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.

Tobit and Tobias were afraid (Tob 12:16-12:22)

“Both of them were shaken. They fell face down. They were afraid. But Raphael said to them.

‘Do not be afraid!

Peace be with you!

Bless God forevermore.

As for me,

When I was with you,

I was not acting on my own will,

But by the will of God.

Bless him each and every day.

Although you were watching me,

l really did not eat or drink anything.

What you were seeing was a vision.

So now get up from the ground.

Acknowledge God!

See!

I am ascending to him who sent me.

Write down all these things that have happened to you.’

He ascended. Then they stood up. They could see him no more. They kept blessing God. They kept singing his praises. They acknowledged God for these marvelous deeds of his, when an angel of God had appeared to them.”

Obviously Tobit and Tobias were shuck up over this experience. They fell face down on the ground afraid. Then Raphael spoke to them again. He told them not to be afraid. They should have peace and bless God forever. Raphael explained that he was sent by God. Although he was with them all this time, he never ate or drank anything. I am surprised that Tobias never noticed this. Raphael explained that he was a vision. Then he ascended into heaven. He told them to write down what had happened to them. Tobit and Tobias kept praising God for the marvelous deeds that God had done for them by sending an angel to help them.

The importance of almsgiving (Tob 12:8-12:10)

“Prayer with fasting is good.

Better than both is almsgiving with righteousness.

A little with righteousness is better

Than wealth with wrongdoing.

It is better to give alms

Than to lay up gold.

Almsgiving saves from death.

Almsgiving purges away every sin.

Those who give alms will enjoy a full life.

Those who commit sin

Those who do wrong

Are their own worst enemies.”

Raphael’s prayer continues by insisting on the importance of almsgiving. Raphael says that almsgiving is better than prayer and fasting. Being poor and righteous is better than having wealth doing wrong. It is better to give than to lay away gold. Almsgiving will save you from death and purge away every sin. If you give gifts, you will enjoy a full life. Here then is the final admonition like the wisdom literature. Those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies. In other words, sin and wrong doing will come back at you.

 

Tobias heals his father Tobit (Tob 11:9-11:14)

“Then Anna ran to her son. She threw her arms around him.

‘Now that I have seen you,

My child,

I am ready to die.’

She wept. Then Tobit got up. He came stumbling out through the courtyard door. Tobias went up to him, with the gall of the fish in his hand. Holding him firmly, he blew into eyes, saying.

‘Take courage, father!’

With this he applied the medicine to his eyes. It made them smart. Next, with both his hands he peeled off the white films from the corners of his eyes. Then Tobit saw his son. He threw his arms around him.

‘I see you, my son,

The light of my eyes!’”

Tobias’ mother ran to her son and threw her arms around him. She wept and said that she could die now because she had finally seen him. Tobit tried to go to greet him, but he stumbled. Then Tobias went to greet him with the fish gall in his hand. He held his father tightly as he blew into his eyes and applied the fish gall medicine that smarted. Then the white films from the corners of his eyes were peeled off. Tobit could see his son, the light of his life. The healing of the eyes had taken place just as Raphael had said it would.

The plan to heal Tobit’s eyes (Tob 11:1-11:4)

“When they came near to Kaserin, which is opposite Nineveh, Raphael said.

‘You are aware of how we left your father.

Let us run ahead of your wife.

Let us prepare the house while they are still on the way.’  

As they went on together Raphael said to Tobias.

‘Have the gall of the fish ready.’

The dog went along behind them.”

It was about 400 miles from Ecbatana to Nineveh, so there is no indication of how long this trip took. As they got close to Nineveh, Raphael wanted him and Tobias to go ahead of the caravan of people so that they could prepare the house for his new bride. Raphael wanted to know if Tobias still had the fish gall bladder. Once again, as at the beginning of this trip, the dog appears to be with them, although there was no other mention of him throughout this trip.

The defeat of the demon (Tob 8:1-8:3)

“When they had finished eating and drinking, they wanted to retire. They took the young man and brought him into the bedroom. Then Tobias remembered the words of Raphael. He took the fish liver and heart out of the bag where he had put them. He put them on the embers of the incense. The odor of the fish was so repelling to the demon that he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt. However, Raphael followed him and at once bound him there hand and foot.”

After they had finished eating and drinking, they led Tobias to the bedroom. However, he remembered what Raphael had told him about the fish. He took out the fish liver and heart that he had been carrying. He then put them on the incense embers to create an odor that made the demon flee to Egypt. There in Egypt, the angel Raphael tied up his hands and feet. There is a story for you. The big brave evil demon spirit was afraid of a fish smell. He fled to Egypt where Tobias’s guardian angel Raphael caught the evil spirit and then tied up his hands and feet. Egypt was considered the traditional place of magic and witchcraft so it was a good place for evil spirits to go. However, since when did evil spirits have hands and feet?

The question of marriage (Tob 7:9-7:11)

“When they had bathed and washed themselves, they reclined to dine with large servings of food before them. Then Tobias said to Raphael.

‘Brother Azariah,

Ask Raguel to give me my kinswoman Sarah.’

However, Raguel overhead it. He said to the lad.

‘Eat and drink!

Be merry tonight!

No one except you, brother,

Has the right to marry my daughter Sarah.

Likewise, I am not at liberty to give her to any other man than you Because you are my nearest relative.

But let me explain to you the true situation more fully, my child.

I have given her to seven of our kinsmen.

They all died on the night when they went in to her.

But now, my child, eat and drink.

The Lord shall act on behalf of you both.’”

Clearly the father had complete control of the marriage. Tobias wanted Raphael to make the proposal to Raguel, the father of Sarah. However, Raguel overheard them talking. He told them to eat, drink, and be merry. There was no problem since Tobit was the only one available to marry her. Raguel then recounted that all 7 kinsmen before him had all died on the wedding night. That is why they should enjoy tonight. Everything will be all right in time.