Providing for widows and orphans

Written by Schalk_and_Elsa on. Posted in Sabbatical Year, Training in righteousness

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mother child sadWe have determined in our previous post what YHVH requires of us. He wants total devotion and obedience from us, but most of all a relationship. He also requires loving kindness from us. He wants us to love one another, and to take care of the stranger, the widow and the orphan. In other words, He wants us to take care of anybody in need.

James 1:27
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our Elohim and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

What does it mean to visit orphans and widows?

35.39 ἐπισκοπέωa; ἐπισκέπτομαιc; προνοέωb: to care for or look after, with the implication of continuous responsibility—‘to look after, to take care of, to see to.’1

We are to do this, not with words only, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:17–18
17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of Elohim abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

It is not enough to pray for someone who is in need! If we have something to give, we are to give.

James 2:15–16
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

What did Y’shua teach?

Y’shua taught:

Matthew 25:32–40
32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, Master, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

When we help others in need, it is like doing it unto Y’shua. He taught us to feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, clothe the naked, invite the stranger in, visit the sick and go to those in prison. Whatever we do for others would be as if we have done it unto Him.

Think about how Abraham showed hospitality to the three strangers. Consider this: that beggar who comes to your door, could be an angel, sent to test you, to see if you have compassion in your heart. Do you?

Hebrews 13:2
2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Your attitude when giving

It is one thing to give, but how is your attitude when you give? Are you stingy when you give or do you open your hand and your heart? YHVH loves a cheerful giver. Do not harden your heart and do not give grudgingly, even if you know it would never be repaid to you. Read carefully through this passage in Deuteronomy and test your attitude against it.

Deuteronomy 15:7–11
7 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. 9Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to YHVH against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10 “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. 11 “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

Paul also gives instructions on giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6–7
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for Elohim loves a cheerful giver.

There is blessing involved in giving! He who sows bountifully, will reap bountifully. YHVH also said in Deuteronomy “ because for this thing YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings”

Proverbs 22:9
9 He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor.

Who are we to give to? We are taught to all who are in need, but we find specific instructions regarding the Levite, the stranger, the widow and the orphan. Why Did YHVH give us express instructions for these people?

The Levite, the stranger, the widow and the orphan

orphan childThese are all people without or with minimal inheritance rights. Allow me to explain this.

The Levite did not get an inheritance (Deut 18:2). YHVH was their inheritance.

A stranger is someone of a different geographical or cultural group. This person would also have no inheritance rights.

1731 גֵּר (gēr): n.masc.; ≡ Str 1616; TWOT 330a—LN 11.55–11.89 alien, stranger, foreigner, i.e., one who is of a different geographical or cultural group, often with less rights than the reference group (Ge 15:13), see also LN 85.67–85.85; note: for NIV text in Isa 5:17, see 15312

A widow

530 אַלְמָנָה (ʾǎl·mā·nā(h)): n.fem.; ≡ Str 490; TWOT 105—LN 10.53–10.61 widow, i.e., one whose spouse has died (Ge 38:11; Zec 7:10; Mal 3:5), note: often there is an associative meaning of a class of persons, low in status, meager in resources, and so pitiable that society was to take special effort to help them2

A widow had limited or no inheritance rights. Please read the quote from the Bakers evangelical dictionary. It explains the position of the widow in the Ancient near east very well.

Words that occur in the general semantic field of the term “widow” in the Bible shed light on both her personal experience and social plight. Weeping ( Job 27:15 ; Psalm 78:64 ), mourning ( 2 Sam 14:2 ), and desolation ( Lam 1:1 ) describe her personal experience after the loss of her spouse. Poverty ( Ruth 1:21 ; 1 Kings 17:7-12 ; Job 22:9 ) and indebtedness ( 2 Kings 4:1 ) were all too often descriptive of her financial situation, when the main source of her economic support, her husband, had perished. Indeed, she was frequently placed alongside the orphan and the landless immigrant ( Exod 22:21-22 ; Deuteronomy 24:17Deuteronomy 24:19Deuteronomy 24:20-21 ) as representative of the poorest of the poor ( Job 24:4 ; 29:12 ; 31:16 ; Isa 10:2 ) in the social structure of ancient Israel, as well as in the ancient Near East. With minimal, if any, inheritance rights, she was often in a “no-man’s land.” She had left her family, and with her husband’s death the bond between her and his family was tenuous….

