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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Timothy 5:4

but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

Adam Clarke Commentary

But if any widow have children or nephews - This shows that widows indeed are those that have neither children nor nephews, i.e. no relatives that either will or can help them, or no near relatives alive.

Let them learn first to show piety at home - Let these children and nephews provide for their aged or helpless parents or relatives, and not burden the Church with them while they are able to support them.

And to requite their parents - Και αμοιβας αποδιδοναι τοις προγονοις· Let them learn to give benefit for benefit. Your parents supported and nourished you when you were young and helpless; you ought therefore to support them when they are old and destitute. This is called showing piety; and there is doubtless an allusion to the fifth commandment: Honour thy father and thy mother - provide for them in their old age and afflictions; God commands this.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https: 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But if any widow have children - Who would be dependent on her care, and who might themselves contribute to her support.

Or nephews - The word nephew now commonly means the son of a brother or sister. Formerly the English word also meant grandchildren, or descendants of any description. Webster. The Greek word here - ἔκγονα ekgona- has the latter meaning. It denotes those “sprung from or born of;” and then descendants of any kind - sons, daughters, grandchildren. The Greek word would not, in fact, properly include nephews and nieces. It embraces only those in a direct line.

Let them learn first to show piety at home - Margin, “or kindness.” That is, let the children and grandchildren learn to do this. Let them have an opportunity of performing their duty toward their aged parent or grandparent. Do not receive such a widow among the poor and dependent females of the church, to be maintained at public expense, but let her children support her. Thus they will have an opportunity of evincing Christian kindness, and of requiting her for her care. This the apostle calls “showing piety” - εὐσεβεῖν eusebein- that is, “filial piety;” piety toward a parent by providing for the needs of that parent in advanced age. The word is commonly used to denote piety toward God, but it is also used to denote proper reverence and respect for a parent. Robinson.

And to requite their parents - To repay them, as far as possible, for all their kindness. This debt can never be wholly repaid, but still a child should feel it a matter of sacred obligation to do as much toward it as possible.

For that is good and acceptable before God - It is a duty everywhere enjoined; compare Matthew 15:5-7 notes; Ephesians 6:1-2 notes.

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These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:16

But if any widow have children or nephews.

Home responsibilities

We are reminded here--

I. That home responsibilities are to be accepted as the appointment of God. The sacredness of family relationship is constantly insisted upon both in the Old Testament and the New. All transgressions against it were severely punished under the Mosaic economy, and were condemned still more solemnly by our Lord. A word of exposition on the first clause in the fourth verse is desirable, “If any widows have children or nephews, let them (i.e., not the widows, but the children or nephews)
learn first to show piety (filial love) at home.” The word “nephews” is used by our translators in its old English sense, and is rendered in the Revised Version by its nearest modern equivalent, “grand children,” for in the writings of Chaucer, Sir Thomas More, and John Locke, “nephews” is used to denote grandchildren. And similarly, when it is said
they are to requite their “parents,” more is included than fathers or mothers, for the apostle’s word is equivalent to the Scotch “forbears,” for which the English language has no exact synonym. The idea is that we owe a debt of gratitude to those from whom we have derived existence, and to whom we owe the support, care, and education we have received. We are bound to see that to the utmost of our ability their wants in old age are met.

II. That among our God-given responsibilities is the duty of labouring for the support of the weak. Among the blessings of our human relationships is this: that honest work is necessitated. We have seen instances in which a young fellow who has spent all his salary on cigars, dress, and amusements, has after his marriage buckled to work, and displayed an energy and ability for which none had given him credit before. Many a brave young wife and self-sacrificing mother has been ennobled through her home duties, having completely abandoned the foolish and trivial pursuits to which she was once addicted. And what numberless instances there are of men, whose diligence and self-abnegation are beyond praise, who have become what they are by first feeling the responsibility of caring and working for a widowed mother!

III. Paul emphatically declares that those who fail in these responsibilities have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. Stern as the words are, they are true! Even the heathen, certainly the better class of them, were wont to acknowledge filial duties, and would have condemned cynical disregard of parents and refusal to fulfil natural duties towards them. This is an offence against humanity, and therefore, in the deepest sense, an offence against Christ. But a Christian professes to have higher motives in duty than others. Let us never for get that the test of character is to be found in family relationships rather than in those which are ecclesiastical; and that it is in the home first and chiefest of all that Christ’s disciples are to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour. (A. Rowland, LL. B.)

