Ephesians 6:2
Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) The first commandment with promise.—It is, indeed, in the Decalogue “the only commandment with promise” distinctly attached to it. But it is still the first; the Decalogue being itself the introduction to the Law, in which similar promises are repeated again and again.

(2) (18) Praying always with all prayer and Supplication.—In this verse the metaphor gives place to direct exhortation, unless, indeed, in the word “watch” there still lingers some reference to the soldier on guard. “Prayer” is the general word for “worship,” appropriated to God alone; “supplication,” used also towards man, is one element of such worship—the asking what we need from God. In Philippians 4:6 we have first the general word “prayer,” and then the two chief elements of worship, supplication with thanksgiving.” It is by prayer that all the heavenly armour is put on.

In the Spirit.—That is, “in the Spirit of God” (as in Ephesians 6:18). Compare the relation of prayer to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in Romans 8:26-27.

And watching thereunto with all perseverance.—These words in themselves obviously supply the other part of our Lord’s command, “Watch and pray,” naturally apposite to the consideration of the Christian warfare. “Perseverance” implies exertion, holding out against fatigue and difficulty. The corresponding verb is used in relation to all kinds of spiritual labour (see Acts 2:42; Acts 6:4; Acts 8:13); but especially in connection with prayer (Acts 1:14; Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2). Perhaps from this frequent connection St. Paul is induced to add to it “supplication,” and this time “for all saints,” so leading on to his usual request for the prayers of his brethren. For this he is willing to sacrifice some part of the perfect appropriateness of idea; since the whole picture hitherto has been of the fight, waged by each for himself (although side by side with others), in the combined power of watchfulness and prayer for God’s help.

6:1-4 The great duty of children is, to obey their parents. That obedience includes inward reverence, as well as outward acts, and in every age prosperity has attended those distinguished for obedience to parents. The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason. Bring them up well; under proper and compassionate correction; and in the knowledge of the duty God requires. Often is this duty neglected, even among professors of the gospel. Many set their children against religion; but this does not excuse the children's disobedience, though it may be awfully occasion it. God alone can change the heart, yet he gives his blessing to the good lessons and examples of parents, and answers their prayers. But those, whose chief anxiety is that their children should be rich and accomplished, whatever becomes of their souls, must not look for the blessing of God.Honour thy father and mother - see Exodus 20:12; compare notes on Matthew 15:4.

Which is the first commandment with promise - With a promise annexed to it. The promise was, that their days should be long in the land which the Lord their God would give them. It is not to be supposed that the observance of the four first commandments would not be attended with a blessing, but no particular blessing is promised. It is true, indeed, that there is a "general declaration" annexed to the second commandment, that God would show mercy to thousands of generations of them that loved him and that kept his commandments. But that is rather a declaration in regard to all the commands of God than a promise annexed to that specific commandment. It is an assurance that obedience to the law of God would be followed with blessings to a thousand generations, and is given in view of the first and second commandments together, because they related particularly to the honor that was due to God. But the promise in the fifth commandment is a "special promise." It does not relate to obedience to God in general, but it is a particular assurance that they who honor their parents shall have a particular blessing as the result of that obedience.

2. Here the authority of revealed law is added to that of natural law.

which is … promise—The "promise" is not made the main motive to obedience, but an incidental one. The main motive is, because it is God's will (De 5:16, "Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord thy God hath COMMANDED thee"); and that it is so peculiarly, is shown by His accompanying it "with a promise."

first—in the decalogue with a special promise. The promise in the second commandment is a general one. Their duty is more expressly prescribed to children than to parents; for love descends rather than ascends [Bengel]. This verse proves the law in the Old Testament is not abolished.

