I love Yeshua, the Messiah, the Son of God. And I know beyond doubt that without him, I would have wasted my life. And it is for that reason that I try so diligently to help others see Him; and to help those who do know Him to understand Him a little better.
I have always been an ‘origins’ person. I want to know the source, especially concerning what I believe. Once, when we were children, and I was about 8 years old and going into the fourth grade, my Dad sat us down for a Bible study, and I remember one thing from that study specifically: Dad said, “Don’t believe that preacher just because he’s a preacher; you read the Bible for yourself.” I honestly believe now, fifty years later, that that was one of the most important things my Dad taught me.
So, when I began diligently to ‘search the scriptures to see if these things were so’, [Acts 17:11], I found that not so many of the things I’d been taught as a child were in fact, “So”. They were quite NOT SO.
Namely, Yeshua was NOT born on December 25th.
I had heard all my life that he wasn’t born at ‘Christmas’, and I knew that it was some time in the fall, but it wasn’t until I learned of the Biblical Feasts/Holidays that I learned when Yeshua was ACTUALLY born. And, to me, that mattered.
I do believe time matters very much to God. He created the whole UNIVERSE as a clock to guide our worship on earth, and most people no longer use it, Christian or Jew!
“And Elohim said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for Mo’adim [His Appointed Times!], and for days and years….” Gen 1:14
Those are the hour and minute hands on the clock; the ‘second’ hand, on this massive scaled-up clock, is the barley harvest. It tells us whether to add a 13th month to the year to compensate for what most call ‘leap year’. The earth no longer cycles around the sun in 360 days evenly, but closer to 365, which is not equally divisible by 12. This makes it necessary to compensate for the slight overage. Our ‘khodesh’, instead of being 30 even days long, is anywhere from 28.x to 30 days, which further complicates matters. So, Abba told us to watch the barley for ‘aviv’, which means when the 12th khodesh has passed, and you expect to cross over into a new year, in order for this to be affirmed by God, the barley has to be ‘aviv’, ‘in the ear’, almost ready to harvest, AND the khodesh seen [Deut 16:1]…. if that happens, then it is indeed the 1st month of the next year; if not, then another ‘khodesh’ is waited for, adding a 13 month. No calculator, no atomic clock, no calendar, nothing more is needed. And that is how they did it in temple times. In fact, Gamli’el used to have drawings of the khodesh [crescent moon] on the wall of his chamber, so that when witnesses, who joyfully volunteered to spot the khodesh, feeling it was an honor to be that witness, when they brought back their report, he asked them to show him which way they saw the moon, and only if they said correctly would they be accepted as valid witnesses and the khodesh declared.
So, the months are established as starting in the spring. The months are numbered, not named. Our Jewish people picked up Babylonian names of the months while exiled in Babylon, so a few of them are named in scripture, but mostly months are called by number, especially when determining the feasts, “Mo’adim”, God’s Appointed Times set by the heavens. [Leviticus 23].
So, when was Yeshua born? The scriptures do not explicitly tell us, but they do indirectly. Why would God not tell us exactly when Yeshua was born? The simple answer is, He never intended for us to focus on His birth, but on His DEATH. He gave us a feast 2,000 years before Yeshua was born that was meant also for us to commemorate, to memorialize His DEATH. It is His execution that saves us. But, to ‘remember’ the time of His birth itself is not sin. But somehow, Christmas has become more important to believers than His execution: the Passover, which we ARE expressly told to keep! [Luk 22:14-20, 1 Cor 5:7-8]
But, Yeshua’s birth is certainly expressed to us, and was celebratory to the Messengers of Heaven! So, it would not be wrong to commemorate it and celebrate it! But, should we not endeavor to do so when it actually happened?
Let’s look at the most detailed account of His birth.
Luke was a friend of Miriyam, Yeshua’s mother. This is actually her account of the events, in all likelihood. But, before Luke gives us those details, he tells us of Yokhanan HaMatbil’s birth, “John the Immerser” [baptist], whose conception actually gives us the timing of Yeshua’s conception.
