To the Temple
From Luke 2
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Mary and Joseph were observing the Mosaic law that we find in Lev. 12:1-8:
1 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean.
“Customary impurity” means menstruation. Jewish women withdrew from their husbands and attendance at the Temple when their period starts, for a total of 7 days.
3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
The second purification time probably started on the 8th day, which means that the woman waits a total of 40 days until she is purified if she had a boy.
5 ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
Bearing a baby girl is similar, but the time of purification is longer. And no, I don’t know why. 😊 So the total purification time for a girl is 14+66, or 80 days – 40 days times 2.
6 ‘When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Then he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female. 8 ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons — one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”
So Mary and Joseph came to the Temple on the 41st day following Jesus’ birth so Mary could be purified. They had already named the baby at his circumcision, the 8th day of the little one’s life.
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.
The “consolation of Israel” was the coming of the Messiah. What a beautiful term, to console troubled Israel. “The Holy Spirit was on him.” in Jewish times, the Holy Spirit was not in every Jewish person. The presence of the Spirit was in true prophets, since they spoke according to the will and leading of God.
The difference with Christians is that the Holy Spirit is in everyone who believes – we do not have to wait on priests to tell us about God. God has done that in the Bible, His Word.
26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Many people take this to mean that Simeon was old, but we don’t know that. He may have been. The important things is that when the Spirit told him to go, he went!
27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:22-35)
- “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel” – Who fell, and who rose?
- “a sign that will be spoken against” – Who spoke against Him?
- “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” – What were the thoughts?
- “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” – What does this mean?
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
We do know that Anna was 84 years old, a widow, and a prophet in her own right. The Bible says she lived in the temple, although no one lived in the temple proper as no one was allowed to sleep there. But there were apartments surrounding the temple complex and she may well have lived there. Either way, she spent all her days in the temple fasting, praying, and prophesying. She would have been in the Court of the Women where men were allowed as well. The Bible does not record her words but does say that she told all and sundry that the baby was the Messiah.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke used the phrase “the consolation of Israel” when he described Simeon. He used “the redemption of Jerusalem” when he described Anna. He meant the same thing, because these two prophets meant the same thing. They were both looking for the Messiah, the Savior of the Jews… and as it turns out, the Gentiles too.
The Eastern Orthodox Church considers Anna and Simeon as the last prophets of Old Testament. I think they’re right.
Leaving the Temple
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. (Luke 2:36-38)