ANNA, THE PROPHETESS
Luke introduced Anna as a prophetess when there was no prophet for over four centuries after Prophet Malachi who lived around 450 BC. Though Luke presented Anna as a prophetess, he does not specify any of her foretelling. As a prophetess, she was a preacher of the Word of God, especially to the women who came to the Temple. Her name in Hebrew is “Hannah” which means grace. There was another prophetess in the Old Testament with the same name and similar religious practices. That was Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
There were five prophetesses before Christ. Miriam, the sister of Moses, was the first one (Ex 15:20), who led the women of Israel to praise God for saving Israel while drowning Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. Another prophetess was Deborah (Judg 4:4) who was also a judge of Israel before the reign of kings. Huldah was also prophetess (2 Kgs 22:14). The other prophetesses were Noadiah (Neh 6:14) and Isaiah’s wife (Isa 8:3). Then came Anna, who arrived at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The prophetesses were very few and served only short-term compared to the male prophets of the Old Testament.
After seven years of her married life, Anna became a widow (Lk 2:36). Instead of considering a second marriage, she dedicated her life to God in the Temple. She remained in the Temple, worshipping God day and night with fasting and prayer (Lk 2:37). She got shelter in the Temple premises like Prophetess Huldah (2 Chr 34:22) and spent her time in the Women’s Court until age eighty-four when she met the Holy Family in the Temple. As a prophetess, she might have been guiding women who came for worship and might have volunteered to clean the Temple. The Jews considered such service at the Temple as a noble task for God. So, Anna might have been a familiar character for the worshippers, especially women. She also might have been the leader of a community of widows who settled there for worship and service in the Temple.
ANNA FROM THE TIBE OF ASHER
Anna was from the tribe of Asher. Asher was Jacob’s eighth son from Zilpah, Leah’s maid and Jacob’s concubine (Gen 30:12-13). This tribe was one among the 10 Northern tribes that fell into idolatrous worship (2 Kgs 17:16). So, God withdrew his support, and the Assyrians attacked and dispersed the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. A very few faithful from the ten tribes had migrated to the south so they could continue to worship the true God in the Temple. However, they had to sacrifice many of their family members, friends, land, and inheritance. Anna’s family was one among such exemplary people who wanted to continue their faithfulness to the true God. Thus, God involved a lady outside the tribe of Judah to give witness to the Infant Jesus.
Though Anna became a widow at a youthful age, she did not despise God. Instead, she served God in the Temple. God rewarded as memorable prophetess and allowed her to witness the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. She “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). Like Anna, let us serve God and introduce Jesus to others.