And there came a certain poor widow
Among the many that came to offer their gifts freely, there came one that was particularly taken notice of by Christ; and she was a "widow", had no husband to provide for her, and was a "poor" one; had no substance left her by her husband to support her with; very likely she was an inhabitant of Jerusalem:
and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing;
a "quadrant", which was the fourth part of the Roman assis, or farthing; which seems to be much the same with the (tetarthmorion) of the Greeks, which is said F7 to be,
``the fourth part of an obolus (the least Athenian coin), that is, two brass pieces.''These mites seem to be the same with the "prutas", the Jews often speak of; who say F8, that a "pruta" is the eighth part of an Italian farthing; though some make it to be the sixth: hence the Syriac version here renders it, "two menin, that is, eighths"; and the Jerusalem Talmud expressly says F9, that, (ojnydrq twjwrp ynv) , "two prutas make a quadrant", the very word here used: and that the Jews took the freewill offerings of the poor as well as the rich, though ever so little, is clear from this canon of theirs F11;
``a poor man that gives a "pruta", or mite, into the alms dish, or a "pruta" into the poor's chest, they take it of him; but if he does not give, they do not oblige him to give.''Nor were they obliged to cast into the treasury; but if they did, they received it, be it less or more: and indeed, the rich might throw in as little as they pleased: as for instance; into the chest for gold, they might throw in as little as the weight of a barley corn of gold; and into the chest for frankincense, as little as the weight of a barley corn of frankincense F12. The Persic version here, different from all others, instead of "two mites", renders it, "two bottoms of thread", or "yarn".
F7 Harpocratian. Lexic. p. 281.
F8 Misn. Kiddushin, c. 1. sect. 1. T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 58. 4. T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 12. 1. Bava Metzin, fol. 44. 2. Maimon. Hilch. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 3.
F9 Kiddushi, fol. 58. 4.
F11 Maimon. Hilch. Mattanot Anayim, c. 9. sect. 19.
F12 Maimon. & Battenora in. Misn. Shekalim, c. 6. sect. 6.