Everything we experience in this life is a Shadow picture or parable that points us back to the Word of God, the Image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 8:5; 9:24; 10:1; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15-16; 2:16-17; 3:11)click here. He is in control of all things and thus, His Hand is seen in all things. Even the very Word is a shadow pointing to Him (Hebrews 10:1). Thus, we are not to judge one another on how we worship Him (Colossians 2:16-17), we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
There is nothing wrong with admonishing one another and correcting one another in love (2 Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:15), but ultimately each person has to find out what His will is by seeking His Face and being transformed from within (Romans 12:2; Hebrews 13:21). Arguing, fighting, debating, pointing the finger at one another is not going to lead people to truth (Romans 1:29; Isaiah 58:4), it only engenders strife and division (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:3-4; Philippians 2:3). Unity does not mean that we all have to agree with one another on all doctrine. Unity comes through covenant relationship with God through Messiah (Psalm 50:5; Isaiah 49:3-9; Hebrews 13:20-21; Jeremiah 50:5; Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 1:20; 2:1-11)click here.
Although all things are shadows, not all things are pleasing to Him as corruption entered creation at the time of the tree of knowledge being eaten by Adam (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Thus, all have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23) and all have corrupted His image in our actions and in our religious practices. As believers, we are called to ‘come out of’ of the corruptions of this world and walk in the purity of His Word (2 Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 18:4), growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), transforming into His image, from ‘glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). So while many aspects of religion and customs of the world point us to the Almighty, religion in and of itself is not the path to truth and salvation. The path to truth and salvation is in covenant relationship with the Lord (John 14:6), the Word who was made flesh.
As we all see through a glass darkly, we must be patient with one another and walk in His love for this is the essence of the Almighty (1 Corinthians 13:12-13; 1 John 4:7-18). It is only through the example of God’s patience and forbearance that men can be led to repentance (Romans 2:4). People are not led to true repentance through convincing arguments (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), they are led to the truth through the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). He desires the salvation of man, not their condemnation (Ezekiel 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). His power is His love in Messiah (Ephesians 3:16-17) who died for ALL mankind (John 3:16). We come to faith in Him, not through doctrine or works, but by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we are to have the mind of Messiah (Philippians 2:5) we need to have His love (Ephesians 5:2). Love does not condemn but seeks to cover over sin and lead to truth (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4; James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8).
As a result, we are given the ministry of reconciliation and not of condemnation (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 4:27). As He died for all, we should no longer judge others after the flesh but look upon them as the Lord sees them (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). He loves all (John 3:16) and desires that all come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4) and uses holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah and draw men unto Himself. It is His love that draws mankind (John 12:32; Isaiah 54:7-13; John 6:44-45) not doctrine, nor our understanding of His Word.
All of creation was corrupted, yet all of creation still points to Yahshua/Jesus, the One who reconciles creation back to the Father (Ephesians 2:16; 4:27; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11). His grace is seen in all things, yet when one receives His forgiveness and grace they are called to ‘go and sin no more’ (John 5:14; 8:11). We are to seek the purity of His Word (Psalm 12:6), to walk before Him and be perfect (Matthew 5:48). So, while many things which we believe and do have many good aspects, they are not pure in light of His Word. This is not to condemn these things in entirety, but there comes a time when the Father calls us to grow in maturity and leave off these ‘childish’ things (1 Corinthians 13:11).
It is in this spirit that I share this study. It is a message I believe I have been shown in the past few years that the winter holidays have been used for much good in calling the masses, through the example of His love, to Him. Yet, these holidays are not entirely pure and as such believers need to test all things and hold fast to that which is true (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
These principals can be applied to most subjects which we encounter. The winter holidays are a a good example. Both Christmas and Hanukkah are shadow pictures which lead men to the Messiah, yet they also have corruptions within them. Winter itself points to the death and resurrection of Messiah, the Gospelclick here.
The traditions and customs which we see during this time of year point to the Messiah, albeit in corrupted form. Christmas and Hanukkah are imperfect holidays which spread the message of the perfect Gospel to imperfect people. Winter is a time of darkness in which people desire light. These holidays give this to them as they point mankind to the Light of the World (John 8:12). These holidays are not the Light, they are conduits to lead men to the Light (Colossians 2:17). As these holidays are not the Light but mere shadows, as we walk with the Lord and grow closer to the goal set before us (Philippians 3:14), we should be leaving off with the childish things and growing unto maturity (1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20).
