The prophet Anna (Lk 2:36-2:36)

“There was a prophet,


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.

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.

Yahweh recalls his saving action from Egypt (Mic 6:3-6:4)

“O my people!

What have I done

To you?

In what have I wearied you?

Answer me!

I brought you up

From the land of Egypt.

I redeemed you

From the house of slavery.

I sent before you




Yahweh, via Micah, recalled his saving action from Egypt.  He had saved his people, Israel from slavery.  He had done so much for the Israelites.  He wanted them to remember that he had weaned them as a new country.  He had sent 3 great leaders like Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, all from one family in Egypt.

The thanksgiving canticle of Judith (Jdt 15:14-16:4)

“Judith began this thanksgiving before all Israel. All the people loudly sang this song of praise. Judith said.

‘Begin a song to my God with tambourines!

Sing to my Lord with cymbals!

Raise to him a new psalm!

Exalt him!

Call upon his name!

The Lord is a God who crushes wars.

He sets up his camp among his people.

He delivered me form the hands of my pursuers.

The Assyrian came down from the mountains of the north.

He came with myriads of his warriors.

Their numbers blocked up the Wadis.

Their cavalry covered the hills.

He boasted that he would burn up my territory.

He would kill my young men with the sword.

He would dash my infants to the ground.

He would seize my children as booty.

He would take my virgins as spoil.’”

This appears to be a canticle of Judith. In a sense, it is like the summary canticle in Tobit, chapter 13. Yet all the people seem to sing this song. This beautiful hymn harkens back to Exodus, chapter 15, where there is a victory chant of Moses after they got out of Egypt. This also seems like the short victory chant of Miriam, the sister of Moses. This song is to be sung with tambourines and cymbals. Once again, there is a correlation to the psalms also. You are to exalt the Lord because he crushes or decides wars. God delivered Judith from the hands of her enemies. The mighty Assyrian strong northern warrior blocked the brooks, the valleys, and the mountains. They were going to burn our territory, kill our young men and infants, and seize our children and virgins. The enemy is always portrayed in the worst light.

The sons of Amram (1 Chr 6:3-6:3)

“The children of Amram were Aaron, Moses, and Miriam.”

Based on Exodus, chapter 6, Amram, the son of Kohath and grandson of Levi, married Jochebed, his father’s sister and thus his aunt. He lived 137 years. He had two important sons Aaron, whose name appears in biblical literature over 340 times, and Moses, whose name appears over 9,000 times in the biblical literature, as well as a daughter named Miriam, whose name only appears 13 times. The most interesting character is Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who married Amram, her nephew, whose name only appears 2 times. Jochebed is an odd character since she is the mother of Moses and Aaron, as well as the daughter of Levi, who was born in Egypt, which means very little time passed between Joseph and Moses. However, the earlier passages in Exodus seem to indicate a long lag time because no one in Egypt remembered Joseph. Surely Jochebed would have remembered her uncle Joseph. In the passage about the birth of Moses her name never comes up, just the descriptive ‘mother of the child.’   The same is true of Moses’ sister Miriam, who is also nameless in the Exodus, chapter 2 passage, where the parents are simply called Levites. Many rabbis have tried to interpret Jochebed as a cousin of Kohath, rather than his sister, but the translation texts, both English and French, speak of her as a sister of Kohath and therefore the aunt of Amram. Not too many people marry their aunts so that Moses and Aaron’s mom was also their great aunt.


Ezrah (1 Chr 4:17-4:18)

“The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. These are the sons of Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered married. She conceived and bore Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah, the father of Eshtemoa. His Jewish wife bore Jered the father of Gedor, Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah.”

This is the only mention of Ezrah and his son Jalon in the biblical literature. There were 6 different people with the name of Jeter, the most famous being the Jether, who was the father of Amasa in 1 Kings, chapter 2. There appears to be 2 other people with the name of Epher, 1 a son of Midian in Genesis, chapter 25, and other in the Manasseh tribe later in this book. Mered is mentioned twice here because he married Bithiah, a daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. They had 2 children, Ishbah, who is only mentioned here, and Shammai, which is the same name as a son of Onam and Rekem. Ishbah, however, became the father or founder of Eshtemoa, a Levite city in Judah, since probably his son founded this town. Ezrah married a Jewish woman and they had 3 children. Jered is a name mentioned earlier in this book. Gedor became the name of a place in the hills of Judah. There were 7 people named Heber in the biblical literature. This Heber is the founder of Soco, which is a city in Judah. Although this is the only mention of Jekuthiel, he founded another town in Judah called Zanoah.

