on celebrating hanukkah
shamash the sun god
If shamash had been the name of the Babylonian sun god, what does that have to do with us? Ancient Babylonian is not Hebrew, after all. I had written in Hanukkah History:
To commemorate the miracle of one day’s supply of oil lasting for eight days, a special Hanukkah menorah with nine lights on it instead of the usual seven was lit, one candle per day until on the eighth day all nine candles were lit. The central candle was known as The Servant (Shamash), and was the light from which all the other lights were lit, and was not counted as one of the eight lights.
In it, I linked to a chabad.org article, The Shamash: Why the Menorah has a Ninth Candle, repeating what they and everyone else had said, that shamash means “attendant” or “servant.”
So when I looked up sh-m-sh in the Hebrew Old Testament, I of course expected it to have been translated as attendant or servant. This is what I found:
Strong’s H8121, שמש shemesh, a concrete noun meaning, “sun, sunrise,” from an unused primitive root meaning, “to be brilliant.”
119 times shemesh is translated as “sun.”
9 times it is translated as “sunrising.”
2 times it is translated as “east side.”
1 time each it is translated as “window,” “eastward,” “west,” “westward.”
That accounts for all the instances of shemesh appearing in the Hebrew.
As one goes through all 134 times shemesh appears in the Hebrew, two startling types of usage come up, departing from the normal sun in the sky reference. The first is in these verses, where I have bolded shemesh:
And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which YHVH your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. Deu 4:19
If there is found among you, within any of your gates which YHVH your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of YHVH your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. Deu 17:2-4a
Then he removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven. 2 Kin 23:5
Then he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of YHVH, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 2 Kin 23:11
“At that time,” says YHVH, “they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped. They shall not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth.” Jer 8:1-2
So He brought me into the inner court of YHVH’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of YHVH, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of YHVH and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east. Eze 8:16
The instruction in Deu 17 is the reason for this investigation that I am sharing with you. I had recently asked YHVH to reveal any wicked way in me! I did not expect Him to reveal this.
In 2 Kings 23, King Josiah is cleansing the land of idolatry. The Scripture says that he removed the horses dedicated to the sun and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. Yesterday we learned that the mythology of the sun god was that he rode in a chariot of the sun through the heavens pulled by horses of the sun. The same appears in Greek mythology as well – all paganism sprung from a single source at Babel.
In Ezekiel, a perfectly acceptable and possible translation could literally be, “… they were worshiping Shamash toward the east.”
The second is in these verses:
For YHVH God is a sun and shield; YHVH will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold
from those who walk uprightly. Psa 84:11
But to you who fear My name the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. Mal 4:2
Does this mean that the Scriptures support equating the sun with YHVH as an object of worship? May it never be! These are two instances of the use of metaphor in poetry and prophecy, a very common occurrence in the Hebrew Bible. Just as Psalm 91 says that God will cover us with His feathers (as a mother bird covers her young is implied), it metaphorically paints a picture of loving protection, without trying to say that YHVH has literal feathers.
I assume we are still on the same page, that idolatry is bad, that sun worship infected the paganism of the ancient world, and that Israel brought judgment upon itself for participating in it.
So then with all the Biblical evidence that sh-m-sh meant “sun,” why do they call the central Hanukkah candle shamash meaning “servant,” and where did the lighting ceremony come from, anyway, if the miracle of the oil is a fiction?
Investigating this history opened up a rabbit hole … please proceed at your own risk.
the shamash puzzle
chemosh and shamash
hanukkah historical documentation
Angella Lewis says
I am so glad you have dug into this and are sharing. Thank you! This has been confirmation for me.
Thank you for visiting and leaving your kind and encouraging comment Angella! <3
R. Truesdell says
The problem comes in transliteration. The Hebrew scripture is talking about the King being upset and burning old statues and relics of old Babylonian Gods and Goddesses. Not “lighting Incense for the sun, moon, and stars.“
Shockney Lane says
This is a great observation! I’ve always wondered where using the term “shamash” for servant came from. The position of servant (deacon, or “diakonos” in Greek) in the Torah is actually called a “sharat” in Hebrew (Strong’s H8334) and it is an official title. You can see this in Genesis 39:4 where Joseph begins as a servant, or “sharat,” of Potiphar and is then elevated to “pakid,” or overseer (bishop, or “episcopos” in Greek). Hundreds of years later, during the time of Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly, the term overseer, or “pakid” is again used for the head of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 11:9 so these are definitely official titles of leadership.
Thank you for visiting today and leaving these encouraging comments! God bless –
Shemesh and Shamash are different words.
Shemesh comes from two words, one meaning “sky” (sham) and the other meaning “fire” (esh). So in this way the word for “sun” in literal Hebrew is “sky fire”.
Shamash, which uses the same letters is a root word meaning “attendant” or “helper”. The shamash is most “famous” for being the 9th candle on the Hanukah menorah, but it is really just the “helper candle” that lights the other candles.