As mentioned previously, Shadows of Messiah are seen in all creation which includes man and his holidays. Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Hence, more than any other part of creation, shadow pictures of Messiah are seen in relation to mankindclick here. One major aspect of man is his religious ceremonies/holidays. As I’ve studied ancient history and religions, a repeating theme is seen. Truth mixed with error. All religions of the world have some truth which traces back to the Holy Scriptures and ultimately the Tree of Life. However, they are mixed with lies which reveals that they are producing fruit from the tree of knowledge which is a counterfeit of the Tree of Life.
Nonetheless, no matter how far removed from the truth a particular religion is, there is still some truth within, a glimmer of light which calls man to His Creator, through Messiah Yahshua/Jesus. All religions have some truth which is a gift of grace to all of mankind to draw us back to the Most High (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10), for He is the God of allclick here.
There is a Biblical principle of YHWH God sifting believers to draw them closer to Himself (Psalm 139:3). Many times He allows the adversary to do this, such as in the case of Peter (Luke 22:31-32) and Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). In the end this sifting was done for the betterment of both Peter and Job (Luke 22:32; Job 42:12). Other times the customs of the heathen are allowed to remain in our midst in order to test believers (Judges 2:2-3, 20-23), but at the same time there are traces of truth that are within them in order to draw man unto their Savior (Psalm 138:6-8; 34:17-19), again for the betterment of man.
Christmas and Hanukkah are perfect examples of the mixture of good and evil, the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Christmas is a mixing the Biblical account of the birth of Messiah with sun-god worship of old. The same can be said of the customs of Hanukkah as it is based upon an historical deliverance of Israel from their enemies, yet the traditions of this holiday mix the aforementioned customs of the Mysteries of old.
Let me be clear that I am convinced that celebrating Christmas is not the will of the Father, nor is many of the customs of Hanukkah, yet in His incomprehensible love and kindness, He has allowed and used these holidays (and the precursors thereof) to draw man unto Himself. He has placed shadow pictures of His Son in the customs of these holidays that when the Truth was/is revealed (Ephesians 3:4-6; 1:9-10, 18) that those with eyes to see and ears to hear would know and believe (Ephesians 3:5-6).
With that being said, we need to patient with one another and walk in love in consideration of the beliefs of each other in regards to the winter holidays. There is good in Christmas and Hanukkah which can be used to draw people to Messiah. This is the main desire of our Creator (John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). As a result, we should not impede His work by condemning and judging one another but use these holidays as He intends (Ezekiel 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).
The old adage, ‘don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater’ certainly applies to these holidays. When Paul walked in the midst of Mars’ hill, he used the beliefs of the Greeks to teach them about the truth of the Word (Acts 17:22-32), he didn’t condemn them for their beliefs. These holidays can be used to lead others to the more perfect way of the Lord (Acts 18:24-28).
With that being said, I hope to show a few aspects of these winter holidays which reveal that which has just been proclaimed. I hope to give a balanced view of these holidays using equal weights and measures in accordance with the Word (Leviticus 19:35-36). One of the fruits of the Spirit is temperance which also means moderation or ‘balance’ (Galatians 5:23) Hopefully the information found in this study will help the body of Messiah gain a more balanced view of the ‘reason for the season.’
Festival of Lights
The winter holidays celebrated by believers today are known as Festivals of Light. Both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrated in winter, which is a time of darkness and death, as shadow pictures which declare the Light of the world who gives life/light to mankind (John 1:4-5, 9; 12:46). As mentioned previously, the season of winter portrays the age old prophecy of the death and resurrection of the Seed of the woman to defeat the enemy of mankind (Genesis 3:15)click here. This time of year was also celebrated by the heathen for the same reasons.
The ancient winter solstices were also known as ‘Festivals of Light.’ It was a time in which the sunclick here, the ‘light of the world,’ was believed to have ‘died’ and ‘resurrected.’ The heathens celebrated this time as a victory of the ‘unconquerable sun.’ This was a foreshadow, albeit in corrupted form, of the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world who would die and three days later resurrect to bring life to mankind (Malachi 4:2; John 8:12; 9:4). The religions of the heathens incorporated different aspects of the work of the Messiah in their religions because they knew the ancient prophecy concerning the Messiah to come (Genesis 3:15) and saw this prophecy displayed in parable form in nature.
