Festivals of Praise to Jehovah
“The seasonal festivals of Jehovah that you should proclaim are holy conventions.”—Lev. 23:2.
1. When are festivals occasions of joy? Name some of the Jewish festivals.
FESTIVALS are occasions of joy, as we read in Deuteronomy 16:14: “And you must rejoice during your festival.” This is especially true if a feast is celebrated in praise of Jehovah, the Almighty God. When Jehovah organized his people into a nation back in the year 1513 B.C.E., he gave them many festivals. They are listed in Leviticus, chapter 23. Every seventh day was a sabbath, a day of complete rest, “a holy convention.” The Passover was celebrated on Nisan 14, followed by the festival of unfermented cakes, which lasted seven days. Fifty days from Nisan 16, when the firstfruits of the barley harvest were offered, was the feast of weeks, also known as Pentecost. On the first day of the seventh month was the festival of trumpets, and on the tenth day the people celebrated the great day of atonement. This cycle of festivals was concluded with the most joyous one of all, the festival of booths, which was kept from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of the same month, with a final holy convention on the twenty-second. In the course of time additional festivals were added, such as the monthly new moon, the festival of Purim and the festival of Dedication, thus making more days for special observance in worship to Jehovah.—Num. 10:10.
2. (a) What did Jehovah teach his people by means of festivals? (b) Why do Christians today study these festivals?
2 These festivals not only were occasions of joy and physical rest, but were primarily occasions of religious and spiritual upbuilding. They were festivals of Jehovah, to his praise and honor. By means of these festivals Jehovah, the great King and Lawgiver, the Organizer of the nation, taught his people his divine will and purpose, together with many basic principles, and gave them the opportunity of expressing their appreciation and gratitude to Jehovah for his goodness and mercy and for all the blessings he had provided during the year. In addition, and this is most important to us, Jehovah not only teaches Christians the same principles today, but also by means of these Jewish festivals he has made many prophecies that find fulfillment in our day. In other words, Jehovah, with the people of a whole nation as actors, has produced on the vast stage of the country of Palestine, and especially of the city of Jerusalem, scenes that are “a shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb. 10:1) So by watching the Israelites celebrating their festivals, we today receive instruction on important things fulfilled in our time, and are in addition taught many lessons regarding Jehovah’s will, his purposes and principles. Therefore, let us sit back now and watch the players as they enact the scenes of each of these Jewish festivals.
3, 4. (a) Describe a sabbath day. (b) Why did the Jews feel physically and spiritually refreshed by observing the sabbath?
3 “Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convention. You may do no sort of work. It is a sabbath to Jehovah in all places where you dwell.” (Lev. 23:3) The Israelites received a sabbath regulation shortly after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt on their way to Mount Sinai. It became fully expressed in the fourth of the Ten Commandments. (Ex. 20:8-11) The sabbath day began at sunset of the sixth day and lasted till sunset of the seventh day. In Jesus’ time, six loud trumpet blasts on the sixth day, three at about the ninth hour (3 p.m.) and three at sunset, heralded its beginning. The sabbath was a day of complete rest, even for slaves and beasts. It was Jehovah’s day, a day he had blessed and set apart for observance. Recognizing and obediently carrying out the purpose of the sabbath would bring true enjoyment. (Isa. 58:13, 14) But willfully breaking it would bring the infliction of the death penalty.
4 The Israelites could appreciate the value of such a humanitarian law after being slaves under the cruel Egyptian rule. By ceasing from secular work the Jews were able to concentrate on prayer, worship and meditation upon God’s Word. In fact, the sabbath was a day of great religious activity. The priests were busier than on the other days of the week. There were two lambs to be offered along with the two offered every day as a constant burnt offering (Num. 28:9, 10), and the twelve loaves of showbread were changed in the holy place. (Lev. 24:5-8) A holy convention was held, an assembly of public worship and instruction. The people were instructed in the law of God. In the time of Jesus’ apostles, as we read in Acts 15:21, Moses was “read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.” What a grand provision for a whole nation to have a day off every week to worship their God, to assemble together and to be educated in God’s laws, free from the daily toil and all its worries! It made them appreciate the goodness of their God, Jehovah, and reminded them of the miraculous deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Each sabbath was refreshing to the body and each and all felt spiritually uplifted.
5. (a) When does the weekly sabbath find its fulfillment? (b) What purpose is served by the greater Sabbath?
