Beyond the Natural Order
Yael Eckstein | December 15, 2022
For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. —Genesis 17:12
This month, my family and I will join Jews around the world in celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Enjoy this collection of my devotional teachings on this festival that Jesus celebrated (John 10:22) and explore the many lessons of faith that this observance has for Christians and Jews alike.
I’ve mentioned before that Hanukkah is easily the most well-known of all the Jewish festivals. But the reason for this really doesn’t have anything to do with Hanukkah itself. Hanukkah just happens to coincide with the Christmas season. In many years, like this one, Christmas coincides with the Hanukkah celebration.
The irony is that Hanukkah isn’t even a biblical festival. The celebration was instituted during the time of the Second Temple, centuries after the period of the Hebrew Bible. Because, unlike all the other biblical feasts, Hanukkah was instituted by people, rather than God, we can ask questions about Hanukkah that are not relevant to the biblical feasts.
For example, why is Hanukkah eight days long? Jewish tradition offers a few different answers to this question. The answer that I find most meaningful connects Hanukkah to the first time in the Bible when we see the significance of eight days.
Beyond the Natural Order
We read in the Book of Genesis, “For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.”
In the covenant of circumcision, God commanded that every male child of Abraham’s offspring must be circumcised when they reach the age of eight days. Why eight days?
Rabbi Yehuda Leow, a great 16th-century rabbi from the city of Prague, explains it this way. The creation of heaven and earth — the entire natural system — lasted six days, followed by a day of rest. Seven days represents the normal natural order.
The eighth day, one day more than seven, symbolizes going beyond nature. Circumcision is God’s way of telling us that He wants us to go beyond our created natural selves. God’s covenant with Abraham means that we are no longer part of the normal natural order.
And if you look at the history of the Jewish people, it’s hard to deny that this is true. Jewish history simply does not follow the normal rules that govern other nations.
Hanukkah was a miracle. The victory of a small group of pious Jews over the Assyrian-Greek army broke all the rules of the normal natural course of events. The establishment of Hanukkah as an eight-day festival was a way of recognizing that the victory was a supernatural one — beyond the natural order.
When we celebrate Hanukkah, we are reminded that we worship a God of miracles who is able to do more for us than we could imagine.
What has the God of miracles done for you? Share in the comment section below.