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The Father’s Instruction and the Mother’s Teaching
Proverbs 1:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and do not forsake not your mother’s teaching,
9 for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
The Hebrew term (שָׁמַע shama) for “hear” means more than simply taking in information through our ears. It also involves listening, wherein we take notice of and act on (ready to obey) the teaching and thoughts of proverbs, responding to the advice and guidance that the proverbs contain. Those translations (CEV, GNT, NRSV) that render (בֵּן ben) “son” as “child,” so as to be progressive and inclusive are obscuring the intended meaning because “child” conveys the idea of dependence and inability to make decisions, as opposed to the author’s intended meaning. Dave Bland offers us the following insights into daughters and whether they too receive instruction. “The women in Proverbs are mature in wisdom and morally educated. Woman Wisdom is involved in instruction (chapters 1–9). King Lemuel’s mother instructs him (31:1–9). The capable woman of Proverbs 31 is a teacher (31:26). These are educated women.” Yes, within her husband’s authority structure, the Hebrew wife could make and enforce the family law. She was to be honored by her sons and daughters even after she had grown old. – Proverbs 23:22.
The importance of the discipline and the authority of one’s parents (and, by inference, the important value of God’s commandments and laws) is highlighted by the admonition to ‘wear them upon the neck,’ where beautiful and precious ornaments were worn. – Proverbs 1:8-9; 3:1-3; 6:20-21.
The place of both sons and daughters was also explicitly defined by God’s Law. Said Deuteronomy 5:16, “Honor your father and your mother, as Jehovah your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Under the Mosaic Law, it was a severe offense for a child to disrespect the mother or the father. (Exodus 21:15, 17) “If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother,” stated the Law, “he shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:9) Rebellion against one’s parents was equivalent to rebellion against God himself.
Throughout the Bible, obedience to parents is coupled with subjection to God. The parents of the ancient Israelites were obligated by the Law to teach their children. Moses encouraged fathers, “these words that I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. And you shall recite them to your children, and you shall talk about them at the time of your living in your house and at the time of your going on the road and at the time of your lying down and at the time of your rising up.” (Deut. 6:6-7) The mother had an impact on her children as well. While she contributed to their guidance and direction, it was under the headship of the Father, she would enforce the family law. In fact, the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the reader will discover that the primary educational influence is the family.
Nor does the responsibility for this become less for those who “are not under the law, but under grace.” In Ephesians 6:1, we read, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Moreover, immediate attention is drawn to the preeminent character of this precept in the law. It is “the first commandment with promise.” Colossians 3:20 is similar: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord.”
Believing children should be patterns of loving obedience, that thus they may adorn the doctrine of Christ. Young people professing allegiance to Jehovah, who is disrespectful and not subject to those over them in the home, are a sad reproach to his name whom they are supposed to revere and serve. To hear and obey a father’s instruction and to listen to a mother’s law is attractive and honorable in the young one.
 Dave Bland, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 2002).
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