5 It is good to know that this weekly sabbath of the Jews is only “a shadow of the good things to come.” The Bible indicates that Jehovah created the heavens and the earth in six days, each 7,000 years in length. On the seventh day Jehovah rested from his creative work and entered into his sabbath. Mankind, however did not keep peaceful rest or sabbath with Jehovah, but through disobedience came into bondage to sin, imperfection and death. Almost six thousand years of the seventh day have passed and there is only a little more than a thousand years left. Jesus, speaking of the weekly sabbath day, said: “The sabbath came into existence for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the sabbath.” So these last thousand years are set aside by Jehovah for a special purpose foreshadowed by the weekly sabbath of the Jews, namely, for the reign of Christ Jesus, his Son, for Jesus went on to say: “Hence the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, 28) It is a thousand-year sabbath within Jehovah’s great 7,000-year sabbath of rest. Like the weekly sabbath, the greater thousand-year sabbath will be devoted to the worship of Jehovah, and to the education of all the living, including those resurrected from the memorial tombs, in the righteous requirements of Jehovah.—Heb. 10:1; Gen. 2:1-3; John 5:28, 29.
6. Why did Jesus perform many works of healing on the sabbath?
6 Back in the years 29 to 33 C.E. Jesus performed many powerful works, especially on the sabbath. He caused the blind to see and the deaf to hear, the crippled to walk and the sick to become well, and he even raised some from the dead. Thus he foreshadowed what wondrous works of deliverance and relief he will perform during the thousand-year sabbath day of his reign. No one will be permitted to disturb the peace and rest of this day, as was foreshadowed by putting to death all sabbath breakers. (Num. 15:32-36) During this thousand-year sabbath, mankind will receive real refreshment for body and spirit, gradually progressing to perfection, being able to enjoy to the full all the goodness that Jehovah provides through his King, Christ Jesus, rendering whole-souled worship and obedience to Him. It is a delightful experience to anticipate that, after six thousand years of toil and bondage to sin, imperfection and death under Satan’s cruel rule, believing mankind now stand on the threshold of their greatest deliverance, to enjoy a far greater sabbath over which God’s Son is Lord. What a joyous day!
NEW MOON AND THE FESTIVAL OF TRUMPETS
7. What were some features marking the festival of the new moon?
7 In two passages the law of Moses gives instructions about the observance of the new moon, which marked the beginning of each month. Trumpets were to be sounded and special sacrifices were to be offered, just as on the other days of rejoicing and festal seasons. (Num. 10:10; 28:11-15) In the course of time observance of the new moon developed into an important festival, being mentioned alongside sabbaths and “festal seasons.” (Isa. 1:13; Ezek. 46:1; Hos. 2:11) The Law did not specify that all sorts of work were to cease on the day of the new moon of the ordinary month. But we find the prophet Amos, in the ninth century B.C.E., reproving the merchants who were anxiously waiting for the end of the new moon so that they could resume their fraudulent business, which fact indicated that it was customary for the people neither to trade nor to engage in secular work on new-moon days, but to employ the day in gatherings and association.—Amos 8:5; 1 Sam. 20:5, 24.
8. (a) Why was it a favorable occasion for religious instruction? (b) What can Christians learn therefrom?
8 Like the sabbath, the new moon was a day for special worship and a favorable occasion for public instruction in the temple. It was a busy day for the prophets and other ministers of God, since it was customary for people who had problems to go to see these servants of God and to receive private instruction and help. (Ezek. 46:1; 2 Ki. 4:22, 23) Special provisions were laid down in the law for the new moon of the seventh month, called Ethanim or Tishri, and it was considered a holy convention. It was specifically stated that no laborious work of any sort should be done on this day. Thus, in addition to the fifty-two weekly sabbaths, the Jews had twelve more special days each year in which to praise and worship Jehovah and to receive education in his Word. The fact that Jehovah provided for so much religious instruction and activity should teach Christians today the importance of setting aside time in which to worship Jehovah and to study his Word, privately and with the Christian congregation.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT
9. (a) When was the day of atonement, and what requirement was made of all the people? (b) Summarize the highlights of the atonement day procedure.