… Her crisis was aggravated if she had no able-bodied children to help her work the land of her dead spouse. To provide for her children, to maintain the estate, and to continue payments on debts accrued by her husband imposed severe burdens. Since she was in an extremely vulnerable economic position, she became the prime target of exploitation. The fact that she was classed with the landless stranger and Levite indicates that she was often unable to keep her husband’s land.

In general, the widow’s inheritance rights were minimal. Some scholars believe that Israelite widows could inherit land as was the case with their Mesopotamian counterparts. But the evidence is sparse. The general rule was that the land was inalienably connected to the family of the male to whom it was apportioned. …The fact that widows had land within their possession probably indicated that they held it in trust for their children (1 Kings 17:7-9 ;2 Kings 4:1-2 ; cf.Prov 15:25 ). If a widow had male children, the land would pass to her sons when they reached maturity if she was able to maintain the land and the sons survived. If she had only female children, the land would be transferred to them provided they married within the tribe ( Num 27:8-11 ). If she was childless and of marriageable age (i.e., still able to reproduce), it was the duty of the closest male relative on her husband’s side (normally the brother-in-law [Lat. levir]) to marry her and provide an heir for the land of her dead husband, and to continue his name in Israel (Deut 25:5 ). The story of Judah and Tamar ( Gen 38 ) is an example of this custom of “levirate” marriage. Later, Deuteronomy 25:5-10 codifies legislation for such unions. The Book of Ruth provides a historical example of the application of the law. If no relative would marry a childless widow, it seemed that she could return to her father’s house ( Gen 38:11 ; cf. Lev 22:13 ) and dispose of the land to the husband’s family ( Ruth 4:1-3 ).3

An orphan would have only his mother to provide for him or no-one. He or she could inherit land from their father, but someone will have to work that land in order to provide for them. Their mother would be in the difficult position to provide for them while holding the land in trust for them. The quote above explains this in detail. In reality, they were almost always in a dire financial situation, therefor reliant on others to provide for them.

3846 יָתוֹם (yā·ṯôm): n.[masc.]; ≡ Str 3490; TWOT 934a—LN 10.40 fatherless child, an orphan with a dead father and a widowed mother, as a class of persons helpless and without resource (Dt 10:18), note: it is possibly in some contexts both parents are dead, but this is not explicitly stated2

From the above information, we understand the reason why YHVH gave specific instructions to provide for these people. The Levite, the stranger, the widow and the orphan has a special place in YHVH’s heart. He hears their cry and will act upon it.

Exodus 22:22–24
22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Deuteronomy 10:17–18
17 “For YHVH your Elohim is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome Elohim who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 18 “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.

YHVH in His ultimate wisdom has given us instructions on how to take care of the Levite, the stranger, the widow and the orphan. He commanded a special tithe, for providing for the needs of these people.

The third year tithe

Before we go into more detail about the third tithe, here is a table with a summary of the tithes YHVH commanded. If you would like a more detailed study on tithing, you can read “Tithing, give unto YHVH what is due to Him

Tithe To whom or for what purpose Frequency Scripture
First tithe Levite annually Num 18:21
Second tithe for going up to Jerualem for the feasts to be enjoyed by the Israelite annually Deut 14:22-26
Third tithe Levite, stranger, widow and orphan Every third year (the third and sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle) Deut 14:28-29
Giving To anyone in need always Deut 15:7-8

We are now less than two months away from the end of the third year of this sabbatical cycle. We were given specific instructions regarding giving in this year. This is also referred to as the third-year tithe and is commanded to be given every third year of the sabbatical cycle (the third and the sixth year).

The third-year tithe is specifically for the widow and the orphan, the stranger and the Levite. We do not currently have a Temple, so giving to the Levite is impossible in the literal sense. However, we have strangers, widows and orphans in our midst. This tithe is to be given at the end of every third year, in order to provide for them.

Deuteronomy 14:28–29
28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. 29 “The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

People brought their produce at the end of the third year to the “storehouse.” There it was kept to provide for the needy for the next three years.