Leprosy (Deut 24:8-24:9)

“Guard against an outbreak of leprous skin disease by being very careful. You shall carefully observe whatever the Levitical priests instruct you, just as I have commanded them. Remember what Yahweh your God did to Miriam on your journey out of Egypt.”

They were really afraid of leprosy. This is like Leviticus, chapters 13-14, and Numbers, chapter 12. There is the reminder of what happened to Miriam. The Levite was the priest, the doctor, and the judge on leprosy.

My understanding of Numbers

The Book of Numbers is more than numbers. This is really the continuation of the story of what happened to the Israelites after they left Mount Sinai and before they entered the Promised Land. This is the story of the time in the wilderness. There were many ups and downs in this story.

The first section is really the census or the actual counting of the Israelite males. There never was any counting of females or children. The 12 tribes started counting males from the age of 20. The two descendants of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh were considered separate tribes, but the sons of Levi were not considered among the 12 tribes ready for war. The result of the census of the 12 tribes was over 600,000 males over the age of 20. Each tribe had a special place to camp in the settlement. This probably made for good order. This would make a group of around 2,000,000 people if you count women and children.

The Levites had a separate census. They counted their males from the age of 1 month instead of from 20 years old. Thus the Levites had 22,000 males. They also camped closest to the tent of meeting. There were specific roles for the three major clans of Levi, Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Each clan had to carry a certain part of the tent of meeting and the sanctuary. No one else could do this work. The Levites were special to Yahweh. In fact they were the substitutes for the first-born males of all the other clans. There was just about enough Levites to cover this.

There were some special laws that may have been among other ancient people, but received a special Mosaic value. There were regulations about how and when the impure or unclean people had to leave the camp. Restitution with the next of kin was important. If there was no one alive to make restitution, the restitution would go to the priest. The jealousy offering was a strange law about how any jealous husband could accuse his wife of infidelity. She then had to go before the priest and drink a special water to see if she was faithful or not. The Nazirite vows for a short period of time meant separation from others, letting your hair grow, and not having anything to do with grapes or its product wine. Finally there was the beautiful priestly blessing.

The tribal leaders gave great offerings to the sanctuary for the dedication of the altar. The date of the Passover was fixed, the 14th day of the 1st month, with special rules for those who could be excused from the Passover feast. The divine cloud covered the camp. This cloud led them forward and told them when to stop and rest. The trumpets were used to command the Israelites when to move or not move. They finally got their marching orders from Yahweh. Moses with the Israelites set out on the long trek to the Promised Land.

The complaints began to emerge, first about the manna and then about Moses himself. Yahweh was upset that the people were not listening to Moses. Yahweh sent an effusion of his Spirit among the various elders and leaders of the Israelites to help Moses. Then Yahweh sent the quails for meat all around the camp. Miriam and Aaron began to complain against their brother Moses. Guess what, Yahweh was not pleased. Miriam had leprosy for a month, after the intercession of Aaron and Moses saved her life.

Moses sent out a reconnaissance crew to spy on Canaan. The report back was that the task would be difficult. The Canaanites were tall and strong. They lived in fortified towns. The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt. Once again Yahweh was angry and wanted to kill them all and just start with Moses alone. Finally, he stopped the plague among the Israelites. Moses used the bronze snake to stop a plague. There punishment was that no one living would see the Promised Land, only their children would. Thus they spent 40 years wandering in the desert until all the complainers had died. The first battle for the Holy Land was not a success since Yahweh was not with them.

There were various worship regulations, especially about presenting the first fruits of the harvest. There were clear guidelines about inadvertent and intentional law breaking, as well the punishment for violating the Sabbath. There was a mention of the tassels on garments.

