From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. In the OT . The character and degree of the poverty prevalent in a community will naturally vary with the stages of social development through which it successively passes. Poverty is more acutely felt, and its extremes are more marked, where city-life and commerce have grown up than where the conditions of life are purely nomadic or agricultural.

The causes of poverty referred to in the OT (apart from those due to individual folly) are specially ( a ) bad seasons, involving failure of crops, loss of cattle, etc. (cf.   2 Kings 8:1-7 ,   Nehemiah 5:3 ); ( b ) raids and invasions; ( c ) land-grabbing (cf.   Isaiah 5:8 ); ( d ) over-taxation and forced labour (cf.   Jeremiah 22:13 f.); ( e ) extortionate usury, the opportunity for which was provided by the necessity for meeting high taxation and the losses arising from bad harvests (cf.   Nehemiah 5:1-6 ).

In the earlier period, when the tribal system with its complex of clans and families flourished, poverty was not acutely felt. Losses, of course, there were, arising from bad seasons, invasion, and pestilence; we hear, too, of rich men oppressing the poor (cf. Nathan’s parable,  2 Samuel 12:1-6 ); but there was little permanent poverty. Matters were maintained in a state of equilibrium so long as the land-system, under which all free Israelitish families possessed a patrimony, remained in working order. It is significant that in the earlier legislation of JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] (cf. esp. the Ten Commandments,   Exodus 20:1-17 , and the ‘Book of the Covenant,’   Exodus 20:23 to   Exodus 23:33 ) the few references that do occur ( e.g.   Exodus 22:25;   Exodus 23:6 ) do not suggest that poverty was very wide-spread or acutely felt. During the period of the later monarchy, however, commerce, city-life, and luxury grew apace, and the greed and heartless oppression of the rich, the corruption and perversion of justice, which this state of things brought in its train, were constantly denounced by the great writing prophets, esp. in the 8th cent. (cf. e.g. ,   Isaiah 1:25 ,   Amos 4:1;   Amos 6:1 ff.,   Micah 2:1 ff.).

The Deuteronomic legislation (7th cent.) bears eloquent testimony to the prevalence of poverty under the later monarchy (cf.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19;   Deuteronomy 14:28-29;   Deuteronomy 14:15;   Deuteronomy 23:19-20;   Deuteronomy 24:10-21;   Deuteronomy 26:12-15 ), and in one famous sentence predicts its permanence (‘the poor shall never cease out of the land,’   Deuteronomy 15:11 ).

The classes of poor more particularly mentioned are widows, orphans, and the ‘sojourners,’ or resident strangers, who possessed no landed rights ( gçrim ). The Levites also are specially referred to in Deut. as an impoverished class (cf.   Deuteronomy 12:12 ,   Deuteronomy 19:18 ), a result of the centralization of worship in the one sanctuary at Jerusalem. All classes of the poor are the objects of special solicitude and consideration in the Mosaic legislation, particularly in the Priestly Code (cf. e.g.   Leviticus 5:7;   Leviticus 5:11;   Leviticus 19:9-15 etc.)

For a long time after the Exile and Return the Palestinian community remained in a state of miserable poverty. It was a purely agricultural society, and suffered much from contracted boundaries and agricultural depression. The ‘day of small things’ spoken of by the prophet Zechariah ( Zechariah 4:10 ) was prolonged. A terrible picture of devastation (produced by a locust plague) is given by the prophet Joel (ch. 1), and matters were aggravated during the last years of Persian rule (down to 332), and by the conflict between the Seleucids and Ptolemye for the possession of Palestine which raged for considerably more than a century (322 198). It is significant that in the Psalms the term ‘ poor ’ or ‘lowly’ has become synonymous with ‘pious.’ During the earlier part of the post-exilic period the wealthy Jewish families for the most part remained behind in Babylon. In the later period, after the conquests of Alexander the Great (from 322), prosperous communities of Jews grew up in such centres as Antioch and Alexandria (the Greek ‘Dispersion‘). Slowly and gradually the Palestinian community grew in importance; for a time under the Maccabees there was a politically independent Jewish State. A certain amount of material prosperity ensued. Jerusalem, as being a centre of pilgrimage, received large revenues from the Jewish pilgrims who thronged to It: a Temple-tax swelled the revenues of the priesthood. The aristocratic priestly families were very wealthy. But the bulk of the priesthood still remained comparatively poor. The Jewish community of Palestine was still mainly agricultural, hut more prosperous under settled government (the Herods and the Romans); while Galilee became a hive of industry, and sustained a large industrial population (an artizan class).

