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Widows and Orphans



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One of the arguments used for instituting polygamy in a marriage is the text in James 1:27

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Pro-polygamists use this text as proof that they should marry these widows in order to care for them in all ways, including sexually, and to become fathers to their children.

Let's take a look at what else the Bible has to say to define the term "widows".

1 Timothy 5:3-16

"Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ they want to marry. Thus they bring judgement on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need." NIV

It appears here that there are some very specific guidelines for "looking after...widows in their distress..." James 1:27

1. If they have family, the family is suppose to care for them.

2. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she:

a. is over 60

b. has been faithful to her husband,

c. is well know for her good deeds.

3. Younger widows may not be put on the list.

4. The woman is the one who should help the widows in her family. Why would it be different in the case of the widows who have no family? If it is the women who are suppose to be taking care of the widows, this would not include "husbanding" (sexual fulfillment).

Let's look at several other texts that deal with the subject of widows, "fatherless", and orphans.

Exodus 22:22-24

"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless." NIV

Deuteronomy 14:28-29

"At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." NIV

Deuteronomy 16:11, 14

"11And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name - you, your sons and daughters, your men-servants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you. 14Be joyful at your Feast - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns." NIV

Deuteronomy 24:17-22

"Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this." NIV

Deuteronomy 26:12-13

"When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. Then say to the Lord your God: 'I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.'" NIV

It appears Deuteronomy has a lot to say about how we treat the fatherless and the widow. So far I haven't found any commands in the Bible from the Lord to marry the widow in order to take care of her other than if a woman's husband died without a son, the brother to this man must marry the wife and the firstborn will be considered the son of the one who died.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10

"If brothers are living together, and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. However, if a man does not want to marry his brother's wife, she shall go to the elders of his town gate and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to carry on his brother's name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me. Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, I do not want to marry her, his brother's widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, 'This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother's family line.' That man's line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled." NIV

The only purpose outlined here is to produce offspring for the dead man "that his name not be blotted out of Israel". It says nothing of requiring the brother to marry the widow if she already has a son. In fact in vs. 7-10 the law allows for the brother to refuse, albeit it was considered a disgrace to do so. The introduction of this text specifies that the brother was living with his married brother. Would that be the case if the brother was already married, or does this seem to imply that the 2nd brother was still single himself?

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