Widows were apparently set apart by wearing special clothing, such as in Gen. 38.14, where Tamar “. . . put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim . . .” in an effort to appear like a prostitute when she seduced her father-in-law Judah. Upon leaving Judah, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes once more (Genesis 38.19).These may be similar to garments worn by women who were in mourning for other reasons; 2 Sam. 21 .10 records that Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, prepared sackcloth for herself to wear in mourning after her sons were handed over to the Gibeonites.
Widows without children were protected by levirate marriage, which required that a childless widow marry one of her deceased husband’s brothers in order to continue the family line of her dead husband and pass on his land inheritance, or nahala. This was seen as a widow’s right, and perhaps the only chance a woman would have for security after the death of her husband. Three passages in the Hebrew Bible describe levirate marriage: the story of Tamar and Judah (Genesis 38), the laws in Deut. 25.5- 10, and possibly the story of Ruth and Boaz.
…The story of Tamar and Judah shows the tremendous importance of inheritance in ancient Israelite society; indeed, one of the main reasons why widows were so vulnerable is that inheritance laws did not provide for them.
In general, a man’s property went to his nearest male relative or relatives, usually his sons, upon his death; only in exceptional cases did daughters receive an inheritance from their fathers, such as in the story of Zelophehad and his five daughters (Num. 27.1-11). In this story, which was apparently a legal precedent because it is mentioned in multiple biblical passages (Josh. 17.3-(1; l Chron. 7.15), the daughters of the deceased Zelophehad were allowed to inherit their father’s nahala if they married within their own tribe, thus ensuring that the land inheritance would remain within the clan.
Women’s Lives in Biblical Times, Jennifer R. Ebeling, T & T Clark International, London, 2010, p.133-5