9 In the month of Ethanim, nine days after the joyous festival of trumpets another celebration was scheduled. It was Israel’s most important day, the day of atonement, to be observed on the tenth day of the seventh month. A holy convention was held and no sort of work was done. The Israelites were commanded to afflict their souls, most likely by fasting. In Leviticus, chapter 16, the procedure of the whole day is outlined in minute detail. To get the most benefit from this study we would like to encourage you to read the entire Le chapter 16. As you notice, the high priest presented a young bull for the sins of Aaron and his household, and tribe of Levi, and two goats, one, the goat “for Jehovah,” to be slaughtered as a sin-offering for the rest of the nation and the other to be kept as a live goat “for Azazel.” After first going with incense into the Most Holy of the tabernacle, the high priest brought some of the blood of the two sin-offerings, first of the bull, then of the goat, into the Most Holy, to be sprinkled before the cover of the Ark. Later the animal carcasses were taken outside the camp and burned. After the high priest confessed all the sins of the people over the live goat, it was led away into the wilderness, never to return. Afterward the high priest bathed and changed garments. Then two rams were offered as burnt offerings, one for Aaron and his house and the other for the rest of the nation.
10. What greater purpose was served by the day of atonement?
10 While the day of atonement in Israel was spiritually uplifting and encouraging, it was a shadow of something far greater, pointing the Jews to the Messiah the Deliverer who was to come, for their animal sacrifices could never actually take away sins. Sincere Hebrews who kept the Law to the best of their ability could see that “men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. Otherwise, would the sacrifices not have stopped being offered . . . ? To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year.” (Heb. 10:1-3) Faithful Jews, by following the atonement-day sacrifices, were thereby directed to look for the greater High Priest with the better sacrifice, the real one that could remove sins. In the Psalms it is shown that the redemption price was so precious that it was completely beyond the reach of any of them. (Ps. 49:7, 8) The apostle Paul, a faithful Hebrew, said: “Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith.”—Gal. 3:24.
11. What were the sacrifices unable to do for the Jews, but what satisfaction did they provide?
11 The apostle, therefore, devotes considerable space in his letter to the Hebrews to show the significance of these things. He describes the tabernacle and its features, with the high priest’s entering the Most Holy on only one day in the year with the blood of animals, to offer sacrifices not only for the sins of the people but also for himself, and says: “Thus the holy spirit makes it plain that the way into the holy place had not yet been made manifest while the first tent was standing. This very tent is an illustration for the appointed time that is now here.” Then he points out that the sacrifices they offered “are not able to make the man doing sacred service perfect as respects his conscience.” However, when the high priest of Israel performed his services, the Israelites enjoyed a measure of satisfaction. They were doing God’s will for their time, because “they were legal requirements pertaining to the flesh and were imposed until the appointed time to set things straight.”—Heb. 9:1-10.
12. What was accomplished by the tent in the wilderness?
12 Now the apostle goes ahead to explain that the things of the Law, including the day of atonement, were pictorial of far grander things. He says: “However, when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting deliverance for us.” (Heb. 9:11, 12) The tent in the wilderness was an arrangement of God whereby the Israelites could approach him through their high priest and receive a typical forgiveness of sin, which would keep them in God’s favor and hold them in line until his time to provide the real sacrifice. During this time they were clean in a fleshly sense, for Paul says that they were sanctified to the extent of cleanness of the flesh.—Heb. 9:13.
THE GREATER TENT
13. (a) What is “the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands”? (b) What is accomplished for the worshipers approaching this tent?
13 But, now, what is “the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands”? It is no literal structure, but is God’s arrangement for atonement for humankind. God has also provided the great High Priest, Jesus, the perfect One, who needed to offer no sacrifice for himself; his sacrifice could cover the sins of others. Through Jehovah’s provision he was resurrected in the spirit and appeared in the real Most Holy, heaven itself, where God had established the legal arrangement for him to offer the value of his sacrifice. (Heb. 9:24) Referring to this, Paul says: “How much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?” (Heb. 9:14) Those coming to him therefore experience more than a cleanness of the flesh. They can actually have rest from the tormenting consciousness of sin and enjoy the good conscience that they have requested from God through Christ.—1 Pet. 3:21.
THE ANTITYPICAL ATONEMENT DAY
14. (a) When and with what did the antitypical day of atonement begin? (b) How did Jesus serve as the goat “for Azazel”? (c) How did he fulfill the picture of taking the blood of the bull and the goat into the Most Holy?
