fa'-ther-les (yathom; orphanos): The fatherless are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, generally in association with the widow and the stranger, as typical instances of the unprotected and necessitous, who are, specially subject to oppression, and also to God's special protection. Great philanthropic regard is bestowed on this class throughout. In early legislation there is a special clause to guard them against affliction (Ex 22:22-24). They have a still more prominent place in the Deuteronomic legislation, which gives instructions that a charitable fund be formed out of the tithe, once every three years, for the relief of the destitute (De 14:28-29; 26:12-14), and that gleanings be left in the cornfield, the olive garden, and the vineyard for the benefit of this class (De 24:19-22; compare Le 19:9 f; Le 23:22, where, however, the "fatherless" are not specially mentioned). The Deuteronomist declares that God is on their side (De 10:18), and strongly condemns those who would oppress them (De 24:17; 27:19). The prophets and psalmists are equally emphatic in pleading for mercy and justice to the fatherless, and in declaring that God is their special guardian (Isa 1:17; Jer 7:6 f; Jer 22:3; Ho 14:3; Zec 7:10; Ps 10:14; 68:5; 82:3; 146:9; compare Pr 23:10). Oppressing the fatherless is frequently mentioned as a typical act of cruelty and injustice (compare Job 6:27; 22:9; 24:3,1; 29:12 f; Job 31:16-17,21; Ps 94:6; Isa 1:23; 10:2; Jer 5:28; Eze 22:7; Mal 3:5). Here we have instances of the prophetic passion for righteousness and compassion for the helpless, inspired by a profound sense of the value of human life. Passages in the Apocrypha reflect the same spirit (2 Esdras 2:20; Ec 4:10).
In the New Testament the word "fatherless" occurs but once, where James declares, in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, that true religious ritual consists in visitation of the fatherless and widows and in moral purity (Jas 1:27). Here the word for "fatherless" is orphanos ("bereft," "orphaned"), which is the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament yathom. In the New Testament the Greek word is found besides only in Joh 14:18, where it means destitute of a teacher or guide (compare La 5:3).
D. Miall Edwards