Summary: The story of Anna teaches us the need to thank God and to tell others about His blessings.
Giving thanks and telling the story
Two of the biggest reasons that people don’t share their faith are
• that they don’t know what to say
• they are afraid of rejection
Anna’s method addresses both these objections.
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming 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 2:36-38 NIV)
Who is Anna?
When we think of prophets, we think of men like Moses and Isaiah. However, the Bible calls several women prophets. Joel and Peter make it clear that since Jesus came, more women will be prophets. Anna is only one prophetess named in the Bible. Others are:
• Isaiah’s wife
• Philip the evangelist’s four daughters
• Elizabeth and Mary both speak God’s word though they are not explicitly called "prophetess"
• The Jews also recognize Sarah, Hannah and Esther as prophetesses
Anna’s role as a prophet gave her insight into the identity of the Baby that Mary and Joseph were carrying around the Temple courts that day.
From the tribe of Asher
There were 12 tribes if Israel, descended from the 12 sons of Jacob. Asher was Jacob’s 8th son. The tribe of Asher was known for being good farmers and for providing strong military leaders.
By the time Jesus was born, Judah and Levi were the most well represented tribes left. Some people from Asher were there, because shortly after the Assyrians led the Northern Kingdom into captivity, King Hezekiah invited their remnants to come and worship in Jerusalem. The remnants of only three tribes responded:
• and Asher
Some people from the tribe of Asher recognized their nation’s mistakes and decided to follow the LORD.
The grammar in this phrase is somewhat difficult to translate. Some translations see the original as saying that she lived after she was widowed to be 84. That translation is quite plausible. However, the more grammatically literal translation says that she lived as a widow for 84 years after her husband died. This would make her very old indeed. Probably about 105 and likely the oldest woman in the country at the time.
As in the story of Ruth and Naomi, a widowed woman in biblical times was often destitute. Men were the bread winners of the family and when there were no men left to take care of their women, the women often had no income. There was no welfare system as we know it. They were dependent on the kindness of others.
At her advanced age, it is likely that Anna outlived everyone in her family. Having only been married for 7 years, she is not likely to have had many children. It is likely that there was no one to take care of her.
She was very devoted
When it says she did not depart from the Temple, it likely means that she was there every day and late into the evening. It is also possible that she had become homeless and was practically living in the Court of Women or the Court of the Gentiles.