Piety at home.--

Life at home

A church within a church, a republic within a republic, a world within a world, is spelled by four letters--Hornet If things go right there, they go right everywhere; if things go wrong there, they go wrong everywhere. The door-sill of the dwelling-house is the foundation of Church and State. A man never gets higher than his own garret or lower than his own cellar. In other words, domestic life overarches and underguides all other life. George Washington commanded the forces of the United States, but Mary Washington commanded George. Chrysostom’s mother made his pen for him. As individuals, we are fragments. God makes the races in parts, and then He gradually puts us together. What I lack, you make up; what you lack, I make up; our deficits and surpluses of character being the wheels in the great social mechanism. One person has the patience, another has the courage, another has the placidity, another has the enthusiasm; that which is lacking in one is made up by another, or made up by all. Buffaloes in herds; grouse in broods; quails in flocks; the human race in circles. Our usefulness, and the welfare of society, depend upon our staying in just the place that God has put us, or intended we should occupy. For more compactness, and that we may be more useful, we are gathered in still smaller circles in the home group. And there you have the same varieties again; brothers, sisters, husband, and wife; all different in temperaments and tastes. It is fortunate that it should be so. If the husband be all impulse, the wife must be all prudence. If one sister be sanguine in her temperament, the other must be lymphatic. Mary and Martha are necessities. Then there are those who will, after awhile, set up for themselves a home, and it is right that I should speak out upon these themes.

1. My first counsel to you is, have Jesus in your new home, if it is a new home; and let Him who was a guest at Bethany be in your new household; let the Divine blessing drop upon your every hope, and plan, and expectation. Those young people who begin with God end with heaven.

2. My second advice to you in your home is, to exercise to the very last possibility of your nature the law of forbearance. Prayers in the household will not make up for everything. Some of the best people in the world are the hardest to get along with. Sometimes it will be the duty of the husband and sometimes of the wife to yield; but both stand punctiliously on your rights, and you will have a Waterloo with no Blucher coming up at nightfall to decide the conflict. The best thing I ever heard of my grandfather, whom I never saw, was this: that once, having unrighteously rebuked one of his children, he himself--having lost his patience, and, perhaps, having been misinformed of the child’s doings--found out his mistake, and in the evening of the same day gathered all his family together, and said: “Now, I have one explanation to make, and one thing to say. Thomas, this morning I rebuked you very unfairly. I am very sorry for it. I rebuked you in the presence of the whole family, and now I ask your forgiveness in their presence.” It must have taken some courage to do that.

3. I advise, also, that you make your chief pleasure circle around about that home. It is unfortunate when it is otherwise. If the husband spend the most of his nights away from home, of choice and not of necessity, he is not the head of the household; he is only the cashier. If the wife throw the cares of the household into the servant’s lap, and then spend five nights of the week at the opera or theatre, she may clothe her children with satins, and laces, and ribbons that would confound a French milliner, but they are orphans.

4. I advise you also to cultivate sympathy of occupation. Sir James McIntosh, one of the most eminent and elegant men that ever lived, while standing at the very height of his eminence, said to a great company of scholars: “My wife made me.” The wife ought to be the advising partner in every firm. She ought to be interested in all the losses and gains of shop and store. She ought to have a right--she has a right--to know everything. Your gains are one, your interests are one, your losses are one; lay hold of the work of life with both hands. Four hands to fight the battles. Four eyes to watch for the danger. Four shoulders on which to carry the trials. It is a very sad thing when the painter has a wife who does not like pictures. It is a very sad thing for a pianist when she has a husband who does not like music.

5. I have one more word of advice to give to those who would have a happy home, and that is: let love preside in it. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Home, sweet home

How many are longing for grand spheres in which to serve God. They admire Luther at the Diet of Worms, and wish they had some such daring opportunity in which to exhibit Christian character. Now, the apostle comes to such persons, in my text, and says: “I will show you a place where you can exhibit all that is grand, and beautiful, and glorious in the Christian character, and that place is the domestic circle.” “Let them learn first to show piety at home.” Indeed, if a man does not serve God on a small scale, he never will serve Him on a large scale. I propose to speak to you of home as a test, of home as a refuge, of home as a political safeguard, of home as a school, of home as a type of heaven.

