Bibliotheca Sacra (July 1973) 223-34.

               Copyright © 1973 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.

 

                           The Widow, Orphan,

                                 and the Poor

                       in the Old Testament and

                      the Extra-Biblical Literature

 

Richard D. Patterson

 

The time-honored thesis of conservative scholarship, that the

Old Testament gives at each stage of its formation an accurate

reflection of the cultural contexts of the area and the era with which

it deals, has been increasingly demonstrated by the results of present

day research.1 In turn, the study of the histories, literatures, languages,

and religions of the Ancient Near East has brought greater clarity

to the divinely inspired revelation of God.2 The Old Testament can

 

Richard D. Patterson, Associate Professor of Ancient Histories and Languages,

Los Angeles Baptist College, Newhall, California.

 

[1] See, for example R. K. Harrison, Old Testament Times (Grand Rapids,

1970). The readers of this journal are, of course, well acquainted with many

contributions along this line, such as the recent series of articles by Gleason

Archer in Bibliotheca Sacra, CXXVII (January-March, 1970), 3-25; (April-

June, 1970), 99-115; (July-September, 1970), 195-211; (October-December,

1970), 291-98; note also the remarks of H. H. Rowley, The Old Testament

and Modern Study (Oxford, 1952), pp. xv-xxx.

2 Note among the many contributions that could be cited: R. K. Harrison,

Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, 1969), pp. 82-414; J. Bar-

ton Payne, et al., New Perspectives on the Old Testament (Waco, TX, 1970);

as well, the fine collections of articles in The Biblical Archaeologist Reader

(Garden City, NY), Vols. 1 and 2, should be mentioned. Scores of articles

relative to new light on the Old Testament have appeared, particularly in

scholarly journals, many spawned by the pioneering efforts of W. F. Albright

whose many contributions have forced Old Testament scholars to face the

value of a more conservative approach to the Scriptures. See, for example, his

Archaeology, Historical Analogy and Early Biblical Tradition (Baton Rouge,

LA, 1966), New Horizons in Biblical Research (New York, 1966), "The

Impact of Archaeology on Biblical Research, 1966," New Directions in Biblical

Archaeology, ed. by David Noel Freedman and Jonas C. Greenfield- (Garden

City, NY, 1971), etc. In addition a veritable host of books has appeared with

regard to archaeological light on the Scriptures. Many of them are written

with the more general reading audience in mind, but are still of value for

the scholar, for example, the Baker Studies in Biblical Archaeology series. For

further details the reader is referred to the standard biblically oriented

texts, journals, and dictionaries on the Ancient Near East.

 


224 / Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

now be seen as part of a broader and intricately interrelated cultural

milieu whose customs, institutions and linguistic and literary pat-

terns were shared in large measure throughout the Fertile Crescent.3

Nevertheless, it must be quickly added that although the Old Testa-

ment partakes of that international culture and even utilizes it in

the presentation of God's life giving message, its concept of God,

its high ethical standards and its objective verifiability make it dis-

tinctively unique among the writings of the pre-Christian world.4

Despite the veritable mine of information drawn from the

culture of the Ancient Near East that is readily available, all too

little of that wealth of resource has been tapped by present day

students of the Old Testament. Kitchen rightly laments, "... Old

Testament scholarship has made only superficial use of Ancient Near

Eastern data."5 This is particularly true in the realm of linguistic

studies and even more true in the area of literary comparisons.6 All

 

3 See, for instance, W. L. Moran, "The Hebrew Language in Its Northwest

Semitic Background," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, ed. by G. Ernest

Wright (Garden City, NY, 1965), pp. 59-84; Edward F. Campbell, Jr., and

David Noel Freedman (eds.), The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, No.3

(Garden City, NY, 1970); J. J. Finkelstein and Moshe Greenberg (eds.),

Oriental and Biblical Studies (Philadelphia, 1967); Alexander Heidel, The

Babylonian Genesis (2nd ed.; Chicago, 1952); and The Gilgamesh Epic and

Old Testament Parallels (2nd ed.; Chicago, 1963); D. Winton Thomas and

W. D. McHardy (eds.), Hebrew and Semitic Studies (Oxford, 1963); David

Diringer and S. P. Brock, "Words and Meanings in Early Hebrew Inscriptions,"

Words and Meanings, ed. by Peter R. Ackroyd and Barnabas Lindars (Cam-

bridge, 1968), pp. 39-45. In addition, many- scholarly journals have supple-

mental volumes that are devoted to biblical studies in relation to the Ancient

Near East. For example, the Supplements to Vetus Testamentum are extremely

helpful; note especially M. Noth and D. Winton Thomas (eds.) , Wisdom in

Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Leiden, 1969) = VTS III. Despite the

fact that their basic theme is highly controversial, the many works of Cyrus

Gordon should probably also be mentioned, for example, Before the Bible

(New York, 1962).

