The prophet Anna (Lk 2:36-2:36)

“There was a prophet,

Anna,

The daughter of Phanuel,

Of the tribe of Asher.

She was of a great age.

She had lived

With her husband

Seven years

After her marriage.”

 

Καὶ ἦν Ἄννα προφῆτις, θυγάτηρ Φανουήλ, ἐκ φυλῆς Ἀσήρ· αὕτη προβεβηκυῖα ἐν ἡμέραις πολλαῖς, ζήσασα μετὰ ἀνδρὸς ἔτη ἑπτὰ ἀπὸ τῆς παρθενίας αὐτῆς,

 

Next Luke introduced a female prophet, Anna.  There were some female prophets in the biblical literature like Miriam in Exodus, chapter 15:20, the sister of Aaron and Moses, who was called a prophet like her brother Aaron, the first instance of women worshiping God.  Deborah, in Judges, chapter 4:4, was a married woman prophet from the northern tribe of Ephraim who led troops into battle.  Finally, Huddah in 2 Kings, chapter 22:14-20, was one of the few mentioned female prophets.  The elders in Jerusalem consulted her about what to do with a holy book.  Her response led to the religious revival under King Josiah (640-609 BCE).  Like the other Israelite male and female prophets, Anna interpreted God’s will for his people.  Luke said that there was a prophet Anna (Καὶ ἦν Ἄννα προφῆτις), the daughter of Phanuel (θυγάτηρ Φανουήλ), of the northern tribe of Asher (ἐκ φυλῆς Ἀσήρ).  Her father’s name Phanuel was considered to be the fourth of the great archangels with Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, according to the 3rd century BCE work, the Book of Enoch, but there is no implication here that she was angelic.  Thus, she was not a local Judean, but a northern Galilean Jewish person from Asher.  She was greatly advanced in years (τη προβεβηκυῖα ἐν ἡμέραις πολλαῖς), since she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage (ζήσασα μετὰ ἀνδρὸς ἔτη ἑπτὰ ἀπὸ τῆς παρθενίας αὐτῆς).  She had become a widow.

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The wider meaning of prophet

The term prophet had a wide meaning among the Israelites, since it also included people like Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.  That is why some so-called historical books are often called the early prophets.  Jewish traditions hold that there were 48 male prophets, and seven female prophets, Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.  Others have recognized Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as female prophets also.  Thus, there is a wide range of written prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  The Hebrew prophetic dominant message was a return to Yahweh and his laws.  They were to protect the poor, the orphans, and the widows.  Justice and righteousness dominate in their messages.  Yahweh would judge them.  Although some Israelites were sinners, they would have a bright future if they turned from their evil ways to Yahweh.

You defeated our enemies in the past (Ps 83:9-83:12)

“Do to them as you did to Midian.

Do as you did to Sisera.

Do as you did to Jabin at the river Kishon.

You destroyed them at En-dor.

They became dung for the ground.

Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb.

Make all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna.

They said.

‘Let us take the pastures of God

For our own possession.’”

The psalmist recounted the times in the past when Yahweh had helped them against enemies. He was calling on Yahweh to act now as he had in the past. Gideon defeated the Midianites in Judges, chapter 7. Deborah defeated General Sisera and King Jabin in Judges, chapter 4. En-dor was a Canaanite city. Gideon defeated Oreb and Zeeb, 2 captains of the Midianites, in Judges, chapter 7. Gideon also defeated Zebah and Zalmunna in Judges, chapter 8. Obviously this psalmist had the Book of Judges or something similar at his disposal, as he recounted the deeds of Deborah and Gideon before the time of King Saul and King David.

The righteous Tobit (Tob 1:6-1:9)

“But I alone went often to Jerusalem for the festivals, as it is prescribed for all Israel by an everlasting decree. I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the first fruits of the crops and the firstlings of the flock, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep. I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar. Likewise, I would give a tenth of the grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and rest of the fruits to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem. Also for six years I would save up a second tenth in money and go and distribute it in Jerusalem. A third tenth I would give to the orphans and widows, and to the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. I would bring it and give it to them in the third year. We would eat it according to the ordinance decreed concerning it in the Law of Moses and according to the instructions of Deborah, the mother of my father Tobiel. My father had died and left me an orphan. When I became a man I married a woman named Anna, a member of our family. By her I became the father of a son I called Tobias.”

