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The Story of Ruth: The Kinsman Redeemer

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.” (Ruth 3:1-4)

Naomi knew it was just a matter of time. Once the harvest was over, their livelihood would again be in jeopardy unless…unless a kinsman redeemer[1] would step in and come to their rescue. Boaz, though not the nearest relative, would be their first resort. After all, he already knew Ruth and had shown a concern for her welfare as well as, by extension, Naomi’s own. The time had come for a bold plan.

At the threshing floor

English: Threshing place. The circle is made f...

English: Threshing place. The circle is made from concrete. Harvested straw is put on the concrete surface and a donkey is made to walk on it in circles, which causes the process of threshing. On the left (front of the picture) visible leftovers (mostly tailings and chaff). Around the perimeter there is some threshed straw. On the floor there are some threshed grains. Photo taken near Vlyhada (Santorini, Greece). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boaz worked alongside his hired men at the threshing floor—a cleared solid surface of hard-packed dirt or rock—preparing for the final stage of the weeks-long harvest.[2] Ruth watched as this kind kinsman, or was it one of his workers, expertly urged draft animals, whether oxen or donkeys is unclear, to drag heavy threshing sledges[3] back and forth over the sheaves, breaking down the stalks into husks, straw, and grain kernels. Then experienced hands wielding wooden pitchforks lifted the straw away so the process of winnowing could begin.

Winnowing the Chaff | Bamiyan

Winnowing the Chaff | Bamiyan (Photo credit: Hadi Zaher)

In the cooling evening breezes, waiting crews used winnowing forks, tossing the remaining grain into the air. Mesmerized, Ruth watched lighter stalks and husks (the chaff) be whisked away on capricious currents of wind, and the heavier kernels plummet back to the floor in a haphazard heap. Then mounds of the tawny pellets were scooped up and sifted through trays to remove any remaining dirt and debris. The clean grain was finally ready for immediate use or storage in sealed clay jars.

As the last rays of sunlight grew dusky, weary workers allowed themselves to relax, enjoying food and drink, celebrating harvest’s end. Bellies full and hearts merry, first one and then another fell silent, except for an occasional grunt and snore. Ruth’s gaze followed Boaz through the dimness as he made his way to the end of a grain pile, spread his blanket, and quickly dropped off to sleep.

Naomi’s instructions had been quite clear: Wash yourself, put on your best garment, go back to the threshing floor, and wait for the moment of opportunity. That time had come. Ruth quietly made her way to where Boaz lay, uncovered his feet, and lay down.

The Kinsman-Redeemer

Naomi’s strategy was one of enlisting the involvement of the kinsman-redeemer.[4] Now Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet, anticipating the opportunity to bring Naomi’s plan to fruition. His sleep suddenly troubled, she watched him awake with a start sensing her presence in the darkness. “Who are you?” he challenged warily. Ruth responded with her request. “I am you servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me,[5] since you are a kinsman-redeemer” (3:9 NIV).

Flattered by Ruth’s request, Boaz commended her for approaching him, since it is likely that he was considerably older than she, and she might well have chosen a younger man. Rather than interpreting her actions as wily and improper, he afforded her only kindness and respect.[6] He encouraged her to wait until morning for the sake of her reputation and for her own protection. Before first light she could safely return to Naomi, and none would be the wiser. Then he would attend to the business at hand.

Following the rules

Boaz knew there was a kinsman closer than he, and his integrity dictated that he go to him first before proceeding any further. By rights, this relative (who, though unnamed in the Bible, was obviously known to Boaz) could redeem Elimelech’s land either by buying it back, if it had indeed already been sold, or he could buy it outright.

Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend,[7] sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.'”

And he said, “I will redeem it.”

What happened next affords a certain opportunity for speculation. Was Boaz disappointed when the near kinsman quickly accepted the responsibility? He obviously had more than a casual interest in Ruth and her welfare. Or had he anticipated just such a response, and, as the astute business man he undoubtedly was (Scripture describes him as a mighty man of wealth), knew just when to bring up an additional requirement to put the negotiations in jeopardy? Note the various translations of verse 5 below:

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance” (NKJV).

