Exodus 22:22

This injunction is even more humiliating to receive than the preceding one. It was bad enough to find those who had been foreigners in Egypt oppressing foreigners among themselves, and forgetting their own sufferings and deliverances. Still the slight excuse was available that as God's mercy to Israel receded into the past, and became a mercy to a former generation rather than a present one (at least, so it might be plausibly put), it was only too likely to be forgotten. Men are unable to make the past stand with any power against the influences of the present. But here are those, the widow and the fatherless, whom Nature in her ever fresh and living power, marks out herself as irresistible objects for pity and succour. What a disgrace to human nature that an injunction not to afflict the widow and fatherless should be necessary! And yet common observation only too often and sadly tells us that the widow and fatherless children may easily become the victims of an inconsiderate and unscrupulous self-seeking, which in its practical results is as afflicting as the most deliberate cruelty. It is a very beautiful element of God's revelation of himself in the Scriptures, that he is so often set before us as caring for the fatherless and the widow, and denouncing those who do not care for them. Widows in their needs, and his supply for their needs, appear in some of the most prominent scenes of the sacred page. Observe the provision that was made for the fatherless and the widow, along with the Levite and the stranger, to eat of the tithe of the yearly produce (Deuteronomy 14:29), and also to get their share in the rejoicings at the feast of weeks and the feast of tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:11-14). The neighbour's raiment might be taken to pledge under certain conditions, but a widow's raiment was not to be taken in pledge at all (Deuteronomy 24:17). The forgotten sheaf in the field, and the gleanings of the olive boughs and of the vineyards, were to be left for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Deuteronomy 24:19-21); and cursed was he to be who perverted the judgment of the same (Deuteronomy 27:19). When God sustained Elijah, at the time of judicial drought and famine in the land, he sustained the widow and the fatherless at the same time; and who knows how many widows and fatherless besides? It is part of the praise which is due to God in song, that he relieves the fatherless and the widow. A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows is God, in his holy habitation (Psalm 68:5; Psalm 146:9). There can thus be no mistake about God's interest in those who are left without their natural provider and protector. But then on the other hand, these very same Scriptures which assure us of God's concern, remind us of man's cruelty, unrighteousness, and oppression. Job tells us of those who drive away the ass of the fatherless, and take the widow's ox for a pledge (Exodus 24:3); and it was part of memory's brightening, as he thought upon his happier past, that he had delivered the fatherless and caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. God sent Isaiah to the hypocrites, the formal religionists who satiated God with ceremonial observances, to bid them turn to the realities of righteousness; and one of the foremost things among these was to judge the fatherless and plead for the widow. The faithful city had fallen, until those whose duty it was to judge the fatherless, and have the cause of the widow come to them, had sunk into companions of thieves and seekers of bribes. In the parable of the judge who feared not God, neither regarded man, we may be sure there is great significance beyond the purpose for which it was spoken. While first of all it teaches the need of importunity in prayer, it reminds us also how hard it is for the feeble woman, whose sphere has been the seclusion of home, to come out in the world and make her way against the oppressor and against the judge, who would be quick enough to listen to her if she was only rich, and could bribe him. By sheer carelessness and thoughtlessness, by the sin of omission even more than the sin of commission, we may fall into the wickedness of afflicting the widow and the fatherless; and to be on the alert to succour them is the only way in which we can effectually guard against this wickedness. We see that even in the Church of Christ, and in those first days when all that believed were together, and had all filings in common - when all seemed so beautiful and promising, heaven fairly begun on earth - even then, and only too soon, the widows began to complain that they were neglected in the daily ministrations. Some of this perhaps was mere mendicant grumbling, but much of it would have a real cause. The only way we can keep the oppressor's heart out of us is to have the heart living and acting under the power of a Divinely-inspired love. It is a first principle of Christian ethics that if we are not doing good, we are doing ill; and we may be parties to the worst oppression, even when we are not thinking of oppression at all. In what a light does this Mosaic injunction bring out the teaching of James as to that practical element in pure religion of visiting the fatherless and the widow. If the Christian - his opportunities, his motives, his consolations, his resources to help and advise being what they are - does not visit the fatherless and the widow, depend upon it others will with very different designs. The greatest promptitude and decision are needed to anticipate the action of the rapacious and selfish. - Y.

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

1. They have claims upon our sympathy. Their stay, comfort, defence is gone. What state can be more sorrowful and helpless!

