The Fifth Commandment – The World of the Text

Today we are going to look at the world of the text of the Fifth Commandment, as found in Exodus 20: 12

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

rootedchristToday’s passage is probably one of the earliest passages than we learn in our lives and is easiest to understand, especially as a child.  We are told (and in some ways have a natural-born desire) to obey our parents.  Now, as we grow older and we strike off on our own and grow more independent, we begin to make our own way. This passage is easy for us to understand as a 5-year-old, annoying when we are 14 years old, and reassuring, but also uncertain when we are a 35 or 55-year-old.  So let’s look deeper at the text to see what it is actually telling us.

In the text, the word Honor is a word of action, a word of respect – give them the weight of authority that they deserve. Next to God, parents were to be highly valued, cared for, and respected.  This is a passage of respect.  Just as we honor God, we respect God, we respect our parents. Because this points to life.  Just as, ultimately, God is the one who gives us life, but our parents are the ones who brought us into this life.  Life is to always been honored and revered as sacred.  Our parents, regardless of all, deserve honor because they have brought us into this life.  That is holy, sacred, and should be respected.

This also shows the importance of family within the Jewish tradition.  Remember the prophet Malachi pointed to a time when the Spirit of God would turn the hearts of children back to their parents.   We need to remember that, even as parents, our most sacred responsibility is that of family.

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