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Honor Your Father and Mother

The Fifth Commandment

You shall obey your parents is the fifth of the 10 Commandments that God gave the Israelites through Moses. The transition from duties to God to duties to other people is made naturally in the fifth commandment, which promotes reverence for parents, to whom their children should look up to with gratitude. Not only does the fifth commandment ensure a strong, well-ordered family, but it teaches children obedience to authority that can be applied late in life, whether that authority be an employer, the government, or even God. This commandment continues to be observed in the Jewish religion.

What is the Scripture reference? Exodus 20:12, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."(KJV); "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." (ESV); "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you." (NASB); "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (NIV) What is the relationship focus? People and people (commandments 5-10 emphasis people's relationship with other people as opposed to "people and God") Is the commandment a prohibition? No (the commandment is saying what "must not be" done as opposed to what "must be" done)


In the Torah, keeping this commandment was associated with individual benefit and with the ability of the nation of Israel to remain in the land to which God was leading them. Dishonoring parents by striking or cursing them was punishable by death.

In the Talmud, the commandment to honour one's human parents is compared to honoring God. According to the prophet Malachi, God makes the analogy himself: "A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honour due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. "But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?'" — Malachi 1:6 (NIV)

In the gospels, Jesus affirmed the importance of honouring one's father and mother. Paul quotes the commandment in his letter to the church in Ephesus. In his letters to the Romans and Timothy, Paul describes disobedience to parents as a serious sin.

The Post-Reformation theologian John Calvin also refers to the sacred origin of the role of human father, and comments that the commandment does not therefore depend on the particular worthiness of the parent.