In dealing with poverty the Jewish legislation displays a very humane spirit. Usury is forbidden: the poor are to have the produce of the land in Sabbatical years; and in Deut. tithes are allotted to be given them ( Deuteronomy 14:28 etc.); they are to have the right to glean (  Deuteronomy 24:15;   Deuteronomy 24:21 ), and in the Priestly Code there is the unrealized ideal of the Jubilee Year (  Leviticus 25:1-55 , cf.   Deuteronomy 15:12-15 ). All these provisions were supplemented by almsgiving , which in later Judaism became one of the most important parts of religious duty (see Alms, Almsgiving).

2. In the NT . In the NT period conditions were not essentialy altered. The exactions of tax-collectors seem to have been acutely felt (notice esp. the collocation ‘publicans and sinners’), but almsgiving was strongly inculcated as a religious duty, the early Christians following in this respect the example set by the synagogue (cf.   Romans 12:18; and St. Paul’s collection for ‘the poor saints at Jerusalem,’   Romans 15:26 ,   Galatians 2:10 ). The early generations of Christians were drawn mostly from the poorer classes (slaves or freedmen), but the immediate disciples of our Lord belonged rather to what we should call the lower middle class sturdy Galilæan fishermen, owning their own boats, or tax-collectors. It should he noted that in the Gospels ( e.g. in the Beatitudes) the term ‘ poor ’ sometimes possesses a religious connotation, as in the Psalms.

G. H. Box.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

Is that state or situation, opposed to riches, in which we are deprived of the conveniences of life. Indigence is a degree lower, where we want the necessaries, and is opposed to superfluity. Want seems rather to arise by accident, implies a scarcity of provision rather than a lack of money, and is opposed to abundance. Need and necessity relate less to the situation of life than the other three words, but more to the relief we expect, or the remedy we seek; with this difference between the two, that need seems less pressng than necessity.

2. Poverty of mind is a state of ignorance, or a mind void of religious principle,  Revelation 3:17 .

3. Poverty of spirit, consists in an inward sense and feeling of our wants and defects; a conviction of our wretched and forlorn condition by nature; with a dependence on divine grace and mercy for pardon and acceptance,  Matthew 5:3 . It must be distinguished from a poor spiritedness, a sneaking fearfulness, which bringeth a snare. It is the effect of the operation of the Divine Spirit on the heart,  John 16:8 .; is attended with submission to the divine will; contentment in our situation; meekness and forbearance as to others, and genuine humility as to ourselves. It is a spirit approved of by God,  Isaiah 66:2 . evidential of true religion,  Luke 17:13 . and terminates in endless felicity,  Matthew 5:3 .  Isaiah 57:1-21 .  Psalms 34:18 . Dunlop's Ser. lec. 1. vol. 2: Barclay's Dict.; South's Ser. vol. 10: ser. 1; No. 464, Spec. vol. 6:; Robert Harris's Sermons. ser. 3. part 3.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Πτωχεία (Strong'S #4432 — Noun Feminine — ptocheia — pto-khi'-ah )

"destitution" (akin to ptocheuo, see POOR), is used of the "poverty" which Christ voluntarily experienced on our behalf,  2—Corinthians 8:9; of the destitute condition of saints in Judea,  2—Corinthians 8:2; of the condition of the church in Smyrna,  Revelation 2:9 , where the word is used in a general sense. Cp. synonymous words under POOR.

King James Dictionary [4]

POV'ERTY, n. L. paupertas. See Poor.

1. Destitution of property indigence want of convenient means of subsistence. The consequence of poverty is dependence.

The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty.  Proverbs 23

2. Barrenness of sentiment or ornament defect as the poverty of a composition. 3. Want defect of words as the poverty of language.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(1): ( n.) Any deficiency of elements or resources that are needed or desired, or that constitute richness; as, poverty of soil; poverty of the blood; poverty of ideas.

(2): ( n.) The quality or state of being poor or indigent; want or scarcity of means of subsistence; indigence; need.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [6]

See Theology Of Poor And Poverty

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [7]

See Poor, Poverty.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [8]

pov´ẽr - ti  :

1. Old Testament References:

This word, found but once in the Old Testament ( Genesis 45:11 ) outside of the Book of Proverbs in which it occurs 11 times ( Proverbs 6:11;  Proverbs 10:15;  Proverbs 11:24 the King James Version;   Proverbs 13:18;  Proverbs 20:13;  Proverbs 23:21;  Proverbs 24:34;  Proverbs 28:19 ,  Proverbs 28:22 the King James Version;   Proverbs 30:8;  Proverbs 31:7 ), is a translation of יוּרשׁ , yiwārēsh , "to be poor," "to come to poverty" ( Genesis 45:11 ). Four different Hebrew words are used in the 11 references in Prov, all bearing the idea of being in need of the necessities of life, although a distinction is made between being in want and being in extreme want.  Proverbs 18:23 well illustrates the general meaning of "poverty" as found in this book: "The poor ( ריּשׁ , rūsh , "to be impoverished," "destitute") useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly."

2. New Testament References

"Poverty" occurs 3 times in the New Testament ( 2 Corinthians 8:2 ,  2 Corinthians 8:9;  Revelation 2:9 ) and is the translation of πτωχεία , ptōcheı́a , "to be reduced to a state of beggary or pauperism."

The teaching of the Bible on this subject would, however, be incomplete unless all the references to the "poor" were considered in this connection. Indeed the word for "poverty" has its root in the word for "poor" ( πτωχός , ptōchós  ; עני , ‛ānı̄ , or דּל , dal ). See Poor .

3. Two Degrees of Poverty:

At least two degrees of poverty are recognized. The Old Testament does not distinguish between them as clearly as does the New Testament. The New Testament, for example, by its use of two words for "poor" sets forth this distinction. In  2 Corinthians 9:9 , "he hath given to the poor," the word used is πένης , pénēs , which does not indicate extreme poverty, but simply a condition of living from hand to mouth, a bare and scant livelihood, such as that made by the widow who cast her two mites into the treasury ( Luke 21:2 ); while in such passages as  2 Corinthians 6:10 : "As poor, yet making many rich," and   Luke 6:20 : "Blessed are ye poor" ( πτωχοί , ptōchoı́ , a condition is indicated of abject beggary, pauperism, such as that in which we find Lazarus who was laid at the gate of the rich man's palace, begging even the crumbs which fell from the table of the rich man ( Luke 16:20 ,  Luke 16:21 ). It was into this latter condition that Christ voluntarily entered for our sakes: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor (a mendicant, a beggar), that ye through his poverty might become rich" ( 2 Corinthians 8:9 ). Between 30 and 40 times in the New Testament this latter word is used.

4. Causes of Poverty:

The causes of poverty are failure of harvest and poor crops ( Nehemiah 5:1-3 ); devastation caused by enemies sweeping through the land; the oppression of the people by their own rulers ( Isaiah 5:8 ); excessive interest, usury ( Nehemiah 5:1-5 ); persecution because of the faith (2 Cor 6; 8). Widows and orphans by reason of their desolate condition were in a special sense subject to poverty. Gluttony brings poverty ( Proverbs 23:21 ), as does indolence ( Proverbs 28:19 ).

