Q: #498. How many widows are mentioned in the Bible?
A: The Bible uses the word “widow(s)” 81 times (55 times OT – Heb. = “almanah” / 26 times NT – Gr. = “chera“). I have looked up every one of these uses. I have also scanned through a list of every woman mentioned in the Bible, and run an online search looking for an answer to this question. I now have a list of widows in the Bible, but I have a feeling I am missing a few. (If you think of one, let me know.)
Several problems make this difficult. For example, one is that we aren’t always told that a woman is a widow, when she likely is. Another is that there are some widows who weren’t widows for long. An example of the first problem is Mary, the mother of Jesus, who I believe became a widow at some point during Jesus’ life, with her husband Joseph dying (I discuss this here.). I also believe the mother of Mark in the New Testament may have been a widow. In regards to the second problem, we have examples like Bathsheba, who became a widow because David had her husband murdered. However, David then married her (2 Sam 11:1-26). We also have Abigail, whose husband died, but shortly afterwards David married her too (1 Sam Ch. 25)(2 Sam 2:2).
Keeping in mind the above issues, following is the best list of widows in the Bible that I could come up with (not counting the women listed above).
Widows In The Bible Verses
1. Tamar (daughter of Judah) (Gen 38:6-11) (widowed twice)
2. The mother of Huram from Tyre (1 Kin 7:13-14)
3. The widow of Zarephath (1 Kin 17:8-24)
4. Zeruah, mother of Jeroboam (1 Kin 11:26)
5. The widow with two sons (2 Kin 4:1-7)
6. Naomi (Ruth 1:1-5)
7. Orpah (Ruth 1:1-5)
8. Ruth (Ruth 1:1-5) (later remarried Boaz)
9. Anna (more on Anna here) (Lk 2:36-38)
10. The widow of Nain (Lk 7:11-16)
11. Widow with the two mites (Lk 21:1-4)(Mk 12:41-44)
12. Widows mourning the death of Tabitha (Acts 9:36-41)
The Bible tells us in many places that God will care for and defend widows: (Ps 68:5)(Deut 10:18)(Prov 15:25)(Ps 146:9)(Deut 24:17). There are also commands from God for us to take care of widows (1 Tim 5:3-16)(Isa 1:17)(Jer 7:6-7)(Zech 7:10)(Acts 6:1-6). God will punish those who cause harm to widows (Ex 22:22-24)(Deut 27:19)(Jer 22:3-5)(Mal 3:5)(Mt 23:14)(Mk 12:38-40)(Lk 20:46-47).
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to give a portion of every third year tithe to widows (Deut 14:28-29)(Deut 26:12-13), as well as a portion of the freewill offerings at the Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles (Deut 16:9-14). Also, part of each harvest was to be left in the field for them (Deut 24:19-22).
There was a custom regarding widows called a “Levirate Marriage,” which I explain in the next question.
Perhaps the best and most well-known verse in the Bible regarding widows is found in the book of James:
(James 1:27) Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
A few other interesting verses on widows can be found in: (Mk 12:18-27)(Lk 18:1-8)(Rom 7:1-3).