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property” (NIV).

Then Boaz said, “The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance” (NRSV).

Boaz had just introduced the obligation of a levirate marriage, and the kinsman, recognizing the inherent liabilities that such an arrangement could impose on his own family, quickly forfeited his right of redemption to Boaz.[8] So, in the presence of ten official witnesses and many onlookers, Mr. So and So removed his sandal, thereby signaling the transfer of the property. A communal blessing followed:

And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman” (vv. 11-12).

The rest of the story of Ruth

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David” (vv. 13-17). 

Ruth, Naomi and Obed. Pen and brown ink over p...

Ruth, Naomi and Obed. Pen and brown ink over pencil on paper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



The book of Ruth, in its four short chapters, gives one of the few detailed glimpses into the everyday lives of Old Testament characters in the Bible, and in particular, women. The reader is exposed to the nuances of the desperate plight of three widows, two of whom found themselves displaced and in foreign lands; and marvels at their courageous efforts to survive by hard work and ingenuity. The reader senses the depth of the bond of devotion to both kin and God, and the bitter anguish of loss. The reader observes the realities and rigors of harvest and manual labor; and sits as one of the collective witnesses to the legal proceedings involving rights of inheritance and preservation of a family line. Lastly, the perceptive reader will recognize and value this book as a beautiful exemplar of kindness, the evidence of which is found on every page.

What a gift to have The Book of Ruth preserved in the pages of the Bible!


For additional reading please view Mary Hendren’s post,  Levirate Law– in Confusion.

The Writings


[1] A Ga’al (Strong’s 1350), or kinsman redeemer, could act in several ways. By definition according to , the kinsman redeemer could marry a brother’s widow to beget a child for him (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), redeem from slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49), redeem land (Leviticus 25:25), or exact vengeance (Numbers 35:19). In the book of Ruth, Boaz acted as a levir as well as one who preserved claim to the family property.

[2] It is possible that Boaz, and /or others, were overseeing the process. The Archaeological Study Bible, in its cultural and historical note on “The Threshing Floor” (page 608), comments that because the threshing floor was the largest open area within a village,“town elders were typically present to oversee the threshing of the year’s crops.” The threshing floor was also a suitable locale for “legal actions, criminal trials, and public decisions.” The city gate was also used for such proceedings as will later be seen.

[3] Sledges were heavy wooden slabs with teeth made of stone, metal or potsherds fastened to the underside. See Isaiah’s vivid description of the whole process in chapter 41, verses 14-16.

[4] Whether this was simply to assure that Elimelech’s landholdings would be preserved within family lines, or to ensure there would be a son to carry on the family name, or both, are topics for on-going discussion. Leon Wood, in his book, The Distressing Days of the Judges (1982), addresses both: “When an owner was forced to sell property due to poverty, it was the obligation of the nearest relative to buy this property back (thus ‘redeeming’ it), so that it could remain in the possession of the original family” (p. 261). Wood goes on to comment that “it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman, in this instance, not only to purchase the property of Naomi—which really also belonged to Ruth, because of inheritance rights through her dead husband Mahlon—but also to marry Ruth and raise up a son to Mahlon who might then inherit that property in due time” (p. 262).

[5] Scholars do not agree as to the meaning and symbolism associated with this action. Some feel it amounted to a request for protection, while others interpret it as a request for marriage. For a detailed examination of challenges present in the wording of the Hebrew text see, pp. 192-3.

[6] Some have chosen to attribute to both Ruth and Boaz activities or motives of a sexual nature, but others, such as The Expositor’s Bible Commentary in its note regarding Ruth 3:13, write to the contrary: “Both Ruth and Boaz acted virtuously in a situation they knew could have turned out otherwise. Chastity was not an unknown virtue in the ancient world.”

[7] The word friend (NKJV) and kinsman (KJV) in this verse is taken from a Hebrew idiom best translated “Mr. So and So.” It is translated as such in the Tanakh. This idiom is said to have been used when it was not deemed essential to use the person’s actual name. Some think they detect a certain disdain attached to its usage here, since the relative declined to step in to help. See The Expositor’s Bible Commentary comments on Ruth 4:1-3.

