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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Needy Person

A. Noun.

'Ebyôn (אֶבְיוֹן, Strong's #34), “needy (person).” This word also occurs in Ugaritic and Ethiopic. Biblical Hebrew attests it about 60 times (33 times in the Psalms alone) and in all periods.

This noun refers, first, to someone who is poor in a material sense. Such a one may have lost the land of his inheritance: “But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat” (Exod. 23:11). He has come into difficult financial straits (Job 30:25) and perhaps lacks clothing (Job 31:19) or food (Ps. 132:15).

Secondly, 'ebyôn may refer to the lack of social standing which causes a need for protection. The first biblical occurrence bears this emphasis. God guarantees protection for such a one: “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause” (Exod. 23:6). The godly man defends the needy and defenseless: “I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out” (Job 29:16; cf. Prov. 31:9; Rom. 3:14-15). Divine provisions are encased in the Mosaic stipulations such as the seventhyear reversion of ancestral hereditary lands (Exod. 23:11), cancellation of loans (Deut. 15:4), and special extension of loans (Deut. 15:7, 9, 11).

Thirdly, this noun sometimes describes one’s spiritual condition before God: “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes” (Amos 2:6). In this verse 'ebyôn is in synonymous parallelism to “righteous,” which means that it describes a moral quality.

B. Verb.

'Âbâh (אָבָה, Strong's #14), “to accede, accept, consent.” This verb, which occurs about 52 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew, is sometimes associated with the noun 'ebyôn, “needy (person).” The same radicals appear in Akkadian (“to wish”), Arabic (“to refuse”), Aramaic (“to want”), and Egyptian (“to desire”). This verb means “to consent to” in Deut. 13:8: “Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him.…”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Needy Person'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/n/needy-person.html. 1940.

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