With no man in the house to support them and protect their interests, the fatherless boy and the widow might more easily become subject to oppression and difficulties. Their welfare was, therefore, provided for under the Law, which not only ensured justice for the fatherless boy, the widow and the alien resident, but also included provisions for their sustenance. (Ex. 22:22-24; Deut. 24:17) Gleanings left in the field, on the olive tree and in the vineyard were available to these poor ones. (Deut. 24:19-21) A special invitation was extended to them to participate in the bounteous yearly Festival of Ingathering (Festival of Booths), during which they could enjoy the feasting that accompanied the celebration. (Deut. 16:9-14) Every third year the special tithe that the Israelites normally ate at Jerusalem was deposited within the gates of their home cities. From this tithe the fatherless boy was legally entitled to a portion.—Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13.
Since it was easy to lose sight of these bereaved and defenseless ones, Jehovah used the expression “fatherless boy” in describing the degree of Israel’s righteousness or of its deviation therefrom. When the nation was enjoying good spiritual health, the fatherless boy was cared for. When justice became perverted in the land, the fatherless boy was sure to be neglected, and this was a symptom of national decay. (Ps. 82:3; 94:6; Isa. 1:17, 23; Jer. 7:5-7; 22:3; Ezek. 22:7; Zech. 7:9-11; Mal. 3:5) Jehovah’s curse was on those who oppressed the fatherless boy. (Deut. 27:19; Isa. 10:1, 2) Jehovah describes himself as the Redeemer (Prov. 23:10, 11), Helper (Ps. 10:14) and Father (Ps. 68:5) of such ones. He is the One executing judgment in their behalf (Deut. 10:17, 18), showing them mercy (Hos. 14:3), giving them relief (Ps. 146:9) and preserving them alive.—Jer. 49:11.
One of the identifying marks of real Christianity is its consideration for those bereaved by loss of husband or parents. The disciple James writes to Christians: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—Jas. 1:27.