‘Orphan,’ according to Scripture…

Common culture tends to believe that an orphan is a child that has no parents, i.e., father or mother, but is this Biblical?

In exploring this topic, the first consideration one should have is, ‘to whom do the children belong?’ Again, common culture tends to believe that children are jointly the possession of father and mother, but, is this Biblical?

In fact, when one understands proper Biblical authority structure, it becomes evident that the head of the house and the final authority in all matters is the husband.  As is often reminded here on 113Restoration.com, 1 Corinthians 11:3 says,

3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

The larger context of the chapter makes plain that man is created in the image of God, for God, while woman is created in the image of man, for man.

1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

Much has already been written detailing this from Scripture on 113Restoration, so it is not necessary to explain it all here.  The major points that must be recognized in the context of understanding the definition of ‘orphan’ is to recognize the role specialization that the Father gives to men and women.

Man has a responsibility to ‘be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth’ and woman is given to him as a helpmeet to accomplish his assigned task.  In that light, and affirmed in many places in Scripture, she is an asset that he is to use in the fulfilling of his purpose.  Her purpose is bound up in his and he is to be the head and lead her in the creation and building of his ‘house’ or family.

As explained in previous articles, Hebrew has no word for ‘wife.’ Typically, the Scriptures, when describing the relational connection between a man and his woman, it will state just that! “Abraham’s woman, Sarah….”  Or, “the woman of Abraham, Sarah…”  The point clearly made throughout the Tanak is that the woman belongs to the man. Western post-Christian culture hates this thought as it flies in the face of ‘enlightened feminism,’ but God is unapologetic and unfazed by cultural rebellion. It is what it is and in His economy, the woman belongs to the man.  Now, to be clear, Scripture is very clear that the man is to love and protect her, provide for her needs, etc, but Scripture is even more clearly patriarchal in structure from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. One ignores or avoids this obvious thread to their own peril.

Once one understands and recognizes the patriarchal undergirding of Scripture and the fact that the woman belongs to the man, then it is quite an easy task to figure out who the children belong to.  They belong to the father.  Here are a few verses in Exodus that illustrate both,

Exodus 21:22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide.

Both the woman and the child belong to the man.  This is further illustrated in,

Exodus 22:16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.

The dowry is paid to the father, indicating his ownership.  Further, for the injured wife in the above verses, because the husband presumably paid a dowry for her, we see between these two verses the transfer of ownership and authority over her from father to husband.

It is very challenging to the western mind to consider women and children as ‘property,’ however we need to slow down and consider what is going on here. God, in instituting His Word at Sinai could very well have outlawed even the idea, nevermind the practice of male authority over his woman and his children, but God does not do that.  He could have instituted caveats giving her an ‘out’ or freedoms that were not in (what we regard as) the culture, but He did not.  Rather, God placed guardrails precisely because He intended for woman and child to belong to and be under the authority of the man.  We must take Scripture for what it says and not try to explain it away with excuses declaring that God was so impotent that He had to deal within their culture.

Here is still another passage from these same chapters in Exodus that demonstrate that a widow can have orphans who are regarded as fatherless.

Exodus 22:22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

In fact, the Hebrew word יָתוֹם  H3490, ‘yathom’ is used twice in the above passage, once translated as ‘orphan’ and the second as ‘fatherless.’  Brown-Driver-Briggs and Strongs agree that this word means ‘orphan, fatherless’ thus equating fatherlessness with being an orphan.  Nearly every one of the forty-two uses of the word is in a phrase mentioning both widow and orphan implying that they are in an equal state of bereavement, danger, and exposure. Lamentations 5:3 may express the connection most poignantly,

Lamentations 5:3 We have become orphans without a father, our mothers are like widows.

Notice, the orphans have mothers!

Verses from Psalm 127 and 128 also point to the protection by, and blessing of, children to the father,

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,

The fruit of the womb is a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,

So are the children of one’s youth.

5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;

They will not be ashamed

When they speak with their enemies in the gate.


Psalm 128 How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

Who walks in His ways.

2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,

You will be happy and it will be well with you.

3 Your wife (woman) shall be like a fruitful vine

Within your house,

Your children like olive plants

Around your table.

4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed

Who fears the Lord.

Again, it is important to understand that these point to the headship, ownership, and authority of the husband/father. Other passages further demonstrate that it is to the father to whom the children belong;

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 2:11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

1 Timothy 3:4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),

American Law and the US Supreme Court have long agreed that children belong to the father, a standing that has only recently begun to change in the face of no fault divorce.