4 C. F. Whitley, The Genius of Ancient Israel (Amsterdam, 1969), having

surveyed the culture of ancient Israel in relation to those of the Ancient Near

East concludes, "It is true that from the conquest of Canaan to the Hellenistic

age Israelite sapiental thought was subjected to external and environmental

influences, but it still retained its individuality and developed in its own pecu-

liar way…. It is... its moral and spiritual content which, more than any

other feature, distinguishes Hebrew wisdom from that of neighbouring peo-

ples" (pp. 150-151).

5 K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, 1966), p. 24.

6 Among the better discussions, note E. A. Speiser, "The Wife-Sister Motif

in the Patriarchal Narrative," Studies and Texts, Vol. I: Biblical and Other

Studies, ed. by Alexander Altmann (Cambridge, 1963), pp. 15-28; and G.



The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor / 225

 

too often these disciplines have been left to liberal scholars, with

disastrous results.7 This is due to the fact that such treatments

usually fail to distinguish literary form or motif from theological

content or perspective. The readers of this journal will no doubt

recall the words of Herbert M. Wolf:

 

If a culture supplies the form, does it not also dictate the content,

the very words used? Inspiration will be weakened unless a careful

distinction is made between form and content. At this point, the

flexibility of forms eases the dilemma somewhat. It seems logical

to argue, however, that God would speak to His people through

contemporary literary forms familiar to them, just as He used

contemporary vocabulary and grammar. The human authors then

adapted these forms under the inspiration of God.8

 

A case in point is the well-known literary motif of the widow,

the orphan, and the poor. A decade has already passed since F. C.

Fensham called attention to the ubiquitous nature of this motif in

the Ancient Near East.9  While Fensham's article gave an excellent

review of the available data from the ancient world, it failed to see

the essential content and perspective of that literary form as utilized

by the writers of the Old Testament. Drawing from Fensham's

article and other sources garnered from its employment in royal

contexts, numerous examples of this motif may be cited as back-

ground material for Old Testament study.

 

7 For example, Alexander Altmann (ed.), Biblical Motifs (Cambridge,

1966); Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis

(New York, 1966); Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess (New York, 1967);

Mary K. Wakeman, "The Biblical Earth Monster in the Cosmological Combat

Myth,". Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXVIII (September, 1969), 313-20;

G. R. Driver, "Mythical Monsters in the Old Testament," Studi onore di

Giorgio Levi della Vida (Rome, 1956), pp. 234-49; George M. Landes, "The

'Three Days and Three Nights' Motif in Jonah 2: 1," Journal of Biblical Liter-

ature, LXXXVI (December, 1967), 446-50; Isaac M. Kikawada, "Two Notes

on Eve," Journal of Biblical Literature, XCI (March, 1972), 33-37; W. E.

Staples, "Epic Motifs in Amos," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XXV (April,

1966), 106-12.

8 Herbert M. Wolf, "Implications of Form Criticism for Old Testament

Studies," Bibliotheca Sacra, CXXVII (October-December, 1970), 306-7.

9 F. Charles Fensham, "Widow, Orphan, and the Poor in Ancient Near

Eastern Legal and Wisdom Literature," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XXI

(April, 1962), 129-39; E. Hammershaimb, "On the Ethics of the Old Testa-

ment Prophets," Vetus Testamentum Supplements, VII (1960), 75-101, also

includes in his discussion the relationship of this Old Testament motif to the

Semitic World but erroneously finds "that in the prophets' concern for widows

and the fatherless there are quite obvious traces of a Canaanite origin" (p. 83).