This tithe was historically taken to the storehouse, from where it would be distributed to those in need. I would also imagine that it would be a substantial amount in products as there were certainly more Israelites than there were Levites, orphans, widows and strangers. They were therefor, in my opinion, well provided for, for the next three years. On the sixth year, the storehouse would receive another third-year tithe. This time it would be a double portion as Abba would provide abundantly in this year in order to provide for the sabbatical year. Aren’t His ways amazing? Also take note of  the special blessing that is associated with this tithe when given: “in order that YHVH your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” 4

If you would like to read more about the storehouse, you can do so in our article about tithing. We go into much more detail about that. We also show you from history how these three tithes were observed even after the time of Y’shua.

Deuteronomy 26:12
12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

This is not all; it continues in verse 13, after giving your tithe, you are to declare that you have removed the sacred portion and have given it to the designated people. Have you noticed this passage before, and can you declare this?

Deuteronomy 26:13–15
13 “You shall say before YHVH your Elohim, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. 14 ‘I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of YHVH my Elohim; I have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15 ‘Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.’

The declaration continues, read this carefully:

Deuteronomy 26:16–19
16 “This day YHVH your Elohim commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17You have today declared YHVH to be your Elohim, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18“YHVH has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; 19and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to YHVH your Elohim, as He has spoken.”

In obeying YHVH’s commandments, we declare Him to be our Elohim and YHVH declares us to be His people, a treasured possession! He will set us high above all nations for praise, fame, honor, and we shall be a consecrated people to YHVH!

Wow, have you ever considered this? Have you considered how much importance YHVH places on this commandment to provide for the needy?

Obeying this commandment will bring about abundant blessing! You can re-read verse 18 and 19, what an amazing blessing to be His treasured possession!

Jeremiah 7:5–7
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

YHVH is a father to the fatherless and a judge to the widows

Not providing for the needy, the widow, orphan and stranger, or afflicting them in any way, will bring about severe punishment! Their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you! YHVH, Himself will execute justice for them.

Exodus 22:22–24
22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 “If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Deuteronomy 24:17
17 “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.

Proverbs 23:10–11
10 Do not move the ancient boundary Or go into the fields of the fatherless, 11 For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you.

Deuteronomy 10:18
18He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 27:19
19 ‘Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Psalm 68:5
5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is Elohim in His holy habitation.

Psalm 146:9
9 YHVH protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Most people will reason that they already pay taxes that should be used for the care of the needy. Is this a valid excuse?

What about the tax we pay?

There is a tax system in place in every country, and yet the widows and orphans are not provided for. Are we to fold our arms and say its not our fault that the money is misappropriated? Could we assume that our responsibility is taken care of because we pay tax?

Consider what Y’shua said when he was asked if it was lawful to pay tax. The tax referred to here is the poll-tax effected by Caesar, hence the denarius (Roman). There is another passage in Matt 17:25 that refers to tax (two drachmas, which is the Greek currency). Looking at the amount, some commentators say this refers to the Temple tax as it equates to half a shekel per person. Anyway, let us not get side-tracked here.

Matthew 22:21
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to Elohim the things that are Elohim’s.”

Here is a commentary on this passage.

He therefore answered their question by demonstrating that government does have a rightful place in everyone’s life and that one can be in subjection to government and God at the same time. He asked them to give Him a coin used to pay the tax. A Roman denarius, with its image of Caesar, the Roman emperor, made it obvious they were under Roman authority and taxation. (One coin inscription reads, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus.”) Therefore the taxes must be paid: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

But Y’shua also reminded them that a sphere of authority belongs to God: Give to God what is God’s. Individuals are to be subject also to His authority. Man has both political and spiritual responsibilities. Amazed at Y’shua’s answer, both the Pharisees and the Herodians were silenced.5

Y’shua did not say they are exempt from paying the tax imposed on them by government. He said they are to give what is due to Caesar, but He added that they had to give to YHVH what is due to Him also.

You can draw your own conclusion from this…

Conclusion

We have learned from this study that certain groups of people have a direct line to YHVH. These are the Levites, the stranger, the widow and the orphan.

We are taught by YHVH to wash ourselves, to remove the evil of our deeds from His sight. We are to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan and plead for the widow. You still have a change to do what YHVH requires from you. Will you do that?

Isaiah 1:16–17
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.

References

  1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (462). New York: United Bible Societies.
  2. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  3. http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/widow.html
  4. http://www.setapartpeople.com/tithe
  5. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mt 22:18–22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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Comments (1)

  • Harmony

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    Excellent article. I pray that our eyes be opened and our hearts changed for “the least of these”.

    Reply

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