Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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).

Exodus

THE DECALOGUE: II.-MAN AND MAN

Exodus 20:12 - - Exodus 20:21
.

I. The broad distinction between the two halves of the Decalogue is that the former deals with man’s relations to God, and the latter with His relations to men. This double division is recognised in the New Testament summary of ‘all the law,’ as found in two commandments, and is probably implied in the two tables on which it was inscribed. Commentators have been much exercised, however, about how to divide the commandments between these two parts. The fifth, which is the first in this division, belongs in substance to the second half, but its form connects it with the first table. It is like the preceding ones in having a reason appended, and in naming ‘the Lord thy God’; while the following are all bare, curt prohibitions. The fact seems to be that it is a transition commandment, and meant to cast special sacredness round the parental relationship, by paralleling it, in some sense, with that to God, of which it is a reflection. Other duties to other men stand on a different level from duties to parents. ‘Honour,’ which is to be theirs, is not remote from the reverence due to God. They are, as it were, His shadows to the child. The fatherhood of God is dimly revealed in that parting off the commandment from the second table, and assimilating it in form to the laws of the first.

II. The connection of the two halves of the Decalogue teaches some important truth. Josephus said a wise thing when he remarked that, ‘whereas other legislators had made religion a department of virtue, Moses made virtue a department of religion.’ No theory of morals is built upon the deepest foundation which does not recognise the final ground of the obligation of duty in the voice of God. Duty is debitum-debt. Who is the creditor? Myself? An impersonal law? Society? No, God. The practice of morality depends, like its theory, on religion. In the long-run, and on the wide scale, nations and periods which have lost the latter will not long keep the former in any vigour or purity. He who begins by erasing the first commandment will sooner or later make a clean sweep of all the ten. And, on the other hand, wherever there is true worship of the one God, there all fair charities between man and man will flourish and fruit. The two tables are one law. Duties to God come first, and those to man, who is made in the image of God, flow from these.

III. The order of these human duties is significant. We have, next after the law of parental reverence, three commandments, which, in a descending series of importance, forbid crimes against life, marriage, and property. Then the law passes from deeds to the more subtle, and, as men think, less grave, offences of the tongue. Next it crosses the boundary which divides human from divine law, and crimes from sins, to take cognisance of unspoken and unacted desires. So the order of progress in the first table is exactly the reverse of that in the second. There we begin with inward devotion, and travel outwards by deed and word to the sabbatical institution; here we begin with overt acts, and travel inwards, through words, to the hidden desire. The end touches the beginning. For that which we ‘covet’ is our God; and the first commandment is only obeyed when our hearts hunger after Him, and not after earth. The sequence here corresponds to the order of progress in our knowledge and practice of our human duties. The first thing that the rudest state of society has to do is to establish some kind of security for life and property and woman’s honour. The worst men know that much as their duty, however foul may be their lips, and hot their passions. Then the recognition of the sanctity of the great gift of speech, and the supreme obligations of veracity, grow upon men as they get above the earlier stage. Most children pass through a phase when they tell lies as pastime, and most rude societies and half-moralised men have a similar epoch. Last of all, when actions have been bridled and the tongue taught the law of truth, comes the full recognition that the work is not done till the silent longing of a hungry heart is stilled, and that unselfish love of our neighbour is only perfect when we can rejoice in his good and wish none of it for ourselves. The second table is a chart of moral progress.

IV. The scope of these laws has often been violently stretched so as to include all human duty; but without tugging at them so as to make them cover everything, we may note briefly how far they extend. We are scarcely warranted in taking any of them but the last, as going deeper than overt acts, for, though our Lord has taught in the Sermon on the Mount that hatred is murder, and impure desire adultery, that is His deepening of the commandment. But it is quite fair to bring out the positive precept which, in each case, underlies the stern, short prohibition.

The fifth commandment shares with the fourth the distinction of being a positive command. It enjoins ‘honour,’ not ‘love,’ partly because, in olden times, the father was a prince in his house in a sense that has long since ceased to be true, partly because there was less need to enjoin the affection which is in some degree instinctive, than the submission and respect which the children are tempted to withhold, partly in order to suggest the analogy with reverence to God. A strange change has passed over the relations of parents and children, even within a generation. There is more, perhaps, of frank familiar intercourse, which, no doubt, is an improvement on the old style. But there is a great deal less of what the commandment enjoins. City life, education, the general impairing of the idea of authority, which we see everywhere, have told upon many families; and many a father who, by indulgence or by too much engrossment in business, lets the children twitch the reins out of his hands, might lament, as his grown-up children spurn control, ‘If then I be a father, where is mine honour?’ There is no one of the commandments which it is more needful to preach in England than this.

