Leviticus 19:3 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(3) 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 (Exo. 20:12), or, as the Apostle calls it, the first commandment with promise (Eph. 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 Gen. 44:20 and Lev. 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 Exo. 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 (Pro. 3:9), and as He is to be “feared” (Deu. 6:13), so our parents are both to be “honoured” (Exo. 20:12) and “feared” (Lev. 19:3); and as he who blasphemes the name of God is stoned (Lev. 24:16), so he who curses his father or mother is stoned (Lev. 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 (Eze. 20:12; Eze. 22:8; Eze. 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 Lev. 23:3.)
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Charles John Ellicott (1819 - 1905) was a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman. He briefly served as Dean of Exeter, then Bishop of the united see of Gloucester and Bristol.
His works include:
- An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1897. (Editor)
- A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.