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Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory

Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory

The Best Commentary On The Bible Is The Bible Itself
Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory
 
The Reflections Newsletter

Monday, December 22, 2008

**In This Issue**

  1. Chanukah
  2. What Does the Bible Say About...?
     

Welcome to the Reflections Newsletter from Reflect His Glory.  RHG is a co-ministry with Creation Science Ministries.  Feel free to send this to your relatives and friends.
 


Chanukah

This week Jewish families around the globe will celebrate Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights.  Chanukah began last night on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev (Sunday evening at sunset) and lasts eight days.  The word Chanukah means "dedication" and the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC.  Because of its Biblical and prophetic importance, I thought it would be appropriate to explore the origin and history of Chanukah.

Many scholars refer to the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament as "the silent years."  However, much of this history was written about in advance by the prophet Daniel.  Chapter 11 of the book of Daniel details the breakup of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander the Great.  Alexander's four generals divided up the empire.  Cassander took Macedonia and Greece; Lysimachus took Asia Minor and Thrace; Seleucus took over Syria, Babylon and the east; and, Ptolemy took over Egypt.  Since Israel was caught between the territories of Seleucus and Ptolemy, it subsequently was a buffer zone between these two rivals. Daniel also describes the struggles between the Seleucid Empire ("the king of the north") and the Ptolemies ("the king of the south").

After Antiochus IV Epiphanies took over the Seleucid throne he outlawed the keeping of the Torah, persecuted the Jews, and looted the Temple in Jerusalem.  In the ultimate act of profanity he then slaughtered a sow on the altar and sprinkled its blood in front of an idol of Zeus in the Holy Place. This desecration of the Temple is referred to in Daniel 11:31 as the "abomination of desolation."  The consequent outrage led to the famed Maccabbean revolt, which successively threw off the yoke of the Greek rulers and ushered in the Hasmonean period of Israel's history.  On the third anniversary of the desecration of the Temple, on the 25th of Kislev, 165 BC, the Temple was rededicated.  This rededication is celebrated to this very day as Chanukah.

Chanukah is mentioned only once in the Bible, found in John 10:22, and simply acknowledges that "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter."  Most of what we know about Chanukah comes from the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees as well as other rabbinical writings and traditions.  Many historians believe that the first Chanukah lasted eight days because it was a delayed celebration of Sukkot, often called the Feast of Tabernacles, which also lasts for eight days and at the time would have prominently featured the lighting of lamps.  However, according to the Talmud, a miracle took place during the rededication of the Temple that accounts for the eight day duration of the feast.  The Temple Priests had only a one day supply of oil, yet the lamps burned for eight days, giving the Priests time to prepare more.  This remarkable event is referred to as the miracle of Chanukah.

Perhaps the most recognizable aspect of Chanukah is the Menorah.  The Chanukah menorah has place for eight candles, and for a ninth candle set off somewhat from the rest.  The eight candles commemorate the miracle of the oil while the ninth candle, the shamash, is for lighting the candles on each of the eight days.  The Chanukah menorah is different from the seven-branch candelabrum found in most synagogues, of which the seven branches are symbolic of the burning bush seen by Moses Chanukah menorahs are traditionally displayed in a window so they can be seen from the outside, but are not used for actual lighting in the room.

Historically, Chanukah is considered a minor holiday, primarily because it is not one of the seven feasts of the Lord described in the Torah (the five books of Moses).  However it has been emphasized more in recent years.  Chanukah symbolizes the restoration of Jewish sovereignty, and that idea has taken on new significance with the establishment of the modern state of Israel.

I believe one of the more interesting aspects of Chanukah is its roots in Biblical prophecy.  The "abomination of desolation," which lead to the Maccabean Revolt, and subsequently the first Chanukah, was foretold by Daniel.  This historical event took on additional prophetic significance two centuries later, when four of the disciples received a private briefing by Jesus Himself on His future "Second Coming", in which Jesus alluded to a future reoccurrence of a similar desecration as the key to all end-time prophecy (Matthew 24:15).  This repetition of the "abomination of desolation" is the central milestone in the middle of the climactic seven-year period comprising the "70th Week" of Daniel 9.  This prophetic event requires the rebuilding of the Temple.  There are other views of Matthew 24:15.

Marianne and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Chanukah, a very Merry Christmas, or both.


 


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What Does the Bible Say About...?

 

In this section of the Reflections Newsletter we answer questions that have been asked.  If you have a question that you would like ask, and do not mind having printed in the newsletter, (your name will not be mentioned), feel free to send your question in an email to me at biblequestions@reflecthisglory.org.  Of course, you may call me anytime by phone at 801.302-1111.

The question for this issue is, "I have heard that Christ was not really born in December.  If not, when was He actually born?"

The birth date of Christ Jesus is not pinpointed by the mention of any specific day or month.  However, there are some facts that we can glean from the Bible which enable us to establish an approximate time of the year in which this miracle occurred.

1. Luke Chapter 2 tells us that Jesus was born when His parents were obligated to go to their home town in order to register for taxation purposes.  It is very unlikely that the emperor, Augustus, would have called for a registration in the very cold of winter.  I can tell you from our recent trip to Israel, that it does snow in certain parts of Israel during the winter season.  Given the primitive travel conditions of those times, everyone's journey would have been slow, and some might not have made it to their destinations at all.

2. On the night of Jesus' birth, the shepherds were watching their flocks in the fields.  Because of the climatic conditions of Israel in the month of December, there would not likely be shepherds or sheep in open fields at that time of the year, at night.  From mid-October to mid-April is the rainy season.  During that time, the shepherds take their flocks into the shelter of the sheepfolds at night.  So, since the shepherds were not in the field on the night Christ Jesus was born, it is almost certain that it was not in December.

3. Most helpful in answering this question is a comparison of the time of the birth of John the Baptist with that of Jesus.  Luke Chapter 1 records that while Zacharias, a priest from the family of Abia, was ministering, and angel appeared and assured him that his barren wife was going to bear a son.  Each family line of priests was assigned a specific month to minister.  According to 1 Chronicles 24:10, the family line of Abia, or Abijah, was the eighth in order.  This means that Zacharias was ministering in the ninth week from the beginning of God's first month of Israel's religious calendar, as defined by God Himself in Exodus Chapter 12:1-2, was in the month of Nisan, which is usually April.  Transposing from the Roman calendar would make the date somewhere between June 1th to June 8th.  It is likely that Zacharias's wife conceived shortly after he went home from his ministering service.  Moving forward nine months in the calendar from June, would set the date for the birth of of John the Baptist in the early spring, in the month of March.

The Bible in Luke 1:36, says that Christ Jesus was six months younger than John the Baptist.  By adding six months to the birth of John the Baptist, we arrive at the month of September, which is the approximate time of Christ Jesus' birth.  The Bible, in John 13:1, also tells us that Jesus' ministry ceased at Passover time, which was in the spring of the year.  From the available Bible information, we know that His ministry began 3
years prior to that spring.  Working backward from that period would mean that His ministry began in the early autumn of the year.  Luke 3:23 indicates that Christ Jesus began His ministry as He was nearing the age of 30.  This was the proper age to begin priestly (rabbinical) service, according to Numbers 4:23.

 

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Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory

 

**MEMORY VERSE OF THE MONTH**

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me.

Isaiah 46:9  KJV ER

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"Then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him,
"
If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed;
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free
."

John 8:31-32

  
Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory
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Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory
Bruce Larner - Reflect His Glory