The promise attached to it has another side of threatening. It is a plain fact that when the paternal relation is corrupted, a powerful solvent has been introduced which rapidly tends to disintegrate society. The most ancient empire in the world today, China, has, amid many vices and follies, been preserved mainly by the profound reverence to ancestors which is largely its real working religion. The most vigorous power in the old world, Rome, owed its iron might not only to its early simplicity of life and its iron tenacity, but to the strength of paternal authority and the willingness of filial obedience. No more serious damage can be inflicted on society or on individuals than the weakening of the honour paid to fathers and mothers.

‘Thou shalt not kill’ forbids not only the act of murder, but all that endangers life. It enjoins all care, diligence, and effort to preserve it. A man who looks on while another drowns, or who sends a ship out half manned and overloaded, breaks it as really as a red-handed murderer. But the commandment was not intended to touch the questions of capital punishment or of war. These were allowed under the Jewish code, and cannot therefore be supposed to be prohibited here. How far either is consistent with the deepest meaning of the law, as expanded and reconsecrated in Christianity, is another question. Their defenders have to execute some startling feats of gymnastics to harmonise either with the New Testament.

‘Curus kind o’ Christian dooty,

This ‘ere cuttin’ folks’s throats.’

The ground of the commandment is not given, seeing that conscience is expected to admit its force as soon as stated. But its place at the head of the second table brings it into connection with the first commandment, and suggests that man’s life is sacred because he is the image of God. As Christians, we are bound to interpret it on the lines which Christ has laid down; according to which, hatred is murder, and love is the fulfilling of this as of all other laws. So Luther’s comprehensive summing up of the duties enjoined may be accepted: ‘Patience, gentleness, kindliness, peaceableness, pity, and, of all things, a sweet, friendly heart, without any hate, anger, bitterness, toward any, even enemies.’

In like manner, the seventh commandment sanctifies wedded life, and is the first step in that true reverence of woman which marked the Jewish people through all their history, and was in such contrast to her position in all other ancient societies. Purity in all the relations of the sexes, the control of passion, the reverence for marriage, are subjects difficult to speak of in public. But modern society sorely needs some plain speaking on these subjects-abundance of bread and idleness, facilities for divorce, the filth which newspapers lay down on every breakfast-table, the insidious sensuality of much fiction and art, the licence of the stage. The opportunities for secret profligacy in great cities conspire to loosen the bonds of morality. I would venture to ask public teachers seriously to consider their duty in this matter, and to seek for opportunities wisely to warn budding youth of the pitfalls in its path.

What is ‘stealing’? As Luther says, ‘It is the smallest part of the thieves that are hung. If we are to hang them all, where shall we get rope enough? We must make all our belts and straps into halters.’

Theft is the taking or keeping what is not ‘mine.’ But what do we mean by ‘mine’? Communists tell us that ‘property is theft.’ But that is the exaggeration of the scriptural teaching that all property is trust property, that possessions are ‘mine’ on conditions and for purposes, that I cannot ‘do what I will with mine own,’ but am a steward, set to dispense it to those who want. The Christian doctrine of stewardship extends this commandment over much ground which we seldom think of as affected by it. All sharp practice in business, the shopkeeper’s false weights and the merchant’s equivalents of these, adulterations, pirating trademarks, imitating a rival’s goods, infringing patents, and the like, however disguised by fine names, are neither more nor less than stealing. Many a prosperous gentleman says solemnly every Sunday of his life, ‘Incline our hearts to keep this law,’ who would have to live in a much more modest fashion if his prayer were, by any unfortunate accident, answered.

False witness is not only given in court. The sins of the tongue against the law of love are more subtle and common than those of act. ‘Come, let us enjoy ourselves, and abuse our neighbours,’ is the real meaning of many an invitation to social intercourse. If some fairy could treat our newspapers as the Russian censors do, and erase all the lies about the opposite side, which they report and coin, how many blank columns there would be! If all the words of ill-natured calumny, of uncharitable construction of their friends which people speak, could be made inaudible, what stretches of silence would open out in much animated talk! ‘A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.’

