Wax candles were frequently substituted for the oil lamps found on the lampstands of the Bible. They are a symbol of the individual's life force, or the light he or she offers to the world. They represent spirituality, devotion, faith, longing, and the life devoted to a single, generally spiritual passion or aspiration. They symbolize the passing years of a human life as it slowly burns or melts away. Because of their phallic shape, candles were commonly used in marriage and fertility rites. In these rites they may represent the innocence of virgins.
In Revelation, two lampstands are "standing before the God of the earth," representing the two final witnesses who will be sent to warn the earth in the last days (Rev 11:3; 12:4-5). These witnesses are commonly believed to be Elijah and Enoch because, although they ascended into heaven, they have not yet tasted death which is appointed unto all men. Others believe the witnesses are Moses and Elijah.
In many religions, candles are used in funeral processions, offered at shrines, and placed on graves. These can represent the souls of the dead; love and desire for the departed; the hope of heaven; the light of Christ; and prayers for both the living and the dead. In ancient Greece the gods of the Underworld were given candles as gifts. In Jewish graveyards and synagogues, the menorah or seven-branched candlestick was often used to represent God and the spiritual illumination, wisdom, or light which He offers those who seek Him.
Candles are an image of Christ, His purity, and the salvation He offers humanity, especially under His title of "the Light of the World." The flame represents His divine or spiritual nature and the candle symbolizes His human or fleshy nature. Two candles may also be used to represent His dual nature. Candles are used at Christmas time to welcome the Christ Child or Christkind and as a symbol of the star of the Magi. Three candles symbolize the Trinity.
The seven branched candelabrum or menorah is an ancient symbol of Judaism. Its design was dictated by God when He instructed the Israelites to build the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex 25:31-40). According to legend, Moses threw gold into a fire and the menorah formed itself. To Christians, the menorah symbolizes divine wisdom and its seven branches stand for the seven churches of Revelation; the seven archangels; the seven days of creation; the seven stars of Ursa Major; the seven planets known to early symbolists; the seven heavens; the seven gifts of the Spirit; the seven eyes or spirits of God; and the seven sacraments.
The Jewish Hanukkah or Festival of Lights is celebrated on the eight days prior to Christmas. It began in 165 B.C. when the Maccabees retook Jerusalem. After they completed the purification of the temple, they found they had only enough of the sacred oil to keep the menorah lit for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days. Since then, a nine branched candelabrum has been used to commemorate this event each year.
French and German legend states that one Christmas Eve, Bonchevalier found a pine tree which was lit up with candles and had a star resting on its top. Some of the candles stood upright while others hung upside down. When he got home, his mother explained to Bonchevalier that he had seen the "Tree of Humanity." The upright candles represented good people, while the inverted candles stood for evil people. The star at the top was the Christ Child watching over the entire world.
Unless otherwise indicated all scripture quotes are from the NKJV Bible.
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© 1997 by Suzetta Tucker
To cite this page:
Tucker, Suzetta. "ChristStory Candle, Candelabra, & Menorah Page." ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1997. http://ww2.netnitco.net/users/legend01/candle.htm ().