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The Father of Fatherless Boys

The Father of Fatherless Boys

Draw Close to God

The Father of Fatherless Boys

Exodus 22:22-24

“A FATHER of fatherless boys . . . is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5) Those inspired words convey a touching lesson about Jehovah God​—he is sensitive to the needs of disadvantaged ones. His concern for children who lose a parent in death was clearly evident in the Law he gave to Israel. Let us examine the Bible’s first reference to the “fatherless boy,” * found at Exodus 22:22-24.

God warns: “You people must not afflict any . . . fatherless boy.” (Verse 22) This was not a mere plea for humanitarianism; it was a divine command. A child who lost his father​—and hence his protector and sustainer—​was vulnerable. No one was to “afflict” such a child in any way. In other Bible translations, the word “afflict” is rendered “abuse,” “mistreat,” and “take advantage of.” To wrong a fatherless child was a serious matter in God’s eyes. Just how serious?

The Law continues: “If you should afflict him at all, then if he cries out to me at all, I shall unfailingly hear his outcry.” (Verse 23) The account switches from the plural “you” in verse 22 to the singular “you” in verse 23. The individual and the nation as a whole were equally responsible for obeying this divine precept. Jehovah was watching; he inclined his ear to the fatherless boys, ever ready to respond to their cries for help.​—Psalm 10:14; Proverbs 23:10, 11.

What, then, would happen if someone were to wrong a fatherless boy, giving that child reason to cry out to God? “My anger will indeed blaze,” says Jehovah, “and I shall certainly kill you with the sword.” (Verse 24) One Bible reference work says that this “is literally ‘and my nose will become hot,’ which is an idiom for intense anger.” Notice that Jehovah did not leave it up to the human judges in Israel to enforce this law. God himself would execute judgment upon anyone who took advantage of a defenseless child.​—Deuteronomy 10:17, 18.

Jehovah has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) His heart goes out to children who lack a parent or parents. (James 1:27) Make no mistake​—the Father of fatherless boys is provoked to righteous anger by the victimization of innocent children. Those who would seek to exploit a vulnerable child will not escape “the burning anger of Jehovah.” (Zephaniah 2:2) Such wicked ones will learn that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”​—Hebrews 10:31.


^ par. 1 The expression “fatherless boy” appears some 40 times in the Bible. Although the Hebrew word thus rendered is in the masculine gender, we should not think that the principles underlying such statements excluded girls who lost a father. The Mosaic Law upheld the rights of fatherless girls as well.​—Numbers 27:1-8.