Widows in the Bible
Robin Gallaher Branch: “In the Bible, Widows Are Teaching Tools”

Biblical Archaeology Society Staff   •  01/23/2013

Professor Robin Gallaher Branch of Victory University in Memphis, Tennessee, explores the role of widows in the Bible, explaining that they are not always the elderly and impoverished “wizened whiners” that we imagine. Very often in the Bible, widows are used as teaching tools to help make a special point.

Widowhood presents a difficult time in a woman’s life, especially when compounded with a diminished ability to meet financial needs, a common circumstance in the ancient patriarchal world of the Bible. Widows in the Bible, therefore, become a special teaching opportunity for the Biblical authors to present theological insights. In the January/February 2013 Biblical Archaeology Review Biblical Views column, Professor Robin Gallaher Branch presents several examples of how, in the Bible, widows can serve as special textual markers to alert readers that something significant is about to happen.

In both the New Testament and Hebrew Bible, widows are repeatedly the subjects of miracles. Following the death of her husband, a widow’s best hope for security would be her son’s ability to provide for her. The loss of a son was thus an even greater tragedy for a widow. Three miracles concerning widows in the Bible prevent or restore the loss of the widows’ sons so the family can survive (1 Kings 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:1–7; Luke 7:11–17).

The case of the widow Naomi, however, has a twist because her redemption comes unexpectedly through her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, rather than her own sons (Ruth 2–4).

In other examples from the Bible, widows such as Abigail and Judith use their beauty and resourcefulness to take care of themselves and others.
For more about the role of widows in the Bible, read Robin Gallaher Branch, Biblical Views: “Biblical Widows—Groveling Grannies or Teaching Tools?” in the January/February 2013 issue ofBiblical Archaeology Review

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