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Is Leviticus 20:9 referring to a small child?

Can one heated word get you the death penalty? The verse doesn’t seem to indicate the age. Could be an older adult son.

Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. Leviticus 20:9


Hello @Tnt77, interesting question. When you look at the word curses in Hebrew in this verse its the word yə-qal-lêl. It has 5 occurrences in the Old Testament and one of its meanings is to be slight, swift, or trifling. The English word trifling I find interesting because this would mean something close to basically belittling someone. Like to make them seem small in worth or honor ya know. In order to do that it would take more than just one word. You would have to go on a bit of a rant or a very heated argument I believe.

In ancient times in the middle east, these things were not taken lightly in any culture because your parents truly were your lifeline. They feed you, educate you, clothe you, and teach you the family trade in order to be able to take care of yourself or your future family. The eldest male son in the Israeli culture would get the Blessing as well. So to belittle them is not only dishonorable to them but to the entire family unit. Most of all it dishonors God because he used them to bring you into the world you are living in and like it or not respect is deserved because of how God used them to create you.

Now I don’t think this is made for small children because the Hebrew word in this verse for “everyone/anyone” (depending on the translation you’re reading) is ish which means man. Now, this could be used to address everyone which is why the English word “everyone” is used but since it is masculine and in other occurrences it’s used for the word Husband I would think it’s referring to adults more so than children.

Not every situation is described in the Old Testament and even during that time, there were situations not given in the OT laws. This is why there was a high priest, other priests, and prophets to speak with God on the people’s behalf. They were God’s earthly council members and the people would come to them and the elders when there was a situation they needed the Lord’s say on.

I hope this helps some :slight_smile:


It so did! Thank you for taking the time.


Anna, I would like to flesh out @Luna’s excellent analysis. This verse reiterates Exodus 21:17. This is in the middle of a list of capital crimes. Shortly before that we see the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), of which the fifth is:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, ESV)

The Hebrew word used here according to Strong (2009) is kâbêd, which is essentially an antonym to [yə-qal-lêl]. It conveys a sense of weightiness, or gravitas. Note, too, that this commandment is the first of the second part of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments comprise the First Great Commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The last six commandments comprise the Second Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. We see, therefore, that loving our neighbors as ourselves starts with honoring our parents. Therefore cursing our parents shows that we do not treat them with the weightiness that their position warrants, and this cracks Godly culture. We see the consequences of this in our culture today.


Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 54). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.