Anna, Prophet Of God -- By: Arthur H. Lewis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: Anna, Prophet Of God
Author: Arthur H. Lewis


Anna, Prophet Of God

Arthur H. Lewis

Dr. Arthur H. Lewis is a former professor at Bethel Seminary and past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has been a frequent contributor to Priscilla Papers.

An Israelite woman doing the work of a man is found infrequently in the Scriptures, but Anna is one of the exceptions. Luke 2:36-38 pictures Anna in the Temple court busy with the office, and in the traditional role, of a Hebrew prophet. Her example should be an encouragement to every gifted woman who has been called to lead and to serve by die power of the Holy Spirit in one of the Christian churches or mission fields around the world today.

A True Israelite

Anna’s Hebrew name was written “Hannah,” the mother of Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Sam 1:2), and means the “gracious one.” Like Hannah, who went up to the temple “year after year” to ask the Lord for a son, Anna was also a woman of prayer. The song of Hannah records the first mention in the Scriptures of Israel’s king as “His Anointed” (i.e., the Messiah of the Lord, 2:10).

Anna’s Jewish family is confirmed by her father Phanuel, whose name is Hebrew for the “Face, or Presence, of God,” and is related to the place-name Peniel by the brook Jabbok where Jacob prayed and wrestled with God (Gen 32:30).

She belonged to the Israelite tribe of Asher, headed by Asher who was born to Zilpah, Leah’s maid, with a truly Hebrew name meaning the “happy one” (Gen 30:12, 13). Asher’s sons inherited the coastal region above Mount Garmel in northwest Israel. In the reign of Hezekiah, however, a few Asherites migrated to Judah (2 Chr 30:11), and lived near Jerusalem for many years. It is likely that Anna’s family descended from one of them.

A True Worshiper

It would not be easy for a widow like Anna to be in the temple, “worshiping night and day,” twenty-four hours a day, “fasting and praying” and keeping it up for sixty-two years! We can assume she was married at fifteen, since this was normal for Jewish girls pledged to be married, and mat her husband died seven years later, when she was twenty-two. Subtract twenty-two from eighty-four and the total time of service would be sixty-two years.

Fasting was part of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Moses commanded, “You must deny yourselves” (Lev 16:29,31), which really means “to be afflicted, or humbled.” This was the proper resp...

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