[8] Expositors comments concerning 4:6:”Most scholars interpret the kinsman’s refusal as an awareness that he would be paying part of what should be his own children’s inheritance to buy land that would revert to Ruth’s son as a legal heir of Elimelech.” Others posit he was reluctant to intermarry with a Moabite woman (cf. Deuteronomy 23:3-4).

Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament comments on verse 6: “The redemption would cost money, since the yearly produce of the field would have to be paid for up to the year of jubilee. Now, if he acquired the field by redemption as his own permanent property, he would have increased by so much his own possessions in land. But if he should marry Ruth, the field so redeemed would belong to the son whom he would beget through her, and he would therefore have parted with the money that he had paid for the redemption merely for the son of Ruth, so that he would have withdrawn a certain amount of capital from his own possession, and to that extent have detracted from its worth. ‘Redeem thou for thyself my redemption,’ i.e., the field which I have the first right to redeem.”(Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)


Queen Vashti—Virtuous or Rebellious?

Esther 1:10-12

10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him. NKJV

More to the story?

On the face of it this event looks like a rebellious wife who refuses the order of her husband/king. Is there more to the story? Yes, I believe there is.

The Woman’s Study Bible notes that Persian monarchs insisted on deference. “Not even the queen was allowed into the throne room unless summoned.” So for Vashti to refuse such an order was the height of disrespect and rebellion. She had to know that. Commentators have puzzled over her actions. Was she pregnant? Did she fear being ogled by a group of men? Was she a woman of nobility and character who refused an unjust command from her husband?

Historians note the reason for the 180-day spectacle mentioned in Esther 1 was for Xerxes to impress his officials and servants of his kingdom, and to present his grandiose plan to invade and conquer Greece. The culminating banquet featured “royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king” (Esther 1:7-8). When Xerxes called for his wife to appear, several sources offer the possibility that he wanted to display Vashti as a trophy (my words), one of his most beautiful crowning possessions.

“Persian feasts were famous for their magnificence. Esther 1 gives a glimpse of the opulence of these feasts. It describes the common Persian manner of eating by reclining on couches or beds (vs 6), and it states that all drinking utensils were made of gold, no two being alike (vs 7). The Greek historian Xenophon said the Persians prided themselves on their number of drinking vessels. When the Greeks destroyed the Persian Empire, a part of their spoil consisted of golden drinking horns and cups” (Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, Nelson, 1980, p. 157).

I found the following comment insightful: “The refusal of Vashti to obey an order which required her to make an indecent exposure of herself before a company of drunken revellers [sic] was becoming both to the modesty of her sex and her rank as queen; because, according to Persian customs, the queen, even more than the wives of other men, was secluded from the public gaze: and had not the king’s blood been heated with wine, or his reason overpowered by force of offended pride, he would have perceived that his own honour as well as hers was consulted by her dignified conduct” (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

McClintock and Strong’s Encyclopedia (article “Vashti”), citing Plutarch, says “that the kings of Persia have their legitimate wives to sit at table with them at their banquets; but that, when they choose to riot and drink, they send their wives away and call in the concubines and singing-girls. Hence, when the heart of Ahasuerus ‘was merry with wine,’ he sent for Vashti, looking upon her only as a concubine… .” (Biblesoft, Inc.)

There are more justifications put forth for her actions in other sources, but these seem enough to present her refusal to appear in a more complete context. Josephus writes that Xerxes later regretted his actions, but the laws of his empire did not accommodate a change of mind.

English: Queen Vashti Refuses to Obey Ahasueru...

English: Queen Vashti Refuses to Obey Ahasuerus’ Command (Est. 1:10-22) Русский: Царица Астинь не захотела придти по приказу царя Артаксеркса (Есф. 1:10-22) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introducing Esther

Many people are familiar with the beautiful story of Esther—the brave young Jewess who put her life on the line to save her people. She is the stuff Hollywood is made of. In fact the 2006 movie, One Night with the King, was ninth on the list of highest-grossing motion pictures during the week it was released. This film received a 2007 CAMIE Award.

