Respect of parents is especially enjoined by both Scripture and Talmud (Ex. xx. 12; Deut. v. 16). The Talmud makes reverence for parents equal in importance to reverence for God (Ḳid. 30b), for parents are God's representatives on earth (Ḳid. 31a). There were special reasons for the cultivation of reverence for parents in ancient Israel. The machinery for the maintenance of public order and for the administration of civil and criminal justice was extremely simple. The family was the basis of the national polity, and parents were virtually magistrates. Resolute assertion ofthe authority of the parent was necessary to the security of the state. "Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father" (Lev. xix. 3). He who smote or cursed his parent was put to death by judicial authority (Ex. xxi, 15-17; comp. Prov. xx. 20). Death was also meted out to the stubborn, rebellious, or gluttonous son who would not obey the voice of his father or mother, even though they had chastened him (Deut. xxi. 18-21).
Respect is also enjoined for the aged, for the learned, and for constituted authorities. "Honor the face of the old man" (Lev. xix. 32). "The fear of thy teacher is as the fear of Heaven" (Abot iv. 17b). "Thou shalt not revile the judges nor curse a ruler of thy people" (Ex. xxii. 28, Hebr.). "Pray for the peace of the kingdom, since but for the fear thereof we had swallowed up each his neighbor alive" (Abot iii. 2; comp. Jer. xxix. 7). "As the big fish swallow the little ones, so it would be among men were it not for the fear of government" ('Ab. Zarah iv.; comp. Zeb. xix.).
Fear is looked upon as unmanly, and is rebuked in Scripture. Thus the faint-hearted of an army were allowed to return home lest their presence should have a demoralizing effect upon the other soldiers (Deut. xx. 8; comp. Josh. ii. 11). "I will mock when your fear cometh" (Prov. i. 26). "And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit" (Isa. xxiv. 18). Fear is unmanly because it shows lack of confidence in God (see Courage). Thus the judges are admonished: "Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; . . . ye shall not be afraid of the face of man, for the judgment is God's" (Deut. i. 17; comp. xvi. 19).
Fear is a natural consequence of an accusing conscience. Thus Cain fears man because he is an outlaw and God's curse rests upon him (Gen. iv. 12). "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" (Prov. xxviii. 1). "The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him" (ib. x. 24; comp. Job xxxix. 22).