Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Regard for one’s parents (Proverbs 28:24)

Posted by jac/cdc on January 18, 2007

(Proverbs 28:24) גּוֹזֵל אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ וְאֹמֵר אֵין־פָּשַׁע חָבֵר הוּא לְאִישׁ מַשְׁחִית׃

go-ZAYL a-VIV w’-im-MO w’-o-MAYR ayn-pa-SHA cha-VAYR HU l’-EESH mash-CHEET

Whoever defrauds their father and mother and says, “It is not wrong,” is a companion of a destroyer.

Although robbery is condemned in the decalogue, the tenor of this proverb seems to involve the general moral or ethical question rather than a legal one (so most commentators). The exact nature of the defrauding is left unstated, though presumably there were avenues through which children may defraud their parents of property, etc. that were not strictly illegal but certainly immoral (similarly Mark 7:9–12).

What makes the deed in this proverb so heinous? First, it is perpetrated against the parents, thus combining robbery with ingratitude and an abandonment of the honor due and filial responsibility to parents. Second, the person has no sense of shame: “It is not wrong” they protests—perhaps legally speaking, but, say the sages, not morally or ethically. Thus, the strong condemnation in the comparison of this character to a “destroyer”; Scott (Anchor Bible) translates, “he is the next thing to a parricide.”

The West has been rediscovering the East in recent years, at least that is how some culture-watchers describe it. Having lived in the Philippines and North America I can wish that the West would rediscovery the Eastern reverence toward the elderly and one’s parents. Modern culture, particularly in the West, is quick to throw out the old as irrelevant and usher in the new—not just our technology, but our people. This merely defrauds the younger generation of the wisdom of the old!


One Response to “Regard for one’s parents (Proverbs 28:24)”

  1. Nony said

    Another lurker who is enjoying your series. Thank you, may there be many more. And yes to grey-haired wisdom.

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