Jesus' first forty days, Part 3, Anna and Samuel
Oct 18, 2013
Just as Simeon finished his prophecy over Jesus, an old woman named Anna came to prophesy as well. Luke 2:36-38 says,
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 And at that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Once again we see Luke giving equal treatment to men and women in order to fulfill his purpose in healing the breach. First Simeon and then Anna bore witness of Jesus when he was forty days old.
Years later, when Jesus returned from the wilderness, where He had spent forty days in fasting and temptation, he gave his first teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth, where, Luke says, He attempted to repair more breaches. This nearly got Him killed (Luke 4:29) and caused Him to move His ministry headquarters to Capernaum.
The final forty-day period mentioned by Luke (in Acts 1:3) is where Jesus appeared to His disciples periodically to instruct them of their own mission to heal the breaches. They were sent into all nations as ambassadors of the Kingdom, telling them that God had declared a unilateral cease-fire against all “enemies” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Each of these forty-day periods had some things in common. Luke’s purpose was to present these as times of preparation to heal the breaches. The repair of breaches between Jews and other ethnos, of course, was one of the most important aspects of Paul’s ministry, which Luke shared in their journeys.
Anna the Prophetess
As an apparently recognized prophetess, Anna would have had credibility in bearing witness to Simeon’s words about Jesus. Although no specific prophecy is recorded, we are told that she fulfilled the prophecy unique to her tribe of Asher. Asher means “blessed, happy.” It is likely the word used in the beatitudes, which say, “Blessed is the man…”
And so she rejoiced and gave thanks to God for the blessing of Christ’s arrival. Verse 38 says she “continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” This is the equivalent of Luke’s description of Simeon, who looked for “the consolation of Israel.” The Messiah was to be both the Comforter and the Redeemer.
The people, of course, did not understand the manner in which these things would be accomplished. Their hope of the consolation of Israel was too fixated upon Judea itself, for the tribes of Israel had been dispersed for seven centuries with no end in sight. Likewise, their main focus was upon overthrowing the yoke of Rome. Further, in looking for the redemption of Jerusalem, they did not have clear understanding of the two Jerusalems. Nonetheless, the prophecies were true, regardless of men’s understanding or misunderstanding.
In earlier times the tribe of Asher had been located in Galilee to the north. No such tribal territory as such existed in the first century, except for Judah in the south and Benjamin in the north (Nehemiah 11:25-35). All other individuals from other tribes had no tribal inheritance anymore, because those tribes were dispersed by divine judgment.
Yet the laws governing tribal relationships remained intact, for when a woman married outside of her tribe, she became a member of her husband’s tribe. Obviously, Anna’s ancestors had kept track of their genealogy to know their tribe. This, then, became part of the revelation when she saw Jesus and became “happy” and considered herself blessed, along with all others who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Even the fact that she was eighty-four years of age reveals shades of prophecy, for this is a double portion of forty-two. When Joshua led Israel across the Jordan, the people settled in the plains of Jericho, and this was their forty-second encampment since leaving Egypt. These camps from Succoth to Jericho are listed in Numbers 33:5-50.
The new Joshua (Yeshua) had come, the Inheritor of the double portion, inadvertently marked by Anna’s eighty-four years. Likewise, Luke 2:36 says she was “the daughter of Phanuel.” This is the Greek form of the name Peniel, which is the angel that redeemed Jacob from all evil (Genesis 48:16) at his wrestling match (Genesis 32:29, 30). Although the angel did not tell Jacob his name, Jacob discerned it and named the place after the angel, Peniel, the Face of God, called in Isaiah 63:9, “the angel of His presence” (paniym, "face").
The prophet says that this was the same angel that had led Israel out of Egypt until Israel rebelled (by worshiping the golden calf). God then gave them a different angel in Exodus 33:2, because God then refused to lead them by (the angel of) His personal presence, or face (Exodus 33:3). I believe the new angel was Michael.
The redemption of Jacob from all evil, as he later described it in Genesis 48:16, was marked by his name change from Jacob to Israel. He was redeemed from being a deceiver and usurper (“Jacob”) to one who carried the testimony that God rules (“Israel”). And so Anna testified to the people of her day about “the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). The old Jerusalem was like Jacob, while the new Jerusalem was like Israel. In this way, which is explained in greater detail in Galatians 4:22-31, God redeems Jerusalem.
Comparisons to Samuel
One of Luke’s unstated—yet unmistakable—purposes was to show Theophilus that he was being given opportunity to be part of the flow of prophecy. In effect, he offered Theophilus a new calling as a priest of the Melchizedek Order. He could identify with the priesthood of the future, forsaking the old Aaronic order that had become corrupt.
