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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Beggar —Though beggars are seldom spoken of in the Gospel narratives ( Matthew 20:30-34; cf.  Mark 10:46-52,  Luke 18:35-43,  John 9:1-41, and  Luke 16:19-31 parable of Rich Man and Lazarus), they undoubtedly formed a considerable class in the Gospel age.* [Note: As equivalents for ‘beg,’ ‘beggar’ of EV, we find two radically different words in the text of the Gospels—on the one hand, the verbs τροσαιτέω ( Mark 10:46,  Luke 18:35), ἐταιτεω ( Luke 16:3), and the noun προσαίτης ( John 9:8 Revised Text); on the other, the adj. πτωχός ( Luke 16:20;  Luke 16:22). In the former case the root idea is that of asking (αἰτέω), while πτωχός suggests the cringing or crouching (πτώσσω) of a beggar. But ττωχος is the ordinary NT word for ‘poor,’ whether in the sense of needy ( Matthew 19:21) or humble ( Matthew 5:3).] This is evident both from the references to almsgiving in the Sermon on the Mount and from the mention of beggars in connexion with places of a public character: the entrance to Jericho ( Matthew 20:30 and parallels), a city through which so many pilgrims went at festival seasons, the neighbourhood of rich men’s houses ( Luke 16:20), and the gates of the temple ( Acts 3:2).

The prevalence of the beggar class was due to various causes besides indolence—to the want of any system of poor relief, to the ignorance of proper medical remedies for common diseases like ophthalmia, and to the impoverishment of Palestine under the Romans owing to cruel and excessive taxation. (For the last, see Hausrath, History of NT Times , vol. i. 188 [English translation, Williams & Norgate]). Edersheim thinks that the beggar’s appeal for alms may have been enforced by some such cry as ‘Gain merit by me,’ ‘O tender-hearted, by me gain merit, to thine own benefit’ ( Life and Times of Jesus , vol. ii. 178). It is worthy of notice, however, that no beggar is recorded to have enforced his appeal to Christ by any reference to the merit to be gained by a favourable response to his appeal (though it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the appeal of a blind beggar to one who had power to restore his sight would naturally differ from his attitude to those from whom he merely sought an alms). It is also observable that the begging ‘saint’ of Mohammedan countries is not found in the Gospels.

The remark of the unjust steward in the parable ( Luke 16:3)—‘To beg I am ashamed’—favours the conclusion that begging, under any circumstances, was regarded as an unfortunate mode of existence, and, in the case of the indolent, was condemned as strongly by public opinion as it was in the days of Jesus the son of Sirach ( Sirach 40:28-30).

Literature.—The standard Lives of Christ; G. M. Mackie’s Bible Manners and Customs  ; The Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v.  ; cf. Day’s Social Life of the Hebrews .

Morison Bryce.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Beggar. The poor, among the Hebrews, were much favored. They were allowed to glean in the fields, and to gather whatever the land produced, in the year in which it was not tilled  Leviticus 19:10;  Leviticus 25:5-6;  Leviticus 24:19. They were also invited to feasts.  Deuteronomy 14:29, and  Deuteronomy 26:12.

The Israelite could not be an absolute pauper. His land was inalienable, except for a certain term, when it reverted to him, or his posterity. And, if this resource were insufficient, he could pledge the services of himself and family for a valuable sum. Those who were indigent through bodily infirmities were usually taken care of by their kindred.

A beggar was sometimes seen, however, and was regarded and abhorred as a vagabond.  Psalms 109:10. In later times, beggars were accustomed, it would seem, to have a fixed place at the corners of the streets,  Mark 10:46, or at the gates of the Temple,  Acts 3:2, or of private houses.  Luke 16:20.

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): (n.) One who begs; one who asks or entreats earnestly, or with humility; a petitioner.

(2): (n.) One who makes it his business to ask alms.

(3): (n.) One who is dependent upon others for support; - a contemptuous or sarcastic use.

(4): (n.) One who assumes in argument what he does not prove.

(5): (v. t.) To reduce to beggary; to impoverish; as, he had beggared himself.

(6): (v. t.) To cause to seem very poor and inadequate.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [4]

 1 Samuel 2:8 (b) This unfortunate person warming himself on the dung heap in the backyard is a type of the sinner who seeks to find comfort from the wretched and miserable things offered by this world. He begs the dunghill for warmth and comfort, and obtains some. He is willing to endure the offensive surroundings to obtain some temporary help. When GOD comes into a man's life, He changes him by means of the new birth, so that he no longer wants the dung heap of this world, but sits in the presence of GOD in a glorious atmosphere of heavenly association.

King James Dictionary [5]

BEG'GAR, n. See Beg. One that lives by asking alms, or makes it his business to beg for charity.

1. One who supplicates with humility a petitioner but in this sense rarely used, as the word has become a term of contempt. 2. One who assumes in argument what he does not prove.

BEG'GAR, To reduce to beggary to impoverish.

1. To deprive or make destitute to exhaust as, to beggar description.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [6]

( אֶבְיוֹן , Ebyon ' ,  1 Samuel 2:8; Πτωχός ,  Luke 16:20;  Luke 16:22;  Galatians 4:9; both terms elsewhere "poor," etc.). The laws of Moses furnish abundant evidence that great inequality of condition existed in his time among the Hebrews, for recommendations to the rich to be liberal to their poorer brethren are frequently met with ( Exodus 23:11;  Deuteronomy 15:11), but no mention is made of persons who lived as mendicants. The poor were allowed to glean in the fields, and to gather whatever the land produced in the year in which it was not tilled ( Leviticus 19:10;  Leviticus 25:5-6;  Deuteronomy 24:19). They were also invited to feasts ( Deuteronomy 12:12;  Deuteronomy 14:29;  Deuteronomy 26:12). The Hebrew could not be an absolute pauper. His land was inalienable, except for a certain term, when it reverted to him or his posterity. And if this resource was insufficient, he could pledge the services of himself or his family for a valuable sum. Those who were indigent through bodily infirmity were usually taken care of by their kindred. See POOR. In the song of Hannah ( 1 Samuel 2:8), however, beggars are spoken of, and such a fate is predicted to the posterity of the wicked, while it shall never befall the seed of the righteous, in the Psalms ( Psalms 37:35;  Psalms 104:10); so that the practice was probably then not uncommon. In the New Testament, also, we read of beggars that were blind, diseased, and maimed, who lay at the doors of the rich, by the waysides, and also before the gate of the Temple ( Mark 10:46;  Luke 16:20-21;  Acts 3:2). But we have no reason to suppose that there existed in the time of Christ that class of persons called vagrant beggars, who present their supplications for alms from door to door, and who are found at the present day in the East, although less frequently than in the countries of Europe. That the custom of seeking alms by sounding a trumpet or horn, which prevails among a class of Mohammedan monastics, called kalendar or karendal, prevailed also in the time of Christ, has been by some inferred from the peculiar construction of the original in  Matthew 6:2. There is one thing characteristic of those Orientals who follow the vocation of mendicants which is worthy of being mentioned; they do not appeal to the pity or to the almsgiving spirit, but to the justice of their benefactors ( Job 22:7;  Job 31:16;  Proverbs 3:27-28). Roberts, in his Orient. Illustrations, p. 564, says on  Luke 16:3 ("I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed"), "How often are we reminded of this passage by beggars when we tell them to work. They can scarcely believe their ears; and the religious mendicants, who swarm in every part of the East, look upon you with the most sovereign contempt when you give them such advice. I work! why, I never have done such a thing; I am not able." (See Alms).