“In the fourth year
Of King Darius,
The word of Yahweh
Came to Zechariah,
On the fourth day
Of the ninth month,
Which is Chislev.”
There is another oracle of Yahweh to Zechariah but it is 2 years later in 518 BCE, the 4th year of the reign of King Darius of Persia. This time it was on the 4th day of the month of Chislev, the 9th month.
“It happened that on the same day on which the sanctuary had been profaned by the foreigners, the purification of the sanctuary took place, that is, on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, which was Chislev. They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths. They remembered how not long before, during the feast of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals. Therefore bearing ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches with also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year. Such then was the end of King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes.”
This is very reminiscent of 1 Maccabees, chapter 4. However, the festival of booths was usually in September, but Chislev is December. As they were not able to celebrate it then, they celebrated it here for 8 days. This might be the source of Hanukkah. This took place 2 years to the day that the profanation of the Temple took place. It is the same time frame as the story in Esther. Yet it is reminiscent of the restoration of the Temple of King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles, chapter 29. Here there is an official decree that is voted upon. This is the first mention of any kind of vote. Previously, questions were answered by lot. Perhaps this is the Greek influence. Nevertheless, this is the end of King Antiochus IV as now they have a restored Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate and remember.
“In the reign of King Demetrius,
In the one hundred and sixty-ninth year,
We Jews wrote to you.
In the critical distress that came upon us,
In those years
After Jason and his company
Revolted from the holy land and the kingdom.
He burned the gate and shed innocent blood.
We prayed to the Lord.
We were heard.
We offered sacrifice and cereal offering.
We lighted the lamps.
We set out the loaves.
Now see that you keep the festival of booths
In the month of Chislev,
In the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.”
Here is the reason for the letter. They want the Jews in Egypt to celebrate the festival of Booths in 124 BCE in the month of Chislev, the 188th year. Apparently this is not the first letter since there is a reference to an earlier letter around 143 BCE, the 169th year mentioned here, when King Demetrius II was the Seleucid leader. All these calendar dates are from the beginning of this Seleucid Empire in 312 BCE. The distress was the capture and murder of Jonathan Apphus, the son of Mattathias in 143 BCE. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, who turned on the Maccabees. The destruction and shedding of innocent blood can be found in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. However, under Simon, they were able to recover and rebuild the Temple. Thus they were asking the Jews in Egypt to celebrate with them the feast of Booths in Chislev. However, the normal time of festival of Tents or Booths, according to Leviticus, chapter 23, was in the 7th month, 1 week after the Day of Atonement. Clearly this work must have been written after 124 BCE.
“Then Judas and his brothers with all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.”
Then Judas and his brothers with the whole assembly decided that this feast day should be held every year at this time to remember the dedication of the altar for 8 days. This became the foundation event for the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. The 8 day celebration is like that of King Hezekiah’s rededication in 2 Chronicles, chapter 29, which in turn was based on the priestly purification of 7 days in Leviticus, chapter 14.
“Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice. As the law directs, they offered this on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs, harps, lutes, and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped. They blessed heaven who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days. They joyfully offered burnt offerings. They offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields. They restored the gates and the chambers for the priests. They fitted them with doors. There was very great joy among the people. The disgrace brought by the gentiles was removed.”
Now this took place on the 25th day of Chislev in the 148th year, December of 164 BCE, exactly 3 years after the gentiles had profaned the sanctuary with the worship of Zeus. They were very careful to point out that it was the same day, and same month, only 3 years later. They now sacrificed on their new burnt offering altar. All the people fell on their face as they worshipped. They blessed heaven. It is interesting to note that it is heaven and not explicitly God that they praise. Heaven has become more than a high place, but the place of God himself. There is a personification or divination of heaven. They celebrated for 8 days, as they offered sacrifices of well-being and thanksgiving. They decorated the front of the Temple with golden crowns and shields. They restored the gates and the chambers for the priests with new doors. There was great joy among the people because the disgrace of the gentiles had been removed.