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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

 

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Widow
        

Cared for specially by the law, in the triennial tithes, etc. Deuteronomy 19:29; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 26:12; Deuteronomy 27:19; Exodus 22:22; Job 24:3; Job 29:13; Isaiah 1:17; Matthew 23:14. God is "judge of the widows" (Psalm 68:5; Psalm 146:9), therefore, the judge or righteous vindicator of His church, and of Israel especially (Isaiah 54), widowed by His physical absence, against her adversary Satan (Luke 18:1-7). For pious widows, see Anna, and the one who gave her all to the Lord's treasury (Luke 2:36-37; Luke 20:47; Luke 21:1-4). (See ANNA.) Three classes of widows are distinguished in 1 Timothy 5
        (1) The ordinary widow.
        (2) The widow indeed, i.e. destitute, and therefore to be relieved by the church, not having younger relatives, whose duty it is to relieve them (let them, the children or descendants, learn first, before calling the church to support them; to show reverent dutifulness toward their own elder destitute female relatives).
        (3) The presbyteral widow (1 Timothy 5:9-11). Let none be enrolled as a presbyteral widow who is less than 60 years old. Not deaconesses, who were chosen at a younger age (40 was fixed as the limit at the council of Chalcedon) and who had virgins (latterly called widows) as well as widows among them, compare Dorcas (Acts 9:41). As expediency required presbyters to be but once married (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6), so also presbyteresses. (The feeling among Jews and Gentiles being against second marriages, the desire for conciliation in matters indifferent, where no principle was compromised, accounts for this rule in the case of bishops, deacons, and presbyteresses, whose aim was to be all things to all men that by all means they might save some: 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:33.) The reference in 1 Timothy 5:9 cannot, as in 1 Timothy 5:3, be to providing church maintenance, for then the restriction to widows above 60 would be harsh, as many might need help at an earlier age.
        So the rules that she should not have been twice married, and that she must have brought up children and lodged strangers, would be strange, if the reference were to eligibility for church alms. Tertullian ("De velandis Virginibus," 9), Hermas (Shepherd 1:2), and Chrysostom (Horn. 31) mention an order of ecclesiastical widows, not less than 60 years old, who ministered to widows and orphans. Their experimental knowledge of the trials of the bereaved adapted them for such an office and for general supervision of their sex. Age was a requisite, as in presbyters, to adapt them for influencing younger women; they were supported by the church, but were not the only widows so supported (1 Timothy 5:3-4).


Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'Widow' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Fausset's; 1878.

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