14 Israel’s day of atonement took up the daylight hours of the tenth day of the seventh month. What period of time is occupied by the great antitypical day of atonement? Well, it began at the time of Jesus’ baptism, when he presented himself to do God’s will in taking up a sacrificial course in the fall of 29 C.E., just as the bull and the two goats were presented at the altar in the tabernacle courtyard. The day continued into the year 33 C.E., during which time he served as the goat “for Azazel,” keeping perfect integrity under test and cruel persecution to death by Satan, bearing the sins of the people off into the “wilderness,” into oblivion forever. (Isa. 53:3-7) His prayers, devotion and course of integrity, like the incense brought into the Most Holy, pleased Jehovah and fulfilled Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth as God’s Vindicator. The antitypical day of atonement included his ascension into heaven, which is parallel to the entry of the high priest into the Most Holy with the blood of the bull and then of the goat. Jesus came through his sacrificial work clean, pure, now clothed in the changed “garments” of glory and immortality as High Priest forever according to the manner of Melchizedek. (Heb. 6:20) But with the bringing of the value of his lifeblood into the Most Holy the antitypical day of atonement was brought to an end.a
15. (a) How does Paul indicate that the offering of the merit of Christ’s sacrifice in heaven was something else besides applying benefits of the antitypical day of atonement? (b) How must those who wish to benefit from the ransom do no “laborious work” but must afflict themselves?
15 The apostle Paul indicates that the applying of the benefits of the great day of atonement is another thing when he goes on to say: “And as it is reserved for men to die once for all time [due to Adam’s sin], but after this a judgment, so also the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many [who inherited sin from Adam]; and the second time that he appears it will be apart from sin and to those earnestly looking for him for their salvation.” (Heb. 9:27, 28) All men have fallen under the condemnation of sin due to descent from their forefather Adam. But through Christ “judgment” is provided apart from Adamic sin so that all may have opportunity to be relieved of the disability that came upon them through no fault of their own and may prove themselves individually. (Rom. 8:20) All who will profit from the ransom must have it applied to them to get its healing benefits. They cannot save themselves by mere knowledge that the ransom has been offered in heaven. They must repent and rest by faith and obedience in the provision of Christ’s sacrifice and his services as High Priest. They cannot do any “laborious work” of their own by attempts at self-justification by self-works. So the High Priest still has work to do in applying the benefits of his sin-atoning sacrifice.—Heb. 4:3, 10.
16. Show where the 144,000 get the full application of the ransom and that this is not the end of Christ’s use of the ransom.
16 The application of Christ’s ransom has two aspects just as there were two sin-offerings on Israel’s atonement day. Having paid the value of his human life to his Father Jehovah and having purchased the human race, Christ must now apply the ransom benefits to mankind. We remember that Aaron sprinkled the blood of the bull before the ark of the covenant in behalf of the priestly tribe of Levi. From 33 C.E. to the present time, Christ, from heaven, has blessed his 144,000 anointed spiritual brothers by applying the benefits of his sacrifice directly to them. They are brought into the new covenant, to be kings and priests with Christ during his thousand-year sabbath reign. (Luke 22:20; Rev. 20:6) But they are not the only beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice, The blood of the goat for Jehovah was sprinkled after that of the bull, for the people. Christ’s sacrifice was for all mankind and must be applied impartially to all who exercise faith. When?
17. When are the ransom benefits applied to the people on earth, and when does the applying of benefits of the great day of atonement come to completion?
17 It will take the thousand years of Christ’s reign to apply the benefits of his ransom sacrifice to all those who by faith take hold of it, including those resurrected from Sheol or Hades. (Rev. 20:13) By the end of the thousand years the seed of Abraham will have brought blessings to all families of the earth. (Gen. 12:3; 22:18) All who will avail themselves of the blessing will have been brought to perfection. Then the work of applying the benefits of the great atonement day will have been completed. The benefits of the ransom sacrifice of Christ will have been applied in completion, impartially, and Jehovah’s great day of atonement will prove not to have been in vain.
A DWELLING PLACE FOR PERFECT HUMANS
18. What guarantees that a paradise earth is ahead for mankind?
18 Now, Jesus’ ransom covered the purchase of the human race and operates to bring them to perfection. But what about the earth, the home in which they are to live? When looking at God’s original purpose in the garden of Eden, we see that the garden was a sanctuary, a place for God to dwell in by spirit. It was a place of perfection and beauty, a proper environment for those who would serve their God in perfect holiness. Since Jehovah will again dwell with men and they will come into relationship with him again as sons, it follows that a paradise earth is concomitant with the perfection of mankind. This means that the entire earth will be made a paradise according to the pattern of Jehovah, the great Architect who originally purposed it so. How uplifting and encouraging it is to understand the prophetic meaning of the typical atonement day and the benefits that follow therefrom!—Rom. 8:20, 21.
