Imagine that I tell you a story in which I met a man at the grocery store. In an expression of generosity, this man bought all my groceries. While talking about this man I state that he is from Montana.
It is a nice story, but if you thought about what I said, you might wonder why I mentioned the state this man is from. Was it related to the story in some way? What difference did where he was from make? You might even expect me to explain the significance of that statement. You would be confused if I didn’t do so.
Something similar to this happens in Luke 2:36. Joseph and Mary are in the temple. Jesus is forty days old. A prophetess named Anna comes up to them. She tells the people in the temple that day who the Child is. Then Luke adds a strange piece of information about Anna. He tells us that she was from the tribe of Asher.
I’d guess that the vast majority of us have no idea of what that means. Where is Asher? What difference does it make that she was from Asher? If we’re reading it for the first time, we would expect Luke to tell us the significance of this geographical fact. But he doesn’t. We are left to our own devices to figure it out.
Some would conclude that it has no significance at all. Luke is simply stating a fact that has nothing to do with the story. It would be as if I told you that a man who did a nice deed was from Montana.
The more we study the Bible, however, the more we become aware that the Spirit did not simply use filler language when He inspired a writer like Luke. There was a reason for Luke’s telling us that Anna was from Asher.
I have been told that a seemingly insignificant detail such as this simply indicates that God is concerned about us. He knows everything about us, including our past and even who our parents were. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. That is true, but there are plenty of people whom the NT mentions without mentioning where they are from. There must be another reason.
I think we are closer to the truth if we say that Luke mentions that Anna was from Asher to emphasize that she was Jewish. Asher is one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and Christ came to deliver Israel from her enemies. He was, first of all, the Jewish Messiah. Anna tells the Jews in the Jewish temple, which is located in the Jewish capital, that this Baby is the Jewish Christ. The nation is called upon to believe in Him. God had promised the Jewish people that He would one day send the Messiah to them. He was fulfilling His promises to the Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The mention of the Jewish tribe of Asher, one of Jacob’s sons, is a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness.
But I think there might even be more. Asher was one of the ten northern tribes that were taken into captivity over 700 years before Christ was born. Those tribes never returned from their captivity and are often referred to as the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. That is a misnomer. There would have been many Jews from those tribes who had earlier migrated to the south and were not taken away. Even some of the Jews who were taken away would have returned on an individual basis during those 700 years. Anna was a descendant of one of those tribes.
It’s likely that most seminary students couldn’t name Asher as one of the tribes of Israel. It is an insignificant and forgotten tribe in the minds of most people. But not to God. He remembers all of His promises. He will bring the kingdom of God to all Jacob’s sons.
In Rev 21:9-27, John describes the New Jerusalem. It will be the home of resurrected believers for all eternity. He says it will have twelve gates, each named after a tribe of Israel. Asher will be the name of one of the gates. Asher is what we believers will call one of the honored entrances into our eternal home.
Whatever promises God has made to us, He will fulfill. He has promised that those who believe in Christ for eternal life have it and can never lose it. He promises to reward us for our faithfulness to Him. There are many more promises.
One of those promises was made to a tribe of Israel that most people in our churches cannot even name. Most say the tribe doesn’t even exist anymore. But God knows otherwise.
I think that is why Luke tells us that Anna was from Asher.