226/ Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

MESOPOTAMIA

In ancient Sumer, the protection of the widow, the orphan, and

the poor is detailed in two well-known law codes, that of Urukagina

of Lagash in the twenty-fifth century B.C. and that of Ur Nammu,

the founder of the so-called third dynasty of Ur in the twenty-first

century B.C.10

The most famous of the law codes of Mesopotamia, that of

Hammurapi in the eighteenth century B.C., builds upon the con-

cepts of its Sumerian precursors. In his Prologue, Hammurapi affirms

that the gods had called him,

misaram ina matim                    To make justice appear

ana supim                                                  in the land,

raggam u senam                                    To destroy the evil and wicked

ana gulluqim                                   (and so that)

dannum ensam                          The strong might not oppress

ana la habalim                                the weak.11

 

In the Epilogue he adds that he had enacted these laws,

dannum ensam                          So that the strong might not oppress

ana la babalim                                the weak (and so as)

ekutam almattam                                   To give justice to the orphaned

sutesurim                                                   (homeless) girl and to the widow.12

 

Throughout the Babylonian legal stipulations and wisdom litera-

ture the care of the widow, the orphan, and the poor is enjoined,

since the ideal king, as the living representative of the god of justice,

the sun god Samas, is expected to care for the oppressed and needy

elements of society.13

 

EGYPT

In ancient Egypt the protection of the widow, the orphan, and

the poor was the continual boast of the beneficent king. Thus, Meri-

kare of the First Intermediate Period is instructed by his father,

Khety III, that the good king does not oppress the widow or confis-

cate the property of the orphan.14 King Amenemhat of the Middle

 

10    Ibid., p. 130.

11 CH Ia: 32-39; for the original ed. see E. Bergmann, Codex Hammurabi:

Textus Primigenius (Rome, 1953).

12 CH XXIVb: 59-62; for a valuable discussion of the Mesopotamian legal

tradition, see G. R. Driver and John C. Miles (eds.), The Babylonian Laws

(Oxford, 1960).

13 Fensham, XXI, 130-32.

14 Ibid., XXI, 132.



The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor / 227

 

Kingdom's twelfth dynasty lays emphasis on concern for the poor.15

Ramesses III of the twentieth dynasty boasts that he has given

special attention to justice for the widow and the orphan.16 Fenshaw

well remarks that

The parallel trend between Mesopotamian policy of the protection

of the weak and that of Egypt is clear. It is regarded as a virtue

of kings and rulers and as an important part of the duty of the

sun-god. As in Mesopotamia the religious ethics are closely inter-

twined in Egypt with the social ethics.17

 

SYRO-PALESTINE

 

As at either end of the Fertile Crescent, so in the important

city of Ugarit, the theme of the widow, the orphan, and the poor

is attested. Two cases of royal figures are well known. In the Aqhat

Epic, Dan'el the king is described in the following fashion:

apnk dnil mt rpi                         Thereupon Dan'el the Raphaman ...

.           .           .                       picks himself up

ytsu ytb bap tgr                         he sits before the gate

.           .           .                       .           .           .

ydn dn almnt                             he judges the cause of the widow(s)

ytpt tpt ytm                               he adjudicates the case of the

fatherless18

 

In another epic story, King Keret, who has fallen seriously ill, is

confronted by his grasping son with these words:

ltdn dn 'almnt                            You did not judge the cause of the

    widow,

lttpt tpt qsr nps                         you did not adjudicate the case of

    the wretched,

ltdy tsm 'l dl                              you did not drive out them that

    preyed upon the poor;

lpnk ltslhm ytm              you did not feed the orphan before

                                                    you

bd kslk 'almnt                           or the widow behind you.

 

15 Ibid., XXI, 132-33. This high ethical idea is further demonstrated in an

inscription of a steward of Amenemhat's successor, Sesostris I. The steward,

one Montuwser, makes his boast:

ink it n n mhw                           I was a father to the orphans,

sm h'rwt                                               a helper of the widows.

For further details see William C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt (Cambridge,

1960), I, 182, 299-300.

16 Fensham XXI, 133.

17 Ibid., XXI, 133-34.

18 2 Aqht V:4-8; for the text, see Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Tetxbook

(Rome, 1965), p. 248.



228/ Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

km 'agt rs mdw                                     Since you've become a brother of

     the sickbed

'anst rs zbln                                           a companion of the bed of

     suffering,

rd lmlk 'amlk                                         come down from the kingship

     I will be king

ldrktk 'atb                                             I will sit in your authority!19

While further parallels as to the care of the oppressed of society

from other places and cultures of the Near East could be brought

forward, enough has been cited to demonstrate that a concern for

the widow, the orphan, and the poor was the constant claim of the

ideal king.20

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT

In turning to the Old Testament, one finds that the same motif

is utilized and indeed is so often mentioned that the conduct, deemed

meritorious because it was the particular prerogative of the ideal,

good shepherd type of king, became the prescribed way of life in

the Israelite social structure.