“5There was in the days of Herodus, king of Y’hudah, a kohen whose name was Zekhar-Yah, of the order of ministry of the house of Avi-Yah; and his wife was of the daughters of Aharon, and her name was Elisheva. 6They were both righteous before Elohim, and walked in all His mitzvot, and in the tzedaka of יהוה without blame. 7But they had no son, because Elisheva was barren, and they were both well on in years. 8And it came to pass while he was ministering in the order of his ministry before Elohim, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, his turn came to burn incense; so he entered the Heikhal of יהוה ……
26Now in the sixth month the Malakh Gavri-El was sent from Elohim to the Galil, to a city called Natzrat, 27to a virgin who was betrothed to a man named Yosef, of Beit David; and the name of the virgin was Miryam. 28And the Malakh went in and said to her, “Shalom to you, full of grace; Adoneinu is with you, O blessed one among women.” 29When she saw him, she was disturbed at his word, and wondered what kind of salutation this could be. 30And the Malakh said to her, “Fear not, Miryam; for you have found grace with Elohim. 31For behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His Name יֵשׂוּעַ [Yeshua]. 32He will be great, and He will be called Ben Elyon; and יהוה Elohim will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will rule over the house of Ya’akov forever; and there will be no limit to His Malkhut.” 34Then Miryam said to the Malakh, “How can this be, for no man has known me.” 35The Malakh answered and said to her, “The Ru’akh HaKodesh will come, and the power of the Highest will rest upon you; therefore the One who is to be born of you is Kadosh, and He will be called Ben HaElohim. 36And behold, Elisheva your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age; and yet this is the sixth month with her, who is called barren. 37For nothing is impossible for Elohim.” 38Miryam said, “Here I am, a handmaid of יהוה ; let it be to me according to your word.” And the Malakh went away from her. 39In those days, Miryam rose up, and went hurriedly to a mountain, to a city of Y’hudah. 40And she entered the house of Zekhar-Yah, and saluted Elisheva. 41And when Elisheva heard the salutation of Miryam, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisheva was filled with The Ru’akh HaKodesh….”
What we learn from the passages above is critical, with several items of import: The ‘order of ministry of the house of Avi-Yah’ is an anchor on the calendar!
There were 24 priestly orders, established by King David in 1 Chronicles 24:
3And David with Tzadok of the sons of Elazar, and Akhimelekh of the sons of Itamar, divided them [priestly families] according to their ordering in their service…. … 5Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for they were princes of the Kodesh and princes of Elohim, both of the sons of Elazar, and of the sons of Itamar….
7Now the first lot came forth to Yehoyariv, the second to Yeda-Yah; 8the third to Kharim, the fourth to Se’orim; 9the fifth to Malkhi-Yah, the sixth to Miyamin; 10the seventh to Hakotz, the eighth to Avi-Yah;…….
19These were the orderings of them in their service, to come into Beit יהוה according to the ordinance given unto them by the hand of Aharon their father, as יהוה Elohei Yisra’el had commanded him.
The priestly ‘orders’ were 24. Each order served in the Temple 2 times a year, for a week. 24 x 2 is only 48, so that would not complete a year. BUT, EVERY ORDER would be in the Temple three times a year! For each “khag”, otherwise called ‘pilgrim feasts’, where every Jew had to be in Jerusalem for those feasts, to make offerings, so all the priestly families had to be there.
But, Yokhanan HaMatbil’s father, Zekhar-Yah, was in the order of Avi-Yah [Abijah], and was there for THAT order’s service. To determine the timing of it, some counting has to be done:
Starting at the Aviv Barley, counting through the weeks, with the interjection of Passover AND Shavu’ot, the first two Khag celebrations that happened in the spring, that puts Avi-Yah’s order to service in very late May on our calendar, the end of the third month and into the fourth month on God’s calendar, and him also having to serve for Shavu’ot after the annunciation of his coming paternity. So, Yokhanan HaMatbil likely was conceived shortly thereafter, in very, very late May, or early June, at the end of the third biblical month. This is the likely timing of John’s conception. Since our passage above gives us an anchor concerning Yeshua’s conception as well, six months AFTER John’s, then we can easily see Yeshua would have been conceived at Khanukah, exactly six months after the end of Shavu’ot! In the 9th biblical month. When Khanukah happens!
Avi-Yah’s second order of service would have been in mid November, which would put Yeshua conceived at mid May, and born in mid January. That cannot be. Just as the late December birth cannot be! And there is biblical reason for that, coming from the events actually surrounding Yeshua’s birth:
1And it happened in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus to take a census of all the people in his empire. 2This first census took place during the governorship of Quirinius in Surya. 3And every man went to be registered in his own city. 4Yosef also went up from Natzrat, a city of the Galil, to Y’hudah, to the city of David, which is called Beit Lekhem; because he was of the house and family of David, 5with his betrothed, Miryam, while she was with child, that they might be registered there. 6And it came to pass while they were there that her days to be delivered were fulfilled. 7And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in strips of cloth and laid Him in a sukka*, because there was no room for them for lodging. 8Now there were shepherds in that region where they were staying, and they were watching their flocks at night. 9And behold, a Malakh of Elohim came to them, and the Kavod יהוה shone on them; and they were seized with a great fear. 10And a Malakh said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which will be to the entire world. 11For this day is born to you in the city of David, a Moshi’ah, who is יהוה HaMashi’akh. And12 this is a sign for you: you will find the babe wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a sukka.” 13And suddenly there appeared with the Malakh a host of heaven, praising Elohim and saying, 14“Glory to Elohim in the highest, and on earth Shalom, and good hope for the sons of men.” 15And it came to pass when the Malakhim departed from them and went to Heaven, that the shepherds spoke to one another, saying, “Let us go to Beit Lekhem and see this thing that has happened as יהוה has shown to us.” 16And they came hurriedly, and found Miryam and Yosef and the babe at rest in the sukka. 17When they had seen, they made known the word which was spoken to them concerning the boy. 18And all who heard it were amazed at the things which were spoken by the shepherds. 19But Miryam treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising Elohim for all that they had seen and heard, as it was spoken to them.