The adversary knew since the garden that the Seed of the woman was going to come to crush his head and sought to pervert the picture of this Seed to lead mankind astray. The perversion of the picture of the Word of God revealed in nature is at the core of what was wrong with the Mystery religions. So while they were ‘proclaiming’ in part the coming of the true Messiah through their winter solstice festivals, they were at the same time proclaiming false Christs who were created to lead mankind astray from seeing the truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Hanukkah is a holiday instituted by the Maccabees as a declaration of victory over the aforementioned perversions of the heathen as the Maccabees rededicated the altar at the temple on the exact day it was defiled 3 years earlier. The 25th of Kislev was chosen by Antiochus to sacrifice to his god in accordance with the winter solstice festival. The Maccabees were in essence attempting to ‘sanctify’ the winter solstice festival to the Lord. The Maccabees rededicated the altar for eight days (1 Maccabees 4:56-59) with ‘mirth and gladness.’ At this time of year, the heathens were also celebrating with ‘mirth and gladness’ for eight days as well, a custom which traced back to the week long dedication of the temple of Ningirsu/Saturn. Saturnalia came forth from this dedication.
Three centuries after Messiah, Christians attempted to do the same thing as the Maccabees. They attempted to take the customs of the heathen which were celebrated during the winter solstice and ‘sanctify’ them to Christ as a proclamation of His victory over satan.
As a result of the Maccabees and early church ‘sanctifying’ the winter solstice to the Lord, the message of the Gospel has been declared to the masses of mankind. The Light of the world has come and overcome the darkness (John 1:1-14). This, I believe, is in accordance with the will of God (John 3:17; Isaiah 49:6; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Yet, I believe, the customs celebrated during this time are not in accordance with His will (Deuteronomy 4:14-20; Jeremiah 10:2; Leviticus 18:3-5; Deuteronomy 12:30-32; 18:9; Ezekiel 20:31-34; Ephesians 4:17-18). In the larger scheme of things, these holidays have been used by God to draw mankind unto Himself. On an individual basis however, Scripture leads me to believe that His will is for believers to leave off of these customs as they grow in maturity in Him (2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:15).
Light of the world
The main reason for these ‘Festivals of Light’ is to proclaim the Light of the world. In the Mysteries, this was portrayed in their sun-worship rituals. The sun is in reality a shadow picture created by the Almighty to point mankind to His Son, the true Light of the worldclick here. Again, the mysteries corrupted the true ‘meaning of the season.’
Both the Christmas tree and the Hanukkiah are proclamations of the Light of the world, yet in corrupted form. The Christmas tree is a representation of the ‘Light of the World’ which traces back to the tree of knowledge in and the serpent, (in Hebrew the word for serpent is נחש ‘nachash’ which means the shining one, ie. Lucifer the ‘light bringer’) The tree of knowledge was a counterfeit of the Tree of Life, whose fruit comes from the Messiah, the Light of the World. Messiah took upon Himself the ‘serpent on a tree’ imagery to destroy the works of the devil where His death could bring life to the world (John 3:14; Colossians 2:15; 1 John 3:8). The Light of the world died and dwelt in darkness for 3 days only resurrect to life. This is what the heathens had been celebrating for millenia in their winter solstice festivals. The ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’ of the sun.
In the Scriptures the Lord is even likened to an evergreen tree which further displays why this custom originated (Hosea 14:8). This is not to say that it is the will of God for believers to cut down trees and decorate them, this is mentioned to show why this custom originated.
The Hanukkiah is a corruption of the Menorah. The menorah is a picture of Messiah and His body as well as the Tree of Lifeclick here. The Hanukkiah has 9 branches instead of 7 which displays an ‘adding to the Word’ which is forbidden by the Almighty (Deuteronomy 4:2). Yet, the Hanukkiah still proclaims the Light of the world.
Christmas trees and Hanukkiahs are customs which proclaim Yahshua/Jesus as the Light of the world, but they are also corruptions of the Word. As such, should believers continue to use these symbols after they come to a knowledge of the truth? I will leave that up to the reader to decide in accordance with the Biblical principle of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
As both symbols have identical meanings, it is important for believers not to judge others for their usage of these symbols (Romans 2:22). Those who have left Christmas because of its corruptions should not be pointing the finger in judgment if they are celebrating Hanukkah and lighting Hanukkiahs. Those of us who have left off both holidays and customs because of a desire to walk in the purity of His Word should take the same advice as most of us have celebrated one or both at some point in our lives. Walking in the love of God dictates that we should be patient and understanding of our brethren who may not yet see with the clarity that we do in certain aspects of our walks. The love of God also dictates that we should be praying for them to grow in the Lord and that their ignorance be pardoned/covered (Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:1-2, 8).