God commanded His people to care for the poor. The exhortations to relieve poverty are numerous, especially in the Pentateuch. Those in poverty must be treated with kindness ( Deuteronomy 15:7-11 ); must be allowed to glean in the vineyards ( Leviticus 19:10 ); to reap the harvest ( Leviticus 23:22; compare Rth 2:14-16); must not be neglected ( Proverbs 28:27 ); nor dealt with harshly ( Amos 8:4-6 ); must be treated as equal before God ( Proverbs 22:2 ); are to share in our hospitality ( Luke 14:13 ,  Luke 14:21 ). Indeed, the truth or falsity of a man's religion is to be tested, in some sense at least, by his relation to those in need ( James 1:27 ). The year of Jubilee was intended to be of great benefit to the poor by restoring to them any possessions which they, by reason of their poverty, had been compelled to deed over to their creditors (Lev 25:25-54;  Deuteronomy 15:12-15 ). God required certain tithes from His people which were to be devoted to the helping of the poor and needy ( Deuteronomy 14:28;  Deuteronomy 26:12 ,  Deuteronomy 26:13 ). So in the New Testament the apostles lay special emphasis upon remembering the poor in the matter of offerings. Paul, especially, inculcated this duty upon the churches which he had rounded ( Romans 15:26;  Galatians 2:10 ). The attitude of the early Christian church toward its poor is amply illustrated in that first attempt at communism in Acts 2; 4. James, in his Epistle, stingingly reminds his readers of the fact that they had grossly neglected the important matter of caring for the poor (chapter 2). Indeed, so strong is he in his plea for the care of the poor that he claims that the man who willfully neglects the needy thereby proves that the love of God has no place in his heart, and that he has consequently no real faith in God ( James 2:14-26 ). Christians are exhorted to abound in the grace of hospitality, which, of course, is nothing less than kindness to those in need ( Romans 12:13;  1 Timothy 6:18;  1 John 3:17 ). See Poor .

The happiest mother and the noblest and holiest son that ever lived were among the poor. Jesus was born of poor parents, and had not where to lay His head ( Matthew 8:20 ), no money with which to pay tribute ( Matthew 17:27 ), no home to call His own ( John 7:53; compare  John 8:1 ), and was buried in a borrowed grave ( Matthew 27:57-61 ).

Figurative: Of course there is also a spiritual poverty indicated by the use of this word - a poverty in spiritual things: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." By this is meant, Blessed are they who feel that they have no self-righteousness, no worth of their own to present to Christ as a ground of their salvation, who feel their utter bankruptcy of spirit, who say "Nothing in my hand I bring." It is to this state of spirit that Christ refers in   Revelation 3:17 : "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

is that state or situation opposed to riches in which we are deprived of the conveniences of life. Indigence is a degree lower, when we want the necessaries, and is opposed to superfluity. Want seems rather to arrive by accident, and is opposed to abundance. Need and necessity relate less to the situation of life than the other three words, but, more to the relief we expect or the remedy we seek; with this difference between the two, that need seems less pressing than necessity. Poverty has been sanctified by our blessed Lord in his own person, and in that of his parents; in that of his apostles, and of the most perfect of his disciples. Solomon besought the Lord to give him neither poverty nor riches ( Proverbs 30:8), regarding each extreme as a dangerous rock to virtue. Poverty of mind is a state of ignorance, or a mind void of religious principle and enjoyment ( Revelation 3:17). Poverty of spirit consists in an inward sense and feeling of our wants and defects, with a dependence on divine grace and mercy for pardon and acceptance ( Matthew 5:3). It is the effect of the operation of the Divine Spirit on the heart ( John 16:8). It is attended with submission to the divine will; contentment in our situation; meekness and forbearance to others, and genuine humility as to ourselves. It is a spirit approved by God ( Isaiah 66:2), an evidence of true religion ( Luke 18:13), and terminates in endless felicity ( Matthew 5:3). (See Poor).