But deed and word will not be right unless the heart be right; and the heart will be wrong unless it be purged of the bitter black drop of covetousness. The desire to make my neighbour’s goods mine is the parent of all breaches of neighbourly duty, even as its converse ‘love’ is the fulfilling of it all; for such desire implies that I am ruled by selfishness, and that I would willingly deprive another of goods, for my own gratification. Such a temper, like a wild boar among vineyards, will trample down all the rich clusters in order to slake its own thirst. Find a man who yields to his desires after his neighbour’s goods, and you find a man who will break all commandments like a hornet in a spider’s web. Be he a Napoleon, and glorified as a conqueror and hero, or be he some poor thief in a jail, he has let his covetousness get the upper hand, and so all wrong-doing is possible. Nor is it only the second table which covetousness dashes to fragments. It serves the first in the same fashion; for, as St. Paul puts it, the covetous man ‘is an idolater,’ and is as incapable of loving God as of loving his neighbour. This final commandment, overleaping the boundary between conduct and character, and carrying the light of duty into the dark places of the heart, where deeds are fashioned, sets the whole flock of bats and twilight-loving creatures in agitation. It does what is the main work of the law, in compelling us to search our hearts, and in convincing of sin. It is the converse of the thought that all the law is contained in love; for it closes the list of sins with one which begets them all, and points us away from actions and words which are its children to selfish desire as in itself the transgression of all the law, whether it be that which prescribes our relations to God or that which enjoins our duties to man.Exodus 20:12. We have here the laws of the second table, as they are commonly called, the last six commandments, which concern our duty to ourselves and one another, and are a comment upon the second great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. As religion toward God is an essential branch of universal righteousness, so righteousness toward men is an essential branch of true religion: godliness and honesty must go together. The fifth commandment is concerning the duties we owe to our relations; that of children to their parents is only instanced in, honour thy father and thy mother — Which includes, 1st, An inward esteem of them, outwardly expressed upon all occasions in our carriage toward them. The contrary to this is mocking at them or despising them. 2d, Obedience to their lawful commands; so it is expounded, Ephesians 6:1-2, Children, obey your parents; come when they call you, go where they send you, do what they bid you, do not what they forbid you; and this cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Though you have said you will not, yet afterward, repent and obey. 3d, Submission to their rebukes, instructions, and corrections, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 4th, Disposing of themselves with the advice, direction, and consent of parents, not alienating their property, but with their approbation. 5th, Endeavouring in everything to be the comfort of your parents, and to make their old age easy to them; maintaining them if they stand in need of support. That thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee — This promise (which is often literally fulfilled) is expounded in a more general sense, Ephesians 6:3, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Those that, from conscience toward God, keep this and other of God’s commandments, may be sure it shall be well with them, and they shall live as long on the earth as infinite wisdom sees will be good for them; and what they may seem to be cut short of on earth, shall be abundantly made up in eternal life, the heavenly Canaan, which God will give them.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 - According to our usage, the fifth commandment is placed as the first in the second table; and this is necessarily involved in the common division of the commandments into our duty toward God and our duty toward men. But the more ancient, and probably the better, division allots five commandments to each table (compare Romans 13:9), proceeding on the distinction that the First table relates to the duties which arise from our filial relations, the second to those which arise from our fraternal relations. The connection between the first four commandments and the fifth exists in the truth that all faith in God centers in the filial feeling. Our parents stand between us and God in a way in which no other beings can. On the maintenance of parental authority, see Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

That thy days may be long upon the land - Filial respect is the ground of national permanence (compare Jeremiah 35:18-19; Matthew 15:4-6; Mark 7:10-11). The divine words were addressed emphatically to Israel, but they set forth a universal principle of national life Ephesians 6:2.

8. Remember the sabbath day—implying it was already known, and recognized as a season of sacred rest. The first four commandments [Ex 20:3-11] comprise our duties to God—the other six [Ex 20:12-17] our duties to our fellow men; and as interpreted by Christ, they reach to the government of the heart as well as the lip (Mt 5:17). "If a man do them he shall live in them" [Le 18:5; Ne 9:29]. But, ah! what an if for frail and fallen man. Whoever rests his hope upon the law stands debtor to it all; and in this view every one would be without hope were not "the Lord our Righteousness" [Jer 23:6; 33:16] (Joh 1:17). The word honour doth not only note the reverence, love, and obedience we owe them, but also support and maintenance, as appears from Matthew 15:4-6, and from the like signification of that word, 1 Timothy 5:3,17, which is so natural and necessary a duty, that the Jews say a man is bound even to beg, or to work with his hands, that he may relieve his parents.