But who was she really?

A  Jewess

Edith Deen, in her book All the Women of the Bible (1955), introduces her as first “one of the humblest of figures, an orphan Jewess. But four years later she rises to the position of a queen of amazing power, a power which she manages to use wisely” (147).

Herbert Lockyer comments she “was related to a family carried away captive with Jeremiah, about 600 BC and was born of this family preferring to remain in the land of captivity rather than return to Jerusalem” (All the Women of the Bible, page 52).

An exile

Her Hebrew name was “Hadassah,” meaning “myrtle.” “Esther” is a Babylonian name meaning “star.” The Woman’s Study Bible mentions that a common practice during the Diaspora was to give an individual both a Babylonian and a Hebrew name (see note for Mordecai, Esther 2:5). Another example of this practice is found in Daniel 1:6-7.

An orphan

Esther 2:7  says that Hadassah had neither father nor mother.  Her cousin (or uncle, as Josephus puts forth) Mordecai took her as his daughter.

A beautiful virgin

When King Ahasuerus (afterwards referred to as Xerxes throughout) had a potential image problem due to the actions of his wife, Vashti, his counselors urged him to depose her and look for a new wife. An edict followed requiring virgins from all over the empire be brought to the capital city of Susa and the king’s palace so that a replacement could be chosen. Esther found herself among them.

Josephus records there were four hundred girls brought to the palace and Esther “was the most beautiful of all the rest, and that the grace of her countenance drew the eyes of the spectators principally upon her” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, Chapter 6, 199).

A member of the royal harem

Esther 2:2 Let the beautiful young virgins be sought for the king:

“This was the usual way in which the harem or seraglio was furnished: the finest women in the land, whether of high or low birth, were sought out, and brought to the harem. They all became the king’s concubines: but one was raised, as chief wife or sultana, to the throne; and her issue was specially entitled to inherit.” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

A queen

Having gone through the preliminary procedures required for entering the harem, Esther was selected as the king’s favorite, and became his queen. An indication as to her royal functions is contained in Esther 1:9, where Queen Vashti “also made a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus.” Queen Esther herself prepared banquets and entertained (Esther 5). Most importantly, she fulfilled the king’s desires.

In summary

The Woman’s Study Bible offers this observation concerning Esther:

“She was courageous and self-sacrificing (4:14, 16).

She was cleaver (5:3, 4; 8:3).

She was used of God to save her people.”

Meet Dorcas

Acts 9:36-43

36 At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha , which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. 37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha , arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43 So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner. NKJV


The Church of God was in its infancy, growing daily as the apostles preached and members spread the word in their own communities. It also faced great persecution from threatened Jewish authorities, often at the direction of a man named Saul (Paul).

When the astonishing word of Paul’s conversion spread, those who had fled for their lives reacted first with fear and disbelief, and then pure relief. It was the mid 30s AD, and “… the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).

Her city

While the Bible doesn’t refer to a specific church at Joppa, it does mention disciples and saints who lived there (Acts 9:38, 41). It is an ancient city with a history. Joppa was part of the territory assigned to Dan; it was the delivery port for wood floated down from Lebanon for Solomon’s palace and temple (II Chron. 2:16); and it was the ancient seaport from which Jonah tried to run from God (Jonah 1:3).

Even pirates roamed its waters from time to time. Josephus mentions Joppa’s rough shores contributing to shipwrecks and death (The Wars of the Jews, Book 3, Chapter 9:3)—a likely cause of widowhood for some in Joppa.

Her story

To the eye of a casual observer, Joppa probably looked and functioned like any other city of its size. But within its hustle and bustle, a disciple named Tabitha* (Dorcas in the Greek) earned a reputation for doing good works and charitable deeds. Was she a philanthropist who supported local widows out of her own resources, or did she belong to a community of widows that was active among the disciples at Joppa? Whichever the case, the Scriptures record that she made tunics and garments as at least part of her charitable deeds.

