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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 5 - Verse 9

Verse 9. Let not a widow be taken into the number. Marg., chosen. The margin expresses the sense of the Greek more accurately, but the meaning is not materially different. Paul does not here specify into what "number" the widow is to be "taken," or for what purpose she is to be "chosen," but he speaks of this as a thing that was well understood. There can be no doubt, however, what he means. In the Acts of the apostles Ac 6:1 we have this account: "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." "It appears that from the first formation of the Christian church, provision was made out of the public funds of the society for the indigent widows who belonged to it." See Paley's Horae Paulinae, on 1 Tim. No. 11. To this, as to a well-known practice, Paul here evidently refers. The manner in which he refers to it is such as to show that the custom had an existence. All that was necessary in the, case, was, not to speak of it as if it were a new arrangement, but to mention those who ought to be regarded as proper subjects of the charity. It would seem, also, that it was understood that such widows, according to their ability, should exercise a proper watch over the younger females of the church. In this way, while they were supported by the church, they might render themselves useful.

Under threescore years old. For such reasons as those mentioned in 1 Ti 5:11-14.

Having been the wife of one man. There has been much diversity of opinion whether this means that she had never had but one husband, or whether she had been the wife of but one man at a time; that is, whether she had cast off one and married another. See Whitby, in loc. The same difficulty has been felt in regard to this as on the passage in 1 Ti 3:2. See Barnes "1 Ti 3:2".

Doddridge, Clarke, and others, suppose that it means, "who had lived in conjugal fidelity to her husband." The reason assigned for this opinion by Doddridge, is, that the apostle did not mean to condemn second marriages, since he expressly 1 Ti 5:14 commends it in the younger widows. The correct interpretation probably is, to refer it to one who had been married but once, and who, after her husband had died, had remained a widow. The reasons for this opinion briefly are—

(1.) That this is the interpretation most naturally suggested by the phrase;

(2.) that it agrees better with the description of the one that was to be enrolled among the "number"—those who were "widows indeed" —as we should more naturally apply this term to one who had remained unmarried after the death of her husband, than to one who had been married again;

(3.) that, while it was not unlawful or improper in itself for a widow to marry a second time, there was a degree of respect and honour attached to one who did not do it, which would not be felt for one who did. Comp. Lu 2:36,37. "She was a widow of great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years." The same is true now. There is a higher degree of respect felt for such a widow than there is for one who has been married again, though she may be again a widow.

(4.) Among the heathen, it was regarded as especially honourable to have been married to but one man, and such widows wore the Pudicitia Coronam, or crown of chastity. Val. Max. L. i. e. ii. Comp. Livy, L. x. e. 23. See Whitby.

(5.) As these persons were not only to be maintained by the church, but appear also to have been intrusted with an office of guardianship over the younger females, it was of importance that they should have such a character that no occasion of offence should be given, even among the heathen; and, in order to that, Paul gave direction that only those should be thus enrolled who were in all respects widows, and who would be regarded, on account of their age and their whole deportment, as "widows indeed." I cannot doubt, therefore, that he meant to exclude those from the number here referred to who had been married the second time.

{2} "be taken into the number" "chosen"

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