In biblical times being a widow was more of a hardship than it is today in American culture. The loss of a husband caused financial instability, especially if there wasn’t a male heir to help provide. In reviewing the term widow throughout the Bible, we see that God intentionally provides for the poorest among society. How does the Lord view those that can’t provide for themselves? In Christ Jesus, we have the perfect Redeemer who is our Rock (Psalm 78:35), who is strong (Proverbs 23:11), and who is the Creator (Isaiah 44:24).
God’s defense of Zelophehad’s Daughters (Numbers 27: 1-11)
Zelophehad (zee-lof-a had) and his wife had only daughters and no sons. In the Ancient Near East, sons were customary to inherit land, not daughters. When Zelophehad died, his daughters were widowed, in a sense, because they did not have a husband or a father, and they did not have a male head to provide for them. In Numbers 26:56, Moses divided the land according to tribes, and it was passed down through the sons; this left Zelophehad’s daughters without an inheritance and no way to provide for themselves. The daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, recognized that they were not given proper provisions according to the customs of the time. They approached Moses, asking him why the property wasn’t given to them among their father’s brothers. Moses took this matter to the LORD, and He instructed Moses to give the property to the daughters. The LORD then made a “statutory ordinance” to provide a father’s inheritance to his daughters if the father did not have any sons (Numbers 27:11). The Lord showed compassion on these women, who did not have anyone to provide for them.
Major and minor prophets discussion of how widows should be treated.
In the prophetic writings, widows are grouped with the foreigner and the fatherless oppressed people. The Lord was very clear on the treatment of the o
ppressed segment of the population. The downtrodden were to be treated with justice and grace. In doing these things, the giver of justice or the giver of grace is commanded by God. The Lord is serious about protecting those unprotected and willing to accept the provision. A few of the scripture writings are:
- Jeremiah 7:6-7, “If you no longer oppress the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow their gods, brings harm on yourselves, I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors long ago and forever.”
- Ezekiel 22:7-12 “says that Israel has forgotten the Lord because they have oppressed the fatherless and the widow. The act of oppression against the widow grieved the Lord, and he said that he would scatter Israel among the nations.”
- Isaiah 1:17 says to “plead the widow’s cause.” This is about the purification of Jerusalem by doing good things, such as seeking justice and defending rights.
- Malachi 3:5 says that the Lord will judge those who go against the widow, and He will witness (render a judgment) against them.
- Zechariah 7:9-10 says to faithfully show love and compassion to one another and not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor.
So often, in today’s culture, we seem to sweep the unpleasantness of the oppressed and marginalized under the rug, thinking that someone should take care of it. Unfortunately, some resent the government programs and non-profits that care for these social problems. As God instructed, if the church would care for the widows and orphans, then the government would not have to. From these few passages, we can see God intended for the widows and oppressed to be cared for and provided for by the church and the community they live in.