2. They have claims upon our protection and help. Our resources are only held in stewardship for God's purposes, and to what better purpose could they be applied, both as regards its intrinsic merits and the Divine will concerning it.


1. God has legislated for them. Not in the dry and hard manner in which penal and ceremonial codes are obliged to be enacted, but in a way which throws them on the broad and better principles of humanity and love.

2. God stands in a peculiar relation to them (Psalm 68:5). In the absence of their natural guardians He takes them under His wing.

3. God is always ready to help them; to hear their cry (ver. 23; Jeremiah 49:11).


1. The oppressor is left to the righteous judgment of God, who will surely avenge His own (Luke 18:7).

2. The oppressor is left to the terrible retribution of a hard and cruel heart, which inflicts as much punishment on the subject as on the object.

3. The oppressor is left to the certain contempt and execration of his fellow-men.Husbands and fathers, learn —

1. To provide for the wants of those whom you may leave behind to mourn your loss.

(1)Make diligent use of your time, and save all you can for them.

(2)Your life is uncertain, insure it.

(3)We don't know what a day or an hour may bring forth, have all your affairs in order so as not to add perplexity to trouble already too heavy to be borne. It is "afflicting them," not to do so (see 1 Timothy 5:8).

2. Then, having made a proper use of means, leave them with calm faith in the power and goodness of their "Father in heaven."

3. Help the widow and the orphan, as your wife may be left a widow and your children fatherless.

(J. W. Burn.)

Mount Sinai
Advantage, Afflict, Child, Dead, Fatherless, Orphan, Widow, Wrong
1. Of Theft
5. Of damage
7. Of trespasses
14. Of borrowing
16. Of fornication
18. Of witchcraft
19. Of bestiality
20. Of idolatry
21. Of strangers, widows, and fatherless
25. Of usury
26. Of pledges
28. Of reverence to magistrates
29. Of the first fruits
31. Of torn flesh

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Exodus 22:22

     8243   ethics, social

Exodus 22:21-22

     5220   authority, abuse

Exodus 22:21-24

     8791   oppression, nature of

Exodus 22:21-27

     5909   motives, importance

Exodus 22:22-23

     8607   prayer, God's promises
     8614   prayer, answers

Exodus 22:22-24

     5730   orphans
     5743   widows
     6218   provoking God

Excursus on Usury.
The famous canonist Van Espen defines usury thus: "Usura definitur lucrum ex mutuo exactum aut speratum;" [96] and then goes on to defend the proposition that, "Usury is forbidden by natural, by divine, and by human law. The first is proved thus. Natural law, as far as its first principles are concerned, is contained in the decalogue; but usury is prohibited in the decalogue, inasmuch as theft is prohibited; and this is the opinion of the Master of the Sentences, of St. Bonaventura, of St. Thomas
Philip Schaff—The Seven Ecumenical Councils

Parable of the Importunate Widow.
^C Luke XVIII. 1-8. ^c 1 And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 saying, There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man [an utterly abandoned character]: 3 and there was a widow in that city; and she came oft unto him, saying, Avenge me of [rather, Do justice to me as to] mine adversary. [In Scripture language widowhood is symbolic of defenselessness (Ex. xxii. 22-24; Deut. x. 18; xxvii. 19; Mal. iii. 5; Mark xii. 40),
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Ciii. Zacchæus. Parable of the Pounds. Journey to Jerusalem.
(Jericho.) ^C Luke XIX. 1-28. ^c 1 And he entered and was passing through Jericho. [This was about one week before the crucifixion. Jericho is about seven miles from the Jordan and about seventeen and a half from Jerusalem.] 2 And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. [See p. 76. It is probable that Zacchæus was a sub-contractor under some Roman knight who had bought the privilege of collecting taxes at Jericho, or perhaps the privilege of all
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Epistle Xl. To Mauricius Augustus.
To Mauricius Augustus. Gregory to Mauricius, &c. The Piety of my Lords in their most serene commands, while set on refuting me on certain matters, in sparing me has by no means spared me. For by the use therein of the term simplicity they politely call me silly. It is true indeed that in Holy Scripture, when simplicity is spoken of in a good sense, it is often carefully associated with prudence and uprightness. Hence it is written of the blessed Job, The man was simple and upright (Job i. 1).
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Appeal to the Christian Women of the South
BY A.E. GRIMKE. "Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not within thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place: but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this. And Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer:--and so will I go in unto the king,
Angelina Emily Grimke—An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South

