You shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father.—The first means to attain to the holiness which is to make the Israelite reflect the holiness of God, is uniformly to reverence his parents. Thus the group of precepts contained in this chapter opens with the fifth commandment in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:12), or, as the Apostle calls it, the first commandment with promise (Ephesians 6:2). During the second Temple, already the spiritual authorities called attention to the singular fact that this is one of the three instances in the Scriptures where, contrary to the usual practice, the mother is mentioned before the father; the other two being Genesis 44:20 and Leviticus 21:2. As children ordinarily fear the father and love the mother, hence they say precedence is here given to the mother in order to inculcate the duty of fearing them both alike. The expression “fear,” however, they take to include the following :—(1) Not to stand or sit in the place set apart for the parents; (2) not to carp at or oppose their statements; and (3) not to call them by their proper names, but either to call them father or mother, or my master, my lady. Whilst the expression “honour,” which is used in the parallel passage in Exodus 20:12, they understand to include (1) to provide them with food and raiment, and (2) to escort them. The parents, they urge, are God’s representatives upon earth; hence as God is both to be “honoured” with our substance (Proverbs 3:9), and as He is to be “feared” (Deuteronomy 6:13), so our parents are both to be “honoured” (Exodus 20:12) and “feared” (Leviticus 19:3); and as he who blasphemes the name of God is stoned (Leviticus 24:16), so he who curses his father or mother is stoned (Leviticus 20:9).
And keep my sabbaths.—Joined with this fifth commandment is the fourth of the Decalogue. The education of the children, which at the early stages of the Hebrew commonwealth devolved upon the parents, was more especially carried on by them on Sabbath days. In these leisure hours, when the Israelites were strictly forbidden to engage in any secular work, they found it a pleasant task and a welcome occupation to instruct their children in the many symbols, rites, and ceremonies which formed part of the service of the Sabbaths. Hence the observance of the day implied the instruction of the people in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and in acquiring the holiness which is the keynote of this chapter. Hence, too, the violation of the sanctity of the Sabbath is denounced as the greatest sin which the Israelites committed (Ezekiel 20:12; Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 23:38, &c.). It is probably for this reason that the administrators of the law during the second Temple say that the commandment about the Sabbath has here been selected to limit the duty of filial obedience. Its combination with the fifth commandment is to show that though children are admonished to obey their parents, yet if they should order the profanation of this holy day, the children must not obey. (See Leviticus 23:3.)Leviticus 19:3. His mother — The mother is put first, partly because the practice of this duty begins there, mothers, by perpetual converse, being sooner known to their children than their fathers; and partly because this duty is commonly neglected to the mother, upon whom children have not so much dependance as they have upon their father. And this fear includes the two great duties of reverence and obedience. And keep my sabbaths — This is added, to show that, whereas it is enjoined to parents that they should take care the sabbath be observed both by themselves and their children, it is the duty of children to fear and obey their parents in this matter. But that, if parents should neglect their duty therein, or by their command, counsel, or example, draw them to pollute the sabbath, the children in that case must keep the sabbath, and prefer the command of God, before the command of their parents.Exodus 20:8, Exodus 20:12; Exodus 31:13-14. The two laws repeated here are the only laws in the Decalogue which assume a positive shape, all the others being introduced by the formula, "Thou shalt not." These express two great central points, the first belonging to natural law and the second to positive law, in the maintenance of the well-being of the social body of which Yahweh was the acknowledged king. mother is put first, partly because the practice of this duty begins there, mothers, by perpetual converse, being more and sooner known to their children than their fathers; and partly because this duty is most commonly neglected to the mother, upon whom children have not so much dependence as they have upon their father. And this
fear includes the two great duties of reverence and obedience.
And keep my sabbaths: this is here added, to show, that whereas it is enjoined to parents that they should take care that the sabbath be observed both by themselves and by their children, it is the duty of children to fear and obey their parents in this matter; and moreover, that if parents should neglect their duty herein, or by their command, counsel, or example draw them to pollute the sabbath, yet the children in that case must keep the sabbath, and in all such cases prefer the command of God before the commands of their parents or superiors. Exodus 20:12; Pythagoras, Phocylides, and other Heathens, next to honouring God, exhort to the honour and reverence of parents:
and keep my sabbaths; this is expressed in the plural number, because there were various sabbaths. The seventh day sabbath, and the seventh year sabbath, and the jubilee, which was once in seven times seven years; the seventh day sabbath is chiefly meant: this follows upon the other, because it lay upon parents to teach their children the observance of the sabbath, and to train them up in it; and indeed the fear of them greatly depends on it, for children that are sabbath breakers have seldom much respect to their parents; and besides this suggests, that though children are to honour, reverence, and obey their parents, yet not in anything that is contrary to the laws of God; and, particularly should they suggest to them that sabbaths were not to be observed, they should not hearken to them:
I am the Lord your God; that gave them their being, parents being but instruments, and who had a right to enjoin them what laws he pleased; and among the rest had ordered them to observe the sabbath, and which in gratitude they were obliged unto, as well as in point of duty.Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. his mother, and his father] The command in the Decalogue is to ‘honour,’ here to ‘fear,’ or act reverently towards parents. The mother is put first, as in Leviticus 21:2. This order probably indicates diversity of origin. But Rashi, on the authority of the Midrashic commentary, Mechilta, on Exodus 20, accounts for this order on the ground that the child by nature fears the father more than the mother.
ye shall keep my sabbaths] Repeated in Leviticus 19:30. For the sabbath law cp. Leviticus 26:2; Exodus 31:13. It has been remarked that the two injunctions associated together in this v. are the only two positive commands in the Decalogue.Verse 3. - Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father. The words fear and reverence are in this connection interchangeable. So Ephesians 5:33, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband," where the word "reverence" would be more exactly translated by "fear." St. Paul points out that the importance of the fifth commandment is indicated in the Decalogue by its being" the first commandment with promise," that is, with a promise attached to it (Ephesians 6:2). The family life is built upon reverence to parents, and on the family is built society. Obedience to parents is a duty flowing out of one of the first two laws instituted by God - the law of marriage (Genesis 2:24). The second law instituted at the same time was that of the sabbath (Genesis 2:3), and in the verse before us observance of the sabbatical law is likewise inculcated, in the words that immediately follow - ye shall keep my sabbaths. Leviticus 18:25) and קאה (Leviticus 18:28) are prophetic (cf. Leviticus 20:22-23), and the expression is poetical. The land is personified as a living creature, which violently rejects food that it dislikes. "Hoc enim tropo vult significare Scriptura enormitatem criminum, quod scilicet ipsae creaturae irrationales suo creatori semper obedientes et pro illo pugnantes detestentur peccatores tales eosque terra quasi evomat, cum illi expelluntur ab ea" (C. a Lap.).
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