 

THE PENTATEUCH

It is interesting to note that a concern for the widow, the

orphan, and the poor is permanently woven into the fabric of those

crucial sections dealing with the covenant made between God, the

sovereign, and His people, Israel, both in the covenant code of

Sinai and its renewal before entering the land of Canaan.21 In

Exodus 22:21-24; 23:6, the widow, the orphan, and the poor fall

under the protection of God Himself. This is reiterated in Deuter-

onomy, where God is represented as the supreme judge who has

the interest of these elements of society at heart (10:18 ff.). This

is true not only with regard to the set feasts of Israel (Deut. 16:11,

14) but in the special regulations of Israel's religious and social

life, as well (Deut. 14:28-29; 24:17-22). In the key section of

 

19 Gordon, Ibid., p. 194, 127:45-63.

20 Thus mention could be made of the practice of levirate marriage for

widows, well attested from many places in the Ancient Near East, not only

among the Babylonians and Assyrians but also with the Hurrians and even

the Hittites in Anatolia; see Cyrus H. Gordon, "Biblical Customs and the

Nuzu Tablets," The Biblical Archaeologist, III (February, 1940), 7-9 (re-

printed in The Biblical Archaeologist Reader, Vol. II, ed. by Edward F.

Campbell, Jr. and David Noel Freedman [Garden City, NY, 1964] pp. 129-30;

and O. R. Gurney, The Hittites (2nd ed.; Baltimore, 1966), pp. 101-2.

21 For an interesting defense of the historic trustworthiness of Deuteronomy,

see Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King, (Grand Rapids, 1963).



The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor / 229

 

Deuteronomy in which the climax of the oath of ratification occurs

(26:8-19), the God of redemption invokes the law of charity

upon His people so that they might continuously remember the

magnitude of His redemptive grace toward them. In Deuteronomy

27:19 this provision is reinforced with a curse:

Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger,

fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.

 

THE POETICAL BOOKS

In the book of Job, the evil man is described as one who op-

presses the widow, the orphan, and the poor (14: 1-4, 14, 21). In

the third round of discourses between Job and his "comforters,"

Eliphaz sin language (quite reminiscent of the young prince in the

Keret Epic)22 accuses Job as follows: "Thou hast sent Widows away

empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken."23 In his

defense, Job vows that such has not been the case. Indeed, in his

final summation and protestation of his innocence at the end of the

three rounds of discourses, Job again pleads and swears under oath

that he is free of any such evil practices (29:7-7; 31:16-17, 21-23).

The Psalmist likewise extols the God of triumph because of His

righteous character with this same motif (Ps. 68:1-5). Thus he says

of Him:

 

A father of the fatherless,

and a judge of the widows,

is God in his holy habitation.24

 

In the eighty-second Psalm, God is declared to be the righteous judge

who prescribes justice for all the downtrodden:

 

Defend the poor and fatherless:

do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Deliver the poor and needy:

rid them out of the hand of the wicked.25

 

22 This does not necessarily demand the acceptance of the view of Tur-

Sinai and Pope on the reading of Job 36: 17; see Marvin H. Pope, Job in

The Anchor Bible (Garden City, 1965), p. 234. Thus, Pope (p. 231) translates

translates the verse in question,

But the case of the wicked you did not judge,

The orphan's justice you belied.

23 Job 22:9.

24 Psalms 68:5.

25 Ps. 82:3-4; Mitchell Dahood, Psalms 11, in The Anchor Bible (Garden

City, 1968), p. 269, properly vindicates the reading of the Masoretic Text



230 / Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

In the book of Proverbs, the care of the downtrodden of society

is often mentioned. Thus, Solomon affirms that to oppress the needy

is to bring reproach upon God Himself:

 

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker:

but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.26

 

On the other hand, he who alleviates the needs of the poor shall be

blessed of God.27 Again, he asserts that the Lord watches over the

land of the widow who might otherwise be helpless before proud,

grasping men (15:25). In the First Sayings of the Wise (22:17-

24:22),28 God is depicted as the champion of (1) the poor and

(2) the orphan:

 

(I) Rob not the poor, because he is poor:

neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:

