The Hanukkah story tells of a dark time in the second century BC, when the Greeks were occupying Israel, which was lit up by a wonderful miracle. The Greeks were imposing blasphemous laws to crush the Jewish people, banning the Bible and sacrificing pigs on the altar in God’s temple. Some among the Jewish people rose up in indignation to fight for their freedom, and were miraculously successful. The temple was back in their hands again and they were able to clear out all the Greek idols, rededicate it to the God of Israel, and relight that menorah. The word “Hanukkah” means dedication.
Exciting discoveries in time for the celebrations
Just in time for Hanukkah this year, the Israel Antiques Authority released a statement about new discoveries pertaining to this epic victory. Josephus and the books of the Maccabees tell of how the Jewish Hasmoneans, descendants of the heroic Maccabees, revolted against the tyrannical Hellenistic regime and won. But now we have tangible evidence that it all really happened.
“The stories of the Maccabees are coming to life before our eyes”, said Eli Sskozido from the IAA.1
Hundreds of pieces of pottery, along with slingshots, iron weapons, burnt wooden beams and dozens of coins have been found at the site, which can be attributed to the Hasmonean leader John Hyrcanus’s conquest of the region of Idumea in around 112 BCE.
“The excavation site provides tangible evidence of the Hanukkah stories. It appears that we have discovered a building that was part of a fortified line erected by the Hellenistic army commanders to protect the large Hellenistic city of Maresha from a Hasmonean offensive… However, the finds from the site show that the Seleucid defenses were unsuccessful; the excavated building was badly burnt and devastated by the Hasmoneans”.
Excavation Director, Achinoam Montagu explained2 that they had uncovered a well-fortified 50-foot by 50-foot building which had been destroyed. They discovered the walls of the structure, which were nearly ten feet wide and sloped to prevent invaders from scaling the wall, along with hundreds of artefacts like small jars for oils or perfumes; a bronze clothes pin, shards of pottery shards, coins and part of a sword.
“We know the stories of the Jews against the Greeks and this is just the proof of that happening”.
Freedom and forgiveness for the people
The Jewish Hasmonean victory over the Greek Seleucids led to one of the only periods of autonomous, sovereign rule by the people of the land ever seen in history. Over the centuries, Israel has been passed from pillar to post as various foreign invaders, from the Romans all the way up to Turkey and Britain, came to occupy and rule the land until 1948. Although Israel is often accused of being a foreign occupier, the truth is quite the opposite.
The people of Israel have been no stranger to battle and have been in desperate need of God’s saving hand time and time again. At Hanukkah we remember what God did to deliver Israel from the oppressive regime of the Greeks, and restore freedom of worship.
“We thank you for the miracles, the redemption, and for the mighty deeds and saving acts wrought by you. For the wars you waged for our fathers in days of old, and also in our time.”
Part of the Hanukkah story was that when they came to relight the temple menorah, they only had enough ritually pure oil to last for one day, but it was said to last for a miraculous eight days until more had been prepared. Often seen as a festival of light in the dark days of winter, Hanukkah reminds us that there is always hope even in the darkest days. Our God is a God of deliverance and miracles, both for our fathers in days of old… and also in our time.
But the greatest miracles are still to come.
We are looking forward to the future time when God’s holy hill is properly rededicated to Him, and all Israel will worship Him from there:
For in My holy mountain, Israel’s high mountain”—it is a declaration of Adonai—“there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land. There I will take pleasure in them. There I will receive your offerings, the first of your gifts, with all your holy things. With your sweet aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered. I will be sanctified in you in the sight of the nations. You will know that I am Adonai, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country where I lifted up My hand to give it to your fathers. There you will remember your ways and all your deeds, by which you defiled yourselves. You will loathe yourselves for all your evil that you have done. Then you will know that I am Adonai, when I deal with you for My Name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt deeds, house of Israel.” It is a declaration of Adonai. (Ezekiel 20:40-44)
- Times of Israel, Newly found ancient fortified building seen as ‘tangible evidence’ of Hanukkah story, 16th November, 2021
- CBN, Israeli Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of Hanukkah Story in Ancient Fortified Building, Julie Stahl, 17th November, 2021
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash