Who among the widows in the Bible do you know the stories?
In this blog, get to know six of the most outstanding widows and learn important life lessons from their stories as follows:
- Story of Ruth
- Life of Anna
- Widowhood of Abigail
- Marriage and widowhood of Tamar
- Hospitality of the widow at Zarephath
- Generosity of the widow who gave two coins
Let’s dive into the stories of these six widows in the Bible!
Who was she?
In Hebrew, the name Ruth meant “uncertain” (Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary 1979, 957-58).
A Moabite, Ruth was one of the daughters-in-law of Naomi. Her husband was Mahlon.
But she was widowed later on. How? Let’s find out.
Her story in brief
Naomi and her family were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. But there was a severe famine in Judah so they moved to Moab (Ruth 1:1-2).
Unfortunately, Elimelech died while in Moab, leaving Naomi with her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion (verse 3).
Going on with life, Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah. These couples lived together for about ten years (verse 4).
Sadly, when those years passed, the two men died as well, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law (verse 5). Now, all three of them were widowed.
Feeling alone, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Between her two daughters-in-law, only Ruth decided to go with her (verses 6-22).
What can we learn from her story?
When Naomi was about to return to Judah, Ruth and Orpah wanted to go with her.
But Naomi said, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband” (Ruth 1:8-9, NIV).
Yet, the two women cried and begged to go with her.
But Naomi insisted they should remain, saying, “I am too old to have another husband” (verse 12, NIV).
She continued, “Even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons—would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them?”
She concluded, “No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (verse 13, NIV).
Finally, Orpah kissed Naomi goodbye.
Meanwhile, Ruth determined to go with her, saying, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (verse 16, NIV).
She added, “Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (verse 17, NIV).
Seeing Ruth’s sincerity, Naomi agreed to have her.
Here, we can see how loyal and faithful Ruth was as a daughter-in-law. She trusted Naomi enough to have courage to face an uncertain future in Judah.
If you were in her place, would you do the same?
With those qualities, Ruth is undoubtedly one of the widows in the Bible most admired and looked up to.
Getting to know her
Second in our list of notable widows in the Bible is Anna, the daughter of Penuel of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36).
Like Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Chronicles 34:22), she was also a prophetess (Luke 2:36).
Anna lived with her husband for some years. But later, she became widowed until the age of eighty-four (verses 36 and 37; Ellen White, The Retirement Years 190.4).
An important event in the Bible she was part of
One day, Joseph and Mary went to the temple to dedicate Baby Jesus to the Lord and offer a sacrifice of “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24, NIV).
In the temple was a righteous and devout man named Simeon (verse 25).
He had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. So, when he saw Baby Jesus, he took Him into his arms and blessed Him (verses 26-28).
He declared, “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Ellen White, Daughters of God 75.3)
He also prophesied that Jesus would be a “light for revelation to the Gentiles,” bringing honor to Israel (Luke 2:32, NIV).
Now, where was Anna in this occasion?
She “came in and confirmed Simeon’s testimony concerning Christ.” As he spoke, Anna’s face “lighted up with the glory of God” (Ellen White, Daughters of God 75.4).
Thankful that she had been permitted to behold Christ, she testified of Him to all people who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).
What can we learn from her?
Anna’s story is short, isn’t it? In fact, it was only during Jesus’ dedication ceremony was she mentioned in the Bible.
Yet, in this rare instance, she has done a very significant role in proclaiming the advent of the Lamb of God Who would take away the sin of the world through His blood.
Aside from this, Anna demonstrated a life of dedicated service to God as a prophetess.
Despite her old age, she never left the temple where she would fast and pray day and night. And as we’ve learned earlier, she would preach about Jesus to those people anticipating the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:37-38).
Such a devoted woman.
Do you know her?
Hailing from Carmel, Abigail was a widow of Nabal (1 Samuel 27:3).
Later, she became David’s wife. With him, she bore a son named Daniel, also known as Kileab, not the one exiled in Babylon (1 Chronicles 3:1; 2 Samuel 3:3).
Why was she widowed by Nabal? How did she become David’s wife?
Abigail was first married to Nabal, a wealthy man of Maon who had a property in Carmel. Unfortunately, this Calebite man was “surly and mean in his dealings” (1 Samuel 25:2-3, NIV).
Surly and mean? How?
David’s men rejected by Nabal
When David was in the Desert of Paran, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So, he sent him a message through his young men, asking for some food (1 Samuel 25:4-8).
But when his men arrived, Nabal rejected them, saying, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days” (verse 10, NIV).
He continued, “Why should I take my bread and water and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (verse 11, NIV).
David meeting Abigail along his way to see Nabal
After hearing what happened, David went with four hundred of them to see Nabal (1 Samuel 25:12-13).
When Abigail learned about how Nabal treated David and his men, she secretly went to meet David and his men to give them food (verses 14-19).
Kneeling down at David’s feet, Abigail asked for forgiveness on behalf of her husband. At the same time, she reassured him that God would avenge him against Nabal without the need to fight (verses 23-31).
David vindicated against Nabal
Abigail went back to Nabal, who was holding a banquet in his house—drunk (1 Samuel 25:36).
The next morning, when she told her husband what she promised David, Nabal felt weak and became like a stone. Ten days later, God struck him to death (verses 37 and 38).
When David heard about this, he exclaimed, “Praise be to the Lord, Who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head” (verse 39).
David and Abigail getting married
With Nabal’s death, Abigail was now a widow.
But then, David asked her to become his wife. And they got married (1 Samuel 25:41-42).
What lessons does her story teach us?
As you’ve seen from the story, Abigail served as the peacemaker between David and Nabal. Without her meeting David, he could have pursued a fight against Nabal (1 Samuel 25:23-31).
“By her wise course,” this “beautiful, kind, and intelligent wife of Nabal” was able to “avoid much bloodshed when her husband treated David and his men with contempt” (Ellen White, Daughters of God 41.4).
In this woman’s character, we get “an illustration of womanhood after the order of Christ.” Meanwhile, Nabal “illustrates what a man may become who yields himself to the control of Satan” (43.4).
In summary, Abigail’s story teaches us the value of peacemaking and being wise in critical times while submitting to God’s will and guidance.
On this note, we also learn that God, Who sees and controls everything, is indeed worthy of our trust and faith as we’ve seen from how He avenged David against Nabal without shedding blood.
Who was this woman?
This fourth woman in our list of remarkable widows in the Bible—Tamar—was the daughter-in-law of Judah and the wife of Er, Judah’s firstborn son (Genesis 38:6, 11).
Er had two siblings as her mother, Shua, gave birth to two more sons, Onan and Shelah (verses 4 and 5).
Tamar’s marriage and widowhood
Judah and Shua made Tamar the wife of their son, Er (Genesis 38:6).
But Er was wicked in the Lord’s sight so He put him to death, leaving Tamar a widow (verse 7).
Because of this, Judah asked his second son, Onan, to sleep with her and give her a child on behalf of Er (verse 8). This was to fulfill his duty as her brother-in-law in the levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5).
But knowing that the child would not be his anyway, everytime he slept with her, Onan would spill his semen on the ground to keep himself from giving her an offspring (Genesis 38:9).
This act displeased God so He took his life like what happened to his brother (verse 10).
Can you imagine how Tamar might have felt having been twice widowed without a child?
With this, Judah was expected to provide Tamar another one of his sons.
But instead of offering up his third son, Shelah, he advised her to remain a widow until Shelah grew up. It was because Judah feared that this remaining son would die as well. (verse 11).
Tamar fighting for her right
When Judah’s wife died, Tamar disguised herself as a harlot and offered herself to him. Judah did not recognize her because she had covered her face (Judah 38:12-14).
Eventually, he slept with her, promising to give her a young goat from his flock and giving her his seal, its cord, and his staff (verses 15-18).
Then, Tamar left, taking off her veil and putting on her widow’s clothes again (verse 19).
Judah went looking for her but couldn’t find her (verses 20-23).
Three months later, Judah learned that Tamar was guilty of prostitution and was pregnant. As such, he ordered that she be burned to death (verse 24).
But Tamar revealed Judah’s seal, cord, and staff to prove that he was her child’s father (verse 25). With this, she tricked him into performing the duties his sons should have.
Feeling guilty, Judah acknowledged his failure to provide for his daughter-in-law, confessing, “She is more righteous than I since I wouldn’t give her to my son, Shelah” (verse 26, NIV).
Later, Tamar gave birth to twin boys named Perez and Zerah (verses 27-30).
What lessons does it teach us?
On one perspective, Tamar might have come off as an opportunist, pretending to be a harlot in order not to lose her inheritance from Jacob.
But, on a bigger picture, we’ve seen how persistent she was in fighting for her right as a daughter-in-law and how loyal she was to her family.
And despite that shameful event, God has been gracious that she became part of Jesus’ genealogy.
Therefore, Tamar’s story teaches us persistence and loyalty.
5) The Widow at Zarephath
This widow at Zarephath had no name mentioned in the Bible. We only know she was involved in the story of Elijah, a well-known prophet.
Elijah predicting a drought
Elijah appeared in Israel at a crucial time—a time of drought. During this time, King Ahab was the ruler (1 Kings 17).
“As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before Whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word,” Elijah told Ahab (verse 1, ESV).
Elijah at Cherith
To spare his prophet’s life, God told Elijah to go to Cherith, east of the Jordan. There, “you shall drink from the brook and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there,” God promised him (1 Kings 17:4, ESV).
And it happened as God told. But after a while, the brook dried up as there was no rain in the land (verses 6 and 7).
Elijah meeting the widow at Zarephath
To save His prophet from drought once more, God told Elijah to go to Zarephath. “I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (1 Kings 17:8-9, ESV).
True enough, arriving at the gate of the city, Elijah saw the widow gathering sticks. He asked her for some water and bread (verses 10 and 11).
But “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son that we may eat it and die,” the widow confessed (verse 12, ESV).
Elijah agreed and requested her to make for him a small cake, assuring her as well that “the jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth” (verses 13 and 14, ESV).
And it happened as Elijah promised her. The flour was not spent. Neither did the jug of oil become empty (verse 16).
What do we learn from this story?
From this story, we can see how God takes care of us. For instance, because of her generosity, the widow witnessed God’s miraculous providence in her life.
Also, God uses things and people to help us in times of need. This is evident in how He has chosen and used the widow, though she was a Gentile, as an instrument to spare Elijah’s life instead of sending him to the wealthy Jews.
Another important thing, the story teaches us the value of kindness, hospitality, and generosity as we’ve seen from how the widow “shared her morsel with Elijah.” In return, “her life and that of her son were preserved” (Ellen White, Christian Service 188.4).
Indeed, “to all who, in time of trial and want, give sympathy and assistance to others more needy, God has promised great blessing. He has not changed. His power is no less now than in the days of Elijah,” Ellen White added.
6) The Widow Who Gave Two Coins
Like the widow at Zarephath, this last woman in our list is also among the unnamed widows in the Bible.
Her story is pretty short. But it is a remarkable one as it teaches us one of the greatest lessons of life. Let’s find out.
One day, Jesus was in the court, watching people depositing their gifts into the offering box (Mark 12:41).
Most of the rich people brought large sums. But Jesus looked upon them sadly knowing they were doing it “with great ostentation” (Ellen White, From Heaven With Love 410.5).
In other words, they did it with pretention and vulgar display merely to impress or attract notice.
But Jesus’ countenance “lighted as He saw a poor widow approach hesitatingly as though fearful of being observed. She looked at the gift in her hand. It was very small in comparison with the gifts of those around her, yet it was her all,” Ellen White continued.
Then, she threw in her two small copper coins (Mark 12:42).
In doing this, she caught Jesus’ attention enough to call His disciples and tell them, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box” (verse 43, ESV).
How come this widow has put in more than the rest if she offered only two copper coins? Continue reading.
What this widow teaches us
The other people, for instance, the rich ones, “contributed out of their abundance.” But the poor widow, “out of her poverty, has put in everything she had—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44, ESV).
The large donations of the rich “required no sacrifice and could not be compared in value with the widow’s mite” (Ellen White, From Heaven With Love 411.2).
The widow didn’t have much but she gave everything she had to the point of depriving herself of food. There was much sacrifice in her motive of giving.
It was neither a joke nor an easy thing to do. Yet, she did it with much courage. No hesitation. No regret.
Also worth mentioning, “she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her need. This unselfish spirit and childlike faith won the Saviour’s commendation” (411.3).
Would you do the same if you were in her shoes?
There are many other widows in the Bible. But the six women we have covered have amazing stories that teach us some of life’s greatest lessons.
Who among them do you like the most? What have you personally learned from her?
Share it with us by commenting below.