The word Christmas means the ‘mass of Christ.’ Christ comes from the Hebrew word meaning to anoint with oil. This anointing is associated with the Hebrew word רקח ‘raqach’ which means to rub an ointment bringing forth a perfume. The ‘smell’ of Christmas with the evergreen tree in the home is in reality pointing to Messiah.
The Scriptures associate Messiah with the smell of the evergreens of Lebanon (Hosea 14:6; Song of Songs 5:15). In Hosea 14:6 this association with the evergreen tree likens His beauty to the olive tree which further links to the menorah as olives were used to make the oil for the light (Exodus 25:6). Here then is seen both Christmas tree and Hanukkiah imagery. Again, this is not to condone the usage of these symbols but an attempt to show that those who use these symbols are declaring the Messiah, yet in an imperfect way.
Birth of the Christ
Scripture does not declare when Messiah was born. The best we can do is speculate based on various calculations. Honest historians will admit that the winter solstice was chosen to celebrate the birth of Messiah because this was the time that the Mystery religions celebrated the ‘birth’ of their Christ in correspondence with the sun’s movements. Early Christians chose to ‘sanctify’ the customs surrounding the winter solstice celebrations of old. This is what the Maccabees did during the institution of the holiday of Hanukkah as well.
Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig on the altar of God, defiling it on the 25th of Kislev (25th day of the 9th month) in honor of the sun god (1 Maccabees 1:47,59). The Maccabees, after obtaining victory over Antiochus, re-dedicated the altar to God on the exact same day 3 years later (1 Maccabees 4:52). They dedicated the altar for 8 days which correspondeded with the time period that the heathen would celebrate their winter solstice festival. This festival traced back to the dedication of the temple of Ningirsu (Saturn) millenia before. The Maccabees ‘sanctified’ the season.
Many, including myself, believe that Messiah was born during the season of the Fall festivals of YHWH Godclick here. This is based upon calculations on the course of Abia mentioned in Luke 1, however this cannot be proven beyond doubt. If, however, this was the time in which Yahshua/Jesus was born, He would have been conceived by the Holy Spirit during the season of Hanukkah & the winter solstice festivals nine months earlier. If this is the case then the heathen, who had been celebrating the birth of the sun god for thousands of years would have saw the actual fulfillment of the birth of the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) during this time.
Further connecting the winter holidays to the birth/conception of Messiah is that Hanukkah was to be a ‘replay’ of Sukkot (2 Maccabees 1:9), which according to the above theory, would have been the season when Messiah was born.
Yet another connection is the shadow picture of Messiah seen in the actual birthing process. The creation of a child begins when man and woman become one or אחד ‘echad.’ The Hebrew word for the male privy is ארך ‘arak’ which is the same word for the shaft of the Menorah. On a deeper level this shows that light going into darkness is when חד ‘chad’ (root of אחד ‘echad’) takes place. Further proving this is the word menorah. It comes from the Hebrew word נר ‘ner’ which literally means the act of farmers plowing their fields in order to plant seed. The ground that is broken up is saturated with water and the light that reflects from the sun is what נר ‘ner’ means. Again light comes forth from darkness as is seen in Gen 1:2. The seed is then planted in the earth, which is likened to a womb according to David in Psalm 139:15.
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
Gen 1:2 and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moving gently on the face of the waters,
A replay of this was seen when the virgin Mary conceived and brought forth the Messiah…the Light of the world. The Spirit hovered over her ‘waters/womb’, the Seed (the Word) was implanted and she brought forth the Tree of Life (Luk 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9; James 1:18, 21).
Luk 1:35 And answering, the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for this reason that Holy One being born of you will be called Son of God.
The heathens had been rehearsing this conception of the true Messiah, in a corrupted way, for millenia. Christmas was chosen to be celebrated at this time to ‘sanctify’ the winter solstice and ‘rededicate’ it back to YHWH God. I cannot say with certainty that this is what the Almighty truly desires but at the same time I am confident that He used/uses this situation to glorify Himself (Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:16).
