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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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WIDOW . Widows from their poverty and unprotectedness, are regarded in OT as under the special guardianship of God ( Psalms 68:6 ; Psalms 146:9 , Proverbs 15:25 , Deuteronomy 10:18 , Jeremiah 49:11 ); and consequently due regard for their wants was looked upon as a mark of true religion, ensuring a blessing on those who showed it ( Job 29:13 ; Job 31:16 , Isaiah 1:17 , Jeremiah 7:6-7 ; Jeremiah 22:3-4 ); while neglect of, cruelty or injustice towards them were considered marks of wickedness meriting punishment from God ( Job 22:9-10 ; Job 24:20-21 , Psalms 94:6 , Isaiah 1:23 ; Isaiah 10:2 , Zechariah 7:10 ; Zechariah 7:14 , Malachi 3:5 ). The Book of Deut. is especially rich in such counsels, insisting that widows be granted full justice ( Deuteronomy 24:17 ; Deuteronomy 27:19 ), that they be received as guests at sacrificial meals ( Deuteronomy 14:29 , Deuteronomy 16:11 ; Deuteronomy 16:14 , Deuteronomy 26:12 f.), and that they be suffered to glean unmolested in field, oliveyard, and vineyard ( Deuteronomy 24:19 f.). See, further, Inheritance, i. 2 ( c ); Marriage, 6.

The earliest mention of widows in the history of the Christian Church is found in Acts 6:1 , where the Grecian Jews murmured ‘against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected’ in the daily distribution of alms or food. In course of time these pensioners became an excessive burden on the finances of the Church. We thus find St. Paul dealing with the matter in 1 Timothy 5:3-16 , where he charges relatives and Christian friends to relieve those widows with whom they are personally connected ( 1 Timothy 5:4 ; 1 Timothy 5:8 ; 1 Timothy 5:15 ), so that the Church might be the more able to relieve those who were ‘widows indeed’ ( i.e. widows in actual poverty and without anyone responsible for their support) ( 1 Timothy 5:3 ; 1 Timothy 5:5 ; 1 Timothy 5:16 ). He further directs that ‘none be enrolled as widows’ except those who were sixty years of age, of unimpeachable character, and full of good works; and he adds that ‘the younger widows’ should be ‘refused’ ( i.e. not enrolled); for experience had shown that they ‘waxed wanton against Christ’ and, re-marrying, ‘rejected their first faith.’ Since it could not have been the Apostle’s wish that only widows over sixty should receive pecuniary help from the Church (for many young widows might be in great poverty), and since he could not describe the re-marriage of such a widow-pensioner as a rejection of her faith, it follows that the list of widows, from which the younger widows were to be excluded, was not the list of those who were in receipt of Church relief, but rather a list of those, from among the pensioner-widows, who were considered suitable by age and character to engage officially in Church work. Therefore we may see in this passage a proof of the existence thus early in the history of the Church of that ecclesiastical order of ‘Widows’ which we find mentioned frequently in post-Apostolic times.

Charles T. P. Grierson.

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

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Widow'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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