In the days of Eli the priesthood had become corrupt when the high priest put his sons above God. His sons were corrupt “sons of Belial” (1 Samuel 2:12, KJV). We read later in verse 22,
22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served [tsava, “warred”] at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
Many women, it seems, wanted to serve God at the door of the tabernacle, even in the time of Moses (Exodus 38:8). It is not clear what they actually did, but the term “served” is from the Hebrew word tsava, which literally refers to conducting warfare. It is the same term translated "enter the service" that is used to describe the male priests in Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, and 43. Their duties in the tabernacle were acts of spiritual warfare, and so we see that the women did the same at the door of the tabernacle.
Anna was one such spiritual warrior who had “entered the service” and was “warring the warfare,” as Numbers 4:3 literally reads in Hebrew. Her service changed conditions in the heavens and helped advance the Kingdom of God on earth. But in the days of Eli, we find that his sons were corrupting the spiritual warriors who had gathered to advance the Kingdom.
Likewise, in the first century many of the temple priests had become corrupt. The high priesthood was bought and sold as a source of income and power. There is no doubt that Theophilus was troubled by this, for he had been high priest for three years earlier in life and was also the son of a powerful and influential high priest, Annas (or Ananus).
Luke, then, was subtly appealing to Theophilus to break ranks with the sons of Eli and to join with the True Temple and the Melchizedek Order of priests who serve it. The prophet’s message to Eli was of a change of priesthood (1 Samuel 2:35). This prophesied of the change from Levi to Melchizedek, because, as we see from 1 Kings 2:35, Zadok replaced the last of the line of Eli as high priest. Zadok, of course, was a type of the Melchizedek Order, as his name indicates.
Eli eventually died of a broken neck (1 Samuel 4:18), which was the judgment of God upon a donkey that had not been redeemed (Exodus 13:13). The law draws a parallel between donkeys and “every first-born of man” that needed redemption. The implication was that if the first-born sons of men were not redeemed, being spiritual donkeys, their necks were to be broken. This happened literally to Eli, but it prophesied also of the entire Levitical priesthood that was to lose its calling. By extension, too, the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 A.D. to show God’s displeasure with the corruption of that place.
The story of Anna in particular drew attention to the parallel with Eli and Samuel. Anna is the Greek form of Hanna, Samuel’s mother (1 Samuel 1:2). Even as Hanna dedicated her son to God in the temple, so also had Mary brought her Son to the temple, where Anna bore witness and prophesied.
Even as there were women congregating and serving at the door the tabernacle in the days of Eli, so also did Mary join those congregating at the door of the temple, while Anna was serving God at the same gate.
Josephus tells us that “when Samuel was twelve years old, he began to prophesy” (Antiquities of the Jews, V, x, 4). So also did Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple when He was twelve to be in His Father’s house, as we will see shortly in the next story (Luke 2:42).
We see, then, that Jesus was a type of Samuel, who was sent to the temple to minister in place of Eli. He was first in line as the “faithful priest” prophesied by the man of God (1 Samuel 2:35).
35 But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before [paniym, “face, presence”] My anointed [mashiyach, “messiah”] always.
1 Samuel 1:1 tells us that Samuel came from an Ephraimite family. However, as a Nazirite, he was treated as a priest and allowed to minister in the temple as if he were of the sons of Aaron. Many years later, Jesus’ brother James (the writer of the book of James) was also a Nazirite and daily ministered in the temple until his martyrdom. We also read in 1 Samuel 2:18, 19,
18 Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.
The prophecy of the man of God in 1 Samuel 2:35 had a greater fulfillment than could be fulfilled by the ministry of Samuel himself. It prophesied of Zadok in the days of Solomon. It also prophesied of the Melchizedek Order that was to come still later. But it was ultimately a messianic prophecy, for the true High Priest was to be the Messiah Himself, whose sons would minister “in the face of” their Father, the Messiah. That is, their transfigured faces would reflect the incorruptible glory of their Father always.
These are the spiritual Ephraimites functioning as Melchizedek priests and as spiritual Nazirites. The prophetic reason Samuel was an Ephraimite was to picture him as a second Joshua, who was of that same tribe. Hence, the greatest fulfillment of the prophecy comes at the time of the second coming of Joshua (Yeshua), when He returns as Joshua the Ephraimite (Joseph) to lead us into the Kingdom. In this we see the repair of the breach between the Scepter, the Birthright, and the Priesthood, after being separated in the time of Jacob. These callings are all rejoined under the Messiah, Jesus Christ at the time of His second coming.
Luke’s gospel, then, presents Jesus to Theophilus as the fulfillment of the prophecy in the time of Eli and Samuel. He is the faithful priest, the new prophet (Samuel), and the new Joshua, of Joseph-Ephraim, to whom all men will bow in the end. And in the account, Luke is careful to record both a male and female witness in the temple. Theophilus is presented with the gospel and the opportunity to believe that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the fulfillment of the “faithful priest” that God was raising up to replace the old order of Aaron. Luke’s hope was that Theophilus might identify with Samuel, rather than with the sons of Eli in the corrupted temple.
This is part 3 of a mini-series titled "Jesus' First Forty Days." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 7 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones