The Hanukkah story is recorded in the two books of the Maccabees, a part of the Apocrypha not included in Protestant Bibles. The books of the Maccabees have been part of Jewish Scripture since about 100 bc, and they describe the events that led up to the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem. The Maccabees is the story of the ancient Jewish freedom fighter’s victory over the Syrian-Greeks.
The Hanukkah Story
The Hanukkah story is found in the first and second books of the Maccabees, which are part of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) but not found in most Protestant Bibles. The books of the Maccabees recount the events that transpired around 165 bc when the Seleucid Empire overthrew the Persian occupation of Palestine. Led by the Jewish warrior-king Judah Maccabee, the Jewish rebels defeated the Syrian-Greek forces, reclaiming the holy Temple of Jerusalem and celebrating their victory with the first public celebration of Hanukkah.
The First Book of Maccabees
The first book of Maccabees recounts the events leading up to and including the victory of the Maccabees. It begins by telling of the persecution by the Syrians of the Jewish people, who were forbidden to pick up arms and oppress all who followed the Jewish customs and tradition. It goes on to tell of the rebellion of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, of the battles they fought, and the ultimate victory over the Seleucid forces. The first book ends with the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem and the celebration of Hanukkah.
The Second Book of Maccabees
The second book of Maccabees recounts the events that followed the first book, including a brief summary of the period leading up to the Maccabean revolt. The second book describes the rebuilding of the temple, the gathering of the surviving Jewish forces and the prosperous times that followed the victory of Judah Maccabee. It also contains the story of the famous “miracle of the lights,” in which a single day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight days, allowing the Temple’s Menorah to remain lit throughout Hanukkah.
The books of the Maccabees provide an important part of the Hanukkah story, revealing details of the struggle for freedom and the re-dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem that are essential to Hanukkah. By recording these events in the Jewish Scripture, the books of the Maccabees helped cement the importance of the Hanukkah story and its traditions for generations to come.
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