Matthew Henry On the Intertwined Nature of the 4th and 5th Commandments

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19, verse 3:

“That children be obedient to their parents: “You shall fear every man his mother and his father, v. 3. 1. The fear here required is the same with the honour commanded by the fifth commandment; see Mal. i. 6. It includes inward reverence and esteem, outward expressions of respect, obedience to the lawful commands of parents, care and endeavour to please them and make them easy, and to avoid every thing that may offend and grieve them, and incur their displeasure. The Jewish doctors ask, “What is this fear that is owing to a father?” And they answer, “It is not to stand in his way nor to sit in his place, not to contradict what he says nor to carp at it, not to call him by his name, either living or dead, but ‘My Father,’ or ‘Sir;’ it is to provide for him if he be poor, and the like.” 2. Children, when they grow up to be men, must not think themselves discharged from this duty: every man, though he be a wise man, and a great man, yet must reverence his parents, because they are his parents. 3. The mother is put first, which is not usual, to show that the duty is equally owing to both; if the mother survive the father, still she must be reverenced and obeyed. 4. It is added, and keep my sabbaths. If God provides by his law for the preserving of the honour of parents, parents must use their authority over their children for the preserving of the honour of God, particularly the honour of his sabbaths, the custody of which is very much committed to parents by the fourth commandment, Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter. The ruin of young people has often been observed to begin in the contempt of their parents and the profanation of the sabbath day. Fitly therefore are these two precepts here put together in the beginning of this abridgment of the statutes: “You shall fear, every man, his mother and his father, and keep my sabbaths. Those are hopeful children, and likely to do well, that make conscience of honouring their parents and keeping holy the sabbath day. 5. The reason added to both these precepts is, “I am the Lord your God; the Lord of the sabbath and the God of your parents.”

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The Impiety of the 5-Day Work Week and Exodus 20:9

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

I have written and posted much on the 4th Commandment on this bog and have done some extensive reading on its application and misapplication in modern contexts. However in all my reading I do not know if I just plain old missed it in the 4th Commandment or just read over it since the Sabbath rest was my “proof point” but today during my Sabbath reading I have been reading John Murray’s Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics and in chapter IV entitled “The Ordinance of Labour” Murray begins to speak of the difference made between the context of Labor in Adam’s time before and after the Fall.  Before the Fall labor was not cursed but a blessed thing man did and it came with no adversity or distress. However after the Fall Labor became a hardship and was done now by the sweat of the brow and the thorns and brush would cause pain for the man (Gen 3::17-19) as punished for Adam’s sin. From dust he came and to dust he would return.

What does this have to do with the 4th Commandment?

Well Murray moves from this point to show in the history of Israel the establishment of the institution of Labor and its force has brought forth a class of people that are not only hard workers but have become proficient in what they do. He gives the example of Noah’s building the ark to prove this point. How could Noah have built such a large structure if he did not have the time or the know how to do so? This for Murray:

…places proper perspective more than one of the precepts of the Decalogue. If we think, for example, of the fourth commandment, it should not be forgotten that it is the commandment of labor as well as rest. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all of thy work’ (Ex. 20:9). If we will, we may call this an incidental feature of the commandment. But it is an integral part of it. The day of rest has no meaning except as rest from labor; and only as the day of rest upon the completion of six days labor can the weekly sabbath be understood.

John Murray means here that the stress upon labor here in Exodus 20:9 is not on labor in and of itself but upon a certain consistency of labor. It says man shall work for 6 days then rest, not 5 and take two off. Now one may say here that the 6th day is for labor around the home etc. and that is certainly permissible given the text and the impetus of the command. However one thing that is not allowable given this construct is taking two-days off and not working at all on the 6th day treating it as more of a Sabbath than the actual Sabbath day which is often the case today. God has blessed us with a day off as rest from labor which he has commanded us to perform for 6 days of the week not 7 or 5 but 6. The fourth, like its sister the 2nd, has taken a seat in the way back of the Christian car in the last 100 years. Being pushed to the rear in favor of worldly employments and various sporting endeavors the Christian Sabbath and the 6-day work week that Scripture commands for us.