AND OTHER SUCH FESTIVALS - CAN WE OBSERVE THEM?
by Keith Hunt
Just like we can all learn from Purim and Esther's example,
Christians can also glean Biblical principles from Hanukkah.
After all, our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus, observed it (it's
called the Feast of the Dedication in the NT). Besides reading
the Books of the Maccabees or Josephus's historical accounts, and
the prophecy in Daniel about those who know their God and "do
exploits, "I meditate on how we as a nation, as a Church, and as
individuals can be Rededicated to God.
The Eternal God established Israel under Moses. He gave them
His laws and commandments, precepts, statutes and judgments. They
were to be a Holy Nation, a Royal Priesthood. They were to show
the rest of the world the true God and His ways. They, the people
of Israel were given the Feasts of the Lord. They are found in
Lev.23 where God said "These are my feasts." They were
"religious" festivals with the direct intent as being to effect
religious worship towards the God of Israel.
We then find some interesting words and instructions in
Deut.12:29-32. God tells Israel that when He shall cut off the
nations of the land they were to inherit (v.29), they were to
"take heed" to be not snared (something not desired then by God
for them to do). They were not to inquire after those nations
false gods, and say, "well isn't this kind of nice as to what
these nations did to worship their gods, come let us do likewise"
(v.30). The Eternal said that these other nations form of
religious worship towards their gods, He hates and they even went
so far as to kill their children in worship towards their gods
(v.31). Israel was only to do, "What thing soever I command you,
observe and do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from
Now, what can verse 32 be talking about? Not adding and not
taking away, only doing "What thing soever I command you...."
Does this mean, and was and is God saying here that we cannot
observe our son's/daughter's graduation class ceremony from high
school? Does it mean we cannot observe a wedding anniversary?
Does it mean we cannot observe the 50th year to the day when we
first met the one who was to be our wife or husband?
None of these things are found in the word or commands of
Does it mean we cannot observe our 25th reunion of our high
school graduation class? That also is not a part of the commands
of God, cannot find it in the laws of Moses. Does it mean we
cannot observe and attend the Super Bowl each year on a fixed
calendar day, because it is not found in the commands of God to
attend the Super Bowl on a fixed day each year?
I could go on. You I'm sure can think of many other things
like the above examples I've given you.
Putting it this way to you, most of you will see that God
was not speaking in such a context, as saying we cannot observe a
The context is talking about "worship" - other nations
worshipping their gods, and the true God instructing Israel in
certain "ways" as to NOT do in "worship" towards Him. The context
is talking about a "religious" context that effects worship
towards the true God of Israel.
And it has no direct bearing on things like prayer,
meditation, fasting, reading per se (for nations do employ these
in then religion, though sometimes in a wrong manner) towards the
Eternal God. It had no direct bearing on an "animal sacrificial
system" for other nations had their animal sacrifices to their
gods. It had no direct bearing on a "priesthood in a Temple" for
other nations had their priesthoods and Temples.
By deduction I maintain that these verses here in Deut.12
have one basic thing in mind. God had given to Israel His
"religious" festivals that were intended to specifically effect
worship towards Him, and Israel was not to add or take away from
those feasts of Lev.23 in religious worship, as national
So what about Hanukkah and Purim?
Well for sure they are not part of Lev.23. So technically
they are not specific feasts given by God to effect religious
worship towards Him. Are they wrong then for the people of Judah,
the Jews to observe? Or even us, if we would want to join with
First, we can look into them and see what they are all
about, see why they are in existence in the first place. And in
so doing, we shall see they are based upon two historical events
of great magnitude in the life and history of the Jewish people.
They are basically "remembrance times" of two great events in
Judah's past. Something like Wellington of Britain defeating the
army of Napoleon.
But, the question remains: Is it wrong to remember each year
on a certain date, such historic events in the life of a nation?
The Bible itself will give us the answer. Turn to the book
of Esther. Most of you are familiar with the story. The things to
keep in mind are that Esther and Mordecia are God fearing. They
are true worshippers of the true God of Israel. Haman you
remember is the "bad guy" in this real life movie. Haman wants
all the Jews destroyed. Mordecia is grief stricken and Esther
finds out why, and she offers to help, she goes to the King, and
he hears. The Jews are given a way to escape their destruction.
Haman's plot crumbles and he is hanged on the gallows prepared
Mordecia is promoted. The Jews live on, and are given
victory over those who would destroy them.
So now we come to chapter 9. Notice verses 20,21.... well
read to the end of the chapter.
There it is in plain simple language. A man and a woman who
stood for and worshipped the true God of Israel, in spirit and in
truth, "established" a remembrance time on the yearly calendar in
Judah, and all that would or wanted to join themselves unto them,
please note that inverse 27, an historical event to remember. An
event that was part of the now history of the Jewish people
God did not rain fire down from heaven on them for so doing!! He
did not send His prophets, as was sent to David when he sinned
with Bathsheba, to tell them they had sinned, and God was so very
Why? Because this was NOT adding to or taking away from or
substituting for, any of the religious feasts of the Lord. This
was not something established from the nations of the land and
how they served their gods. This was not a feast to effect
religious worship towards God per se, as the feasts of Lev.23.
This was established to remember an historical event that
preserved the life of the Jewish people. AND GOD APPROVED IT!
Allowed two true children of God, true children indeed of the
Most High to establish this as remembrance days in Judah, as part
of remembering an historical event.
This particular example we are given in the very word of
God, is so far different in every way than the world taking the
pagan Easter and substituting it for God's feast of Passover
(taking Passover away and adding or substituting a feasts from
the nations who served their gods with other worship festivals)
that there is no comparison whatsoever. It would be like trying
to compare apples with oranges.
It is so likewise with the Jewish remembrance of what is
called Hanukkah. That also is based upon an historical event of
mighty great proportions to the Jewish people, and those who
would join themselves unto them (Easter 9:27).
Those remembrance times for the Jews in their history, are
not commanded by the Lord to be observed, not even by them if
they so choose not to, nor by others. But then again, God does
not say they cannot have a remembrance day for to remember such
historic events in the life of their nation.
It is one of those "freedoms in Christ" so to speak, that
all are free to do or not do, as is being a vegetarian or meat
eater (Rom.14). It is neither wrong to do, nor wrong not to do.
Was Jesus observing Hanukkah in John 10? The account does not say
in specific dogmatic words. Hence I suppose the argument could be
made both ways, and it often has been.
But, with what I've related to you, with the truth and the
principles of what I've given you, I would lean towards the side
of the "yes, Jesus was probably observing Hanukkah here in John
And why not I ask. Jesus was a Jew, from the tribe of Judah.
He knew the history of His national people, and He knew that
observing historical events of great importance to His nation was
not wrong to do, was not a sin. He knew from the book of Ether,
that the establishing of Purim for Jews as part of remembering
their history was not wrong, was allowed by Israel's God, hence
so with Hanukkah.
By the same principle, remembering certain historic events
in the life of say Britain, Canada, and the USA, is within the
law of the Lord.
So to all our Jewish friends and Messianic Jews out there...
have a great and happy Hanukkah.
Written December 1999