Then “it came to pass in those days that she was sick and died” (Acts 9:37). The disciples in Joppa knew Peter was in nearby Lydda, some ten miles away. Knowing of the miracles that often accompanied his preaching, they sent two men to the Apostle imploring him to come to Joppa quickly.

Arriving a few hours later, grief-stricken widows greeted Peter, mourning the loss of their beloved friend. Clearing the room where she lay, Peter prayed and said, “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes, her life restored! Word of the miracle quickly spread throughout the environs, and “many believed in the Lord” (verse 42).


Peter remained in Joppa for a time and another miracle occurred—the vision that led to the opening of salvation to the Gentiles (Acts 10). And though the church at large continued to grow, rumblings of discontent and fears of sedition troubled the land. Jewish unrest grew under the tightening control of the Romans, making confrontations inevitable and frequent. Military forces moved down the coast of Palestine, burning and destroying cities as they went. In the fall of 66 AD, an army was ordered to take the walled city of Joppa by surprise, and keep it, if possible.

Meeting with no resistance, Josephus records that “soldiers fell on them, and slew them all, with their families [some 8,400 residents by his account], and then plundered and burned the city” (Wars of the Jews, Book 2.Ch.18,10). And so the place that had witnessed the mighty works of God a few decades earlier was no more.

The Bible is silent as to the fate of Dorcas and the rest of the saints in Joppa. But her story continues to bear witness, to any who might care to read, of the miraculous power of God and, of a woman who ministered, not with words, but with charitable deeds.

*Referred to as Dorcas throughout.

Dorcas: The Historical Backdrop

The birth of the church

Fifty days after Jesus’ last Passover, a tremendous miracle occurred. On the day of Pentecost His disciples gathered together, waiting as instructed for “the promise of the Father.” First they heard a sound from heaven as of a “rushing mighty wind,” and then tongues of fire sat upon each of them filling them with the Holy Spirit. Devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem were drawn to the source of the commotion, astounded to hear the disciples proclaiming the wonderful works on God in the listener’s own language.

This event marked the beginning of the New Testament church and the spreading of the Gospel message . It also marked the beginning of a concerted effort by Jewish authorities to stamp out this movement before it gained traction.

Reactions to Peter’s powerful sermon recorded in Acts 2 didn’t help matters.  Three thousand were baptized (verse 41). Jewish authorities watched and fretted as the apostles continued preaching and 5000 more believed (Acts 4:4). Multitudes in Jerusalem became disciples, including priests (Acts 6:7). And eventually converts became churches that spread throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31). Something had to be done!

Futile efforts

To start with, the Sadducees, angered by what Peter and John were preaching, had them arrested. This only served to galvanize the believing multitude and fueled its determination to stay together and care for one another’s needs (Acts 4:32-37).

The Sadducees and the high priest, indignant at the signs and wonders done by the apostles and at the continuing increase of converts, again had the apostles put in prison. God responded by miraculously setting them free (5:19-25).

The Jews’ frustration and outrage grew murderous, and human lives were on the line.

The first martyr

Stephen, one of seven men selected to administer the care of poor widows, was full of faith and power, and did great wonders and signs among the people (6:8). He also was a powerful speaker and apologist, which ultimately led to his stoning and death. His martyrdom signaled the beginning of great persecution on the church, often at the hands of a man named Saul (Paul). Relentlessly he wreaked “havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (8:3).

A change in direction

God had other plans for Saul. Acts 9 contains the account of God’s intervention and Paul’s conversion. His misguided, hurtful zeal quenched, Paul himself began to further the spread of the Gospel, giving welcome relief to the persecuted fledgling church. The Bible says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (9:31).

And Dorcas?

It is possible that Dorcas was among those converted during this time. The Bible doesn’t say.

Also known as…

Recently I read about one of Peter’s first encounters with Jesus when Jesus said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone)” (John 1:42 NKJV). As I thought about this, I recalled some Old Testament figures who also had their names changed: Abram and Sarai (Abraham and Sarah), Jacob, who became Israel, and Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6-7).

As a Memory Checker, there are several New Testament personalities known by two different names, or by nicknames. I can think of six counting Peter. How about you?

I’ll give you my list in a later post and you can let me know of any I missed.

