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 of Biblical Archaeology Review. Not a BAS Library member yet? Sign up today!
In the free eBook Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity, learn about the cultural contexts for the theology of Paul and how Jewish traditions and law extended into early Christianity through Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.
More from Robin Gallaher Branch in Bible History Daily
The Bible and Sexuality in South Africa
Barnabas: An Encouraging Early Church Leader: Part 1, Part 2
Judith: A Remarkable Heroine: Part 1, Part 2
With Age Comes Experience
What’s Funny About the Gospel of Mark?
SBL Meeting Gives New Insights on Paul
Getting to Know SBL’s John Kutsko
Studying the Ancient Israelites
Anna in the Bible
Laughter in the Bible? Absolutely!