i.e. A special promise annexed to the particular duty commanded. There being promises added to only two commandments, viz. the second and this fifth; that which is annexed to the second commandment is a general one, and which relates to the whole law, but this a special one, and which respects this commandment in particular. Honour thy father and mother,.... This explains who parents are, and points at some branches of obedience due unto them; for they are not only to be loved, and to be feared, and reverenced, their corrections to be submitted to, offences against them to be acknowledged, their tempers to be bore with, and their infirmities covered; but they are to be honoured in thought, word, and gesture; they are to be highly thought of and esteemed; they are to be spoken to, and of, very honourably, and with great veneration and to be behaved to in a very respectful manner; and they are to be relieved, assisted, and maintained in comfortable way when aged, and in necessitous circumstances; and which may be chiefly designed. So the Jews explain "the honour" due to parents, by, &c. "giving them food, drink", and "clothing", unloosing their shoes, and leading them out and in (x). Compare with this 1 Timothy 5:4; See Gill on Matthew 15:4;

which is the first commandment with promise: it is the fifth commandment in the decalogue, but the first that has a promise annexed to it: it is reckoned by the Jews (y) the weightiest of the weightiest commands of the law; and the reward bestowed on it, is length of days, as follows.

(x) T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 61. 2. T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 31. 1, 2. Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Kiddushin, c. 1. sect. 7. (y) Debarim Rabba, sect. 6. fol. 241. 3.

{4} Honour thy father and mother; {5} (which is the first commandment with {b} promise;)

(4) A proof of the first argument.

(5) The third argument taken of the profit that ensues from it: because the Lord gave this commandment among all the rest a special blessing.

(b) With a special promise: for otherwise the second commandment has a promise of mercy to a thousand generations, but that promise is general.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 6:2. The frame of mind towards the parents, from which the ὑπακούειν just demanded of the children must proceed, is the τιμᾶν. Hence Paul continues, and that in the express hallowed words of the fourth commandment: τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου κ.τ.λ. (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). And as he had before subjoined the general motive of morality τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι δίκαιον, so he now subjoins the particular incitement ἥτις ἐστιν ἐντολὴ πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελ., so that the relation as well of the two precepts themselves, as of their motives, Ephesians 6:1-2, is climactic, and ἥτιςἐπαγγελίᾳ can by no means be a parenthesis (Griesbach, Rückert, and others).

ἥτις] utpote quae, specifies a reason. See on Ephesians 3:13.

ἐντολὴ πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελ.] The article is not necessary with the πρώτη, which is in itself defining, or with the ordinal numbers generally (Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. vii. 7. 35). Comp. Acts 16:12; Php 1:12, al. And the statement that the commandment first as to number in the Decalogue has a promise, is not inconsistent with the facts, since the promise, Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, is a general one, having reference to the commandments as a whole. Just as little is it to be objected that no further commandment with a promise follows in the Decalogue; for Paul says πρώτη, having before his mind not only the Decalogue, but also the entire series of all the divine precepts, which begins with the Decalogue. Among the commandments, which God has given at the time of the Mosaic legislation and in all the subsequent period, the commandment: “Honour father and mother,” is the first which is given with a promise. The apparent objection is thus removed in a simple manner by our taking ἐντολή as divine commandment in general, and not restricting it to the sense “commandment in the Decalogue.” If Paul had had merely the Decalogue in mind, he must have written: the only commandment.[293] For the assumption that “it is the first, not with regard to those which follow, but to those which have preceded” (Harless), would not even be necessarily resorted to, if it were really established—which, however, is assumed entirely without proof—that Paul had taken into account merely the ten commandments, seeing that he and every one of his readers knew that no other commandment of the ten had a promise. From the arbitrary presupposition, that merely the Decalogue was taken into account, it followed of necessity in the case of other expositors, either that they restricted ἐντολή simply to the commandments of the second table[294] (Ambrosiaster, Zachariae, Michaelis, the latter misconstruing the absence of the article before ἐντολὴ πρώτη as favouring his view), in connection with which Holzhausen even maintained that ἐντολή never denotes a commandment in reference to God (see Matthew 22:36; Matthew 22:38; Mark 12:28); or else that they tampered with the numerical sense of πρώτη, and made out of it a very important, a chief commandment (Koppe, Morus, Flatt, Matthies, Meier). What a feeble motive would thus result! and πρώτη would in fact mean the most important, which, however, the fifth commandment is not (Matthew 22:38; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14). Further, the proposal of Erasmus, that πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελ. should be held to apply to the definite promise of Ephesians 6:3, mention of which first occurs in the fifth commandment, is not worthy of attention (Harless), but erroneous; because the same promise occurs after the fifth commandment only with a general reference to the commandments as a whole (Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2), as it has also occurred even before the fifth commandment in such a general form (Deuteronomy 4:40); and because, besides, ἐπαγγ. could not but have the article.

