Honor the Hoary Head

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head,

and honor the face of the old man,

and fear thy God: I am Yahweh

Lev. 19:32

Honor thy father and thy mother,

as Yahweh thy God hath commanded thee:

that thy days may be prolonged,

and that it may go well with thee,

in the land which Yahweh thy God giveth thee.

Deut. 5:16

Every human being, young and old, has a father and a mother, and are under lifelong obligation to honor their parents.

Honor is Due to Father and Mother, Period.

There is a growing attitude today that "respect must be earned." Young people feel they have a "right" to decide whether or not in their own judgment they will (or more often, will not) "grant" honor to their parents or elders.

But for those of us who acknowledge Yahweh's supreme greatness there is a completely different unchanging doctrine commanded and reaffirmed by God, with no answering back (Job 40:4-5; Titus 2:9) and no compromise or exception to His rule:

Honor thy father and thy mother, as Yahweh thy God hath commanded thee: that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which Yahweh thy God giveth thee. Deut. 5:16 (also Exo. 20:12, Matt. 15:4, Mark 7:10, Eph. 6:1-4, Col. 3:20-21)

We do not honor our parents because they are always right or always know best or even always good. We are commanded to maintain an attitude that behaves in a distinct high regard towards our father and our mother. Behavior that reflects their status as parents, sometimes in spite of our opinions and emotions about them. We honor them because they are always our parents and because their authority over us is established by Yahweh, who alone knows what is best. The commandment is not qualified, it does NOT mean honor your father and your mother - only if they are personally perceived as deserving or only if they respect and honor you back.

It seems the common arrogant spirit today in many young people is to consider valuable only their parent's constant verbalization of their wonderfulness and correctness. If the parents do not agree with or support everything the children do, if they don't shower them with a constant flow of affection and approval, if they are not on call for their every need or whim, then the children consider that the parents are bad and mean and to be shunned.

To honor and respect our parents is what Yahweh expects of all those who bear His name.

As unpopular as this teaching is today, the Bible is clear that God loves order, not anarchy, and that He has established certain authority structures (beginning with the family) which He expects and commands His people to acknowledge and honor.

The Fifth Commandment was first given to Adults

We miss the force of this foundation principle if we simply apply it to the behavior of young children to their parents. Granted, the commandment applies to young children too, but in point of fact it was originally intended for and delivered to adults.

Jesus confirms this fact when he repeated this basic commandment to grown men in Matthew 15:1-9:

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Jesus uses the term "hypocrites" sparingly, not for ordinary slips of erring people. But here he uses it for those grown children who have built a fence of false-piety around their meanness of spirit in refusing to care for and honor their parents. Jesus warns us that the sincerity with which we worship Yahweh can be measured by how we honor and care for our parents.

Consider Lev. 19:32:

Thou shalt rise up [defer to, give your place to] before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am YAHWEH.

Gen. 48:12 is a beautiful example of this verse. Joseph, a high-ranking powerful ruler in Egypt, before his own sons bows his face to the earth before his father. In doing so he acknowledges to all and teaches his own children that of all the ranks and positions in this earth worthy of honor, "father" is the highest.

King Solomon exhibits this righteous honor to his mother in 1 Kings 2:19:

Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand.

Both of these examples teach that the child is the "lessor" and his father and mother are the "greater." No matter how old the child gets, how high his rank is upon this earth, how smart he thinks he is, his father and mother will always be "greater".

Parents have the Preeminence when it comes to Honor

There are to us no more important nor more eminent persons on this earth than our parents. In paying homage among mortals, they should have the precedence.

It is true that a man must love his wife above his father and mother, but in showing reverence, the parents must have the priority.

The Scriptures teach that there is no other higher honor bestowed on anyone on earth than to address them as "father".

A Child can Never Be on the Same Level as His Parents

"Equality" is another evil socialistic deception so prevalent today. We know that it is Yahweh alone who gives rank and station. He gives one a spade and another a scepter. There is no power but of God. His way is that we understand that there will always be those that are "the lessor" and those that are "the greater".

Christ was, is, and will always be "the lessor" to his Father, and Yahweh was, is and will always be "the greater" to His son, Christ, and to all those who are under Christ in God's established rank and headship order. (1 Cor. 11:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:28, John 14:28).

My Father is greater than I. . . (John 14:28)

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28)

Yahweh chose this title for Himself, "Father." And we see that we will never be equal with Him. We will never be on the same level with Him. He will always have come before us in years, knowledge, experience, and wisdom. He will always deserve our honor whether we fully understand His ways or not.