     For the Lord will plead their cause,

and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.29

(2) Remove not the old landmark;

and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:

     For their redeemer is mighty;

he shall plead their cause with thee.30

 

In the further words of Solomon as recorded by the committee of

Hezekiah, the relation of the ideal king to the needs of the oppressed

of society is clearly indicated:

The king that faithfully judgeth the poor,

his throne shall be established for ever.31

 

THE PROPHETS

The cause of the widow, the orphan, and the poor is not

neglected by the prophets of Israel. They point out that Israel had

betrayed their wickedness and lack of God-oriented perspective in

their treatment of the widow, the orphan, and the poor (Isa. 1:23;

10:1-2; Jer. 7:4-16). Typical of this use of the motif are the

words of Ezekiel:

 

26 Prov. 14:31.

27 Prov. 22:9.

28 For this term, see Gleason Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament In-

troduction (Chicago, 1964), pp. 449-50. On the problem of the Instruction of

Amenemope, see the discussion of William McKane, Proverbs (Philadelphia,

1970), pp. 371-74.

29 Prov. 22:22-23.

30 Prov. 23:10-11.

31 Prov. 29:14.



The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor / 231

 

Behold, the princes of Israel, every one was in thee to their power

to shed blood. In thee have they set light by father and mother: in

the midst of thee have they dealt by oppression with the stranger: in

thee have they vexed the fatherless and the widow.32

Feinberg appropriately remarks:

Detail by detail the said and sordid tale unfolds. Parents were

lightly esteemed and robbed of the honor due them, even though

honor to father and mother was one of the most frequently stated

commands of the law (cf. Exodus 21:17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 27:16).

This relationship ultimately underlies the proper submission of

citizens to their rulers. If parents were slighted, the sojourner could

not hope for consideration. Him they oppressed, forgetting that they

were formerly sojourners in Egypt (Exodus 22:21, 23:9). Those

without human protectors, the fatherless and the widow, were

wronged, the wicked forgetting that God had made Himself their

special and sufficient Defender.33

 

True righteousness, a living relationship with the Lord, would

be evidenced in a type of conduct that reflected His high ethical

standards:

Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and

deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no

wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow,

neither shed innocent blood in this place.34

 

Because of her sins Israel was to face the chastisement of God's

outstretched hand (Isa. 9:16-17) and was herself to become

widowed (Zech. 7:8-14 ). Jeremiah lamented:

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she

become as a widow!

Our inheritance is turned to stangers, our houses to aliens, we

are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.35

 

But thanks be to God! The Just One would remember her cause.

Once He had pled:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from

before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment,

relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your

sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be

red like crimson, they shall be as wool.36

 

32 Ezek. 22:6-7; cf. 25, 29.

33 Charles L. Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago, 1970), p. 126.

34 Jer. 22:3; cf. 7:4-7.

35 Lam. 1:1; 5:2-3.

36 Isa.l:16-18.



232 / Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

Now he would promise that in a future day a redeemed Israel would

be restored from her spiritual widowhood:

 

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou con-

founded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget

the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of

thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the

Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel;

the God of the whole earth shall he be called.37

 

Throughout the Old Testament, then, the cause of the widow,

the orphan, and the poor is particularly enjoined upon Israel as

befitting a redeemed people who are entrusted with the character

and standards of their Redeemer. Even in the last book the theme

is utilized in pointing to the coming ministry of the forerunner of

Messiah and of Messiah Himself and of the righteousness that would

then be inaugurated (Mal. 3:1-6).

It is not surprising, therefore, that in the New Testament (though

this is beyond the scope of this article) not only is the cause of the

poor frequently championed, but also the widow is singled out for

special comment: for giving all that she had, right up to the last

mite (Lk. 21: 1-4; Mk. 12:41-44), and as a special class of women

in the early church who were to be cared for and honored as models

of great piety and godliness (Acts 6:1; 9:39-41; 1 Tim. 5:3-16). As

in the Old Testament, genuine godliness was to be seen in demon-

strated activity:

 

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To

visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep him-

self unspotted from the world.38

 

But, one asks, what is the reason for the prominence of this

motif? Why the widow, the orphan, and the poor? In purely human

terms, it is perhaps understandable that the weak and the helpless

of society who were so easily victimized would be the special objects

of concern by an ideally righteous king.39 Yet, this writer suggests

that the raison d' etre of this motif rests much deeper than on a

purely naturalistic basis.