FESTIVAL OF PURIM
19. What are the historical facts leading to the festival of Purim?
19 In about the year 474 B.C.E. another festival was added to the list of Jewish feasts. The historic events that caused Mordecai to inaugurate this two-day festival, called Purim, are of such important prophetic meaning and encouragement to Christians today that we would like to discuss them with you. The Jews were under Persian rule and scattered throughout the 127 provinces. A certain Haman, an Amalekite and hater of the Jews, was chief of all the princes of the Persian Empire. This man had determined in his heart to exterminate all the Jews in the entire Persian realm. As a religious and superstitious man he asked his gods on what day he should order the Jews to be exterminated, by casting the Pur, or Lot. The Lot fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, or Adar. This gave him about one year to prepare the slaughter, since the Lot was cast in the first month. But it also gave the Jews time to turn to their God and pray for deliverance and to prepare for it.—Esther 9:20-22; 3:1-7.
20. Of what were the Jews falsely accused? With what result?
20 Now Haman, after knowing the date superstitiously selected, presented his request before the king, representing the Jews as a seditious and dangerous people, not obeying the laws of the king, but having their own customs different from all the people. Haman said that the money necessary to defray the expenses of the slaughter would be forthcoming—it would not cost the crown anything—that ten thousand silver talents (about $8,456,400) would be brought into the king’s treasury. The king granted the request. The law was issued to kill the Jews in the whole Persian realm on the thirteenth day of Adar. It seemed as if Haman had reached the zenith of his glory. But things changed fast.—Esther 3:9-15.
21. (a) How did the Jews counteract the attack, and what was the outcome? (b) What days were set aside for this festival, and why?
21 Through the fearless action of Queen Esther, herself a Jewess, a counterlaw was issued granting the Jews the right to “stand for their souls, to annihilate and kill and destroy all . . . that were showing hostility to them, . . . on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar.” Under the fine leadership of faithful Mordecai the Jews were preparing their defense. And when the day arrived, they were assisted not only by the Persian people but, according to the historic record, by “all the princes . . . and the satraps and the governors and the doers of the business that belonged to the king . . . for the dread of Mordecai had fallen upon them. . . . and there was an avenging of themselves upon their enemies and a killing among those hating them of seventy-five thousand.” In Shushan the Castle the fight extended into the next day, with a total of 810 of the enemy killed, including Haman’s ten sons. The Jews in the provinces and in Shushan banqueted on the fourteenth and fifteenth days respectively. Consequently, Mordecai put them under obligation to keep the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar in each and every year “as days of banqueting and rejoicing and sending of portions to one another and of gifts to the poor people.” The Jews were thereby reminded every year of their deliverance, and year by year they gave praise and honor to Jehovah, the God of deliverance.—Esther 8:9 to 9:22.
22. (a) Who are pictured by the Jews? by Haman? (b) What false accusations have been made?
22 Like the Jews back in Mordecai’s day, the small number on earth of Christ’s spiritual brothers, the “remnant” of spiritual Israel, have been accused of being seditious and a security risk. Their extermination as witnesses for the Most High, Jehovah, had been decreed by the modern-day Haman class, the religious leaders of Christendom. Jesus Christ, exercising regal power over the entire earth since 1914 as Ahasuerus did over the Persian Empire, has permitted such vicious attempts upon the life of the remnant under all kinds of false accusations, for a severe test. But as the Persian king permitted the Jews to fight for their lives, so, too, Christ Jesus has allowed the remnant to stand for their lives as Jehovah’s witnesses against their enemies.
23. How have the remnant fought for their lives?
23 Would the religious clergy of Christendom, with the help of the political state, be able to kill the remnant as Jehovah’s witnesses, kill their work of preaching Jehovah’s kingdom? Never! As the Jews in Ahasuerus’ time, the Lord’s people have fought zealously for their lives and rights as preachers and witnesses, not with material weapons of destruction, but using all the legal means at their disposal, together with the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s Word.” (Eph. 6:13-17) They have steadfastly continued preaching the good news of the established Kingdom. With their spiritual weapons and the use of all available legal means, not only have they preserved their spiritual lives as witnesses of Jehovah and the right of preaching his name world wide, but they have symbolically “killed” many attackers by killing the power and influence of their enemies, who were unable to kill their preaching work.
