What does Exodus 20:12 really mean?

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


Setting the Scene for Exodus 20:12

In Exodus chapter 20, we find Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. The scene is set with Moses standing before the burning bush, a symbol of God’s presence. Surrounding him are the Israelites, who have been brought out of Egypt by God’s mighty hand. The Israelites are gathered at the foot of the mountain, eagerly awaiting the words that God will speak to Moses.

As Moses ascends the mountain to commune with God, the Israelites are filled with awe and reverence. They understand the importance of this moment, as they are about to receive divine guidance on how to live their lives in accordance with God’s will. Among the crowd are elders, leaders, men, women, and children, all eager to hear the words that will shape their future.

In the midst of thunder and lightning, God speaks the Ten Commandments to Moses, including the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. This pivotal moment solidifies the covenant between God and the Israelites, setting the foundation for their relationship and establishing the moral code by which they are to live. The scene is one of profound significance, as God’s laws are revealed to His chosen people, guiding them on their journey towards the Promised Land.

What is Exodus 20:12 about?

This verse emphasizes the importance of showing respect and gratitude towards our parents. It highlights the significant role parents play in our lives by attributing a promise of long life to those who honor their parents. We honor our parents and create harmony and love within the family unit by obeying and respecting them. This verse also reflects the value of intergenerational relationships and the wisdom that is passed down from one generation to the next.

Think about the sacrifices your parents have made for you, the love and care they have shown – honoring them is a way to acknowledge and appreciate all they have done for you. The verse signifies the interconnectedness of familial relationships and how our actions towards our parents can have long-lasting effects. We not only show love and respect to our parents but also create a foundation for a strong and nurturing family bond by following this commandment. Let us reflect on this verse and consider how we can demonstrate honor and respect towards our parents in our daily lives.

Understanding what Exodus 20:12 really means

Structure of Commentary:

  1. Introduction: Context and Relevance
  2. Detailed Analysis of Key Phrases
  3. Cross-referencing Other Biblical Passages
  4. Contemporary Relevance and Application
  5. Anecdotal Illustration
  6. One of the Ten Commandments given to the Israelites through Moses is found in Exodus 20:12. This verse commands, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Rooted deeply in the Judeo-Christian tradition, this commandment is not just a rule but a timeless principle shaping social and familial relationships. Let’s explore the layers of meaning embedded within this verse and understand its enduring relevance.

Detailed Analysis of Key Phrases

The first phrase, “Honor your father and your mother,” calls for a profound respect and value towards one’s parents. “Honor” here extends beyond mere obedience; it encompasses a heartfelt reverence and appreciation for the roles they play. This mirrors the structure of a stable society where respect within the family unit is foundational. The following part, “so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you,” links personal behavior with communal blessing. It’s an illustration that individual acts of honor and respect contribute to the collective well-being and longevity of a community.

Cross-referencing Other Biblical Passages

This commandment is reiterated in the New Testament in Ephesians 6:2-3, where Paul reminds believers that honoring one’s parents is the “first commandment with a promise.” This repetition underscores its importance across both covenants and highlights its role in God’s broader plan for human relationships and societal well-being. Similarly, in Proverbs 1:8-9, we are reminded to heed our parents’ teaching as it will be a “garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” The repetition of this theme throughout scripture speaks to its timeless and cross-generational importance. Relationships can often become strained or neglected in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world. This commandment invites us to pause and reevaluate our priorities. Are we giving due honor and respect to our parents and elders? It’s not merely about following rules but recognizing the value and wisdom that come with age and experience. This verse calls for a balance in a society that often prioritizes independence, where respect for familial ties is not lost in the pursuit of personal advancement. Families gather during the holiday season in a typical scenario. Amid the festivities, there is often an opportunity to see the dynamics of honor and respect in action—or lack thereof. Think about the elderly grandmother who feels sidelined amidst the younger generation engrossed in their gadgets. One young person decides to sit with her, listen to her stories, and express genuine interest and appreciation. That simple act of honoring her presence adds to the richness of the family gathering and brings a sense of fulfillment and unity. It’s a modern example of this ancient commandment in practice.

Reflection and Challenge for the Reader

So, let’s challenge ourselves to introspect on our relationships with our parents and elders. Are we truly honoring them in our actions, words, and attitudes? How can we implement this commandment more fully in our daily lives? Reflecting on this, we may find ways to strengthen our familial bonds and, by extension, contribute positively to society. The depth and beauty of Exodus 20:12 lie in its invitation to foster a community built on respect and genuine love, starting within the family and radiating outward. Let us embrace this commandment as a timeless blueprint for harmonious and enriched living, not as an archaic rule. How might honoring your parents change not just your life, but also the lives around you?

How can we honor our parents more fully?

One way we can honor our parents more fully is by showing them respect and gratitude for all they have done for us. This includes listening to their advice, being obedient to their teachings, and treating them with love and kindness. We can demonstrate our appreciation and honor for them by recognizing the sacrifices they have made and the care they have shown us throughout our lives.

Another way to honor our parents is by prioritizing their well-being and comfort. This can be done by providing for them in their old age, spending quality time with them, and ensuring that their needs are met. We can honor our parents in a meaningful way by showing them that we value them and care for their happiness and health.

Additionally, honoring our parents involves acknowledging the wisdom and experience they possess. Seeking guidance and wisdom from our parents in important decisions, and valuing their input and advice, is a way to honor their knowledge and expertise. We can demonstrate our honor and appreciation for our parents by showing respect for their opinions and valuing their perspective.


Think of life like a busy work project or a close-knit family. Exodus 20:12 is your critical directive: honor your parents. They’re the original teammates who’ve guided you. Take action—show respect, express gratitude. How will you honor them today?