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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary


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In Bible times widows usually found life difficult, partly because they were defenceless against people able to take advantage of them. Without anyone to support and protect them, many widows became lonely and poor. The law of Moses recognized that widows needed special protection against social injustice (Exodus 2:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Mark 12:40-44; Luke 18:1-5).

Throughout the Bible God shows a special concern for widows and he expects people in general to have similar concern (Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:19; Psalms 68:5; Psalms 146:9; Proverbs 15:25; Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27). Christians in the Jerusalem church showed such concern when they organized a daily distribution of food to the widows among them (Acts 6:1-3). Later, other churches followed their example, though some families abused the system by using the church’s welfare program as a way of avoiding their responsibilities. Paul therefore suggested that the church support only those widows who were over sixty years of age and who had no other means of support. Widows in Christian families were to be supported by those families (1 Timothy 5:3-16).

Paul reminded Christians that a widow in the church was free to remarry, provided she married another Christian and provided the circumstances were favourable (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:26-27; 1 Corinthians 7:39-40). In the case of younger widows, he advised in favour of remarriage (1 Timothy 5:11-15).

A custom in Old Testament times was that when a man died having no children, his brother had the duty of producing a son through the widow. Legally this child was considered to be the son of the dead man and so carried on his family name and inheritance. If the living brother refused to do his duty, he was publicly disgraced for allowing his brother’s family name to die out (Genesis 38:8-10; Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Ruth 1:1-14; Ruth 3; Ruth 4:1-12; Matthew 22:24).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Widow'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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