Sons and daughters are the natural property rights of their Father which is an unalienable right endowed upon the father by the Creator. We see this in Prather v. Prather, 4 S.C. Eq. 33 (1809) when the court wrote;

“With respect to the children, I do not feel myself at liberty to take them out of the care and custody of the FATHER. He is the natural guardian, invested by God and the law of the country, with reasonable power over them.”

The Supreme Court continued to uphold this liberty right of the Father, in Meyer v. Nebraska 262 U.S. 390 (1923) and in Pierce v. Soc’y of the Sisters of Holy Name of Jesus and Mary 268 U.S. 512 (1925) when the court wrote;

“Fathers have a fundamental constitutional right to raise their children without state interference.”

Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000) observed that

“the liberty interests at issue in this case [the interest of the Father in care, custody and control over his children] is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this court”

William Blackstone stated in “Commentaries on the Law of England” 3d ed. (New York 1900) that the English common law was extremely clear when it stated;

”The father had natural rights to his children and the mother was entitled to no power over her children.”

James Kent added to the confirmation that this common law carried over into American Law by stating in his “Commentaries on American Law” 2d. ed., 4 vol (Boston 1826-1830)

“That because of the Father’s obligation to provide for the maintenance, and in some qualified degree, for the education of his infant children, he is entitled to the custody of the children and to the value of their labor and services.”

It has long been established that the custody of a Father’s natural and legitimate sons and daughters are the sole custody of the father alone and such a liberty is an unalienable right endowed upon the father by God Himself in which must be protected constitutionally.

Having firmly established from Scripture and exampled in American legal code that children belong solely to the father, it is quite easy to determine that the Biblical definition of an orphan is different than the common definition of a parentless child.

Biblically, an orphan is a fatherless child!

Psalm 68:5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows,

Is God in His holy habitation.

6 God makes a home for the lonely;

He leads out the prisoners into prosperity,

Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Scripturally, even if a child’s mother is living, if the child is fatherless, he/she is an orphan.  The reason is because in a patriarchal (Biblical) structure, protection comes from the father.  He is the one who could conduct business in the city gates, own land, and insure proper training and inheritance.  (And, it is for this reason that in Israel there were almost zero widows, divorcees and single moms. They would marry/remarry for protection!)

Consider Numbers 30. Daughters and women only had legal protection when under the authority of their father or husband. Widows and divorcees had no such protection. Here are select verses, however the read should consider the whole chapter,

2 If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

3 “Also if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by an obligation in her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will forgive her because her father had forbidden her.

8 But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and the Lord will forgive her.

9 “But the vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, everything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her. 10 However, if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound herself by an obligation with an oath, 11 and her husband heard it, but said nothing to her and did not forbid her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband indeed annuls them on the day he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning the obligation of herself shall not stand; her husband has annulled them, and the Lord will forgive her.

13 Every vow and every binding oath to humble herself, her husband may confirm it or her husband may annul it.

16 These are the statutes which the Lord commanded Moses, as between a man and his wife, and as between a father and his daughter, while she is in her youth in her father’s house.

Notice, both the daughter and the married woman receive their protection from the father/husband.  A fatherless daughter is an orphan and receives no protection from her mother who is a widow or divorcee. Even if she has a mother, the fatherless daughter is unprotected as is any orphan.

One might ask, ‘Why does this matter?’

First, one must understand and recognize what God thinks about the care and wellbeing of a child and the state of the family in Israel. As with women, God’s desire is that children be under the headship of a man, i.e., father.

Second, because children belong to the father, they should remain with him if the woman chooses to go out or leave by divorce.

Third, the restoration of kol Israel, if according to Torah, will require that men be heads of their houses and that children remain in the care of their fathers, thus significantly reducing the destruction of families through divorce or absentee fathers.   In fact, the ownership of the children by the father will motivate most women to stay and work things out.

[As a caveat, there may be rare circumstances wherein the woman has a Biblical/serious reason to go out that is not just emotional.  In a patriarchal community of restored Israel, if the man is mistreating his family or acting unrighteously, the men in the community would come together to handle the situation and bring corrective measures. Detailed thought on how this might work, however, is out of the scope of this article.] 

Fourth, single moms in kol Israel need to actively seek being covered by a righteous man.  This is not only for her own sake, but for that of her fatherless, or orphan, children.

In conclusion, the importance of headship and covering extends well beyond the woman to the man’s children.  According to Scripture, a man is of utmost importance in the lives of both women and children.  A fatherless child is uncovered and therefore unprotected in multiple ways in God’s economy of authority and relationships.  The role of the father in the life of both a child and a woman is to give physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial provision and protection.

