Honour thy father and thy mother

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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:
Ten Commandments
Protestant numbering
1st 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th
Catholic numbering
1st a b 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th

Honour thy father and thy mother is the 5th of the Ten Commandments in the Protestant tradition. It is considered the 4th commandment according to Catholic numbering.

Exodus 20:12 Bible-icon.png:

12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16 Bible-icon.png:

16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.


Prescribed punishments

Exodus 21:17 Bible-icon.png:

17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Disobedient and disrespectful children should be stoned to death. [1] Stoning is a slow and cruel death. Stoning to death is the prescribed Old Testament punishment for many different types of sins.

Matthew 15:4 Bible-icon.png:

4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

In the New Testament Jesus confirmed that disobedient children should die. [2]


  • This is generally okay advice, but certainly shouldn't be a law.
  • Some parents don't deserve to be honored, such as child abusers.
  • This commandment does not go into detail on how to honor your parents. Do we obey them in everything? How long do we obey them? Until we die? There is obvious some merit in the idea expressed by this commandment, but there is precious little guidance here beyond a general principle that parents should be respected. Isn’t this just another variation of the bible’s “respect authority” message? Wouldn’t a moral principle suggest that you should not do anything to hurt your parents, that you should not take advantage of them, and that you should treat them with the basic respect deserved advisors? What if they belong to a kooky or abusive religious cult? What if they are evil? We all know some parents do not deserve to be honored or obeyed. How do you “honor” a father who commits incest? Notice also that the rationale “that thy days may be long” is an appeal to self-interest, not to the value of parents as human beings.

In United States law

  • The 5th commandment is not a part of U.S. Law or (legal) custom. There is no law in the U.S. requiring a person to respect their parents. A minor may be considered to be under the jurisdiction of parents (providing the parents are not considered "bad" parents). However, once a person reaches the age of majority, this no longer applies and the child is afforded all of the right and protections toward the parents that they are afforded to any other person. Cursing ones father or mother is protected in the Bill of Rights under free speech protections.

See also

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