The Scriptures declare that one cannot take an unclean thing and make it clean (Job 14:4; Haggai 2:11-14). Yet, what is the true origin of these winter holidays? Pagan solstice festivals or shadow pictures created by the Lord to reveal His Son in parable form? I have come to the conclusion that the heathen corrupted the true meaning of the winter solstice and the natural inclinations of man during this time of year (seeking light, warmth and desiring life to return from death etc.). Yet, Scripture is clear that we are not to worship the Almighty like the heathens worshiped their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-31; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). While Christians of old may have rededicated this time of year to the true God and the truth embedded in nature of the coming of His Son, I do not believe that it is His will for His people to worship Him according to the customs which were established by the heathen during this time of year (Deuteronomy 4:14-20; Jeremiah 10:2; Ephesians 4:17-18).
However, in the Scriptures once something has been offered to YHWH God it becomes a ‘holy’ thing. An example of this can be seen in the rebellion of Korah. The censers used by Korah and his company were beat down and made into broad plates for the altar as a sign for Israel because they became hallowed after they were offered to the Lord (Numbers 16:37-38). This is in essence what the Maccabees did with the winter solstice festival. They broke down the altar which Antiochus had built and ‘rededicated’ this time to the Lord. If believers believe they are to continue celebrating Christmas, this is what they need to do. Break down the false aspects of the holiday and use the time as a ‘sign’ unto the Lord.
Both Christmas and Hanukkah are a time in which families gather together in fellowship. This desire to gather together during this time of year is engrained within the souls of man by their Creator. This is the time of year when the weather is dark and cold. The Hebrew word for cold is קר ‘qar’ which literally means ‘the gathering together of heads’ as in people gathering together in their homes to escape the cold weather.
Winter is the time of the early rains in the mideast. This is the time of cold where men gather in homes to קרא ‘qara’ read scrolls and teach or ‘dedicate’ their children. Hanukkah means dedicate and comes from the root word חנך ‘chanak’ which means to train up or dedicate a child (Proverbs 22:6). The early rains (יורה ‘yorah’) also mean ‘teaching.’ Winter is the time of year to spend in doors teaching children the ways of the Lord. The Hebrew word for read and ‘call upon’ the Lord is קרא ‘qara’ which comes from the word for cold, קר ‘qar.’
Both Christmas and Hanukkah ‘proclaim the Word’ as both are shadow pictures pointing to the Light of the World, Jesus/Yahshua. Yet, both corrupt this message in varying degrees. The extent to which believers desire to join in these holidays will correspond to the extent to which they wish to proclaim the purity of the Word.
As this is a time to dedicate and teach children, it is no surprise that the winter holidays are focused upon children. However, should we be teaching them to mix the holy and the profane? Scripture is clear that causing a child to stumble is a very grievous sin (Matthew 18:6).
Season of Joy, Merriment
Just as winter is a time in which people desire to gather together, it is also a time of joy. This too was engrained in the souls of men by their Creator.
The 10th month of the Biblical calendar, which occurs during the winter holidays, is known as טבת ‘tevet’ (Esther 2:16). טבת ‘tevet’ comes from the word טב ‘tov’ which means good. טב ‘tov’ literally means to ‘surround the house’ as in people gathering together during the cold of the year. This word is also translated on some occasions as ‘merry’ (Judges 16:25; 1 Samuel 25:36; 2 Samuel 13:28; Esther 1:10; Proverbs 15:15) and as joyful (Ecclesiastes 7:14; Isaiah 65:14).
The word merry is also translated from the Hebrew word הילול ‘heylool’ which also means to give praise (Matthew 2:9-10). הילול ‘heylool’ comes from the root הל ‘hal’ which literally depicts a traveler moving in the direction of his home and the joy and desire in which that person has in coming home after a long journey. The traveler would use the stars as his directional guide to get home. As an ancient traveler would draw near to his home, he would see the light of the tent shining in the distance which would bring joy and praise. This is what the ‘wise men’ experienced as they traveled to meet the King of Heaven (Matthew 2:9-10).
הלל ‘halal’ which comes from this root הל means to give praise as in הללויה ‘halleluYah’ (praise ye the LORD). This word הלל ‘halal’ also means to shine, to celebrate and to give thanks to another. This is origin of giving gifts during this time of year. As mentioned previously, winter was a time which people gathered together and it has always been a custom of people to bring gifts to those they are visiting (Genesis 43:11; 1 Samuel 25:27; Proverbs 19:6).
