Hanukkah – Holidays – HISTORY.com

Posted By on July 21, 2015

The events that inspired the Hanukkah holiday took place during a particularly turbulent phase of Jewish history. Around 200 B.C., Judeaalso known as the Land of Israelcame under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the citys holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls.

The story of Hanukkah does not appear in the Torah because the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written. It is, however, mentioned in the New Testament, in which Jesus attends a "Feast of Dedication."

Led by the Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee (the Hammer), took the helm; within two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics. Judah called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorahthe gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night.

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Hanukkah - Holidays - HISTORY.com

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