Anna, the daughter of Penuel, was eighty-four years of age and long widowed. Apparently she was a member of the resident staff at the temple in Jerusalem, devoting herself to continual service in the temple. The text does not indicate why she was called a “prophet.” Her unnamed husband might have been a prophet, or perhaps she herself had spent time praising and bearing testimony or even foretelling future events under divine inspiration. In simplest terms, she obviously was a woman through whom God spoke. As a descendant of the tribe of Asher, Anna looked for the Messiah as the prophets Isaiah (Isa 9:6) and Micah (Mic 5:2) had foretold.
When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord approximately a month after his birth, they offered their sacrifices according to ancient law. He had been circumcised on the eighth day, probably in Bethlehem. Now the days of Mary’s purification were completed (see Lev 12:4). As they were in the temple, a devout man, Simeon, was moved by the Holy Spirit to be present and to hold the Infant in his arms.
Anna watched as Simeon prayed, knowing in her heart that the Messiah had come. Luke’s description of this woman helps the reader to understand the respect and veneration that she commanded. A lifetime of prayer and fasting made her comments worth reporting. She, a recognized prophetess, confirmed God’s gift of redemption and her words resonated with all who looked for salvation (Lk 2:38).
Anna personified in her day those who “serve the living and true God, and . . . wait for his Son from heaven” (1Th 1:9–10). She is a model for us; like her, women are to “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for that blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12–13).