The

father is put first here, and the

mother Leviticus 19:3, to show that we owe this duty promiscuously and indifferently to both of them. Compare Exodus 21:15,17 Deu 21:18 27:16 Proverbs 20:20 30:17. And because these laws are brief, and yet comprehensive, under these are contained all our superiors and governors.

That thy days may be long, Heb. that they, i.e. thy parents, may prolong thy days, or the days of thy life, to wit, instrumentally, by their prayers made to God for thee, and by their blessing in my name conferred upon thee; though the active verb is commonly taken impersonally, as Job 7:3 Proverbs 9:11 Luke 12:10; and so it may be here, they prolong, for be prolonged. 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.

Honour thy {h} father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

(h) By parents it is also meant all that have authority over us.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. The fifth commandment. Honour to be paid to parents. Cf. in H Leviticus 19:3. The position accorded to parents is a high one: they are mentioned in the first table of the Decalogue, and duty towards them stands next to duties towards God (so in Exodus 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9 [H] the penalty for cursing them is the same, viz. death, as the penalty for blaspheming God, Leviticus 24:15 f. [H]). Cf. the development of the command in Sir 3:1-16; and the warnings addressed to those who disregard it, Proverbs 20:20; Pro Exo 30:17 (cf. 11). In the NT. see Matthew 15:4-6 (""Mark 7:10-13). As Kn. ap. Di. shews, the command is in the spirit of the best minds of antiquity: Plato, for instance (Legg. iv. 717 c–d), lays it down that after the gods and demi-gods parents ought to have the most honour, and that through his whole life every man should pay his parents the utmost deference and respect (cf. xi. 930 e–932 a); and Aristotle, Eth. Nic. ix. 2, 8, says that it is proper to pay them ‘honour such as is given to the gods’ (τιμὴν καθάπερ θεοῖς): other Greek writers also speak similarly. Cf. further on Exodus 21:15.

that thy days may be long &c.] The ‘first commandment with promise’ (Ephesians 6:2). A spirit of filial respect implies a well-ordered life in general; and so tends to secure prosperity both to the individual and to the nation (the commandments are addressed throughout not only to the individual as such, but also to the individual as representing the nation). The terms of the promise are strongly Deuteronomic: see Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 25:15, and (in the form ‘prolong days’) Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 5:33, Deuteronomy 11:9, Deuteronomy 17:20, Deuteronomy 22:7, Deuteronomy 30:18, Deuteronomy 32:47; and, for the following clause, upon the land, &c., Deuteronomy 3:20, Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 11:31, Deuteronomy 15:7, Deuteronomy 16:20, Deuteronomy 17:14, Deuteronomy 18:9, &c., and especially Deuteronomy 4:40, Deuteronomy 25:15.

giveth] is giving (i.e. is in the course of giving, is about to give); so in all the passages of Dt. just quoted (and in many similar ones in the same book besides). The standpoint of the Exodus is assumed. The land is not, as ‘giveth’ in itself might suggest, the possession of the individual Israelite, but Canaan.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. "Thou shalt not pray to them and serve them." (On the form תּעבדם with the o-sound under the guttural, see Ewald, 251d.). השׁתּחוה signifies bending before God in prayer, and invoking His name; עבד, worship by means of sacrifice and religious ceremonies. The suffixes להם and - ם (to them, and them) refer to the things in heaven, etc., which are made into pesel, symbols of Jehovah, as being the principal object of the previous clause, and not to כּל־תּמוּנה פּסל, although פּסל עבד is applied in Psalm 97:7 and 2 Kings 17:41 to a rude idolatrous worship, which identifies the image as the symbol of deity with the deity itself, Still less do they refer to אחרים אלהים in Exodus 20:3.

