Crafts Lesson Plan - 1 Maccabees 4:6-59 "The Story of Hanukkah"
- Block of self drying clay; cut apart for each student
- 1 Maccabees story scroll printed on parchment paper (precut, one for each student)
- 2 pre-cut wood dowel rods (per student) to make scroll rollers
- Nails (one for each student) to etch pictures onto sides of clay jar
- Dry erase board
- Dry erase markers, eraser
- Read the Scripture passages prayerfully, asking God to show you what He has to say to you and to those He’s given you to teach.
- Read the Biblical Explanation and Background, and think about what concepts you need to teach.
- Prior to class write the following phrases randomly on the dry erase board: “Faith in God, Temple worship, Study of Scripture, Hebrew language, Holidays i.e. Passover, Purim
- Prepare the necessary materials.
Greet the children and introduce yourself.
Opening with a prayer.
Today we’re going to learn the story of the origins of the biblical holiday of Hanukkah. This story is found in the book of 1 Maccabees that was written down between the times that the Old and New Testaments were written. Although 1 Maccabees was ultimately not included in our Bibles, it contains a story of faith and courage that made it possible for the events in the New Testament to happen.
As the Old Testament era was drawing to a close, there were a number of things that were important to the Jewish people living in the land of Judea: [Point to the phrases written on the dry erase board] Their faith in God, the ability to worship God in the Temple, the study of Scriptures, the Hebrew language, biblical holidays like Passover which celebrated the Exodus story and Purim which celebrated the faith of Queen Esther when she saved her people from being killed. These things along with other Jewish customs were important to help maintain their Jewish identity and faith in God after the times of the prophets.
This was important because, in between the times that the Old and New Testaments were written, the land of Judea had been conquered by the legendary Macedonian king Alexander the Great and his Greek army. Although Alexander the Great allowed the Jewish people to worship the God of Israel and maintain their religious and ethnic customs, Greek culture swept through the land under Greek occupation. After Alexander’s death, King Antiochus was installed as the Greek king that ruled over Jerusalem and Judea. He did not like the Jews or Jewish faith and culture.
King Antiochus decided that wanted to erase everything Jewish from the land. [As you mention each point, erase a phrase from the dry erase board.] He made laws that forbid faith in the God of Israel. He outlawed Temple worship, the study of Scripture, and observance of biblical holidays like Passover and Purim. He even tried to erase the use of the Hebrew language and other Jewish customs like circumcision. To top things off, he erected an idol of the Greek god Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and told the people that Zeus was their new god.
Ask: How would you feel if some foreign country invaded the United States and told us that we couldn’t go to church anymore, that we couldn’t speak English anymore or display the American flag? [Let kids have time to respond]
The old Jewish priest Mattathias and his sons were upset by the Greeks’ attempt to erase their faith and Jewish identity. They formed a group of Jewish rebels called the Maccabees. Led by Mattathias’ son Judas, the Maccabees made a commitment that the Greeks would not erase their faith in God or Jewish worship and culture from the land of Judea. So the Maccabees led a revolt against the Greek armies.
1 Maccabees recounts that one time before they faced the Greeks, Judas encouraged the men by saying, “Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge. Remember how our ancestors were saved at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them. And now, let us cry to Heaven, to see whether He will favor us and remember His covenant with our ancestors and crush this army before us today. Then all the Gentiles will know that there is [a God] who redeems and saves Israel.” (1 Maccabees 4:8-11)
God did help the Maccabees beat the Greeks. They freed Jerusalem and Judea from Greek occupation, tore down the idol of Zeus in the Temple, cleansed the Temple and made it ready for the worship of God once again. When the priests relit the flames on the Temple menorah all the people of Judea were able to proclaim once again that “The LORD is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)
Ask: Do any of you know the miracle that God performed in the Temple when the Jews relit the Temple menorah? [Let kids answer. If kids don’t know the story say] Legend has it that when the priests went to relight the candles on the menorah in the Temple, there was only one pot of holy oil to fill the oil lamps on the menorah. The oil was enough to only keep the menorah lit for one day, but God made a miracle happen. The menorah stayed lit for 8 days, just long enough for new holy oil to be produced. That is why the menorah is the symbol of Hanukkah.
Say: After the Temple was rededicated to the LORD, the Jews decided that the people should celebrate the rededication of the Temple every year to remember not only the faith and courage of the Maccabees who refused to let the Greeks erase faith in God from Israel, but also the miracle that God performed in the Temple. They developed an annual holiday called “Feast of Dedication” or Hanukkah which has been celebrated every year ever since. The Bible says that Jesus even celebrated Hanukkah at the Temple in Jerusalem during his ministry (John 10:22-23).
The Maccabees made it possible for faith in God to exist during the time of foreign occupation. If it hadn’t been for the Maccabees, faith in God might have been erased forever, and the events in the New Testament might have never happened.
Ask: How would the New Testament be different if the Maccabees hadn’t saved the Jewish faith from being erased? [People wouldn’t have believed in the God of Israel, People wouldn’t have been looking for a Jewish Messiah, No one would have worshipped God in the Temple. No one would have studied the Scriptures, and the Scriptures might have been lost forever, Jesus wouldn’t have grown up Jewish, The Church wouldn’t never been started by Jewish Christians, etc.]
1 Maccabees records this important story of faith and courage that made the birth of Jesus and the establishment of the Christian Church possible.
Today, we’re going to make a clay scroll holder, so you can have your very own copy of the story of Hanukkah found in 1 Maccabees. This way you’ll never forget this story of faith and courage that didn’t make it into the Bible. The clay pot will feature an etching of the Temple menorah on one side, reminding us of how Judas Maccabees liberated the Temple and rededicated it to the glory of God. On the other side, you’ll draw the Messianic Seal, one of the oldest symbols of Christianity that was used by the Early Church in Jerusalem, it features the Temple menorah, star of David, and ichthus fish which was a early Christian symbol for Jesus. This symbol helps remind us that the faith of the Early Church was deeply rooted in the Jewish faith of the Old Testament. The Maccabees helped keep that faith alive, and we Christians are indebted to them forever.
Instructions for Craft
- Have kids glue wood dowel rods to ends of 1 Maccabees scroll. Let glue dry.
- Have kids take their portion of clay, flatten it and mold it into a clay jar. Make sure the mouth of clay jar is wide enough to insert the scroll into it. Measure opening by inserting sample Maccabees scroll in it.
- Decorate clay jar with nail to make designs of “menorah” and “Messianic Seal.”
- Let clay jars and scrolls dry. They will be available for pick-up next week.
As kids finish the craft project, practice this month’s memory verse with them a couple of times. “The LORD is my light and salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1)
End the lesson with a group prayer.
Written by Rev. Ron Shifley from: Scotland United Church of Christ
Scotland, SD, USA
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