Let’s use our imaginations for a thought experiment. In 1946, a crew is airlifting the latest model Dodge from Detroit to a car dealership in Brisbane, Australia. On the final leg of its flight the airplane develops engine problems over Papua, New Guinea. The crew’s only hope is to shove the shiny new sedan out of the ramp at the back of the airplane. In the hope of a possible salvage, they attach a few parachutes to the car which then floats down towards the jungle below. It finally settles right side up in a small clearing outside a Korowai village.
The local cannibals generally prevent themselves from becoming the dinner of neighboring villages by building their homes high up in trees. On this day, however, one Korowai chief takes refuge in the Dodge, laughing delightedly as his enemies’ arrows bounce harmlessly off the car.
I presented you with this little thought experiment only to ask you this question: Language difficulties aside, is there any way you’d be able to explain to that cannibal chief that in using the motorcar as a fort, he is not making the best use of the Dodge sedan?
He has never seen a car before and he has no idea of what gasoline might be. After all, the Korowai people never even encountered a westerner or a wheeled wagon until about 1970. No, there is nothing you could say that would convince our mid-20th century cannibal chief that he is wasting a huge asset.
Anyone assuming that the Bible is no more than a simple story about long ago people and their anachronistic beliefs is making a similar mistake to that of the Korowai chief living in his Dodge. If we were to inform the Papuan primitive that by using his new fortress properly he could effortlessly transport himself and a handful of his warriors to Port Moresby, he’d blink at us in clueless incomprehension. If we were to inform our Bible illiterate that the volume he disparages not only relates information from the past, but it also reveals data on events that have not yet happened, he’d look like the twin brother of our New Guinea native.
The festival now being celebrated, Chanukah, provides an excellent example of this Biblical phenomenon. In his sublime ignorance, our scriptural skeptic is quite certain that Chanukah is a “post-Biblical minor celebration.” While it is true that the central historical events of Chanukah occurred about 1,000 years after the death of Moses, the seeds of that historical event are planted in the Bible.
Leviticus 23 lists all the festivals in order through the Jewish calendar year. Each is allocated its own “paragraph” in the unique graphical layout of the Torah. The festival of Tabernacles (Sukot) which occurs in autumn is treated in Leviticus 23:33-44. The very next paragraph is devoted to an instruction to use pure olive oil to light a menorah. It starts off describing one flame, corresponding to the first night of Chanukah, (Leviticus 24:2) and ends with, “..he shall arrange the flames (plural) upon the menorah…(Leviticus 24:4). Those flames were activated after the historical events of Chanukah and to this day we add an additional flame on each of the eight nights.
Years before the Greek invasion of Israel, Daniel provided King Nebuchadnezzar with a prophecy about several subsequent empires. Each was represented by a different metallic element such as iron, gold, silver and copper. (Some translations mistakenly render NeCHoSHeT as bronze or brass.)
But another kingdom will arise after you, inferior to yours; then yet a third kingdom, of copper,
which will rule over the whole earth.
The empire referred to as copper is Greece, the antagonist of Jerusalem in the Chanukah account. Each time copper is mentioned in Scripture, an aspect of Greek domination is being referenced.
With this in mind, we can look at these words having to do with vessels in the Tabernacle: . “…shall be of copper.” (Exodus 27:19) The very next verse reads: “You shall instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling the lamps regularly.” (Exodus 27:20) Again we see lighting olive oil referring to the yet-to-be events of Chanukah, when the light will overwhelm the darkness brought on by Greece.
Here is one more Biblical reference to Chanukah. Every number possesses a specific significance in ancient Jewish wisdom. The number 25 always alludes to the Festival of Light. In fact the final syllable of the word Chanukah actually means 25. It is no coincidence that Chanukah is the only festival in the Hebrew calendar that falls on the 25th day of the month. In that context, are you surprised to hear that the 25th word of the Bible is the word, OHR—light?
“God said, “Let there be light”
It is through these and several other similar hints and allusions that we see that Chanukah, far from being solely a historical event, is actually part of the Bible’s depiction of how we humans are to relate to the electromagnetic phenomenon known as light. Light is always to be contrasted with darkness as metaphors for good and evil. We are always to be reminded that the stygian gloom of bad times can be dispelled by even one small ray of light. A tiny flame fed by pure olive oil has the power to push back the darkness of evil. If we celebrate Chanukah solely as a depiction of a historical conflict, or even as a remembrance of a miraculous military victory and subsequent miracle with oil, we are making the same error as our Korowai chief. The holiday will benefit us, but nowhere near to its fullest potential.
If you wish to explore how this message can impact you, we invite you to find out more in our audio CD, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. It remains on sale through the holiday.