Let us fight to eliminate injustice and care for the oppressed.

  19. ISL says:

    Sorry, but your link didnt work.
    IS this the article you meant to link to:
    Interestingly suggests the 8 days of oil was a later addition.
    Happy Chanukkah and Merry Christmas SST

  20. “The descendants of those who had fought fiercely and heroically for Jewish freedom became oppressors of neighbouring nations and creators of nartyrs and finally allowed that freedom celebrated in the Feas of Hannukah to be extinguished.”
    Which is pretty much the modern history of Israel as well – except for the extinguishing part which is still to come.
    Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.

  21. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Colonel Lang has, over time, indicated interest both
    in the story he recounted above,
    and, also, in the English Battle of Culloden.
    Strangely, perhaps, there is a link between them:
    The oratorio Judas Maccabaeus whose text is based on the historical events in ancient Judea
    but was written to honor the British general and son of of George II, the Duke of Cumberland,
    who commanded the British forces at the Battle of Culloden.
    My memory is that Colonel Lang was not happy about the results of that battle.
    But at least it produced some really great music:
    (the second playlist is of the great 1971 Somary-led performance, with Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Alexander Young, and John Shirley-Quirk as an outstanding quartet of soloists).
    Libretto at

Comments are closed.