Tobit goes on to explain why he is righteous. He went alone to the festivals at Jerusalem. The fact that he could take time to go to Jerusalem meant that he might have been among the rich of his area. He brought his tithes with him. He explained that he gave the tithes to the priests and Levites in Jerusalem. Every 3rd year, he would give a 10th to the orphans, widows, and converts to Judaism. This is one of the mentions of converts to Judaism. He followed the ordinances of the Law of Moses and his grandmother Deborah since his father had died and left him an orphan. Finally, he married Anna, from his family, and had a son called Tobias.

My Understanding of Judges

The Book of Judges is a series of odd stories about the twelve judges in Israel. Some judges seem important and others do not. There was no set pattern of how the judges came to be judges. However, all of them receive ‘the Spirit of Yahweh.’ These judges seem more like military leaders who are then somehow put in charge to keep peace.

However, there is a practical mini-play within each judge story. The Israelites do evil or bad things that displease Yahweh. They usually turn away from Yahweh to Baals or other gods. Then the enemies of Israel get an upper hand. So then the people cry to Yahweh for a leader. Yahweh then sends his ‘Spirit’ on this new leader. The new leader or judge defeats the enemy. Peace is then restored temporarily or for a period of time, until the next incident occurs.

The basic structure is simple. There are two introductions summarizing what had happened to Canaan and what was going on there. Then the stories of the twelve judges unfolded. Finally there is an appendix about the Danites and Benjaminites and what happened to them.

Judges seems to have two sources. One seems to be a collection of oral stories about local tribal heroes. The second source might be a lost book about the wars of Israel. It is not clear whether this was a compilation of stories or the work of one individual putting them together. Clearly there was a monarchist tendency with a pro-Judah stance that would date it to the time of the kings or later. Judges talks about this period being a time without kings so that everyone did what they thought was right. It definitely is in the Deuteronomytradition, following up on Joshua. Once again, this would put the final redaction and writing of this book in the sixth or seventh century BCE around the time of the Exile. In fact, in the appendix there is a mention of ‘up to the time of the captivity.’

The six major judges are Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, a female judge, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, a real super hero. The six lesser judges are Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. The last six are barely mentioned with just a sentence or two about them. On the other hand, the major judges have wonderful stories or incidents around their lives. The four major ones, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson have longer more elaborate stories, while Othniel and Ehud have only one simple story about them.

Each judge had an enemy. Othniel fought the King of Aram. Ehud killed the fat King Eglon the Moabite in his chamber. Deborah with Barak the field general fought Sisera, the captain of King Jabin at Hazor. Judges then has a beautiful canticle where Deborah empathizes with Sisera’s mother. Gideon fought against the gods of Baal. He was involved in a lot of battles with the people on the east side of the Jordan, particularly the Midianites and the Amalekites. Abimelech, the bastard son of Gideon, killed his seventy brothers. He was like the first king, at least of a certain area around Shechem. Jephthah fought against the Ammonites. Then, of course, super hero strong Samson fought against the Philistines. There are some fantastic stories about Samson, his riddles, his super strength, Delilah and the cutting his hair, with his final suicide destruction of the Philistine temple.

The Appendix at the end of this book has two stories without judges, about the Danites and Benjaminites. Both stories are quirky. Somehow this guy Micah had his own little shrine. However, the Danites took his Levite priest and his idol. They then attacked the northern town of Laish and established themselves in northern Israel.

The other story took place at Gibeah, where there was this terrible incident that almost led to the extinction of the Benjaminites. Some townspeople raped and killed the concubine of a Levite, who got everyone relied up against the people of Gibeah. The Benjaminites took issue and were nearly wiped out in a battle with the rest of Israel. Then they find a strange way to help the Benjamin tribe survive.

So the period of time when everyone did what they wanted was slowing coming to an end. Judges is a fairly good example of the various tribal skirmishes that took place in the Promised Land. Sometimes, it was tribe against tribe, while other times, there was a common enemy. Each one of the judges had a call from Yahweh. They were not kings, but more like fighting prophets filled with the ‘Spirit of Yahweh.’

Deborah (Judg 4:4-4:10)

“At that time Deborah a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim. Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali. She said to him. ‘Yahweh, the God of Israel, commands you to go take a position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops. I will give him into your hand.’ Barak said to her. ‘If you will go with me, I will go. But if you will not go with me, I will not go.’ She said. ‘I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for Yahweh will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. Ten thousand warriors went up behind him. Deborah went up with him also.”

Deborah, a married woman prophet plays a major role here. This is a female judge, who is supposedly the 4th judge in Israel. She lived in Ephraim near Bethel. Barak was a warrior from Naphtali and not her husband. Barak wanted her to go with him. She said she would if he got the troops and let a women kill Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. He got 10,000 troops from Zebulun and Naphtali. So out they went to battle.