The name Anna comes from the Hebrew hannah, which means "grace".
Anna, daughter of Phanuel, was a prophet of the New Testament, as Miriam, Deborah and Huldah were in the Old Testament. She is only mentioned once in the Bible, in the above verses of the Gospel of Luke.
Anna came from the tribe of Asher, one of the ten tribes of the extinct Kingdom of Israel who were scattered by the Assyrians many years before the Babylonians invaded the Kingdom of Judah and took Jews to captivity. There was a tradition according to which women of the tribe of Asher were remarkable for their beauty and talent. Certainly she would be spiritually virtuous, because living Jerusalem Anna "did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day".
When she was very old (at least one hundred and ten years, having been widowed eighty-four years before, after a marriage that lasted sixteen), she was as always serving God in the temple, and there she had the privilege of witnessing a fact unprecedented throughout history: on that day Christ was brought by His parents as a child for the ritual of purification of Mary and for the dedication of her first child in obedience to the law of Moses.
These were the last in a series of three rituals carried out by the parents of Jesus shortly after His birth, mentioned by Luke in this chapter 2 of his Gospel:
The circumcision of Jesus: it was done eight days after birth. It was part of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Genesis 17:11,12) of which the young boy participated as his Descendant. On this same day, the boy was given His name, according to the Jewish ritual. An angel of the Lord had previously instructed Mary and Joseph to give him the name of JESUS "because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
The purification of Mary: in obedience to the law of Moses, after thirty-three days from giving birth, during which she could not touch any sacred thing nor enter the sanctuary, Mary should bring to the priest at the temple “a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering.” But as she was not able to bring a lamb, she was allowed to bring “just two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering” (Leviticus 12).
The consecration of Jesus: obeying the command of the Lord, the child Jesus was presented on this same opportunity to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, because he was the firstborn son of Mary (Exodus 13: 2).
Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon also came to the temple on this occasion. He was a “just and devout man, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms…”
Since their return from captivity in Babylon, Jews never enjoyed national sovereignty, always being subdued by their enemies, first the Persians, after them the Greeks and finally the Romans. The whole nation longed for its release, and hoped that this would come from God through Christ (Anointed), or Messiah in Hebrew. This was the hope of Anna and Simeon and for many long years they were encouraged with the prospect that the Messiah would come in their days, especially after the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would see Christ of the Lord before he died.
At the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple, Simeon acknowledged that the child was the Messiah promised by God and rejoiced greatly, because that fulfilled the prophecy made by the prophets of antiquity to send them a Saviour and Redeemer, the "Consolation of Israel".
Taking the Child in his arms, Simeon blessed God for allowing him to see His salvation, and blessed his parents and told Mary that her Son "was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against ...”
We understand that “the fall and rising of many in Israel” meant that the arrogant and the unbelievers among the people would be punished, but those who humbled themselves and trusted in the Lord Jesus would be raised and blessed. Jesus would be “for or a sign which will be spoken against” which means contradiction because of His shameful death on the cross instead of the political victory over the Romans which was expected of the Messiah. His death would be like a sword piercing through the soul of Mary, and the thoughts and purposes of the hearts of many would be tested and manifested according to the decision that they would have to take for or against Christ.
The Salvation of God, embodied in the person of Jesus (this name means "Yahweh is salvation" or "LORD the Saviour") would have a great impact on the world, being a light to bring revelation to the gentiles and the glory of His people Israel:
By means of the light of the Gospel, the grace of God spreads over the whole world offering propitiation for their sins by faith in Christ (1 John 2:2).
The salvation of God is the glory of Israel, because God chose these people to make Himself known and to send His Son through them to bring salvation to mankind (Romans 9:4).
Then Anna came in and "gave thanks to the Lord” expressing her deep gratitude to God for sending the promised Saviour, and then "spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem is a city of great antiquity, and appears as Urusalim on Assyrian monuments of stone of the eighth century before Christ. There are differing opinions about the exact meaning of the original name: translated from the Syriac Language it could be "city of peace" or "town of (the god) Salem", but translated from Hebrew it is "foundation of peace". It seems an irony of history that throughout the time of its existence a town with this name has had so little peace, and that so much blood has been shed for its conquest. It is called "Holy City" in both the old and the New Testament (Isaiah 48:2, 52:1, Nehemiah 11:1, Matthew 4:5 and 27:53).
After the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, the city of Jerusalem continued to be occupied by the Jebusites until it was captured by King David in 1048 BC (2 Samuel 5: 5-7.9), who made it capital of his Kingdom of Israel (like Bethlehem, Jerusalem is called "City of David" in the Bible) and, in the Division of this Kingdom after the death of his son Solomon, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Judah (whence comes the name "Jews"). God chose the city of Jerusalem "to set His name there" (1 Kings 11:13,32, 14:21, 2 Kings 21: 4.7) and then rejected it because of their idolatry (2 Kings 23:27).
The Kingdom of Judah was annihilated by the Chaldeans, who were defeated by the Persians, then came the Macedonians and finally these were defeated by the Romans. At this point Jerusalem became the capital of the Roman province of Judea. Thus, in the times of Anna, the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffered the yoke of the Roman Empire and many "looked for redemption in Jerusalem" forecast by the prophets of the Old Testament, particularly Zechariah (Chapter 14) and Malachi 3:4. Their prophecies will be fulfilled after the Millennium, but first it was necessary for the Messiah to come as Saviour and it was His presentation that Anna witnessed and, as a prophetess, "spoke concerning him, to all those looking for redemption in Jerusalem ".
The Lord Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans which took place on 70 a.D. (Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, Luke 19:44 and 21:6). It was slowly rebuilt by Gentiles and today it is a modern city owned, in part, by the country of Israel, and a new temple is being expected. But Jerusalem will suffer major damage during the period of the tribulation, and the whole territory in which it currently finds itself will be elevated to form a big mountain, which will be the highest in the world. The city will be rebuilt on a vast plateau of some 2,500 km² on the mountaintop (Isaiah 2:2-4, Micah 4:1-2, Ezekiel 17:22-24, 20:40-41, 40:1-4, 45:1-8, 48:8-20), and all the survivors of the people of Israel will be gathered to live in their own land (Isaiah 43:5-7, Jeremiah 31:7-10, Ezekiel 11:14-18, 47:13-21, 48). In it Jesus Christ will construct a new temple that will host the world government (Isaiah 2:2-4, Ezekiel 43:7, Daniel 2:44-45, 7:13-27, Zechariah 6:12-13, 14:8-9, Revelation 11:15).
Soon after the Millennium there will be a new heaven and a new Earth, where the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven from God, a holy city of magnificent splendour (Revelation 3:12, 21:2, 21:10). This is finally the awaited redeemed Jerusalem, inhabited by all the saints of God purchased by the blood of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was He who, shortly after he was born of the humble virgin Mary, was presented to God at the Temple in Jerusalem to the great rejoicing of old Anna, the prophetess.
This is another evidence of what David exclaimed to the Lord in Psalm 90:4: "For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night", and it was remembered by Peter "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8).
All the prophecies we have from God were, are and will be fulfilled in good time in the divine calendar.