Desiring the restoration of kol Israel and desiring to walk in the ways of Torah demands that one take a hard look at what God wants for children and both how He desires that they be protected and by whom.

Author: Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ natsab.wordpress.com Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!

6 thoughts on “‘Orphan,’ according to Scripture…”

  1. An excellent post, Pete. I agree with almost all of it. However, I’ll make a correction.
    Pete says: … woman is created in the image of man …

    That is wrong. It is nowhere in the Bible. Here is a place where it should appear, if in fact that was the case:
    1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
    Notice that it does not say that women are the image of men or God, only the glory of men.
    Adam was created in God’s image, and God records His image being transferred on to Adam’s son :
    Genesis 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:

    Genesis 2:22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
    “This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

    Again there is no mention of the woman being created in God’s image, or the image of Adam, who was God’s image.
    If the woman bore any of God’s image, it would be an insult to God for her to be covered in God’s presence, as if his image were a shameful thing.
    Early Church father Ambrosiaster explains:
    Paul says that the honor and dignity of a man makes it wrong for him to cover his head, because the image of God should not be hidden. Indeed, it ought not to be hidden, for the glory of God is seen in the man. … A woman therefore ought to cover her head, because she is not the likeness of God but is under subjection.

    Also I think you please God best by leaving out your own caveats that God did not mention. The caveat you give above seems to be an attempt to still be a woman-pleaser instead of just teaching the truth with boldness, and becoming a “rock of offense” like our model, Jesus Christ. God gives most of his commandments without too many caveats. As though we can trust and obey Him, and count on His justice and mercy to see that things will certainly be made right and be worked together for our good. Are you God’s handler, who comes after Him, to soften His rash statements? Don’t shrink back from just giving God’s truth out straight. Preach His word with boldness! Making apologies for God’s typical omission of caveats, that so many people feel necessary to add to God’s word, is just infidelity to God’s word. You only add human foolishness by adding to His word. Expound on what God does say, rather than what you think He should have mentioned, and might have, if He had been as wise as you.

    Rebellious women don’t need a ready-made out, or help in blaming their husbands. They need the uncompromised truth Of God’s word. Satan has a million false teachers who pass out extra-Biblical caveats, exceptions, and excuses like candy. And rebellious women will seek them out for their ear-tickling tidbits.
    2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    Keep up the good work!


  2. I stand by what I have written because it is a fair and reasonable understanding from a number of passages and basic science. A seed bears after its own kind. Man plants a seed and recieves after its kind. The rib came out of Adam and was fashioned into a woman, ‘bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.’ If man is the image and glory of God, by whom he is made, how is woman, created from and for the glory of man not also in the image of man?

    Just because Scripture does not explicitly state it does not mean it isn’t so.


    1. Your post didn’t say that women could be the image of man. It said definitively: … woman is created in the image of man …
      That has only come from your own understanding. And based upon my own study of scripture I dispute that point. The Son(not the children) is the image of the Father, as we are told, and men also are the image of God. Seth was the image of Adam. Adam dose not say, this at last is in my image and she is after my likeness, he says that the woman is made from his same material. And therefore there is some kinship. If women were in the image of man, would it not make more sense for 1 Corinthians 11:7 to say that “men are the image & glory of God; but women are the image & glory of man”, instead of just saying , “but the woman is the glory of man”? You’re forcing that in there where it was intentionally omitted, in spite of no other Biblical reference to any daughter being in the image of her father, or any earthly woman being in the image of any man. Eve’s image is never mentioned, most likely because women are a unique creation not in the image of anything before. Yet Seth’s image is said to have transferred down from his Father who was a son of God(Luke 3:38) and we are clearly told that Adam was made in God’s image and after His likeness. There is a theological reason God never says the woman is the image of the man, because that would make her seem to then also bear the image of God, and then she also would not wear a head covering, forasmuch as she would be the image of God also. Just ponder that, or show me a scripture saying any woman, while on earth, is in any man’s man’s image.

      I’ll even help you out a bit. here is your best shot:
      Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
      However, I don’t believe that verse implies that any woman still under the sentence of death for her sins, is a brother conformed to the image of God already, while here in corrupted flesh. Maybe that is why it is said:
      Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
      Biblical accounts of angels record them appearing like men. Perhaps when we receive our glorified bodies, none of them will be female. LOL Perhaps women will all be promoted, and all that unresolved penis-envy gets wiped away in glory. LOL But, unlike this “women in the image of man” discussion, I’m not going to get dogmatic about things we are not told.


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