Bro. Roberts teaches in The Law of Moses regarding the command to honor parents:

It is also most reasonable as regards the parents. “Honour to whom honour is due”, saith the word of inspiration by Paul. To whom should honour be paid by offspring if not to those who have been the means of their existence, and who have toiled in the midst of many anxieties and sorrows to open their way and remove their difficulties in the opening sphere of life ? To whom should children deferentially submit if not to those who have gone before them in the struggle with evil, and who necessarily have more of the knowledge that can come only with experience ? What if there are sometimes foolish parents, it is less an evil that the children of these (in all probability no wiser) should honour and obey father and mother, than that a good and a just rule should be relaxed in thousands of other cases where it is for the good of the children that the authority of father and mother should be the unquestioned law of the house. It is the will of God that it should be so, and this is the end of the matter. . . . It is a pleasing feature of Jewish life that parents are highly esteemed to their last breath. Gentile life will never be blessed till a similar state of things prevails amongst them.

There are Serious Consequences for Any Who Dishonor their Parents

God's laws put a powerful restraint on children of any age by making cursing, mocking and lashing out against their parents an offense worthy of severe punishments, and even death under the Law of Moses.

Prov. 30: 17 "The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."

Jerusalem Bible: "The eye which looks jeeringly on a father, and scorns the obedience due a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, and eaten by the vultures."

Prov. 20:20 "Whoso curseth [despises] his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness."

Exo. 21:17 "He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death"

Matt. 15:4 (Mark 7:10) "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death."

Yahweh reprimands Jerusalem in Ezek 22:7 because "In thee have they set light by [treated with contempt and dishonor] father and mother."

In 2 Kings 2:23-24 we read of a shocking incident. Elisha had just seen Elijah taken up in the whirlwind and cried after him "My father, my father". Elisha was now the "father" in Israel, instructing and correcting with power and authority.

"And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel ["the House of God"]: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Hair in the scriptures represents glory and honor. The children were mocking that Elisha's head had no honor. This declaration could not be ignored and no doubt many families in Bethel painfully learned the consequences of not teaching and requiring from their children respectful treatment of elders and "fathers" in Israel.

"...honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God."

It first takes a humble inward attitude before genuine gratitude and respect can be felt and expressed in behavior towards those "who have gone before [us] in the struggle with evil, and who necessarily have more of the knowledge that can come only with experience." We must all seek after that humble place, so pleasing in Yahweh's eyes, that shows respect to the order and positions established by Yahweh. In doing so Yahweh teaches us to "fear thy God."

It was our fathers and our mothers who first loved us before we ever knew we even existed. That is the reason we are given that we should love God: (1 John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us.") This is what Yahweh was pointing out to Job in chapters 38, 39, and 40 when Job thought he could instruct Yahweh. Yahweh repeatedly asks where Job was when He performed great works beyond Job's knowledge or ability. He asks Job to answer Him if he can. Job learned his place:

Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it. Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. (Job 40:1-5)

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

Reverence consists in the performance of attitudes and acts which contain on our part a confession (1) of our parents' preeminence and (2) of our submission to our lower position under them.

We all know that in this uncertain life circumstances arise where parents may take on dangerous and destructive lifestyles from which it is prudent to distance ourselves. Nevertheless, even in these sad circumstances, we must maintain an attitude of respect to the high position our parents hold.

There is an old tale that teaches a sobering lesson about our actions and attitudes towards our parents and elders. If you haven't heard it before, you will doubtless never forget its powerful lesson:

There was once a little old man with trembling hands who, when he ate, bumped his spoon against his plate and often missed his mouth when he fed himself. He lived with a married son whose wife was modern and thought in-laws shouldn’t be tolerated in the home. So she and her husband led the little old man into a corner of the kitchen and gave him his food in a clay dish. But one day, his trembling hands bumped the dish and it broke. The wife said to him, "If you are a pig you must eat out of a trough." So they made him a little wooden trough to eat from.  

Now this couple had a four-year-old son they loved dearly. One supper-time the father of this lad saw his wee son playing with some bits of wood, and asked him what he was doing. "I’m making a trough, he said, smiling for approval, "to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big."

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while and said nothing. They cried a little. And then they went to the corner and took the little old man by the arm and led him back to the table."

 In 1 Tim. 5:4,8, Paul wrote these strong admonitions:

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.


But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

When we honor our earthly fathers and mothers, we learn how to fear God. When we require from our children and our young people respect towards parents, grandparents and elders, we show the importance of developing a submissive, grateful spirit. We show that we hold as sacred the importance of maintaining a spirit of submission, reverence, honor and gratitude in fearing Yahweh, "whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Rom 8:15)

O Lord! Thy sovereign aid impart

To save me from low-thoughted care;

Chase this self-will through all my heart,

Through all its latent mazes there;

Make me thy duteous child, that I

Ceaseless may "Abba, Father", cry!

(Hymn 112)