Troublesome Topic: You Must Care for the Widows Orphans and Foreigners

Lesson 7 of 13

Of course God wanted His people to learn to show compassion and mercy to everyone. But the Law demonstrates an obvious emphasis on those who were the social outcasts of that culture. Social outcasts, in this usage, refers to both those who were not wanted (like the foreigners) and those who had little or no chance of making an honest living on their own. Many orphans could not realistically support themselves because they were too small; and there was not much opportunity for employment for a true widow who was left all alone, other than prostitution. A foreigner would often find it hard to find a job simply because people would distrust him, or not want him around. And he could not sue for discrimination. So the Former Covenant repeatedly emphasized the need to look out for, and give special care to, the ones who otherwise would be considered the outcasts of society, i.e. the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners. If you keep your eyes open as you read your Bible, you will begin to see these three groups mentioned quite often. For God’s people, treatment of all others needed to start with respect and end with compassion.

Observe what the Law stated in Lev. 19:14:

Leviticus 19:14


Do not make the deaf small

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or put an obstacle in front of the blind, but fear your ELOHIM. I am YHVH (read Adonai).


You must not take advantage of the fact that the deaf cannot hear you and mock or belittle them in their presence; you must not take advantage of the fact that the blind cannot see and put a tripping hazard in front of them to laugh when they stumble, rather you must fear the consequences that YOUR CREATOR AND RULER will deliver for your actions. Don’t forget who is speaking to you; I am THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD with authority to back up what I say.

The reason given for why they should treat the less privileged with kindness was rooted in Israel’s own history.

Deuteronomy 24:17


Do not bend

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justice [that is] due to the foreigner or the fatherless, nor take the garment of the widow as a pledge,


Do not manipulate the rendering of justice that is due to foreigners or orphans, and do not take the widow’s source of warmth to force her to pay her debts more quickly,

Deuteronomy 24:18


rather you must each remember that you were a slave in EGYPT and YHVH your ELOHIM (read Adonai your Elohim) redeemed you from there; based on this, I forcefully command you to do this thing.


instead you must each remember that you were a slave in the place that is BOUND BY SIN and THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD who is YOUR CREATOR AND RULER freed you from that place; based on the debt of gratitude you owe me, I firmly charge you to treat the disadvantaged properly.

True widows and true orphans were those who had no relatives alive that could care for them. It was expected that, if some relatives were alive, they would care for the needy in their families, rather than expecting the community to do that.

Agriculturalists had to harvest with the poor in min. They had to leave some product behind when harvesting grains, grapes and olives. This allowed the disadvantaged to survive.

For us the main idea is similar, but the circumstances are different. We should be compassionate to the less fortunate because of the multiple kindnesses we have received from God.  

As people climb the ladder of human success, they tend to forget about, or simply ignore, those left behind. Often the feeling is probably that “if the others just worked as hard as I have, they could do it too,” which may or may not be true. We can be sure that a cold, hardened heart is never justifiable. We cannot ignore others around us.

If people under that covenant had to care for the social outcasts of their day, who are the social outcasts of our day? Who is it that God would want us to give special care to helping or caring for, where otherwise our natural tendency would be to ignore them or even ostracize them? Would it be someone who looks different? Dresses differently? Talks with a foreign accent? Doesn’t have much money? Has a different lifestyle? When you meet someone who makes you uncomfortable or who you don’t want to be around, do you ever think about their soul? About their spiritual condition?

I encourage you to read the Gospels and see how Jesus treated the despised Samaritans, the hated tax collectors, those possessed by demons, people from other lands, the woman who was caught in the act of adultery (but the man got away), and those nasty Romans. You will see that Jesus was the perfect balance between God’s holy standard and God’s matchless compassion.

In Summary: Special care should be given to all the disadvantaged.

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is Show Compassion When Harvesting


1: "make small":

This word has the basic meaning of “to be swift, slight or trifling, to make small, or to curse.”


This verb, which I have rendered as “bend” has “bend down and spread or stretch out” as its primary meaning, although there are other uses as well. From the idea of bending justice they got the idea of perverting justice, or what I refer to in the paraphrase as “manipulating justice.”