Shepherds did not watch their flocks at night in the DEAD OF WINTER. It often snows in Bethlehem in December and January. Yeshua would NOT have been born at that time. Shepherds were out abiding in the field with their flocks. “Keeping watch”, as if wolves might be about.
The next thing to notice is that the tax is what drew him to Bethlehem, yes; however, he had a year to pay it! Joseph seems to have killed two birds with one stone: Going to Bethlehem to pay his tax put him close enough to Jerusalem also to keep the feast of Sukkot! Jerusalem would be so overcrowded at Sukkot that Bethlehem filled up with visitors. NOT for taxes! Everyone had a year to do that. No one rushes to pay taxes. But, all male Jews had to be in Jerusalem for Sukkot! And the city always overflowed in to the villages around it, including Bethlehem. Joseph likely chose Bethlehem for both reasons. People allowed ‘ushpizin’, honored guests, to spend the night in their Sukka. The Aramaic scriptures use a word there for “Sukka” which is אוֹריָא , “oryah” , an ancient Aramaic word for sukka. It is used three times in the Luke passage: the place where she laid Him, then, as a sign for the shepherds, and when those shepherds found the baby at rest in the sukka….
There is only one time in the year when the shepherds would be out in the field AND there would be a sukka in every back yard: Sukkot. In the fall.
Another important feature of the above passage is all the indirect references to Sukkot traditions! “Swaddling cloth” or ‘strips of cloth’ could be a hint. In the temple, it is known historically that the old, worn-out priestly robes were cut into strips of cloth [swaddling cloth] and used to make the torches used to light the “Light of the World”: four HUGE TORCH LAMPS with multiple bowls of olive oil to give LIGHT TO THE WORLD, which could be seen by shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem!
Add to that the words of the Messengers, and we seem to be establishing that Sukkot is going on:
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which will be to the entire world.
Sukkot is known in Judaism as “The Season of Our Joy“, and is known and recorded to be the most celebratory time in Israel, ever. And, Sukkot is the ONLY feast of God that is FOR THE WHOLE WORLD! In the book of Numbers, 29, the seventy offerings offered over the course of 7 days were for the 70 nations, and all the world was invited to Sukkot. The EIGHTH Day of that feast was the “Eighth REJOICING/FESTIVITY”, “Sh’mini Atzeret”, the Day of REJOICING IN THE TORAH, and that would have been the day of Yeshua’s circumcision, recorded in Luke 2 as well.
The evidence, to us, is overwhelming, that Yeshua was born on Sukkot. Others say it would have been at Passover; but, we believe Yokhanan HaMatbil, John the Immerser, was born at Passover, to warn people to repent and be ready to hear the gospel. And six months later, exactly, Yeshua was born on Sukkot. “And HaDavar [The Word] became a Body, and DWELT AMONG US”, which is the theme of Sukkot: dwelling. Nine months exactly before that, Yeshua would have been conceived, and that would have been the first night of Khanukah!
This is the primary reason we keep Khanukah!
Khanukah was a SUKKOT celebration ‘out of season’, because the Maccabees did not want to wait NINE MONTHS to DEDICATE [Khanukah] the Temple again after its having been defiled. So, they kept an EIGHT DAY FEAST, a MINI SUKKOT, and DEDICATED the Temple in the dead of winter. They had just enough oil for that DEDICATION before more could be made/brought in. The MENORAH is the first order of business in Worship in the Temple. They were able to do their service, after having defeated the Greeks as the heavy underdog in the fight. It was truly miraculous. They fought, because the Greeks were forcing the Greek language on them [which they hated], denying their Hebrew language, forbidding the Sabbath, and all His Feasts, forbidding circumcision, Torah Study, and all things of worshipping God. Their victory was achieved and on the 25th night of the NINTH BIBLICAL MONTH they began to DEDICATE the House of God, and to worship again. It had been defiled by offering a pig and erecting a statue of Zeus, and by Antiochus declaring himself as God. They defeated him. It was the darkest time of the year, but they had LIGHT. The immediate custom that emerged was the use of an eight-light lamp to commemorate that victory and that miraculous eight night celebration of their victory over spiritual darkness. Sukkot out of season.
That is why we celebrate it. Most Messianic people went without the Torah, the customs, the Sabbath, and ALL The Feasts of God for their whole lives. And were compelled to worship during a very pagan season, on the day pagans commemorate the birth of Mithras and many other deities. Being free to celebrate God at HIS APPOINTED SEASONS is a big deal. And, knowing Yeshua was CONCEIVED at this darkest time, to bring about the culmination of all seven of God’s feasts, is something indeed to celebrate!
It is Yeshua’s conception that makes Him different from all other men. There could easily have been other babies born in booths during Sukkot. And Yeshua’s birth was after the manner of all men; but His CONCEPTION was DIVINE, by the power of the Ru’akh, which is Yeshua’s LIGHT! The Light of the World. Khanukah is aptly called by our Jewish people “The Festival of Lights.”