Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Also called the
“Decalogue” (deka meaning “ten” and logos meaning “words”), the Ten
Commandments were spoken to the people by God. He was the author (Matthew
The Ten Commandments were a series of absolute statements (“You shall” and “You shall not”). They can be divided into two parts — the first four are vertical, dealing with man’s duties to God, and the last six are horizontal, dealing with man’s duties to one another. The Ten Commandments were eventually preserved on two stone tablets and stored in the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the close relationship of God and His Word.
The fifth Commandment protected the home. God said, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). “Honor” comes from the Hebrew word kabad, and carries the idea of esteeming or glorifying. It is sometimes used with God as its object (1 Samuel 2:30).
“Honor” includes both obedience to and respect for parents:
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:15).
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:17).
“Honor” for parents extends beyond childhood. Jesus taught that this commandment applies to providing for their needs in later years (Matthew 15:1-6). Just as God expects parents in their strength to care for children in their weakness, He expects children in their strength to care for parents in their weakness.
There are two things that “honor” does not do: (1) Honor does not set aside God’s law. Herodias’ daughter may have felt like she was honoring her mother by asking for the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:24), but she was actually dishonoring God by participating in wicked behavior. (2) Honor does not negate a change in priority at marriage. A man is to “leave” his father and mother when he takes a wife (Genesis 2:24). “Leave” comes from the Hebrew word azab, and carries the idea of unloosing or forsaking. To “leave” in that text involves more than just moving out of the house. A child’s loyalty shifts from parent to partner when they marry.
A child who is not taught to respect his parents will not respect teachers, employers, police officers, civil rulers, or God. Therefore, it is imperative that mom and dad discipline their children and demand respect from them at an early age.
Though we are not under the Old Law today, this commandment is reaffirmed in the New Testament. It applies to Christians. Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land’” (Ephesians 6:1-3). Let us honor our God by honoring our parents!