Anah was an ancient Idumean (Gen 36), living on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. One of his descendants married Esau. His people were cave-dwellers who owned herds of donkeys. His name can mean ‘afflicted’ – physically or mentally or because of his social status. By human standards he was apparently an insignificant man, relatively poor in resources and unconnected to the famous.
In Hebrew, the proper name Anah can also be used as the verb, ‘to become humbled’, that is, to be a person like Anah. Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself?” (Ex 10:3). It was a big ask. God’s message to Pharaoh was “When will you think like a slave, like those who are poor and bowed down, those with no influence, even those whose egotism is dented?”
Apparently Pharaoh only toyed with humility. Later, the sins of Egypt attracted God’s condemnation, ironically a sentence of forced humility, insignificance and perpetual weakness (Eze 29:13-16).
Generally speaking the word anah was used in a disparaging sense. Gideon, for example, depreciated himself and his tribe as being insignificant and weak (Judges 6:15). But the lesson of history is that God was pleased with his attitude.
Gradually, the word was used to describe the proper mental attitude that a worshipper should bring to God. John the Baptist, with his plain clothing and diet, was the personification of this frame of mind. Jesus, too, lived a humble life. In the Qumran, community lowliness of mind was a commendable attribute, manifest in prayer and fasting.
One rabbi later wrote, “When a man humbles himself for the sake of the Torah, i.e., makes himself contemptible, and eats dates and carob beans, and clothes himself in dirty garments and sits and watches at the door of scholars, those who pass him by say: There is a fool. But at the last thou dost find the whole Torah in him” (Kittel & Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol.8, p.13).
What the rabbi said of the Torah must be said of its fulfilment, Jesus Christ. When we humble ourselves for the sake of Christ, then Christ will be evident in our lives.
– Milton Hook