 

37 Isa. 54:4-5; see also Hos. 14:1-4 for the prophecy of God's future bless-

ing upon Israel as built around the motif of the fatherless child.

38 James 1:27.

39 Note Jesus' warning in the Gospels: Matt. 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke

20:47; one may also recall Andromache's mournful lament with regard to

her widowhood and to her now fatherless son in Homer's Iliad xxii. 586-617.



The Widow, the Orphan, and the Poor / 233

 

It has been noted that the motif is a common one throughout

the Ancient Near East, and a very early one at that. Without resorting

to allegorization or to over-spiritualization, one wonders if it is too

much to suggest that its early predominance in the Near East might

not have been a primeval reflection of God's own self-disclosure

as being the Redeemer of the helpless. Its very antiquity may be

accounted for because it speaks of man's helpless position before

God right from the beginning. Its localization in the Near East may

be occasioned by direct contact within the area of God's revelation.

In that light, it is significant that the theme of the widow, the

orphan, and the poor is an integral part of the covenant stipulations

of the Old Testament wherein Israel in pure treaty formulae is rep-

resented as the vassal to her sovereign God. It is still more significant

that within that treaty structure the motif is wedded to the redemptive

work of God; it is He who has come to the aid of those who have

no strength. As such, it forms the basis for a similar conduct on the

part of His redeemed people.40

A helpless mankind has existed since the fall; it is still the

same today. Like the widow, a lost world lies prey to the enemy's

evil influence. Except aided by divine redemptive intervention, it

is powerless to help itself despite all of its advanced technology

and knowledge (Rom. 3:23ff.; 5:6-8).

Spiritually speaking, the Christian need never fear widowhood.

The church is ever Christ's bride (Eph. 5: 25-32) who is even now

being readied for that great marriage feast before her millennial co-

reigning with Him (Rev. 19:7-9). The honored position of the

bride here below is but a foretaste of her eternal felicitude. The

poetess puts it most beautifully:

 

The Bride eyes not her garment,

But her dear Bridegroom's face;

I will not gaze at glory,

But on my King of grace.

Not at the crown He giveth,

But on His pierced hand,

The lamb is all the glory

Of  Immanuel's land.41

 

As with the orphan, mankind outside of Jesus Christ has

no surety of inheritance, no living relationship with the heavenly

 

40 Deut.24:17-18.

41 Anne Ross Cousin, "The Sands of Time."



234 / Bibliotheca Sacra - July 1973

 

Father, at all. But Christ, God's unique Son,42 by His redemptive

work on Calvary has historically established those family ties that

God's sovereign will, in accordance with His holy nature, had

ordained before the foundation of the world (Rom. 8:29-30).

Experientially, Christians are not cut off from their source of

strength and succor. Jesus Himself has said, "I will not leave you as

orphans."43 Truly, that other Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit

of Truth, the enabler of genuine Christian living, has been given and

has taken up His abode in the Christian that he might be an effective

ambassador of Him who "hath given to us the ministry of recon-

ciliation."44

As with the poor, the stranger, the outcast of society, the un-

believer has no wealth, no true enjoyment of life, for in the ultimate

sense there can be no real life apart from the source of life, Jesus

Christ, the life giver (John 10: 9-1 0).

In his Christian experience, the believer is to live a life that is

reflective of that one who "though he was rich, yet for your sakes

he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."45 His

is to be an abundant life (John 10:10; Phil. 1:21), for He has

brought him into a wealthy place (Ps. 66:12b) in which all the

riches of His grace and power are available to him (John 16: 23-24).

However, the Christian is to remember that there is still a

lost mankind which stands, spiritually speaking, widowed, orphaned

and destitute of the family of God. He who is the God of the widow,

the orphan, and the poor, who redeemed a helpless Israel out of

Egypt, has made provision for that humanity at the Cross and the

Christian is His ambassador (Gal. 2:20; John 20:21; 2 Cor. 5:18-

21). Moses' solemn challenge is still ours today:

 

Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, father-

less, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.46

 

 

 

 

42 Note the marginal rendering of the Greek monogennes in the New Ameri-

can Standard Bible at John 3: 16.

43 Greek orphanous, John 14: 18.

44 2 Cor.5:18.

45 2 Cor. 8:9.

46 Deut. 27: 19.

 


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

            3909 Swiss Ave.

            Dallas, TX   75204          

www.dts.edu

 

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu