17-2-3 Hannah And Mary
Hannah’s example not only influenced Mary, but also Anna.
‘Anna’ is an unusual first century name; “of the 247 Jewish women in Palestine
from the period 330 BCE - 200 CE whose names are known, Anna [in
Luke 2] is the only one who bears this name” (Tal Ilan, ‘Notes of the
distribution of Jewish women’s names in Palestine’, Journal of Jewish
Studies Vol. 40 (1989) pp. 186,193). She therefore named herself this
after Hannah, the Hebrew equivalent of Anna; she was inspired by Hannah’s
example of waiting and praying in the sanctuary for a child. For Anna,
the coming of Messiah was equivalent to having her own child. Her hope
for Messiah’s coming was something which she felt personally. We too are
awaiting the Lord’s coming- but with anything of her intensity and feeling?
She looked for redemption to appear in Jerusalem (Lk. 2:25,38), clearly
alluding to the LXX of Is. 52:9: “The Lord has comforted his people, he
has redeemed Jerusalem”. She saw the coming of that little baby as the
redemption of God’s people; she had the faith to see things yet unseen.
The Hebrew for ‘redemption’ can imply ‘with blood’- is it going too far
to suggest that she perceived the need for that little baby to grow up
and then shed His blood for Israel’s redemption? Her father’s name, Phanuel,
is the Hebrew ‘Peniel’, meaning ‘the face of God’. And ‘Hannah’ means
‘God’s grace’. Straight away we see a link to Num. 6:25: “The Lord make
his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you”. The connection
implies God’s passionate joy at her attitude and existence. Her remaining
in the temple was perhaps inspired by passages like Ps. 27:4, where David
spoke of his desire to dwell in the temple all the days of his life in
order to see God’s beauty- which she understood in terms of His Son. And
especially, Mal. 3:1, which speaks of the Lord’s coming to His temple.
We must ask ourselves what our Bible study and knowledge actually leads
to. A study of Romans 6 may lead to baptism; but all God’s word demands
of us an actual and concrete response in the things of real life. She
allowed the example of another woman, Hannah, to influence her, perhaps
even to the point of changing her name; what of us?