04.04.05 Lk. 2:36-38 The Temple
ANNA, THE PROPHETESS OF ASHER
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
“Anna.” Anna was from the tribe of Asher, one of the so-called ten lost tribes of northern Israel. These lost tribes resulted from the Assyrian invasion in 722/21 B.C. which relocated them hundreds of miles to the east in order to destroy their Jewish culture. But by the first century, a number of Jews from all twelve tribes had returned to their land of promise. Her role in genealogy clearly identifies Jesus as the Messiah for all the Jewish people and demonstrates that a remnant of those tribes remained faithful to God. She functioned as a prophetess in the temple (Lk. 2:36), an interesting position for a woman in ministry.
The biblical Greek is unclear about her age, as to whether she had been a widow for eighty-four years or was eighty-four years old. The Jewish apocryphal book recorded that she lived to a ripe old age of 105, so it can obviously be assumed she was a widow of eighty-four years. This was nearly twice the normal life expectancy of the first century. As such, Anna had experienced many horrific events in her life time. She would have been married around the year 91 B.C. and mourned the loss of her husband only seven years later (84 B.C.). She experienced the wonderful rule of Salome, the queen of Judea and the squabbling of her two sons after her – squabbling that led to civil war and the invasion of the Romans in 63 B.C. At that time, General Pompey plundered the temple and entered the Holy of Holies. Eleven years later General Crassus also entered the temple and plundered it again. Then came the Herodian dynasty and numerous revolts and disturbances that resulted in thousands of crucifixions. In the meantime, people everywhere were talking of a soon-to-come messiah who would bring peace into their chaotic world. Anna, along with several others, prayed daily in the temple for that messiah. It is believed that some women did perform acts of service at the gates of the temple, based upon 1 Samuel 2:22, but what those services were is unknown. Like many older priests and Levites, she had seen the civil war of Hasmonean brothers, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus; the invasion of the Romans; three years of turmoil with the rise of Herod the Great to power; the Parthian invasion; and numerous Zealot riots and rebellions. She too was praying for the “Consolation of Israel,” the Promised One who would bring purity to temple worship and peace in the land.
“Night and day.” This phrase did not mean a literal repetitive 24-hour day, but all of her waking time (cf. Acts 26:7). Furthermore, the temple was closed during the late night hours. It means that she fasted on the prescribed days and honored the obligation of prayer three times a day.
. While many of the Jews dispersed by the Assyrians and Babylonians never returned to their homeland, theologians of the Middle Ages labeled them as the “ten lost tribes” because they did not know where they were located. In recent years, however, many members of those tribes have returned to Israel, being identified by DNA testing and/or observation of religious rituals such as circumcision and Passover.
. Several topics are listed in Appendix 33 for future study. A suggested study pertains to whatever ministries women may have had at this time.
. Book of Judith, 16:230.
. Gilbrant, “Luke.” 79.