Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Fortress Linked to the Origins of Hanukkah

Israeli archeologists have uncovered an ancient fortress that they believe is linked to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

According to CBN News, the 50-foot by 50-foot building was used as a hilltop fortress to protect the city of Maresha in the second century, which was ruled by the Greek Seleucid Empire at the time. The Greeks, however, failed to protect the city, and it was seized by the Jewish Hasmonean army.

“What we discovered here actually connects with the story of Hanukkah and the Hasmonean revolts against the Greeks,” Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation Director Achinoam Montagu told CBN News from the site.

He noted that the building’s walls, which had a width of nearly 10 feet, were slanted in order to prevent intruders from scaling the wall.

“We also uncovered a destruction layer, which in it we found hundreds of artifacts, including pottery and coins and weapons, which we dated back to the second century BC,” Montagu continued. “We believe that the destruction was done by the Hasmoneans as part of their conquest of Idumea in 112 BC.”

At the time of the battle, the area was called Idumea, which comes from the biblical name Edom.

According to Montagu, the ancient fortress would have been about 16 feet tall with seven rooms and a stairwell to a second floor.

“The destruction layer was about half a meter, and here we have the woodblocks from the roof. We believe that the roof collapsed and on the roof the rest of the walls and the building,” Montagu explained. “During the excavations, we took out hundreds of stones until we reached the destruction layer.”

During the second century BCE, the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors who founded the Hasmonean Dynasty, revolted against the Seleucid Empire. During the revolt, the Hasmoneans purified the temple in Jerusalem and, after finding enough oil for one day, lit up the temple’s menorah. Despite there only being a day’s worth of oil, the story goes that the menorah stayed lit for eight days.

This event is where the annual celebration of Hanukkah was born.

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.

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