Jesus and the Maccabees, Is there a connection at all?

Well, most automatic responses to this question would either be “I really don’t know” or simply “No”. The truth is that most wouldn’t really understand this question and that is more than fine. However, I would like to share with you a different idea. One that has to do with who the Messiah would be from a Jewish perspective, why The Maccabees from the Jewish story of Hanukah are so important for our understanding here and even more so, how that understanding affected how Jesus was perceived at his time.

When we look historically at the era known as the Second Temple Period, we are looking at the length of almost 500 years. During the time of the Second Temple, both the Maccabees walk in Jerusalem as well as Jesus. There is almost a 160-year gap between them though. How are they connected?

What is the miracle of Hanukkah?

During Hanukah, Jews light a 9 branched candelabra known as a Hanukiah. No, not a Menorah, that’s something different, that’s the 7 branched candelabra used at the Temple.
The lighting of the Hanukiah serves to remember the miracle that by Jewish tradition happened on Hanukah. See, 1 year or so after the beginning of the revolt against the Greek which was led by the Maccabees, Jerusalem is captured and the Temple was cleansed or sanctified.


During this cleansing operation, which included the destruction of false idols placed there and the instruments used to worship them, the Jews are searching for oil that wasn’t exposed and would be considered untainted in order to use it for the working of the Temple. By Jewish tradition, they found one small jug that contained enough oil to light the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, it does not run out and lasts for eight full days, just the time needed to make and bring some more.

Why do we celebrate Hanukkah for 8 days?

Well, needless to say, this is perceived as a miraculous act, a sign by God. Why eight days though? That’s where this starts getting interesting and if you managed to stay this long with me, this is where we start gaining a unique insight into the subject at hand.

The week is made of seven days and in Judaism the first is Sunday and the last is not Saturday but Shabbat. Shabbat is a holy time, a time in which no work is to be done and one invests time into their family.

Kabbalah, Sabbath & Jewish mysticism

Jewish mysticism, also known as Kabbalah suggests that the 7th day is the most important day and our entire week is held in anticipation for its arrival. However, at the end of the Shabbat Jews hold a ceremony known as Havdallah.
During this ceremony we say goodbye to the holy time of Shabbat and accept the regular times of the rest of the week. This is considered to be a ceremony of mourning.


By Jewish Kabbalah, during the Messianic age, when the Messiah arrives, the day that follows the Shabbat will not be Sunday.
In other words, after the 7th day we will not go back to the 1st day.
Instead, we will move on to the 8th – a continuous Shabbat. As “8” comes after “7”, indicating the spiritual level beyond nature.
A time when all our needs will be fulfilled, we will not need to work as food will be provided.

No more starvation, famine, plague, aging and so forth. The end of days is as the name suggests and is a continuous Shabbat. Take the number “8” and flip it sideways and what do you get?

Exactly, the symbol of infinity. An infinite Shabbat. One idea is that the eight days of the miracle of Hanukah are a representation of the belief of the times that the Maccabees were ushering in the age of the Messiah.

Conjunction between Jupiter and Regulus

Around 160 years later, three wise men, also known as sages, are approaching Jerusalem. Where are they coming from and are they even three? Well, the Christian bible mentions three gifts so we associate that with the number of wise men. Maybe three, maybe more and maybe less. Why from the east and how did they know to come?

Jupiter and Regulus meet in the sky every 12 years. No big deal. But when Jupiter moves backward in “retrograde” and touches Regulus a second time, astronomers watch with wonder.

Imagine what it was like in 3/2 BC when Jupiter “changed its mind” not once, but twice, and reversed course a second time for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus, a triple conjunction.
Jupiter, known for thousands of years as the Planet of Kings, dancing out a halo above Regulus, known for as many years as the Star of Kings. A coronation. And it appeared directly over central Israel for anyone watching from Babylon.
The regal, regent star Regulus was known by the Romans as Rex and by the Babylonians as Sharu. Each of the words means King.

So… those wise men did in fact follow a star, known today as the star of Bethlehem right? But how did they know to look for it and to interpret its meaning?

The story of Daniel in the Bible

Have you ever heard of Daniel? He is an interesting character in the Bible right? He sees visions but is not a prophet. Daniel was visited not once but twice by the archangel known as Gabriel. This is the same angel that later appeared to Mary in Nazareth and announces to her that she will bear the Messiah, the son of God.

Kabbalists explain that Daniel was not a prophet but that he had ruach ha’kodesh (special Divine assistance). Reading Talmud, we learn that “a sage is greater than a prophet” since intellectual insight can be greater than prophetic experience. So, If Daniel was not a prophet, and he surely wasn’t a sage in the traditional sense, what does his inclusion in the Jewish canon mean to teach us? Does he have a special role that was not understood at his time?

What is the main message of the book of Numbers?

In the Book of Numbers, we find a very interesting character known as Balaam. Balaam’s prophecy said that a star would rise out of the land of Jacob simultaneous with the rising of Israel’s scepter (A scepter is the emblem of a king). So, Balaam’s prophecy clearly mentions a star (Jupiter hovering over Regulus) rising out of the land of Jacob (Israel) simultaneous with the rising of Israel’s king (could be understood also as a son from the line of David).

Daniel, a Jew, would have been deeply familiar with this prophecy because it’s found in the Jewish Bible. Even though Balaam was a corrupt gentile prophet, the words of blessing he spoke upon Israel were put into his mouth by God.

In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, Daniel is told by God in a dream exactly how many years will pass before the death of the Messiah.
Ah! So the wise men came from Babylon! They were the followers of Daniel, who had left them instructions telling them exactly when they should begin looking for the Messiah! You should know that this is one option. There is a claim that in Babylon’s great library, there was a collection of prophecies and Daniel joins in with a group called “The Magi” whose job is to interpret these prophecies.

Is it possible that the wise men from the east are part of that group? Are they following the breadcrumbs left by Balaam, Daniel, the Maccabees and others to this exciting moment of Christmas?
It is very possible that Jesus’ birth, celebrated during Christmas, is a moment long waited for by all: Jews, Pagans and Christians. Why did most Jews not accept Jesus at the end? That is a different subject for a different post. The hint, though, may be found in Luke chapter 4.

Care to know more? Join our Newsletter (just write your e-mail in the newsletter box ) and in one of the future ones we’ll discuss that in length 😉

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