The Supplements of the Fifth Commandment
Exodus 21:15, 17
15. And he that smiteth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death.
15. Qui percusserit patrem suum aut matrem, morte moriatur.
17. And he that curseth his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
17. Qui maledixerit patri suo vel matri suae, morte moriatur.
9. For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
9. Qui maledixerit patri suo aut matri suae morte moriatur: qui patri suo et matri suae maledixit, sanguis ejus super eum.
The commandment is now sanctioned by the denunciation of capital punishment for its violation, yet not so as to comprehend all who have in any respect sinned against their parents, but sufficient to show that the rights of parents are sacred, and not to be violated without the greatest criminality. We know that parricides1 as being the most detestable of all men, were formerly sewn up in a leathern sack and east into the water; but God proceeds further, when He commands all those to be exterminated who have laid violent hands on their parents2 or addressed them in abusive language. For to smite does not only mean to kill, but refers to any violence, although no wound may have been inflicted. If, then, any one had struck his father or mother with his fist, or with a stick, the punishment of such an act of madness was the same as for murder. And, assuredly, it is an abominable and monstrous thing for a son not to hesitate to assault those from whom he has received his life; nor can it be but that impunity accorded to so foul a crime must straightway produce cruel barbarism. The second law avenges not only violence done to parents, but also, abusive words, which soon proceed to grosser insults and atrocious contempt. Still, if any one should have lightly let drop some slight reproach, as is often the case ill a quarrel, this severe punishment was not to be inflicted upon such, all inconsiderate piece of impertinence: and the word llq, kalal, from which the participle used by Moses is derived, not only means to reproach, but also to curse, as well as to esteem lightly, and to despise. Whilst, therefore, not every insult, whereby the reverence due to parents was violated, received the punishment of death, still God would have that impious pride, which would subvert the first principles of nature, held in abhorrence. But, inasmuch as it might seem hard that a word,3 however unworthy of a dutiful son, should be the cause of death; this objection is met, by what is added by God in Leviticus, "his blood shall be upon him, because he hath cursed his father or mother:" as if He would put a stop to what men might otherwise presume to allege in mitigation of the severity of the punishment.