ἐν ἐπαγγελ.] is to be closely attached to πρώτη, as expressing that, wherein this commandment is the first, the point in which the predicate pertains to it. Comp. Diodor. xii. 37: ἐν δὲ εὐγενείᾳ καὶ πλούτῳ πρῶτος, Soph. O. R. 33: πρῶτος ἐν συμφοραῖς. In point of promise it is the first (οὐ τῇ τάξει, Chrysostom).

[293] According to Bleek, Paul had not at the moment the form of the following commandments of the Decalogue definitely before his mind. But with such inadvertence no one is less to be charged than Paul.

[294] In opposition to this, Erasmus aptly remarks: “Haec distinctio non est fundata in s. literis, sed est commentum recentiorum theologorum.” In general it is to be observed that, according to Philo and Josephus, each of the two tables contained five commandments, not, as Augustine (whom Luther followed) supposed, the first three, and the second seven,—and thus two sacred numbers, in which case, moreover, there was found in the first table a reference to the Trinity.Ephesians 6:2. τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα: honour thy father and mother. Obedience is the duty; honour is the disposition of which the obedience is born. The authoritative terms of the OT Law (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), given in the exact words of the LXX, are adopted in order to enforce regard for that disposition.—ἥτις ἐστὶν ἐντολὴ πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελίᾳ: which is the first commandment in point of promise, ἥτις may have here a simply explanatory force (so Ell., who renders it “the which”; Abb., “for such is”) rather than the qualitative sense, or the casual, “seeing it is”. But even its explanatory use suggests a reason for the fulfilment of the commandment. The prep. ἐν is understood by some (e.g., Alf.) to be the local ἐν, expressing the sphere of the commandment, and so conveying the idea of being “accompanied by”. But more probably it expresses the simple sense of relation, “in regard of,” “in point of” (Mey., Ell.; cf. Win.-Moult., p. 488). πρώτη, like other ordinals, being specific enough in itself, dispenses with the article. But what is meant by this definition of the fifth commandment as the first in point of promise? The second commandment also has a kind of promise. But if that commandment is discounted because its promise is general, not peculiar to itself, but applicable to all, and if the fifth alone has attached to it a promise relevant to itself, why is it called the “first” and not rather the “only” commandment in point of promise? Some meet the difficulty by supposing it to mean the first in the second table (Mich., etc.). But in the second table it would still be not only the first but the only one of the kind; and if the Jewish division of the Decalogue, which assigned five commandments to each of the two tables, reaches thus far back, it would not be even in the second table. Nor can πρώτη be taken in the sense of first in importance; for it is never described as such (cf. per contra Matthew 22:38; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14). The most probable explanation is that Paul has not the Decalogue alone in view, but the whole series of Divine Commandments, Mosaic and later (Mey., etc.). Westcott and Hort notice another possible pointing, viz., πρώτη, ἐν ἐπαγγελίᾳ, = “the which is the first commandment, with the promise that,” etc. But this still leaves it unexplained why this commandment is called the first. The whole sentence is dealt with as a parenthesis by the RV. But this is to miss the real point of the statement, which is to advance from the duty of obedience (ὑπακούετε) enforced by its relation to the requirement of law (the δίκαιον), to the higher idea of filial honour as inculcated in the highest summary of Divine Law, the Decalogue. The ἥτις clause, therefore, is an integral part of the statement, and instead of being a remark by the way conveys an advance in the thought.2. Honour, &c.] Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16. The Gr. here is verbatim that of the LXX. On the duty, cp. Matthew 19:19; Mark 7:10; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20. The “honour” is that not of mere sentiment but of obedience. See for illustration, Matthew 15:4-8.

which is] He adds a significant circumstance about the Commandment.

the first … with promise] In the Decalogue, to which here the reference plainly is, it is in fact the only “commandment with” definite “promise.” But the Decalogue is, so to speak, the first page of the whole Law-Book of Revelation.