Howie, yes, shemesh and shamash are different words, but both from the same root. Thus the relation. I was taught the same thing, that “shamash” meant “attendant or helper,” but could not find the reference to “shamash” meaning “attendant or helper” when I actually looked it up for myself. If you have a source for it please do come back and post it for me, thank you.
Shemesh/shamash being of the same root word, and it’s correlation with our sun and a servant, comes from the fact that, THATS WHAT OUR SUN IS, A SERVANT, which I’ll get too. But first, I’ll show that the shamash is the middle branch on BOTH the 7 and 9 branched candlestick. On the menorah, all lamps on either side of the shamash point inwards towards him, while he points straight forward. All lamps must be lite from his light. This is because, THE SHAMASH IS THE ONLY TRUE LIGHT. The others point towards him and are lite by him, but are not the true light, THEY ARE LIGHT BEARERS(SOUND famiar). NOW think of the sun. It alone is the true light. If you did not know any better, you would think the moon is its own light, as well as the other planets, even earth. BUT THEY ARE REFLECTING LIGHT FROM THE ONE TRUE LIGHT, THE SUN-THEY ARE LIGHT BEARERS. And a menorah design is seen in the solar system. If you viewed the solar system from the side, on the orbital plane, and put the sun in the middle, you would have planets on the sun’s left and right. Planets in the left moving on orbit to the right, and on the right, orbiting to the left, in a circular orbit, but can be seen as facing/pointing inward toward the sun. Knowing this about the the shamash-the true light, you will clearly understand what John is doing in John 1, HE IS PRESENTING JESUS AS THE SHAMASH OF GOD, THE TRUE LIGHT
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was THE LIGHT of men.
5 AND THE LIGHT SHINETH IN THE DARKNESS; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same CAME FOR A WITNESS, TO BEAR WITNESS OF THE LIGHT(LIGHT BEARER), that all men through him might believe.
8 HE WAS NOT THAT LIGHT, BUT WAS SENT TO BEAR WITNESS OF THAT LIGHT(LIGHT BEARER).
9 THAT WAS THE TRUE LIGHT, WHICH LIGHTEST EVERY MAN THAT COMETH INTO THE WORLD(THE WORD OF GOD-JESUS THE SHAMASH OF GOD).
10 HE WAS IN THE WORLD, AND THE WORLD WAS MADE BY HIM, AND THE WORLD KNEW HIM NOT.
11 HE CAME UNTO HIS OWN, AND HIS OWN RECEIVED HIM NOT.
12 But as many as received hi., to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in THE BOSOM(THE MIDST, OR MIDDLE) of the Father, HE HATH DECLARED HIM(JESUS ALONE IS THE PATH BACK TO THE FATHER, ALL MUST LOOK TO HIM).
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
Interesting facts that further prove Jesus as the shamash of god:
1. The middle position on a menorah is where the shamash is located, which is the 4th of seven on a menorah. How interesting that the rabbis teach man is appointed 7 thousand years. At about 6000 right now, give or take depending who you ask, go back 2000 years ago, Jesus was born 4000 YEARS AFTER ADAM, WHICH IS RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL 7000 YEARS OF HISTORY, JUST AS A SHAMASH SHOULD BE
2. The shamash has went out twice in history. First time was in 1 Samuel
1Sa 3:1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. AND THE WORD OF THE LORD WAS PRECIOUS(MEANING VERY RARE) IN THOSE DAYS; there was no open vision. 2 And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; 3 And ere THE LAMP OF GOD WENT OUT IN THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
this shows the lamp is connected to the word of God. AND if the shamash can not be lit, no lamp can be lit. How interesting then that the only other time the lamp of God went out WAS AT THE BIRTH OF JESUS. This is recorded in history, and was thought to be attributed to the death of Simon the just, WHO IS THE JUST MAN THAT PRAYED OVER THE BABY JESUS RIGHT BEFORE HIS DEATH. Remember, the 400 years before the birth of jesus is referred to as the quiet period. THE WORD OF THE LORD WAS RARE, THERE WERE NO PROPHETS, THERE WAS NO VISION. From the birth of jesus, until the temple was destroyed, the lamp would never be lit again. That’s because THE LIGHT WAS ALREADY WITH THEM, EVEN IN THE TEMPLE, but as John 1 says, the light cane unto his own, and they did not know it.
3. The rabbis teach that the menorah is a picture of the tree of life. The tree of life gave eternal life to those that partook of its fruit. How interesting that Jesus clearly depicts himself as the tree of life
Joh 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Amazing, is it not?
Bobby Richardson says
Also take note, that the sun, being a servant, its only purpose is to give its light to those in the darkness, that have no light. That is its sole purpose. It keeps nothing for itself, but pours everything out of itself, even until it’s death, to give light to those who have no light-clearly a type/shadow of jesus. Also, there are 7 colors of light that when combined make an 8th-translucent white light, like the 7 branched menorah
Thank you for adding to the discussion Bobby. I give thanks to YHVH for the great deliverance He wrought for Israel through the Maccabeans, and am not lighting a hannukah menorah. Please do come back again <3