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widow


A woman whose husband has died. The status of the widow in ancient society could be precarious. Israel’s legal corpus provided some measure of security for widows. A levirate marriage could be arranged, but this was not always done (Deut 25:5-10; Gen 38). A priest’s daughter could return to her father’s house (Lev 22:13). Sometimes, however, widows had no respectable recourse but to rely on public charity. God’s concern for the plight of widows is revealed throughout the OT (Deut 10:14-19; Deut 14:29; Deut 24:17-22; Deut 27:19; Jer 49:11; Ps 68:5; Ps 146:9); neglect or oppression of widows provoked divine wrath (Ps 94:1-7; Job 22:9-11; Job 29-30:9; Isa 1:16-17; Isa 21-25:16). Stories in the Gospels also reveal Jesus’s sensitivity to widows’ marginal existence: he restored to life “the only son” of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), he criticized scribes for exploiting widows (Mark 12:40), and he declared that a poor widow’s copper coins exceeded the scribes’ large gifts to the Temple treasury (Mark 12:38-44). The early church was attentive to the care of widows (Acts 6:1-6; 1Tim 5:3-16).

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.