Why does Proverbs focus so much on two commands “honour your parents” and “Do not commit adultery”?

The wisdom literature, including both Psalms and Proverbs provides reflection and meditation on the Law, helping us to think through God’s commands and apply them to our circumstances.  You may notice, as you read through them that there seems to be a heavy focus on two commands “Honour your parents” and “Do not commit adultery.”  Apart from noting ironically that Solomon’s family didn’t seem to do particularly well in terms of either sexual faithfulness or respect for fathers and their wisdom, why those two?

Well, the command to honour your parents is emphasised greatly in Deuteronomy too. In chapter 6, there’s a big emphasis on teaching the commandments to your children and their children.  The concern as the people entered the land was that they risked forgetting the deeds and words of the LORD. There was a persistent call to remember and not forget.  So, parents are told to pass on God’s Word to their children and grandchildren to protect them against forgetting.  Honouring your parents meant that you benefited from this. Honouring them was to honour the Law and to honour God your heavenly father himself. 

We might further add that Paul in Ephesians 6 spots that this is the first commandment with a promise attached.  If you honour your parents, your days will be long.  Perhaps given that Proverbs focuses on how to enjoy good, godly life as God’s people it makes sense to put the emphasise on the command which promises this.

The command concerning adultery, calls us to sexual and marital faithfulness. As I mentioned above, it is telling that Solomon’s family failed here.  Solomon may not have committed technical adultery but only through the loophole of polygamy.  His many wives became a snare to him.  Sexual unfaithfulness led to spiritual unfaithfulness as he led the people into idolatry.  So adultery and unfaithfulness matter because of the close connection between them and spiritual unfaithfulness.

Proverbs then is a call to loyalty and faithfulness, to cling close to God, to honour our heavenly Father by remembering and passing on the covenant.  These two commands then are central to what it means for us to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

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