Simeon and Anna

September 9, 2018

Simeon and Anna

"Simeon and Anna"

Simeon and Anna are elderly prophets serving in the temple when Joseph and Mary present the infant Jesus for his dedication to the Lord. They are recorded in the second chapter of Luke and are significant in that they both recognize Jesus for who he is. After the birth of a son, a mother would need to wait 40 days before entering the temple to offer a sacrifice for her purification. Additionally, the firstborn male, man or animal, would need to be dedicated to the Lord. The distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is about 6 miles. Here are the background passages:

Exodus 13:1-2 1. The Lord said to Moses, 2. "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal."

-and-

Leviticus 12:1-8 1. The Lord said to Moses, 2. "Say to the Israelites: 'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. 6. " 'When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. " 'These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.' "

Simeon the God Receiver

Luke 2:25-35 25. Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.* 27. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28. Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29. "Sovereign Lord, as you have
promised,
you now dismiss your servant in
peace.
30. For my eyes have seen your
salvation,
31.which you have prepared in the
sight of all people,
32. a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people
Israel."**

33. The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.34. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35. so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."***

* Luke doesn't elaborate on this point but a tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church has Simeon as one of the Septuagint translators; one of 72 translators (six from each tribe) converting the Hebrew scrolls into Greek. When Simeon got to Isaiah 7:14, he was tempted to translate "The virgin will be with child..." to "The woman will be with child...". Just then, an angel appeared and told him he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. FYI, the Septuagint was compiled in the third and second century BC. If Simeon was a scribe at the end of the process, he would have been well between one and two hundred years old when Jesus was presented at the Temple.

** This Song of Simeon is often called the Nunc Dimittis taken from the first words of the Latin Vulgate translation, meaning "now you dismiss". It is often recited, or sung during liturgical services in Catholic and Lutheran services. Notice in verse 32 an explicit reference to the inclusion of Gentiles.

*** Consider the changes to the status quo Jesus would make: Poor people, women, Gentiles, slaves, minorities, ALL PEOPLE will have the same access to God that is currently considered a privilege of the elite. And many who consider themselves favored by God will come to realize that the ground is truly level at the cross. The last line, "And a sword will pierce your own soul too" is the first reference to suffering Jesus will endure and the pain it will cause Mary.

Anna the Prophetess

Luke 2:36-38 36. There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37. and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.* She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

The name Anna has the same meaning as Hanna, gracious. Anna is given the designation of prophetess though Luke doesn't explain why. The designation is significant though; she is the only prophetess listed as such in the new testatment (In ACTS 21:8-9 Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied, but they weren't refered to as prophetesses nor are they named.) She had spent most of her life in the Temple praying and fasting and "never leaving the temple" so she likely had a thorough understanding of the scripture and had perhaps a similar anticipation to the coming of Christ as Simeon. It's also interesting that her tribal affiliation is given, Asher. Most characters in the new testament do not associate with a given tribal identity.

* The NIV translation says Anna was a widow until she was eighty-four and the footnote says Or widow for eighty-four years. Luke's text says she was very old and the prevailing view was she would have married at 14 and widowed at 21 making her 105 years old. A little closer in age to Simeon.


Lagniappe - Lost Tribes

The Lost Tribes of Israel was a term I encountered when referencing Anna, e.g. she was from "the lost tribe of Asher" - it is not a term used in the bible. One source mentioned that it was interesting that Luke would record Anna's tribal association and it is true that characters in the new testament generally don't list their tribe's lineage to the extent they did in the old testament. So I had to Google it.

The Lost Tribes of Israel refer to the Northern Kingdom driven into captivity by Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in 732BC. The Northern Kingdom was comprised of the tribes of Rebuen, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh who had rejected the rule of Solomon's son, Rehoboam. The Southern Kingdom consisted of Judah and Benjamin and would be driven into Babylonian exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 598 BC. The tribe of Levi, having no land apportionment, had members living in both kingdoms.

The Babylonians were conquered by the Persians around 540 BC. effectively ending the exile. Jerusalem was restored by the remnant of the Southern Kingdom rendering the Northern Kingdom lost.