the Fifth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(אֶבְיוֹן, ebyon', 1 Samuel 2:8; πτωχός, Luke 16:20; Luke 16:22; Galatians 4:9; both terms elsewhere "poor," etc.). The laws of Moses furnish abundant evidence that great inequality of condition existed in his time among the Hebrews, for recommendations to the rich to be liberal to their poorer brethren are frequently met with (Exodus 23:11; Deuteronomy 15:11), but no mention is made of persons who lived as mendicants. The poor were allowed to glean in the fields, and to gather whatever the land produced in the year in which it was not tilled (Leviticus 19:10; Leviticus 25:5-6; Deuteronomy 24:19). They were also invited to feasts (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:12). The Hebrew could not be an absolute pauper. His land was inalienable, except for a certain term, when it reverted to him or his posterity. And if this resource was insufficient, he could pledge the services of himself or his family for a valuable sum. Those who were indigent through bodily infirmity were usually taken care of by their kindred. See POOR. In the song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:8), however, beggars are spoken of, and such a fate is predicted to the posterity of the wicked, while it shall never befall the seed of the righteous, in the Psalms (Psalms 37:35; Psalms 104:10); so that the practice was probably then not uncommon. In the New Testament, also, we read of beggars that were blind, diseased, and maimed, who lay at the doors of the rich, by the waysides, and also before the gate of the Temple (Mark 10:46; Luke 16:20-21; Acts 3:2). But we have no reason to suppose that there existed in the time of Christ that class of persons called vagrant beggars, who present their supplications for alms from door to door, and who are found at the present day in the East, although less frequently than in the countries of Europe. That the custom of seeking alms by sounding a trumpet or horn, which prevails among a class of Mohammedan monastics, called kalendar or karendal, prevailed also in the time of Christ, has been by some inferred from the peculiar construction of the original in Matthew 6:2. There is one thing characteristic of those Orientals who follow the vocation of mendicants which is worthy of being mentioned; they do not appeal to the pity or to the almsgiving spirit, but to the justice of their benefactors (Job 22:7; Job 31:16; Proverbs 3:27-28). Roberts, in his Orient. Illustrations, p. 564, says on Luke 16:3 ("I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed"), "How often are we reminded of this passage by beggars when we tell them to work. They can scarcely believe their ears; and the religious mendicants, who swarm in every part of the East, look upon you with the most sovereign contempt when you give them such advice. ‘ I work! why, I never have done such a thing; I am not able."‘ (See ALMS).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Beggar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​b/beggar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.