From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

Person who has been deprived of parents. The meaning is clearly demonstrated in  Lamentations 5:3 : "We have become orphans and fatherless, our mothers like widows." Since the father was the main means of economic support for the family unit in the ancient Near East, his absence left his wife and children in a particularly vulnerable condition ( 2 Kings 4:1-7 ). Consequently in the Bible, and in the ancient Near East, orphans and widows are usually mentioned together as the epitome of the poor and deprived of society, the personae miserabiles.

The Old Testament . The first reference to orphans in the Bible is found in the earliest law code of ancient Israel, the Covenant Code ( Exodus 21-24 ). In this text, given to a group of recently liberated slaves, the Lord passionately desired the protection of the orphan: "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless" (22:22). To have compassion on the powerless, represented by the orphan, is to have the same zeal as God, who is known especially as "the helper of the fatherless" ( Psalm 10:14 ), the helper of the helpless ( Job 29:12 ). Consequently the yardstick by which Israelite society is measured in the prophetic critique is its concern to protect and provide for the totally dependent, a prime example of which was the orphan ( Isaiah 1:23;  10:2;  Jeremiah 5:28;  Ezekiel 22:7;  Malachi 3:5 ). True repentance meant justice for the orphan ( Isaiah 1:17;  Jeremiah 7:6;  22:3;  Zechariah 7:10 ).

Israel used the metaphor of an orphan to describe its own origins. A fatherless Israel was adopted by Yahweh and became his firstborn son ( Exodus 4:22 ). Ezekiel described Israel as an infant abandoned to die by its parents; Yahweh, however, had mercy and adopted her into his family (chap. 16). If Yahweh judged the people, it was as if they had become orphans without a father ( Lamentations 5:3 ). But they could at the same time hope for salvation, for in Yahweh "the fatherless find compassion" ( Hosea 14:4 ).

The New Testament . There are only two certain references to orphans.  James 1:27 emphasizes the Old Testament teaching. The essence of true religion is "to look after orphans and widows in their distress." Helping the helpless is at the core of what it means to be religious, as it was in the Old Testament.

A metaphorical usage also occurs. Christ stated at the last supper that he would not leave his disciples as orphans but come to them in the presence of his Spirit ( John 14:18 ). It is this Spirit that allows Christians to call out, " Abba, Father" ( Romans 8:15 ). They are no longer spiritual orphans but can begin to pray, "Our Father" ( Matthew 6:9 ).

Stephen G. Dempster

Bibliography . F. C. Fensham, JNES 21 (1962): 129-39; D. E. Gowan, Int 41 (1987): 341-53; R. Patterson, BSac 130 (1973): 223-34; H. Ringgren, TDOT, 6:477-81; H. E. von Waldow, CBQ 32 (1970): 182-204.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

God has a special concern for orphans ( Deuteronomy 10:18;  Psalms 68:5), and he wants his people to have similar concern ( Deuteronomy 26:12;  James 1:27). In circumstances where orphans are left poor or defenceless, people who are cruel or greedy can easily take unfair advantage of them ( Exodus 22:22;  Job 24:3;  Job 24:9;  Isaiah 10:2;  Jeremiah 5:28). Although God will punish the oppressors ( Deuteronomy 27:19;  Psalms 10:12-15;  Malachi 3:5), he expects his people to defend the oppressed against injustice ( Deuteronomy 24:17;  Job 29:12). He also expects them to help provide the needy with the necessities for everyday living ( Deuteronomy 16:14;  Job 31:16-17).

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) A child bereaved of both father and mother; sometimes, also, a child who has but one parent living.

(2): ( a.) Bereaved of parents, or (sometimes) of one parent.

(3): ( v. t.) To cause to become an orphan; to deprive of parents.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [4]

ôr´fan  : This word occurs once only in the Old Testament (  Lamentations 5:3 , where it stands for יתום , yāthōm , elsewhere rendered "fatherless," and in the Septuagint always ὀρφανός , orphanós ); in the Apocrypha it occurs 3 times (2 Esdras 2:20; Tobit 1:8; 2 Macc 8:28). There is no clear case where it means the loss of both parents. The Scriptures devote considerable attention to the widow and orphan, and the idea is that the child is fatherless. It is not found in the King James Version of the New Testament; but the Greek word orphanos occurs twice,  John 14:18 (the King James Version "comfortless," the Revised Version (British and American) "desolate," margin "orphans") and   James 1:27 ("fatherless"). See Fatherless .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [5]

The customary acceptation of the word orphans is well known to be that of "children deprived of their parents;" but the force of the Greek word Ὀρφάνους (rendered Comfortless in the king James version,  John 14:18) implies the case of those who have lost some dear protecting friend; some patron, though not strictly a father: and in this sense it is used,  1 Thessalonians 2:17 : "We also, brethren, being taken away from our care over you," Ἀπορφανισθεντες . Corresponding to this import of the word it may be used by Christ in the passage of John's Gospel.