I. The home, in the first place, is the most powerful test of one’s character. A man’s disposition in public may be in gay costume, while in private it is in deshabille. The play actor does differently on the platform from the way he does behind the scenes; and public life is often a very different thing from private life. A man will receive you in his parlour with so much gracefulness that he seems to be the distillation of smiles, while in his heart there is a swamp of nettles. Private life is often public life turned wrong side out. The lips that drop with myrrh and cassia--the disposition that seems to be warm and bright as a sheaf of sunbeams, may only be a magnificent show-window to a wretched stock of goods. The harp that all day sang like an angel, may at night grate like a saw. There are those who are philanthropists in public life, who in home life are the Nero with respect to their slippers and their gown. The great Newton, after he had spent half of his life on one manuscript, came into his study one day and found that his dog had torn the manuscript to pieces. All he said was: “Little Diamond, you know not how much trouble you have given your master.” Audubon, the great ornithologist, with gun and pencil, went all through the forests of this country for the purpose of bringing down and sketching the birds of the land; then went home, put the valuable documents in a trunk, and, after an absence, found that the rats had completely devoured the manuscripts, so that again he took gun and pencil, and again went through the forests of the land, reproducing that which was destroyed; while there are many in private life who, at the loss of a pencil or an article of clothing, will act as though they had met with a severe and irreparable loss, and will blow sharp, and loud, and long as a north-east storm. Let us learn to show piety at home.

II. Again: I remark that home is a refuge. The home is the tent we pitch to rest in, our bayonets stacked, our war caps hung up, our heads resting on the knapsack until the morning bugle sounds, warning us to strike tent and prepare for marching and action. Oh, what a pleasant place it is to talk over the day’s victories, and surprises, and attacks, seated by the still camp-fires of the domestic circle. Life is a stormy sea. With shivered mast, and torn sail, and hulk aleak, we put into the harbour of home. Into this dry-dock we come for repair. Blessed harbour! The candle in the window is to the labouring man the lighthouse guiding him into port. May God pity the poor miserable wretch who has not any home.

III. Again: I remark that the home is a political safeguard. The safety of the State depends upon the character of the home. The Christian hearthstone is the only foundation for a Republic. In the family virtues are cultured which are a necessity for the State; and if there be not enough moral principle to make the family adhere, there cannot be enough political principle to make the State adhere. No home, no free institution. No home makes a nation of Goths and Vandals; makes the Nomads of Central Asia; makes the Numidians of Africa, changing from month to month, and from place to place, as the pasture happens to change.

IV. I go further, and speak of home as a school. Old ground must be upturned by a subsoil plough, and harrowed and re-harrowed, and then it will not yield as good a crop as new ground with less culture. Now, infancy and childhood are new ground, and all that is scattered over that ground will yield luxuriantly. Make your home the brightest place on earth if you would charm your children into the high path of rectitude and religion. Do not always have the blinds turned the wrong way. Let God’s light, that puts gold on the gentian and spots the pansy, stream into your windows. Do not expect your children to keep step to a dead march. A dark home makes bad boys and bad girls to be bad men and bad women. Above all, take into your homes thorough Christian principle. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Home piety

I. Our first endeavour will be to show what piety is. This is all the more needful, as mistakes, numerous and fatal, exist on this vital subject, not only in the world, but also in the Church. It is “the mind that was in Christ, leading us to walk as He also walked.”

1. Piety has its principles. It is not like a tree without a root; or a stream without a spring. It is originated, sustained, and cherished by an experimental acquaintance with God in Christ; for “this is life eternal, to know Thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” Here, then, we have the principles of piety--knowledge, faith, love, submission, and holy fear. A cluster of good things; the soul and spirit of true religion; the gift of the Divine hand; the fruit of the Spirit; the purchase of Messiah’s blood; and the earnest of everlasting life.

2. Piety has its enjoyments. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her.” The forgiveness of sins, access to God as a Father, the communion of Saints, the hope of everlasting life, the possession of a new nature, constitute a well-spring of blessedness to the humble, believing, obedient soul.

3. Piety has its duties. “If ye love Me, said the Saviour, keep My commandments; not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” With what frequency and earnestness has practical piety been enforced in the law and the prophets, as also by our Lord and His apostles!

