Anna, the Prophetess part 1
by John Lowe
Anna, the Prophetess
Who was Anna the prophetess in the Bible? I am ashamed that I could not answer that question until I researched this article. I have read the Bible from cover to cover, but I must admit I do not recall anything about her. Furthermore, I have never heard a sermon or Sunday School lesson that mentions her name. Therefore, I will tell you all about her from what I have learned.
Anna is mentioned in the Bible as a prophetess female prophet and one of the people connected to Jesus' childhood. She was the daughter of Penuel from the tribe of Asher. Her name, which she shares with Hannah in the Old Testament, means "favor" or "grace." All we know of her is found in three verses in the New Testament book of Luke. When Anna encounters the infant Jesus in the Temple, we see that her life is indeed overflowing with favor and grace (Luke 2:36-38).
"There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple marriage, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him" (Luke 2:36-40, NIV).
"There was also a prophet, Anna," (Luke 2:36). Anna is among only a handful of women in the Bible bearing the title "prophetess." The others are Miriam, the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20); Deborah, the judge (Judges 4:4); Huldah, the wife of Shallum (2 Chronicles 34:22); Isaiah's wife (Isaiah 8:3); and Philip's four unmarried daughters (Acts21:9).
"She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four" (Luke 2:36–37). Anna had been married only seven years when she became a widow, and she remained a widow for the rest of her life. Most translations indicate that Anna was eighty-four years old when she met Jesus. However, it is also possible to translate the text to mean Anna had lived eighty-four years after her husband died. That would mean Anna was at least 104 years old—if she had married at thirteen. Either way, she had spent the vast majority of her life without a husband and was ministering before the Lord in the Temple.
"She never left the temple marriage, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. " (Luke 2:37). After becoming a widow, Anna dedicated herself wholly to the Lord. She never left the Temple in Jerusalem but spent her time worshiping, fasting, and praying. It is possible that Anna was given living quarters at the Temple because of her designation as a prophetess, or she may have lived close by. What stands out is that her devotion was constant for the majority of her life, and her devotion was rewarded with an encounter with her Savior. Her many years of sacrifice and service were worth it all when she beheld the Messiah, the One for whom she had waited so long.
"Coming up to them at that very moment," she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38). Mary and Joseph arrive at the Temple with the baby Jesus to satisfy the Old Testament law. They needed to make the purification offering (see Leviticus 12:6–8) and present Jesus as their firstborn before God (see Exodus 13:2, 12–15). While they are there, a man named Simeon cradles the Lord Jesus in his arms, praises God, and utters a prophecy concerning Jesus and Mary. At this moment, Anna enters. She immediately recognizes Jesus as the long-awaited Savior and begins thanking God.
"She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). Anna, the prophetess, is among the first few to bring honor to the kingly babe born in a stable. Good news is meant to be shared, and Anna shares it with everyone anticipating the Messiah. The Redeemer had come, the prophecies were being fulfilled, and Anna
(36) One Anna, a prophetess.—The fact is in many ways remarkable. We find a woman recognized as a prophetess at a time when no man is recognized as a prophet. She bears the name of the mother of the founder of the School of the Prophets, identical with that which the legends of Apocryphal Gospels assign to the mother of the Virgin. She is named, as if it were a well-known fact, as having been the wife of Phanuel, and she is not of the tribe of Judah but of Aser. That tribe, then, though belonging to the Ten that had been carried into exile by Shalmaneser (2Kings 17:6), had not been altogether lost. Some, at least, of its members survived and cherished the genealogies of their descent, as one family of the neighboring tribe of Naphthali are said to have done at Nineveh (Tobit 1:2). We also find Anna's name (Tobit 1:9).
Anna in the Bible
Luke reveals the prophetess as a Biblical model for aging
Anna is one of the Bible's most unusual women. Introduced at the end of the Birth Narrative (Luke 1:1-2:40), Anna concludes the sextet of named, pious Israelites surrounding the miraculous births of John and Jesus. The others are Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and Simeon. Anna arrives at the purification of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the Temple, 40 days after Jesus' birth (Luke 2:22-38). It is a scene repeated in Israelite culture, for the law required a sacrifice of a lamb or two pigeons or two doves after a son's birth (Leviticus 12:2-8).
However, this purification is unlike any other, for Simeon and Anna arrive at the ritual independently, though both seem led by divine direction (Luke 2:22-38).
Luke's pairing of Simeon and Anna provides an interesting comparison. Simeon arrives first, and Luke records more of his encounter. Simeon is an older man. He exclaims, "Now, Sovereign Lord, you can let your servant depart in peace" (v. 29). He prophesies that the child in his arms is God's salvation, "prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:28, 30b-32). Notice Luke's deft writing: Simeon praises the Lord while Anna offers thanks; he prophesies, but she is called a prophetess (Luke 2:29-32, 34-36).