With”:—lit. “in; attended, surrounded, by promise.Ephesians 6:2. Τίμα, honour) Their duty is more expressly prescribed to children than to parents; for love rather descends than ascends; and from being children men become parents.—ἐντολὴ, commandment) Deuteronomy 5:16, Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God ENETEIAATO, COMMANDED thee, that it may be well, etc.—πρώτη ἐν ἐπαγγελίᾳ, the first with promise) The commandment in regard to having no strange gods,[94] carries indeed a promise with it, but likewise a threatening, and of these, either the one or the other belonging to [applying to] all the commandments. The commandment respecting the profanation of the name of God has a threatening. For our duties to God are especially due, and most necessary; therefore they are guarded with such sanctions: our duties towards men are due in a less degree to men, and so far [in that point of view] are not so necessary; they have therefore a promise attached to them. The commandment about honouring parents, of which Paul is speaking, has a peculiar promise above them all, if we look at the whole Decalogue: if we look only at the second table, it also alone has a promise; moreover, it is the first with a promise, even in respect to all the commandments, subsequent to the Decalogue. And very properly so, too; for, taking for granted the pious affection of parents in training their children to submit to the commandments of God, the honour, which is shown to parents chiefly by obedience, includes obedience to all the commandments in the early period of life. This apostolic observation is a proof that the observance of the law in the New Testament is not abolished.

[94] Beng. joins in one our first and second commandment (it being the second to which a threat and a promise are attached; whereas to our first commandment there is attached neither).—ED.Verse 2. - Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise). The exhortation, based on natural morality (ver. 1), is here confirmed from the Decalogue. "Honor" is higher than obedience (ver. 1); it is the regard due to those who, by Divine appointment, are above us, and to whom our most respectful consideration is due. Father and mother, though not quite on a footing of equality in their relation to each other (Ephesians 5:22), are equal as objects of honor and obedience to their children. It is assumed here that they are Christians; where one was a Christian and not the ether, the duty would be modified. But in these succinct verses the apostle lays down general rules, and does not complicate his exhortations with exceptions. The latter part of the verse contains a special reason for the precept; it is the first commandment with a promise attached. But obviously the apostle meant more than this; for as in ver. I he had affirmed the duty to be one of natural religion, so here he means to add that it is also part of the revealed will of God - it is one of the commandments; but still further, it is the first commandment with a promise. It may, perhaps, be said that this is appealing, not to the higher, but to the lower part of our nature - to our selfishness, not our goodness; but it is not an appeal to one part of our nature to the exclusion of the rest; it is an appeal to our whole nature, for it is a part of our nature to expect that in the end virtue will be rewarded and vice punished. In the case of children it is difficult to look far forward; the rewards and the punishments, to be influential, must be within the ken of vision, as it were; therefore it is quite suitable that, in writing to them, the apostle should lay emphasis on a promise which had its special fulfillment in the life that now is. Honor thy father, etc.

To what is essentially right the divine ordinance is added. Compare Aeschylus: "For the reverence of parents, this is written third in the laws of much-venerated justice" ("Suppliants," 687-689). So Euripides: "There are three virtues which thou shouldst cultivate, my child, to honor the gods, and thy parents who gave thee being and the common laws of Hellas" (Fragment). Honor expresses the frame of mind from which obedience proceeds.

First - with promise (πρώτη εν ἐπαγγελίᾳ)

First in point of promise, as it also is in order the first with promise.

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