22 Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Hearken is not a word you hear a great deal so let me define it the Biblical way by contrasting verses.
Genesis 4:23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.
Genesis 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.
Hearken carries with it further the idea of responding positively to what you hear.
Exodus 3:18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
Zechariah 7:11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
Despise, which we have studied before, means to hold in low regard or to view with contempt, and is a synonym of hate.
Leviticus 26:15 And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:
Psalm 102:17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
The Hebrew and by inference the Christian is to listen to the instruction of his parents, to hear what his father has to say. Notice the mention of “old” in the passage. Even when parents are aged they have something to say that will be a benefit to you. You should not ignore it. I’m not saying that a grown man or woman raising a family must get permission from parents before doing anything but they have been down the road before you and do have something to say about your situation.
Christians are to hear what they have to say and to not view them with contempt when they are old. Too often, in a rapidly changing society, we mistake technology for progress. But, essentially the value of moral judgments don’t change whether you are wealthy and your parents are poor, whether you are educated and they are not, whether you are full of health and they are sick. Even when they’ve made bad choices that have led them to a distressing point in their lives you can learn from that.
Even if you view them as failing as parents, YOU’LL learn that parenting isn’t easy. Even if you view them as failures, YOU’LL learn that life’s fortunes can turn on a dime. Even if you view them as stubborn and set in their ways, YOU’LL learn that you, too, will become more set in your ways as you grow older and that it is comforting in a stressful, ever changing world to have stability.
The way this verse is constructed it does, like many Bible verses, make multiple points with an economy of words. You are to hearken to both your father and mother and to despise neither when they are old. Only a stubborn fool would say, “well, I guess literally this means I don’t have to hear what my mother says and I CAN despise my father when he is old.” Use some common sense and see how wonderfully the Bible is constructed, how economical the usage of words, and how deep the meaning.