Epistle xvii. To Felix, Bishop of Messana.
To Felix, Bishop of Messana. To our most reverend brother, the Bishop Felix, Gregory, servant of the servants of God [246] . Our Head, which is Christ, to this end has willed us to be His members, that through His large charity and faithfulness He might make us one body in Himself, to whom it befits us so to cling that, since without Him we can do nothing, through Him we may be enabled to be what we are called. From the citadel of the Head let nothing divide us, lest, if we refuse to be His members,
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

Feast of the Dedication. The Jews Attempt to Stone Jesus and He Retires to Peræa.
(Jerusalem and Beyond Jordan.) ^D John X. 22-42. ^d 22 And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: 23; it was winter; and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. [The feast of dedication was one of eight days' duration and began upon the 25th Chisleu, which, according to the calculation of M. Chevannes, fell upon the nineteenth or twentieth of December, a.d. 29. The feast was kept in honor of the renovation and purification of the temple in the year b.c. 164, after it had been desecrated
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

A Summary of the Christian Life. Of Self-Denial.
The divisions of the chapter are,--I. The rule which permits us not to go astray in the study of righteousness, requires two things, viz., that man, abandoning his own will, devote himself entirely to the service of God; whence it follows, that we must seek not our own things, but the things of God, sec. 1, 2. II. A description of this renovation or Christian life taken from the Epistle to Titus, and accurately explained under certain special heads, sec. 3 to end. 1. ALTHOUGH the Law of God contains
Archpriest John Iliytch Sergieff—On the Christian Life

Jesus' Last Public Discourse. Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees.
(in the Court of the Temple. Tuesday, April 4, a.d. 30.) ^A Matt. XXIII. 1-39; ^B Mark XII. 38-40; ^C Luke XX. 45-47. ^a 1 Then spake Jesus ^b 38 And in his teaching ^c in the hearing of all the people he said unto ^a the multitudes, and to his disciples [he spoke in the most public manner], 2 saying, ^c 46 Beware of the scribes, ^a The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat: 3 all things whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Circumcision, Temple Service, and Naming of Jesus.
(the Temple at Jerusalem, b.c. 4) ^C Luke II. 21-39. ^c 21 And when eight days [Gen. xvii. 12] were fulfilled for circumcising him [The rite was doubtless performed by Joseph. By this rite Jesus was "made like unto his brethren" (Heb. ii. 16, 17); that is, he became a member of the covenant nation, and became a debtor to the law--Gal. v. 3] , his name was called JESUS [see Luke i. 59], which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [Luke i. 31.] 22 And when the days of their
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Development of the Earlier Old Testament Laws
[Sidenote: First the principle, and then the detailed laws] If the canon of the New Testament had remained open as long as did that of the Old, there is little doubt that it also would have contained many laws, legal precedents, and ecclesiastical histories. From the writings of the Church Fathers and the records of the Catholic Church it is possible to conjecture what these in general would have been. The early history of Christianity illustrates the universal fact that the broad principles are
Charles Foster Kent—The Origin & Permanent Value of the Old Testament

The Blessing of Jacob Upon Judah. (Gen. Xlix. 8-10. )
Ver. 8. "Judah, thou, thy brethren shall praise thee; thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; before thee shall bow down the sons of thy father. Ver. 9. A lion's whelp is Judah; from the prey, my son, thou goest up; he stoopeth down, he coucheth as a lion, and as a full-grown lion, who shall rouse him up? Ver. 10. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto Him the people shall adhere." Thus does dying Jacob, in announcing
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

The Eighth Commandment
Thou shalt not steal.' Exod 20: 15. AS the holiness of God sets him against uncleanness, in the command Thou shalt not commit adultery;' so the justice of God sets him against rapine and robbery, in the command, Thou shalt not steal.' The thing forbidden in this commandment, is meddling with another man's property. The civil lawyers define furtum, stealth or theft to be the laying hands unjustly on that which is another's;' the invading another's right. I. The causes of theft. [1] The internal causes
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The book of Exodus--so named in the Greek version from the march of Israel out of Egypt--opens upon a scene of oppression very different from the prosperity and triumph in which Genesis had closed. Israel is being cruelly crushed by the new dynasty which has arisen in Egypt (i.) and the story of the book is the story of her redemption. Ultimately it is Israel's God that is her redeemer, but He operates largely by human means; and the first step is the preparation of a deliverer, Moses, whose parentage,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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