The threat and promise, which follow in Exodus 20:5 and Exodus 20:6, relate to the first two commandments, and not to the second alone; because both of them, although forbidding two forms of idolatry, viz., idolo-latry and ikono-latry, are combined in a higher unity, by the fact, that whenever Jehovah, the God who cannot be copied because He reveals His spiritual nature in no visible form, is worshipped under some visible image, the glory of the invisible God is changed, or Jehovah changed into a different God from what He really is. Through either form of idolatry, therefore, Israel would break its covenant with Jehovah. For this reason God enforces the two commandments with the solemn declaration: "I, Jehovah thy God, am קנּא אל a jealous God;" i.e., not only ζηλωτής, a zealous avenger of sinners, but ζηλοτύπος, a jealous God, who will not transfer to another the honour that is due to Himself (Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 48:11), nor tolerate the worship of any other god (Exodus 34:14), but who directs the warmth of His anger against those who hate Him (Deuteronomy 6:15), with the same energy with which the warmth of His love (Sol 8:6) embraces those who love Him, except that love in the form of grace reaches much further than wrath. The sin of the fathers He visits (punishes) on the children to the third and fourth generation. שׁלּשׁים third (sc., children) are not grandchildren, but great-grandchildren, and רבּעים the fourth generation. On the other hand He shows mercy to the thousandths, i.e., to the thousandth generation (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9, where דּור לאלף stands for לאלפים). The cardinal number is used here for the ordinal, for which there was no special form in the case of אלף. The words לשׂנאי and לאהבי, in which the punishment and grace are traced to their ultimate foundation, are of great importance to a correct understanding of this utterance of God. The ל before שׂנאי does not take up the genitive with עון again, as Knobel supposes, for no such use of ל can be established from Genesis 7:11; Genesis 16:3; Genesis 14:18; Genesis 41:12, or in fact in any way whatever. In this instance ל signifies "at" or "in relation to;" and לשׂנאי, from its very position, cannot refer to the fathers alone, but to the fathers and children to the third and fourth generation. If it referred to the fathers alone, it would necessarily stand after אבת. וגו לאהבי is to be taken in the same way. God punishes the sin of the fathers in the children to the third and fourth generation in relation to those who hate Him, and shows mercy to the thousandth generation in relation to those who love Him. The human race is a living organism, in which not only sin and wickedness are transmitted, but evil as the curse of the sin and the punishment of the wickedness. As children receive their nature from their parents, or those who beget them, so they have also to bear and atone for their fathers' guilt. This truth forced itself upon the minds even of thoughtful heathen from their own varied experience (cf. Aeschyl. Sept. 744; Eurip. according to Plutarch de sera num. vind. 12, 21; Cicero de nat. deorum 3, 38; and Baumgarten-Crusius, bibl. Theol. p. 208). Yet there is no fate in the divine government of the world, no irresistible necessity in the continuous results of good and evil; but there reigns in the world a righteous and gracious God, who not only restrains the course of His penal judgments, as soon as the sinner is brought to reflection by the punishment and hearkens to the voice of God, but who also forgives the sin and iniquity of those who love Him, keeping mercy to the thousandth generation (Exodus 34:7). The words neither affirm that sinning fathers remain unpunished, nor that the sins of fathers are punished in the children and grandchildren without any fault of their own: they simply say nothing about whether and how the fathers themselves are punished; and, in order to show the dreadful severity of the penal righteousness of God, give prominence to the fact, that punishment is not omitted-that even when, in the long-suffering of God, it is deferred, it is not therefore neglected, but that the children have to bear the sins of their fathers, whenever, for example (as naturally follows from the connection of children with their fathers, and, as Onkelos has added in his paraphrase of the words), "the children fill up the sins of their fathers," so that the descendants suffer punishment for both their own and their forefathers' misdeeds (Leviticus 26:39; Isaiah 65:7; Amos 7:17; Jeremiah 16:11.; Daniel 9:16). But when, on the other hand, the hating ceases, when the children forsake their fathers' evil ways, the warmth of the divine wrath is turned into the warmth of love, and God becomes חסד עשׂה ("showing mercy") to them; and this mercy endures not only to the third and fourth generation, but to the thousandth generation, though only in relation to those who love God, and manifest this love by keeping His commandments. "If God continues for a long time His visitation of sin, He continues to all eternity His manifestation of mercy, and we cannot have a better proof of this than in the history of Israel itself" (Schultz).

(Note: On the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children, see also Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii. p. 446ff.)

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