Why is Anna the Prophetess significant?

In this week’s reading, I particularly focused on Anna, the prophetess from Chapter 2 in Luke.

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I wondered why Anna was mentioned, with her short biography which included her geneology. Was the mention of Phanuel or the tribe of Asher significant? Why is this elderly sibyl significant?

I found that Anna was the only female prophetess in the New Testament to be given a name, an honor that her husband is not granted within the verses above. This in itself mandates an importance to her mentioning within the text. Her interaction with Jesus and his family is to confirm the messianic prophecy and obviously spread the word that he had come (Biblical Archaeology).

I then explored Anna’s heritage. The man Phanuel was rarely mentioned in any sources, but the angel Phanuel had scores of documents and articles for me to search through. Phanuel, the angel, is considered the angel of repentance and hope, encouraging people to be forgiven of their sins (Angels & Miracles). His name also means “face of God”. He is listed as a possible fourth archangel in the Book of Enoch (Archangels-Bloggy), an influential yet apocryphal book to the Torah, and is considered the ruler of the Ophanim, or the “wheels” which guard the throne of heaven (Angels & Miracles). Perhaps the redactors knew to draw the conclusions between the redemptive angel and Anna, as a way to point out the nature of Christ’s message of forgiveness of sins, the pure hope that he gave some of the Jewish people, and that Jesus was the literal face of God.

A depiction of the Ophanim—-which wheel is Phanuel?!

The second listed point of Anna’s geneology is the tribe of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and the second son of Zilpah (Judaism 101). According to Gematria or Hebrew numerology, eight symbolizes new beginnings while two denotes witnessing; together, the witnessing of a new beginning occurs (The Twelve Tribes of Israel). This is most definitely what Anna is doing at the time of these verses. She sees a youthful Jesus beginning his path as messiah, and dares to declare it, confirming the prophecies of the Old Testament. Historically, the tribe of Asher was truly loyal to David, going to war in his favour at the time of his coronation (Biblehub). Knowing that the messiah is of the Davidic lineage, it makes perfect sense that the prophetess would be an Asherite. The New Testament redactors are again pointing out the confirmation of Jesus as messiah according to Old Testament parallels.

Anna is significant because of her heritage and her duty as a prophetess. Her entire life has been spent dedicated to prayer, as denoted in the previously listed verses. She fasts, never leaving the temple, remaining in a holy state. Luke’s mention of this old woman is to not only confirm the Messiah’s identity, but to spread the redemption message as well.

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What is the significance of Ezekiel’s hairy ways?

As I have read through the Old Testament, I have had a tendency to notice verses relating to hair. This week’s hirsute verse comes from Ezekiel 5:1-6:

“And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber’s razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair. A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword after them. And you shall take from these a small number and bind them in the skirts of your robe. And of these again you shall take some and cast them into the midst of the fire and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will come out into all the house of Israel.”

I wished to know the significance of Ezekiel cutting his hair and beard. What was the meaning of the parting the hair into thirds, and using them in symbolic rituals? Do these rituals have any significance for the Israelites? Is there a significance to thirds or the number three in Judaism?

Ezekiel divvying up his hair.

Ezekiel was a priest, and instructed as such, he followed Levitical laws absolutely, especially in terms of hygiene. One of these laws governs the way a priest trims his hair and beard. Shaving his head and face likens Ezekiel to a pagan priest, making his bald status humiliating and degrading (Bible Study Tools). Ezekiel’s hair signifies the people of Israel, and by removing it, symbolizes the Protagonist’s utter desertion of His people (Sacred Texts). Using a sword lends a violent tint to the action, reminding the Israelites that the Protagonist’s judgement is to be violent and sharp as a sword. It also reminds the people that this weapon is capable of execution; as a people, the Israelites feared eradication by other nations, and Ezekiel’s removal of hair with a sword only drove this point home most compellingly.

Gimel -> justification of punishment

The next step Ezekiel takes with his depilatory results is to split the hairs into three distinct piles for there separate and symbolic rituals. The number three has significance in Judaism, particularly in the study of numbers or gematria. Gematria has  specific correlations from Hebrew lettering to numbers. The number three, in particular, symbolizes gimel; this word is derived from the Hebrew gemul, meaning “justified payment” or “giving reward as well as punishment”. In addition, this symbolizes the constant progression of the Jewish person (The Hebrew Letters). Ezekiel’s three piles of hair symbolize the rightful punishment of the Israelites by the Protagonist. In addition, the punishment of the Israelites forces them back to the path of the Protagonist, a progression forward from their idolatrous ways. The actions done with the hair is what will happen to the Israelites. This idea is perpetuated in further along in Ezekiel 5:12:

“A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the swords all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them.”

This verse confirms the actions that Ezekiel takes with his hair. He first burns a pile in the middle of the city of Jerusalem, to show that it has been consumed by famine and pestilence during the siege. The second portion was to be struck with a sword; more literally, the Israelites were to die from warfare.The third remaining part was to be scattered on the wind. This literally meant that the Israelites were to disperse throughout the lands. They were to be constantly chased by the sword or violence, and the Israelites would live out their days in captivity. A small select bit of hair was to be plucked and kept from this pile, safely stored in the skirts of Ezekiel’s robe. This little dusting of hair represents the Jews that are to survive the Protagonist’s punishment (Ezekiel Commentary). This message of destruction bringing redemption is yet another example of the continuity of the message of Deuteronimistic history.

Ezekiel isn’t the only one who cuts his hair to save his people…

As I have learned from my research, Ezekiel’s bizarre actions concerning a pantomime of burnt, cut, and discarded hair truly relate to the divine punishment doled out by the Protagonist. Such simple imagery portrayed Ezekiel’s prophecy for the Israelites clearly enough to allow a small group (the saved hairs) to survive the divine judgement that was the continuation of Deuteronomistic history.