II. We proceed to show where piety is to be made manifest. If the principles and rootlets of piety be out of sight, their existence and power may easily be made apparent. Vegetable life in this sweet jessamine, or in yonder blushing rose, is far beyond our ken; but the effects of life are plain enough to be seen--the rind, the bud, the leaf, the flower, tell us that life is there. As to animal life--the sparkling eye, the ruddy countenance, the cheerful voice, the active limb, show us that life is there; but it is as much a mystery as ever; as far out of sight as ever. Steam, as it lies in the bosom of the boiler, is invisible; but the stroke of the piston, the sweep of the u heel, and the speed of the train, as well as the condensing power of the atmosphere, tell us that it is there. So of piety: much of it is hidden from the public gaze--its depths are not seen. Christian life is hid with Christ in God. Yet if spiritual life exists, it will give proof of its existence and power. Hence at Antioch, when Barnabas “had seen the grace of God, he was glad.” And exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. Fire must burn, a fountain must flow, a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit--Therefore show piety.

1. In general, wherever the providence of God may place you. The shop, the ship, the market, the farm, the factory, the counting-house, will afford you opportunities for confessing your Lord.

2. In particular, let your piety appear at home. Show to those around you, that the fear and love of God control your desires, purposes, words, and deeds; whatever your relation to the family circle--in whatever department your duty lies, act your part with cheerfulness, fidelity, and to the extent of your ability. See, that your piety is such as never can be reasonably questioned.

3. The considerations by which this important duty may be enforced are numerous and weighty. Would to God we could rightly see and feel them. God, our Saviour, has made Christian believers “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” And shall they not do His pleasure? Shall not Christian people acknowledge their Owner--and the claims of Him who hath made, redeemed, and saved them--by giving up themselves to His service, by glorifying Him, both at home and abroad, in their body and spirit, which are His? Besides, as members of the family circle, are we not bound to promote its comfort, safety, and welfare to the extent of our ability? If you feel any interest in the prosperity of the Church, the conversion of poor sinners, the general good of society, show piety at home. Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Tread in the steps of faithful Abraham, the pattern of believers, and the friend of God, who commanded his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord. Drink into the spirit of Joshua, who served the Lord himself, and put forth all his strength to lead his family to do likewise. (J. J. Topham.)

The Christian at home

Some characteristics of home piety.

1. A careful respect for the rights of each member of the family. It is our first duty to be just towards each other, and a duty which is obligatory all round, as between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families and their relatives, employers and servants. It is not always easy to be just. It requires thoughtful consideration and some power of imaginative sympathy even on the part of those who desire to do as they would be done by. A great deal of the wrong that is suffered in the world arises out of unwitting injustice. Some persons are grossly and habitually unjust to those about them, misrepresenting their opinions, and imposing upon them sacrifices of feeling and trouble, while in other respects they are singularly generous. Another frequent cause of unhappiness in families is the partiality shown to a favourite child. This also justice forbids.

2. Next to careful respect for the rights of others I may mention great forbearance in asserting our own. A small thing in family life, but most significant as an index to character, is the self-pleasing with which some persons secure their own preferences at table. Even if they make a show of giving up what others like, they do it so ostentatiously that their generosity is generally declined. But real self-denial, that can find pleasure in the gratification of others, will conceal its preferences so that they may enjoy what they like without knowing that it is at the expense of any one else.

3. A third characteristic of home piety is the endeavour to please those about us for their good. A cheerful manner, a flow of wise and genial conversation, sparkling here and there with some bright coruscation of wit, flavoured always with the salt of cultured taste, and sometimes suggestive of serious thoughts, is a fine means of pleasing and benefiting others. Show piety at home by learning to talk well and wisely.

4. Lastly, piety should be shown at home in a devout regard for the honour of God. At the principal meals of the day, and morning or evening, if not both morning and evening, reverence should find suitable expression in acts of worship. You must be guided by your own sense of fitness as to what arrangements you shall make for this purpose. Let us systematically choose the good part, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, endeavour to catch the spirit of our Master, and let its influence be diffused throughout our whole life. (E. W. Shalders, B. A.)

Piety at home

The radiance of a Christian character is to shine around the family hearth. In most minds the word home awakens emotions both sweet and solemn. Our tenderest relations, our strongest affections, our highest joys, our deepest sorrows, all are touched by the thought of home. The great duty which our text enjoins is the cultivation of piety at home.