This custom of bringing a gift to one who you are visiting is seen in a number of Hebrew words. The first is תשורה ‘teshurah’ which is speaking of a present brought by a traveler, in specific a traveler who is a part of a caravan. This word comes from the root שור ‘shur’ which is speaking of a caravan whose loads are pulled by an ox (שור ‘shor’). This word and the cognates of it have fascinating connections to the customs of the winter holidays. This first connection is the ‘Christmas tree’ which traces back to the אשרה ‘asherah’ of old. אשרה ‘asherah’ or ‘grove’ comes from the root שר ‘shar’ which has the meaning of a cord tied together. אשרה ‘asherah’ is speaking of an upright tree as a cord pulled tight is straight or ‘upright.’ אשר ‘asher’ means happy as one who lives their life ‘straightly’ is happy and content. אשר ‘asher’ is also speaking of a traveler who walks in a straight path. The Hebrew word for relative שאר ‘shaar’ also comes from the aforementioned root word. The Hebrew word for singing is שיר ‘shir’ which links back to the cords of a stringed instrument. Here then in this family of Hebrew words is seen the custom of family members traveling to meet one another during the winter season, a time of joy and singing. On a deeper level, the word שגר ‘shagar’ is also in this family of words going back to the two letter root שר ‘shar.’ שגר ‘shagar’ means to give birth.
The English word ‘gift’ comes from the Old Norse word ‘gift/gipt’ meaning gift or good luck and is linked to the Germanic word ‘mitgift’ meaning dowry. In the shadow pictures of the winter solsticeclick here, it is seen that betrothal is linked to to the winter and is associated with the crucifixion of Messiah which is the gift of the Father to mankind of redemption. The Old English word ‘gift’ also meant bride price or marriage gift. Isaac Mozeson traces the English word ‘gift’ back to the Indo European root ‘ghabh’ which means to give or receive and the Anglo-Saxon word ‘gifan.’ These words trace all the way back to the Hebrew word הב ‘hav’ which means love, as in the love of the Father revealed in giving His Son as a propitiation for our sins (John 3:16).
It is through this gift that all the families of the earth are gathered together (John 3:14; 12:32; Ephesians 2:8-19). Recall that the Christmas tree portrays the tree of which Messiah gave His life to gather mankind back to the Father. The gathering of families to Christmas trees where gifts are located is a shadow picture of this event, yet in corrupted form.
It is interesting to note that the Hallelujah chorus is traditionally sung during this time of year. Recall that הלל ‘halal’ means to shine, to celebrate, to give thanks to another. The word Hallelujah is associated with unity and the love of Godclick here.
Yet another word which links travelers and gift giving is שלח ‘shalach’ which means to send as in a gift, שילוח ‘shiluach,’ by the hand of a messenger/apostle שוליח ‘sholiach.’ Yahshua/Jesus was the ‘Sent One’ or ‘Apostle’ of the Father (Hebrews 3:1; John 5:28; 6:29; 7:29; 8:42; 17:3, 18-21) who came with the gift of salvation. Yahshua/Jesus would then send His Apostles with the Gospel message of this gift of salvation to the world. In Hebrew the word for gospel is בסורה ‘besorah’ which has the meaning of a feast which is prepared when good news is brought. The ‘food’ that the Apostles were to take to the world is the message that Yahshua/Jesus is the bread of life, whose flesh brings life (John 4:32-34; 6:51).
Interestingly, the etymology of the word Christmas traces back to the Latin word ‘massa’ which is speaking of bread and the Latin word ‘missa’ which means to ‘send abroad.’ A missionary is one who is sent forth and comes from this word.
The Winter Holidays & the Tabernacle/Temple
Continuing with this concept of the message of the bread of life is the connection between the winter holidays and the Temple.
To begin, the etymology of the word ‘decorations,’ which is a strong focus of both Christmas and Hanukkah, links back to the Temple.
To decorate something comes the Hebrew word עדה ‘edah’ which is translated as ‘ornaments’ in Exodus 33:5. עדה ‘edah’ comes from the root עד ‘ed’ which means a witness as ‘ornaments’ were used to witness to the rank of an individual. עדה ‘edah’ is also the words used for the Tabernacle of witness (Numbers 17:7-8).