24. (a) What was pictured by the killing of the Jews’ enemies? (b) As in the type, who join with the remnant, assisting them?
24 The work of the remnant has killed the influence of false religion to such a degree that thousands of honest-hearted people have left its ranks and have taken sides with the remnant, just as it was in the days of Mordecai: “Many of the peoples of the land were declaring themselves Jews.” (Esther 8:17) There they had seen that the king’s favor had turned away from Haman to the Jews, even making provision for their preservation. Thus since 1931; and with special momentum since 1935, many people have been impressed as they have seen the evidence of God’s favor upon the small remnant of spiritual Jews. They have observed the fight of the remnant to save their lives as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses against the whole world. They have been awakened to a lively interest in the remnant’s firmly maintained fight for true worship and clean moral principles. Even some men of high worldly status, like the princes and governors of Mordecai’s day, have assisted the remnant in their fight with what official or judicial help they could lend. In the eyes of the remnant and the “great crowd” of people who have joined the remnant in preaching the good news of the Kingdom, the antitypical religious leaders are already without power and influence, they are dead, and it is only a matter of a short time until Jesus Christ, who holds regal power, will bring about the total extermination of all his enemies on earth in the battle of Armageddon. Until then, many more people will take their stand with the remnant, as pictured in the drama. Thus the anciently celebrated festival of Purim has an antitypical significance that gives Christians today the unfailing hope of God’s victory over all his enemies.
FESTIVAL OF DEDICATION
25. What brought about the need for rededicating the temple?
25 The background leading to the inauguration of the festival of Dedication is very interesting. In the year 198 B.C.E. Palestine came under the rule of the Syrian king, Antiochus III. His son, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, was a religious fanatic. He made great efforts to convert the Jews to the Greek religion. He looted the temple in Jerusalem and put into office a high priest favoring the Hellenizing process. In defiance of Jehovah he rededicated the temple and assigned it to the Olympian Zeus or Jupiter. He erected a new pagan altar on top of the great altar of Jehovah in the temple courtyard, where the daily burnt offerings to Jehovah were formerly offered. Finally, on Chislev 25, 168 B.C.E., the first sacrifice was offered on this pagan altar to the honor of Zeus of Mount Olympus in Greece. Copies of the Law were burned, and to have one in possession was punishable by death. Circumcision was a capital crime and the Jews were even forced to eat the flesh of swine.
26. Why was the festival of Dedication added? On what date was it celebrated?
26 This desecration of the sanctuary of Jehovah and the Hellenizing of the Jews by cruel force led to the uprising under the leadership of the Maccabees in the year 167 B.C.E. For three years the Syrians waged a bitter war against the Jews but were finally defeated, despite the Syrians’ overwhelming military force. Jerusalem was recaptured by the Jews in 165 B.C.E., and on Chislev 25, or exactly three years after the Syrians had desecrated the temple, the sanctuary was cleansed and rededicated to Jehovah. This was a memorable day, and is remembered by the Jews even down to our present day. Year by year on the 25th of Chislev (November-December) the Jews celebrated the dedication of the temple. The festival lasted for eight days. They assembled in the temple or in the synagogues of their localities. According to Jewish tradition, it was an occasion of much joy and festivity. Thus by accretion the festival of Dedication was added to those mentioned in the law of Moses.
27. What important lesson may true worshipers learn about celebrating festivals?
27 The cleansing of Jehovah’s temple from pagan idolatry was certainly a good reason for a joyful feast to be commemorated annually. Jehovah preserved the temple until the Messiah should arrive. Jesus Christ himself was present at the temple during the days of the dedication festival. (John 10:22, 23) But the Jews had long before that ceased to act in harmony with this festival and had themselves polluted the temple in such a way that Jesus told them they were making this “house of prayer” into a “cave of robbers.” Their apostasy even led them to the rejection of their Messiah, which, in turn, caused Jesus to tell them: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” So we see that festivals are to the praise and honor of Jehovah only if those celebrating are also acting in harmony with the meaning of the festival. (Matt. 21:13; 23:38) In the next article we are going to discuss a further exciting provision in connection with Jehovah’s “seasonal festivals,” and will see how Jehovah is having them fulfilled in a way that brings honor to his name.
a See page 267, ₱43, of The Watchtower as of September 1, 1942, under the title “Atonement for the New World,” Part 3. Also, page 40, ₱14, of the book You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World.