Life-long Honor: Ephesians 6:2–3

life long honor (2)

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b) Eph 6:2–3: After directing children who were still growing up to obey their parents (Eph 6:1), Paul quoted part of the fifth commandment.[1]

He wrote, “Honor your father and your mother, which is the first command with a promise, in order that good to you it may be, and you will be long-lived on the earth.”

This matches the beginning of the Greek translation of Exod 20:12.[2]

To honor (timaō) someone consists of rendering esteem, dignity, and proper recognition to that person.[3]

In Judaism, honoring one’s parents paralleled the reverence accorded to the Lord (Lev 19:1–4).[4]

Unlike the command to obey, this mandate applies to adults (Gen 2:23–24; Eph 5:25–31; Matt 19:16–19).[5]

It includes supporting parents with financial needs (Matt 15:3–6; 1 Tim 5:3–6).[6]



The Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC–40 AD) asserted:

And so [the aged], living in a tranquility worthy of their time of life, enjoy all abundance, and pass their old age in luxury; while their children make light of all the hardships they undergo to furnish them with the means of support, under the influence both of piety and also of the expectation that they also in their old age will receive the same treatment from their descendants; and so they now discharge the indispensable debt which they owe their parents, knowing that in proper time, they will themselves receive what they    are now bestowing.

And there are also others who are unable to support themselves, for children are no more able to do so at the commencement of their existence, than their parents are at the end of their lives.

On which account the children, having while young been fed in accordance with the spontaneous promptings of nature, now with joy do in return support the old age of their parents.

Is it not right, then, after these examples, that men who neglect their parents should cover their faces from shame, and reproach themselves for disregarding those things…

For the children have nothing of their own which does not belong to the parents, who have either bestowed it upon them from their own substance, or have enabled them to acquire it by supplying them with the means.[7]



Within the Ten Commandments, this is the first with an explicit promise for adhering to it.[8] Although Exod 20:4–6 does contain a pledge, it refers to keeping all the Lord’s mandates.[9]

Paul likely omitted “in the land which the Lord you God gives you” because it pertained to Israel.[10] For gentiles living in Asia Minor, that was irrelevant.[11]

However, he did retain God’s vow for a good, long life (Deut 5:33).[12] This refers to temporal—not eternal—benefits.[13]

Nevertheless, we cannot universally apply this assurance. A one-to-one correlation between people who honor their parents and those who enjoy prosperity while reaching an advanced age does not exist.[14]

The Lord does not make such guarantees (1 Ki 14:11–13).[15]

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Read Eph 6:2–3. How does honoring parents differ from obeying them? Where did Ham go wrong (Gen 9:20–23)? How can you best honor your father and mother?




Go to Nurturing and Training (Eph 6:4)

[Related posts include Sacrificial Love (Eph 5:25–30); Obedience in the Lord (Eph 6:1); Nurturing and Training (Eph 6:4); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A Transfer of Loyalty (Gen 2:24); Ham Dishonors His Father (Gen 9:22–23); Ancient Literature; and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 10: Noah Curses Canaan (Gen 9:18–27)]


[1]Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, 336.

[2]Brannan et. al., The Lexham English Septuagint, Exod 20:12.

[3]Johannes Schneider, “τιμαω” (timaō), TDNT 8:169–80, 174.

[4]Frank S. Thielman, “Ephesians,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 829.

[5]Arnold, Ephesians, 416.

[6]Schneider, “τιμαω” (timaō), TDNT 8:169–80, 178–9.

[7]Philo, “A Treatise Concerning the Ten Commandments Which Are the Heads of the Law,” in The Works of Ohilo Judaeus, Vol. 3, (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1855), 23, 162–3,

[8]Lincoln, Ephesians, 396.

[9]Thielman, “Ephesians,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 830.

[10]Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, 398.

[11]Arnold, Ephesians, 417.

[12]Snodgrass, Ephesians, 322.

[13]Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, 336–7.

[14]Snodgrass, Ephesians, 322.

[15]Arnold, Ephesians, 417.