The following definitions are relevant to this study:
widow: A woman whose husband is dead (and who has not married again); a wife
bereaved of her husband.
bereaved: Deprived or robbed; taken away by force; spec. deprived by death of a near
relative, or of one connected by some endearing tie.
widowhood: The state or condition of a widow or widower, or (contextually) the time
during which one is a widow or widower; the condition of a wife bereaved of her husband,
or of a husband bereaved of his wife.
viduity: The state of being or remaining a widow; the time during which a woman is a
dower: The portion of a deceased husband's estate which the law allows to his widow for
dowager: A woman whose husband is dead and who is in the enjoyment of some title or
some property that has come to her from him. Often added to the title so enjoyed, as
princess-, queen-dowager, dowager-duchess, -queen, -lady, etc.
While married, a woman is under the headship of her husband. 1CO 11:3; EPH 5:23.
Domestically, she is under his rule. GEN 3:16.
Domestically, she is under his rule, not the husband of any other. EPH 5:22; TIT 2:5.
She is to submit to him even if he is out of the word; his disobedience does not justify her
rebellion. 1PE 3:1-6; EPH 5:24.
The law empowered the husband to nullify her vow to God. NUM 30:8.
If he heard her vow and allowed it, the vow was obligatory upon her. NUM 30:7.
If she later found herself single, the vow was not thereby dismissed. NUM 30:9.
Death breaks the bond of fidelity and subjection to her husband. ROM 7:2.
Marital bonds are permanently terminated by death, a point that the Sadducees had
overlooked. MAT 22:23-30.
The widow is in a special state of liberty. 1CO 7:39.
Liberty, though, like oxygen, is both a blessing and a catalyst for fire. GAL 5:13.
Some biblical observations about widows:
The high priest could not marry a widow. LEV 21:14.
The Law required levirate marriage for a childless widow. DEU 25:5.
Widowhood carries with it a state of reproach. ISA 54:4.
The Law provided for church support of the widow. DEU 26:12.
The Law also forbade the widow's idleness. DEU 24:19-21.
Paul also set rules to forbid the widow's idleness. 1TI 5:11-13.
Widowhood does not mean exemption from religious offerings. 1KI 17:9; MAR 12:41-44.
For widows who had the gift of containment, Paul preferred they remain single.
God watches out for the widow. PSA 68:5; 146:9; PRO 15:25.
God strictly forbids afflicting or exploiting widows. EXO 22:22-24; DEU 24:17; 27:19.
He especially censures those who use religion to exploit widows. MAT 23:14.
Pure religion is characterized by relief of afflicted widows. JAM 1:27.
Christ illustriously demonstrated this pure religion. LUK 7:12-15; JOH 19:25-27.
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Nevertheless, in times of general apostasy, God may deny mercies to widows.
ISA 9:17; LUK 4:25-26.
Paul gave specific instruction to ministers regarding treatment of widows in the church.
In these verses, Paul sets forth instructions relative to widows in the church.
Especially under consideration is the support of widows from the church dole.
c/w ACT 6:1.
Certain criteria must be met in order for a widow to qualify for church support.
These guidelines regulate the distribution of church support to certain widows only.
This does not mean that widows who do not meet Paul's requirements here could
not be helped by individuals on a personal, voluntary basis.
In these verses are some of Paul's teachings which we might deem (as Peter said),
“hard to be understood” (2PE 3:16).
Paul makes a distinction here between a widow and a widow indeed. vs. 3, 5, 16.
indeed: In actual fact, in reality, in truth; really, truly, assuredly, positively.
widow: A woman whose husband is dead (and who has not married again); a
woman bereaved of her husband. d. In extended sense: a wife separated from or
deserted by her husband.
See 2SAM 14:5.
A widow indeed by definition and Scriptural usage is a woman whose
husband has died and she remains unmarried.
A widow indeed would exclude those women who are sometimes
colloquially called grass widows, i.e., departed/separated wives or
A juxtaposition of thought in these verses helps clarify those whom Paul considers
widows indeed that would qualify for relief from the church. vs. 3-6.
A widow indeed is (for Paul's purpose here) a widow who has no family
upon whom she can rely for relief. vs. 4, 16.
desolate: Left alone, without companion, solitary, lonely.
She is not a woman of means, but in destitution is one who “...trusteth in
God...” (v. 5).
She is devout, motivated by spiritual things more than sensual. vs. 5-6.
She is not one of those who are “...lovers of pleasure more than
lovers of God” (2TI 3:4).
She is much like the widow of LUK 2:37.
Mark a most important aspect of family responsibility here.
It is the duty of family to provide for their own.
Piety begins AT HOME. v. 4.
This is part and parcel of the first commandment with promise. EPH 6:2-3.
Children in this context even extends to nephews. v. 4.
Those who desert this duty nullify their religion. v. 8.
Religion is no substitute for godly duty. PRO 21:3 c/w ISA 58:6-7.
Clever, pious financial schemes fare no better. MAT 15:4-6.
Having established who is a widow indeed, Paul then sets forth other criteria (vs. 9-10). To
qualify for this dole, a widow:
must be at least sixty years old.
must have only had one husband.
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must (where applicable):
have a good report relative to her works.
have been a good mother/trainer of her children.
be noted for hospitality.
must not have shunned washing saints' feet.
have helped others in need (relieved the afflicted).
have been diligent in Christian duty.
The younger widows in context are definitely any under sixty years of age..
Paul had to draw a line somewhere. He drew it at sixty.
Paul was concerned about the younger widows being supported by this church dole.
Younger widows, freed from the headship of their man (GEN 3:16; 1CO
11:3) and simultaneously receiving a welfare check might be inspired to
become footloose and fancy-free.
With no head, no domestic responsibilities and a welfare check in hand, they
become idle, butterfly gossips. v. 13.
Such may begin to “...wax wanton against Christ...”
wanton: Of persons: Undisciplined, ungoverned, not amenable to control,
With Pandora's box already having been opened, they do re-marry, but at the
expense of the faith. vs. 11-12 c/w 1CO 7:39.
Paul apparently had good reason for his decisions here. There had already
been flare-ups of this nature. v. 15.
Rather than put younger widows on the dole, it is preferable that they re-
marry in the Lord (1CO 7:39) bear children and keep house.
v. 14; RUT 3:1-2.
This accords with the general rule that younger women should marry,
bear children and guide house. v. 14.
This would guard against the possibility of exploiting their sudden
liberty while still young enough to “live it up” after the flesh.
The church should be cautious not to subsidize those who can help
themselves nor to facilitate their own destruction.