Q: #230. What can you tell me about Anna in the Bible?
A: Very little is said about Anna (Greek for the Hebrew name Hannah meaning “grace”) in the Bible, with only 3 verses devoted to her. But, as I read those 3 verses, I found myself thinking about the old question that a lot of people ask, “What character in the Bible would you like to be?” I believe I might answer Anna, or the male version of her 🙂 . Let’s look at those 3 verses.
(Lk 2:36-38) And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser (Asher): she was of great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; (37) and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years (84 years), which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (38) And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
There is a lot in those 3 verses. We know these things about Anna:
#1. She was a prophetess (one of but a few in the Bible: see Q: #232).
#2. She was the daughter of Phanuel (Greek for the Hebrew name Penuel meaning “face of God”).
#3. She was from the tribe of Asher (one of the 12 tribes of Israel). (Some historical records say that the women of Asher were well known for their talent and beauty.)
#4. She was very old and had been married at one time, but her husband died after they were married 7 years. She had been a widow for 84 years! If we make the assumption that she married at about the earliest age possible of about 12 in Bible times, she would have been at least 103 years old at this time. (Some believe that Anna was an 84 year old widow at the time and not widowed for 84 years.)
#5. She never left the Temple, praying and fasting night and day (See: 1 Tim 5:5).
#6. After this encounter, she spoke continually about the Lord Jesus to those in Jerusalem looking for redemption.
So, she was a prophetess (proclaiming God’s Word and giving messages from God), was able to spend every moment of her life in God’s Temple (praying, fasting, and proclaiming God’s word), and she met Jesus Christ. That sounds like an AWESOME life to me!
Many commentators believe that she may well have lived on the Temple grounds, since the Temple had rooms to make this possible.
When Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated, they were met there by Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man (Lk 2:25) who proclaimed that the baby was the Messiah, and foretold what would happen to Jesus in the future (Lk 2:29-35). During this time, Anna came into the Temple and overheard what Simeon said, “and began giving thanks to God.” She spent the rest of her life speaking of Jesus to “all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
*** Note: It is interesting to study the similarities between Anna, and Hannah from the Old Testament (1 Sam 1).