Exodus 20:12 MEANING

Exodus 20:12
(12) Honour thy father and thy mother.--It is not a matter of much importance how we divide the commandments; nor is it historically certain how they were originally distributed between the two tables. But, practically, the view that the fifth commandment begins the second table, which lays down our duty towards our neighbours, is to be preferred for its convenience, though it trenches upon symmetrical arrangement. Of all our duties to our fellow-men, the first and most fundamental is our duty towards our parents, which lies at the root of all our social relations, and is the first of which we naturally become conscious. Honour, reverence, and obedience are due to parents from the position in which they stand to their children :--(1) As, in a certain sense, the authors of their being; (2) as their shelterers and nourishers; (3) as their protectors and educators, from whom they derive the foundation of their moral training and the first elements of their knowledge. Even among savages the obligations of children towards their parents are felt and acknowledged to a greater or a less extent; and there has never been a civilised community of whose moral code they have not formed an important part. In Egypt the duty of filial piety was strictly inculcated from a very early date (Lenormant, Histoire Ancienne, vol. i., pp. 342, 343), and a bad son forfeited the prospect of happiness in another life (ibid., pp. 513, 514). Confucianism bases all morality upon the parental and filial relation, and requires the most complete subjection, even of the grown-up son, to his father and mother. Greek ethics taught that the relation of children to their parents was parallel to that of men to God (Aristot. Eth. Nic. 8:12, ? 5); and Rome made the absolute authority of the father the basis of its entire State system. The Divine legislation of Sinai is in full accord, here as elsewhere, with the voice of reason and conscience, affirming broadly the principles of parental authority and filial submission, but leaving the mode in which the principles should be carried out to the discretion of individuals or communities.

That thy days may be long upon the land.--The fifth commandment (as all allow) is "the first commandment with promise" (Ephesians 6:2); but the promise may be understood in two quite different senses. (1) It may be taken as guaranteeing national permanence to the people among whom filial respect and obedience is generally practised; or (2) it may be understood in the simpler and more literal sense of a pledge that obedient children shall, as a general rule, receive for their reward the blessing of long life. In favour of the former view have been urged the facts of Roman and Chinese permanence, together with the probability that Israel forfeited its possession of Canaan in consequence of persisting in the breach of this commandment. In favour of the latter may be adduced the application of the text by St. Paul (Ephesians 6:3), which is purely personal and not ethnic; and the exegesis of the Son of Sirach (Wisdom Of Solomon 3:6), which is similar. It is also worthy of note that an Egyptian sage, who wrote long before Moses, declared it as the result of his experience that obedient sons did attain to a good old age in Egypt, and laid down the principle broadly, that "the son who attends to the words of his father will grow old in consequence" (Lenormant, Histoire Ancienne, vol. i., p. 342).

Verse 12. - Honor thy father and thy mother. The obligation of filial respect, love, and reverence is so instinctively' felt by all, that the duty has naturally found a place in every moral code. In the maxims of Ptah-hotep, an Egyptian author who lived probably before Abraham, "the duty of filial piety is strictly inculcated" (Birch, Egypt from the Earliest Times, p. 49). Confucius, in China, based his moral system wholly upon the principle of parental authority; and in Rome it may be regarded as the main foundation of the political edifice. In the Decalogue, the position of this duty, at the head of our duties towards our neighbour, marks its importance; which is further shown by this being "the first commandment with promise" (Ephesians 6:2). It is curious that the long life here specially attached to the observance of this obligation, was also believed to accompany it by the Egyptians. "The son," says Ptah-hotep, "who accepts the words of his father, will grow old in consequence of so doing;" and again - "The obedient son will be happy by reason of his obedience; he will grow old; he will come to favour." Modern commentators generally assume that the promise was not personal, but national - the nation's days were to be "long upon the land," if the citizens generally were obedient children. But this explanation cannot apply to Ephesians 6:1-3. And if obedience to parents is to be rewarded with long life under the new covenant, there can be no reason why it should not have been so rewarded under the old. The objection that good sons are not always long-lived is futile. God governs the universe by general, not by universal laws.

20:12-17 The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six of the ten commandments, state our duty to ourselves and to one another, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Lu 10:27. Godliness and honesty must go together. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to our relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawful commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this, as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring, in every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy; maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makes to be particularly intended in this commandment, Mt 15:4-6. Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporal things on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. The sixth commandment requires that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and their officers, and witnesses testifying the truth, do not break this command. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemed murder by the laws of man, is such before God. Furious passions, stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: more guilty is murder in duels, which is a horrible effect of a haughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, for renown, or out of anger and malice, breaks this command, and the bloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimes which shorten life, may be included. Misconduct, such as may break the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, or other relatives, is a breach of this command. This command forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or insulting language. The destruction of our own lives is here forbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment concerns chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollute the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law, as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other like matters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as it respects the property of others. The portion of worldly things allotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is the bread which God hath given us; for that we ought to be thankful, to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, to trust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the ignorance, easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, break God's law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers of kingdoms though above human justice, will be included in this sentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts without prospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts, extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, all squeezing the poor in their wages; these, and such things, break this command; which requires industry, frugality, and content, and to do to others, about worldly property, as we would they should do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken among persons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root; Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing what will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrong desire of having what will gratify ourselves.Honour thy father and thy mother, &c. Which is the fifth commandment of the decalogue, but is the first commandment with promise, as the apostle says, Ephesians 6:2 and is the first of the second table: this, though it may be extended to all ancestors in the ascending line, as father's father and mother, mother's father and mother, &c. and to all such who are in the room of parents, as step-fathers and step-mothers, guardians, nurses, &c. and to all superiors in dignity and office, to kings and governors, to masters, ministers, and magistrates; yet chiefly respects immediate parents, both father and mother, by showing filial affection for them, and reverence and esteem of them, and by yielding obedience to them, and giving them relief and assistance in all things in which they need it; and if honour, esteem, affection, obedience, and reverence, are to be given to earthly parents, then much more to our Father which is in heaven, Malachi 1:6.

that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee; that is, the land of Canaan, which he had given by promise to their fathers, and was now about to put them, their posterity, into the possession of: this further confirms the observation made, that this body of laws belonged peculiarly to the people of Israel: long life in any place or land is a blessing in itself, not always enjoyed by obedient children, thou obedience to parents often brings the judgments of God on persons; so that they sometimes die an untimely or an uncommon death, as in the case of the rebellious son, for whom a law was provided in Israel, and Absalom and others, see Leviticus 20:9 Aben Ezra takes the word to be transitive, and so the words may be read, "that they may prolong thy days"; or, "cause thy days to be prolonged"; meaning either that the commandments, and keeping of them, may be the means of prolonging the days of obedient children, according to the divine promise; or that they, their father and mother, whom they harbour and obey, might, by their prayers for them, be the means of obtaining long life for them; or else that they, Father, Son, and Spirit, may do it, though man's days, strictly speaking, cannot be shortened or lengthened beyond the purpose of God, see Job 14:5 the Septuagint version inserts before this clause another, "that it may be well with thee", as in Deuteronomy 5:16 and which the apostle also has, Ephesians 6:3 and where, instead of this, the words are, "and thou mayest live long on the earth"; accommodating them the better to the Gentiles, to whom he writes.

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