“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which Adonai your God is giving you.”-Exodus 20:12
This 5th Word of God marks a transition from man’s obligations to God to man’s obligations to his fellow man.
It is also the only Word in which “no” or “not”, (the Hebrew LO) does NOT appear.
Although this Word is often interpreted to mean that young children should obey their parents, like all the other commandments, this Word of God is being addressed to adult Israelite males.
So in its original sense, this Word really means that even in their old age parents are to be shown the respect due them as heads of the family.
Other Scriptural injunctions that expand on this requirement are as follows:
“You should rise before the elderly, and show respect to the old.”-Leviticus 19: 32
“Listen to your father: it is he who begot you; and do not despise your mother when she is old.”-Proverbs 23: 22
The Hebrew Word for “honor” is KABED and it comes from the root word meaning “weighty” in terms of impressiveness and great importance.
In this context, the meaning of KABED derives from the preceding four Words of God which center on honoring God Himself.
Our parents resemble the Creator, since they were God’s partners in creation of the child.
They also represent God in the life of a small child, functioning as a primary caregiver and teacher.
A person should recognize that his or parents are the cause of his or her life in this world and it is therefore proper to love and respect them.
The centrality of the family in the Lord’s plan for mankind is established here.
Read this verse from Ezekiel 22:7.
“In you, they make light of fathers and mothers, they oppress foreigners, they wrong orphans and widows.”
Ezekiel cites the breakdown of the family as one of the main reasons he dispersed Israel throughout the nations.
The spiritual takeaway here is pretty clear.
Family stability is based on the proper observance of the authority structure God has set up for families.
And parents are at the top of this hierarchy.
When the God-ordained family structure breaks down, the whole social structure also goes.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?
For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’
and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’
But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother,
“I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,”
then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.’
Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God!
Children, what you should do in union
with the Lord is obey your parents,
for this is right.
“Honor your father and mother” —
this is the first commandment that embodies a promise —
“so that it may go well with you,
and you may live long in the Land.”