Literally, עד ‘ed’ means to ‘see the door.’ Who is the door? Messiah (John 10:9). עד ‘ed’ is the root of the word מועד ‘moed’ which means feast or holiday which is witness to the God you serve.
Going further is the word ‘bauble’ which is a small decoration used during the winter holidays. This word traces back to the Hebrew word בבה ‘babah’ which means the pupil of the eye. The pupil of the eye is associated with a close relationship with another, as in being the ‘apple of God’s Eye’ or the ‘little guy in His Eye.’click here
The articles in the Tabernacle/Temple are portrayed in shadow picture form in the customs of the winter solstice. As mentioned before, this time of year is when people seek to escape the cold and darkness by congregating at a tent/home. When a priest would enter God’s tabernacle, he would enter a tent without natural light, the menorah would be the only source of light. This is pictured in the Hanukkiah as well as the Christmas tree. The temple itself was made of evergreen trees (1Kings 5:5-6; Zechariah 11:1) and the smell therein is linked to the smell of evergreens (Psalm 92:12-13; Hosea 14:6; Song of Songs 4:11; Psalm 45:8), frankincense and myrrh (Song of Songs 4:6) which used in traditionally during Christmas. The priest wore bells round about the hem of his garment so when he walked in the tabernacle ‘sleigh bells’ would have been heard (Exodus 28:34; 39:26). The smell of an open fire would have been continuous at the tabernacle/temple (Leviticus 6:12) which is also linked to the open fires of Christmas (ie the yulelog).
Opposite the menorah was the table of shewbread. As mentioned previously, the etymology of Christmas is linked to the twelves loaves of bread which sat upon this table. Is it any surprise that Christmas used to last twelve days?
Again, these things are not shared to condone the winter solstice festivals. They are shared to show why there is such a deep seated desire for people to keep these traditions during this time of year. If these customs are a surrogate for the temple experience, would believers who are drawing every close to Him still need them? I believe the answer is no (Psalm 26:6-8; 27:4; 65:4; 84:10).
It is not the purpose of this study to focus on the pagan aspects of the winter holidays. The purpose of this study is to show a balanced view of these holidays where both the good and bad aspects can be looked at in light of the Word of God. However, in this section a few ‘pagan’ elements of Hanukkah will be addressed for those not familiar with this aspect of the holiday.
The celebration of Hanukkah is said to derive from the story of the Maccabees which is written about in the Apocryphal books of the same name. However, if you read these 4 books you will not find anything about dreidels, miracles of oil, gift giving or lighting hanukkiahs. So where did these customs come from?
The customs and traditions of both Christmas and Hanukkah have derivations in the old Mystery religions which the Word of God says we are to avoid. However, both Christmas and Hanukkah have shadows of Messiah embedded in them which the Almighty uses to draw mankind unto Himself. The important thing for believers is to study to show themselves approved and test all things in regards to these holidays and then seek out His will in how we are to proceed.
Regardless of the decision that one makes, patience, mercy and kindness need to be given to others who may not make the same decision. We all see through a glass darkly and as a result need to walk in love towards one another (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
Miracle of Oil & the Hanukkiah
The main custom of Hanukkah that is celebrated today is the lighting of the Hanukkiah which is based upon the belief that when the Maccabees rededicated the Temple to the Lord after the defeat of the Greeks there was a miracle that occurred in regards to the oil which was used to light the menorah. The story is that the Maccabees found only one cruse of oil which could be used with a supply of one day but the oil miraculously lasted for all eight days of the re-dedication. The problem is that there is no mention of such a miracle in the book of Maccabees. The only mention of this ‘miracle’ is in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b).
The book of Maccabees makes no mention of such a miracle. The only thing spoken of in the book of Maccabees is the cleaning up of the Temple, the building of a new altar and relighting the menorah (1 Maccabees 4:47-51). The altar was then dedicated for eight days (1 Maccabees 4:56-59).
The celebration of Hanukkah was done as ‘second’ Sukkot as Israel had not been able to keep Sukkot due to the war with the Greeks (2 Maccabees 1:9, 18; 10:5-7). However, did the Maccabees have the right to institute a second Sukkot? Jeroboam did the same thing (1 Kings 12:32-33) and was condemned by the Most High (1 Kings 13:34; 14:16; 15:30, 34; 16:31).
