Given that reality, the LORD addressed the plight of orphans in the laws given to the Israelites. God’s people were to set aside a tent of their field produce and animals born in their herds as a gift given at the sanctuary. Every third year, however, this tithe was to remain in storage at the local level so the disadvantaged of society, including orphans, would have access to it (Deut 14:22-29; 26:12-13). In addition, Israelites were to refrain from gathering a portion of their grain, olive, and grape harvest so that orphans and other disadvantaged people could gather food from land they did not own (Deut 24:19-21).

Finally, the Lord also addressed the general treatment of orphans. Though they might lack the protection offered by a larger clan, they were to be treated with respect and to receive fair and impartial treatment (Deut 24:17).

Where the biblical authors formally mention orphans, they often are used as emblematic of the most disadvantaged members of society. This becomes evident in the merisms that cast orphans on the less-privileged side of the social spectrum. God wanted all Israelites form all social strata to be present for the festivals at the sanctuary. The invitation was valid from top to bottom in society, from royals to orphans (Deut 16:11, 14). Similarly, when the judgment of God fell on Israel, the consequences were felt from one end of the social spectrum to the other, from elders to orphans (Isa 9:14-17).

Sometimes similar can be said for mention of the fatherless outside of these merisms; again the orphan may stand rhetorically as the representative of all who are socially disadvantaged. Surveying the ruin of people and land, the inspired poet of Lamentations called himself nothing more than an orphan (Lam 5:3). And when Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, he assured them that he would not leave them “as orphans” (John 14:18). END OF PART 2

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