Of course, there was the revolt of Korah and the 250 men. Their punishment was to be taken alive with their families. Those who complained that Moses was taking too much credit ended up with burning censers destroying them. The story of Aaron and his blossoming branches showed Yahweh’s love of Aaron.

There was a clear division of the responsibilities between the Levites and priests. The priests or sons of Aaron had more responsibilities than the ordinary Levites. Tithing was essential to all religious life in Israel. The unique burning of the red heifer and the water cleansing ritual were also important. There was always the reminder of about touching the dead and the 7 days of impurity.   Both Miriam and Aaron died before they reached the land flowing with milk and honey.

After they reached Kadesh, they began their movement towards Canaan. Moses got water from a rock at Meribah.   However, Edom refused passage on the King’s Highway. The first battle was the taking of Hormah. Then they defeated the Amorites.

The King of Moab Balak appealed to Balaam, a Babylonian oracle to curse the Israelites. The satirical story of Balaam’s talking donkey reminded Balaam to follow the will of Yahweh. When Balaam and Balak met, Balaam blessed the Israelites instead of cursing them with his famous oracles.

They took another census where some tribes had big changes and the other tribes minimal as they prepared to invade Canaan. They also took another census of the Levites and solved the female inheritance problem.

Joshua was made the head of the community by Moses as he prepared to die. Meanwhile there was the reminder of the various offerings and sacrifices, the daily sacrifices, the Sabbath, the monthly sacrifices, Passover, the Unleavened Bread Feast, the Festival of Weeks, the Acclamation Feast, the Day of Atonement and the Festival of Tents. There were commandments about taking vows for men and women.

The Holy War against the Midianites began with no Israelite loses. Moses was angry that they had not massacred all the women who had tempted the Israelite men at Peor. After the battle the warriors had to be purified. They divided up the booty of gold and presented them to Moses and Eleazar.

They then divided up the Transjordan area between the Reubenites and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh. They talked about how to divide Canaan and what the borders should be after the capture of Canaan. They also talked about the refugee towns and the towns for the Israelites.

Numbers is really a wonderful series of stories of the Israelites in the wilderness between Mount Sinai and the invasion of Canaan. Within the stories there are the various prescriptions about how to present the sacrificial animal offerings in worship, as well as everyday life ordinances. It was better than I thought that it would be.

The intercession of Aaron and Moses (Num 12:11-12:16)

“Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed.  Do not let her be as one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.’  Moses cried to Yahweh, ‘O God, please heal her.’   But Yahweh said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days?   Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days.  After that she may be brought in again.’   So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days.  The people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.   After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.”

Aaron was worried and asked Moses to help his sister.  Moses then interceded asking Yahweh to please heal her.  Yahweh responded that if her father had spit in her face, she would bear her shame for 7 days.  So Miriam spent 7 days outside the camp, before they set out into the wilderness of Paran.  Miriam thus had a 7 day leprosy which was equivalent to being spit in the face by her father.

The divine response (Num 12:4-12:10)

“Suddenly Yahweh said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.’  Thus the three of them came out.  Then Yahweh came down in a pillar of cloud.  He stood at the entrance of the tent. He called Aaron and Miriam.  They both came forward.  He said, ‘Hear my words.  When there are prophets among you, I Yahweh make myself known to them in visions.   I speak to them in dreams.  Not so with my servant Moses.  He is entrusted with my entire house.  With him I speak face to face, clearly not in riddles.  He beholds the form of Yahweh.   Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’    The anger of Yahweh was kindled against them, and he departed. When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow.  Aaron turned towards Miriam, and saw that she was leprous.”

Suddenly Yahweh spoke to all three, Moses, Aaron and Miriam.  There is a sense of urgency to this communication.  They met Yahweh at the tent of meeting.  Yahweh was clear.  To some he made himself known in visions and others in dreams.  However, with Moses it was different.  Moses was a special prophet, not like the others.  Yahweh spoke face to face, clearly and not in riddles with Moses. Yahweh was really angry and left.  However, when he left Miriam had become leprous.  Wow, what a story.  Notice there is no punishment for Aaron, only his sister Miriam, the female, who got some kind of leprous skin disease.