One such individual will be the focus of the next few posts. Found in the book of Acts, she is known by a Hebrew (or Aramaic) and a Greek name. Hers is a story of faithful service cut short by an untimely death, and the miracle which led to the conversion of many in her home city. Her name? Tabitha—or Dorcas.

Thanks for stopping by. It’s always nice to have the company of friends during a long and interesting journey!

Anna the Prophetess: A Life in Three Verses

Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 NKJV

Several years ago my husband and I found ourselves in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles, surrounded not only by the history of the Bible, but also immersed in the culture of the land.

During a day tour of some well-known biblical sites, our group listened as the minister explained the significance of the particular location. Distracted by the sounds of happy people walking down a nearby road, we all turned to look. “It’s a wedding procession,” our guide explained as the celebrants continued on their way.

Meet Anna
It occurs to me now that what we witnessed was probably very like a day in the life of Anna so many hundreds of years ago. I can imagine her, very young, perhaps 13 or so, dressed in her elaborately embroidered wedding clothes and adorned with jewels, gifts from her future husband. She may have been only 12 when the marriage was arranged, her father, Phanuel, accepting the customary dowry as a sort of compensation to him for the loss of an “asset.” Then the yearlong betrothal period began, the future union assured.

Anna’s roots
Phanuel came from the somewhat insignificant tribe of Asher, his family likely a part of a small devout group of exiled Israelites who returned after their Assyrian captivity. It is possible that Anna, from a very young age, was taught to anticipate the arrival of the promised Deliverer of Israel.

From wife to widow
What were those early years of marriage like for Anna? I wonder. Children were a blessing from God, and the more the better, especially if they were sons. There is no record of children for Anna, and being barren would have been a source of great grief. But that was only the beginning.

Seven years after that joyous wedding procession, Anna found herself suddenly widowed and vulnerable. Her options were few: return to her father’s home or enter into a levirate marriage. The Scriptures make no mention of either in Anna’s life, so quite probably she eventually sank into a life of poverty.

A lifetime later
By the time we meet Anna in Scripture she is old—at least 84 and possibly even past 100. She has  found sanctuary and fulfillment within the temple precincts, probably living in a small cubical adjacent to the Court of the Women. Luke says she “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” And with good reason.

Eyewitness to a dangerous world
Anna’s world had been fraught with conquest and violence. In her lifetime she had witnessed the Roman general Pompey arriving with his legions in Jerusalem. She lived through the bloody Jewish rebellion as Rome tried to divide their territory. She survived horrifying events as Herod mounted a siege attack on Jerusalem in 37 B.C. to quash all resistance to him as “King of the Jews,” and the resulting slaughter of its inhabitants, even those seeking refuge in the temple.

It must have been distressing to watch political maneuverings during temple proceedings among the religious leaders of the day. Year after year she endured, and year after year she faithfully served God, praying and fasting and clinging to the hope of redemption in Jerusalem.

Prophetess, mentor or both?
Anna is called a prophetess. Did she have a special gift of being able to foretell specific future events? She certainly looked for the Messiah and spoke often about that hope.

Or was she a mentor? Matthew Henry’s Commentary comments on Luke 2:36: “Perhaps no more is meant than that she was one who had understanding in the scriptures above other women, and made it her business to instruct the younger women in the things of God.” (From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database, 2003, Biblesoft, Inc.) Whatever the case, her dedication was rewarded in an unexpected event.

Blessings and thanksgiving
On a very special day a young mother named Mary brought her firstborn son to Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice of purification. Anna must have witnessed or even assisted in such activities often over the years, but this occasion was much different. Simeon, a just man waiting for the consolation of Israel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit offered a special blessing over this tiny infant whom he cradled in his arms.

Overhearing Simeon’s words, Anna knew that she had just seen the child destined to become the light of the gentiles and the glory of Israel. Luke says, “And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (2:38).

A life in three verses
Though Anna’s life is reduced to only three verses in the whole of the Bible, those three verses provide an inspiring portrait and model of a truly godly woman—one who didn’t flag in her dedication to God, her service to others or in her unwavering hope for the future

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