As mentioned before, the Hanukkiah is a corrupted form of the Menorah in the Temple which was a shadow picture of the Yahshua/Jesus, the Light of the world. The Hanukkiah has 9 branches instead of 7 which displays an ‘adding to the Word’ which is forbidden by the Almighty (Deuteronomy 4:2).
The Hanukkiah further connects to the heathen in that the lighting of the Hanukkiah has derivatives to the customs of the heathens lighting candles outside of their houses to ward off evil spirits or to ‘help’ the ‘dying’ sun, according to the custom of the land. In the above reference to the Talmudic source of Hanukkah (Shabbat 21b), the precept for lighting the Hanukkah lamp is for it to be lit outside of the house, by the entrance. This is identical to the custom of the heathen. Also, during the time of the Maccabees, Hellenized Jews were burning incense at the doors of their houses (1 Maccabees 1:54-55).
Going even deeper, the 9 branched Hanukkiah could be linked to the 9 branched candelabrum used by the heathens in their magical incantations. Even in modern times, some female wiccans wear a crown of 9 lit candles.
The custom of the Hanukkah dreidel is also missing from the book of Maccabees. The tradition behind this custom is that Israel used this ‘toy’ as a tool to avoid persecution of the Greeks when they were in control of the land. Antiochus had forbidden the study of the Torah (1 Maccabees 1:57) so when Israelites were gathered to read the Word, when they saw the Greeks coming would pull out the dreidel and act like they were partaking of the gambling games of the heathen. There is no evidence that this story is true but even if it were does it justify the usage? Just because the people of Israel did something in the past does it make it sanctified?
The letters on the dreidel are said to represent the phrase נס גדול היה שם ‘nes gadol haya shem’ which means a ‘great miracle happened there.’ The problem with this custom is that there is no evidence that the dreidel game originated with the Maccabees and there is no evidence that it was used during their days.
The dreidel is based on a gambling game that has been played by various peoples of different cultures throughout the centuries. These gambling games trace back to the Saturnalia festivals of old. These gambling games then passed down into England and Ireland in the form of a game called ‘totum’ or ‘teetotum’ which was played in particular during Christmas. Totum comes from the four letters on the top: T = Take all; H = Half; P = Put down; and N = Nothing.
This totum game was also played in German with a different variation on the letters: N = Nichts = nothing; G = Ganz = all; H = Halb = half; and S = Stell ein = put in. In German, the spinning top was called a ‘torrel’ or ‘trundl,’ and in Yiddish it was called a ‘dreidel.’ The totum game would transfer into the dreidel game as the letters Nun which stands for the Yiddish word nisht (“nothing”), Heh which stands for halb (“half”), Gimel for gants (“all”), and Shin for shtel ayn (“put in”).
The dreidel then is an example of taking a custom of the heathen and changing the meaning to fit a story which glorifies God. Is this not what the customs of Christmas are? Many believers who have stopped celebrating Christmas because of its pagan connections jump right into the customs of Hanukkah which are identical in spiritual significance. As mentioned previously, it is not my intent to convince anyone to agree with me in regards to these holidays, my intent is to admonish believers to judge righteously with equal weights and measures in regards to these holidays. If one celebrates the customs of Hanukkah which derive from the Mystery religions, that person should not be pointing the finger of condemnation at believers who celebrate the customs of Christmas (Romans 2:1, 17-22).
The giving of gifts during Hanukkah is yet another example of a custom which has no basis in the account written in the book of Maccabees. This custom did not gain popularity until the late 1800s when Christmas grew in acceptance amongst people of the United States and Jews desired to appease their children.
The message of Hanukkah is supposed to be one of God’s people gaining victory over their enemies by not compromising or assimilating into the ways of the heathen. Yet, the customs celebrated in honor of this period in history portray the exact opposite. The Almighty has given believers feasts/holidays which He created which are pure and portray His Son without corruption (Leviticus 23:1-44). Why must we be so desperate to add to His ways?
My desire in sharing this study is not to condemn those who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. Nor is it my desire to condone the celebration of these holidays. My desire is to provoke those who read this to test all things and hold fast to the truth(1 Thessalonians 5:21). To seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Most High and be transformed daily into His image (2 Peter 1:2, 3:18; 2 Corinthians 3:18). May we all approach Him with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:4; Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22).
Shadows of Messiah – Christmas
Hanukkah & Sukkot
Hanukkah & Dedication