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N8. Giving Respect & Honor to Persons of Advanced Age.    [Make a Comment]

We are to give respect and honor to persons of advanced age.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.

Leviticus 19:32 (Maimonides RP209; Meir MP17; Chinuch C257)
Stand up in the presence of a person with gray hair, show respect for the old; you are to fear your God; I am ADONAI.

Numbers 11:16-17 (NKJ)
So the LORD said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders ["leaders" in the CJB] of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone."

Numbers 26:9b1 (Maimonides RP209; Chinuch C257)
These are the same Datan and Aviram, men of reputation in the community, who rebelled against Moshe and Aharon in Korach's group, when they rebelled against ADONAI

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do not rebuke an older man sharply, but appeal to him as you would to a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers and younger women like sisters, with absolute purity.

1. This is a reference to Korah's rebellion (Numbers 16:1-35), where Datan and Aviram said to Moses: "Is it such a mere trifle, bringing us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert, that now you arrogate to yourself the role of dictator over us?" (verse 13)

Supportive Scriptures

Proverbs 1:8
My son, heed the discipline of your father, and do not abandon the teaching of your mother

Proverbs 19:26
One who mistreats his father and evicts his mother is a son who brings them shame and disgrace.

Proverbs 20:29
The pride of the young is their strength; the dignity of the old is gray hair.

Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, what you should do in union with the Lord is obey your parents, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" - this is the first commandment that embodies a promise - "so that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the Land."

Titus 2:3-8
Likewise, tell the older women to behave the way people leading a holy life should. They shouldn't be slanderers or slaves to excessive drinking. They should teach what is good, thus training the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to take good care of their homes and submit to their husbands. In this way, God's message will not be brought into disgrace. Similarly, urge the young men to be self-controlled, and in everything set them an example yourself by doing what is good. When you are teaching, have integrity and be serious; let everything you say be so wholesome that an opponent will be put to shame because he will have nothing bad to say about us.

1 Peter 5:5 (NKJ)
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders [The CJB says "leaders"]. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.


This Mitzvah directs us to honor and respect persons of advanced age for two important reasons. First, those who have lived longer than we are assumed to have acquired wisdom through their greater life experiences, and presumably also through walking with the Lord for a longer period of time. Second, whatever knowledge and wisdom younger people may have, they have likely acquired (in large measure) through the life experiences and God-given wisdom of their elders2 including from their parents (Proverbs 22:6).

Why is this Mitzvah needed? Regrettably, it is because, too frequently, persons of advanced age are not respected. I suggest that the reason for this is because older persons, over time, lose some of their physical attributes that are visible, while the ways in which they gain (knowledge, wisdom, and experience) are less visible and less tangible.

When Moses needed help governing Israel, he chose seventy men of advanced age who were already respected leaders. It is also why 1 Timothy 3:2-12 instructs us that when we ordain elders to govern our New Covenant communities, each appointee must (among other things) be a man who is "above reproach", "faithful to his wife", "self-controlled", "able to teach", be a good manager "of his own household", have "children who obey him with all proper respect", and he must not be a new believer. All of these come to a man over time and with age, and it is why they are called "elders".

Although the Scriptures that pertain to this subject refer mainly to men, women are included as well. Women are, of course, to be honored and obeyed as mothers regardless of their age (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3), but older women, in particular, are exhorted to conduct their lives in holiness so that they are able to train younger women in the ways of the Lord (Titus 2:3-5). Because men, regardless of their abilities, are not competent (nor is it appropriate for them) to train women in many areas, women who have wisdom and experience that comes with advanced age and who are also filled with the Holy Spirit, are exceedingly valuable and are needed in every community.

2. "Elders" here means persons who are older.

Daniel C. Juster

During biblical times, a man could attain maturity and be an elder at an age that we, today, would consider quite young. Therefore, though given the title "elder" and "overseer", the test is maturity and not chronological age.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides', Meir's, and HaChinuch's mitzvot that are based on Leviticus 19:32, command that we honor persons of advanced age and Torah scholars despite the fact that the Scripture says nothing about scholars. Most of what they write has to do with the particulars of how we extend honor, and their writings on this are fairly complex and legalistic. To give a sense of it, here is a brief quote from Meir's MP17 from Charles Wengrove's English adaptation of "Concise Book of Mitzvoth":3

The term sevah ("a man of hoary head") means someone of very advanced age, even if he is not a man of wisdom. One is duty-bound to stand before him - even a wise scholar who is very young; but he is not obligated to stand up to his full height before him [the old man], but only enough to honor him. The term zaken means zeh she-kanah chochmah, one who has acquired wisdom. Even if he is very young, one is to stand up to his full height before him, from the time he [the scholar] comes within four cubits until he has left his presence.

Meir's treatment of the subject goes on to speak of honoring to one's Torah teacher, and concludes by saying:

Whoever disgraces such scholars will have no share in the world-to-come.

3. Yisrael Meir haKohen, The Concise Book of Mitzvoth (The Commandments Which Can Be Observed Today), Charles Wengrov, translator, p. 31 (Jerusalem / New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1990).


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