I. Home is the place where character is most tested; and if piety be not shown there, it cannot be shown anywhere. Our real character is not so much shown in what we do intentionally and with a purpose, as in what we do impulsively and without reflection. Abroad in the world men may wear a cloak--they may deceive others, they may deceive themselves as to their true character; but at home the cloak generally slips aside, the true character comes out, and those who see them in their unguarded hours know them as they really are. Often a word, a look, or even a gesture in the family will give more insight into a man’s heart than years of observation of his public life. The close intercourse of home life tries as well as reveals the real character. That which tries character also helps to form it. Home not only shows what we are, it helps to make us what we shall be for ever. The education which is deepest and most enduring is that of the home school.

II. Home is sometimes the scene of our deepest sorrows: and piety is the best help to enable us to bear these. The causes which disturb the happiness of home are manifold. Unwise marriage unions are the cause of much family misery. Bad habits are a frequent occasion of home sorrow, Evil tempers sometimes ruin the happiness of home. A practical carrying out of our text would speedily correct the evils to which we have referred, and change the character of the home-life where they have been endured. Were all the members of a family to “learn to show piety at home,” what a scene of blessedness that would be! But there are other trials which sometimes convert the home into a “house of mourning,” and which piety alone can enable us to meet. There are homes in which the pinching of poverty has to be endured. There are homes where disease presses with his heavy hand; and homes over which death spreads his black and chilly wing. But if there be only one pious member of the family, how the others will look to him and lean upon him in their hour of bereavement and sorrow! The influence acquired by consistency of character now operates for the good of his afflicted friends.

III. Home ought to be the scene of our highest joy; and piety is the only means to make it so, The mutual love and confidence so essential to family happiness, can be produced and secured by nothing so certainly as by a common affection for the Saviour. How blessed are the ties of nature when they are sanctified and strengthened by grace! (G. D. Macgregor.)

Selfish children

An old Virginia minister said lately, “Men of my profession see much of the tragic side of life. I have seen men die in battle, have seen children die, but no death ever seemed so pathetic to me as the death of an aged mother in my church. I knew her first as a young girl, beautiful, gay, full of joy and hope. She married and had four children. Her husband died and left her penniless. She sewed, she made drawings, she taught, she gave herself scarcely time to eat or sleep. Every thought was for her children, to educate them, to give them the advantages their father would have given them had he lived. She succeeded. She sent her boys to college and her girls to school. When all came home they gave themselves up to their own selfish pursuits. She lingered among them some three years, and then was stricken with mortal illness brought on by overwork. The children gathered around her bedside. The oldest son took her in his arms. He said, ‘You have been a good mother to us.’ That was not much to say, was it? It was much to her, who had never heard anything like it. A flush came over her pallid face, and with faint voice she whispered, ‘My son, you never said so before!’” (Dr. Hoge.)

John Gough and his mother

I remember, when my father was away in the Peninsular war, my mother, who used to work lace very nicely (and she grew very nearly blind by it), went one day from Sandgate to Dover, eight and a half miles, to sell it. I went out to play, having the whole day to myself till she came back. I was a famous reader when I was a little bit of a thing, and I never remember the time when I learned to read, and I can’t remember when I could not read with the book the wrong side up. As I was playing, a boy came up to me and said, “Johnny Gough, Mr. Purday wants you in the library.” Well, I ran into the library, and I remember being taken into a little room, and a girl dipped her hands in water and rubbed my face, and brushed my hair back, to make me look decent, and then took me into the reading-room, where there was a venerable looking gentleman, whom I distinctly remember they called “my lord.” Mr. Purday said, “This is the boy I was speaking of”; and he then put a newspaper into my hands, and asked me to read a certain column to him, which I did. He gave me a five-shilling piece; another gentleman gave me sixpence; and the proprietor of the library gave me two pennies. Oh I how rich I was! I went out to play with the boys; I put my hands in my pockets now and then, and jingled my money, and then went on playing again. After a while a boy came to me and said, “Johnny, your mother has got home.” I ran into the house, and there sat my poor mother upon a stool, faint and weary, with her basket of lace at her side. Her face was buried in her hands; I heard her sob, and I never could bear to hear my mother cry. “Mother, mother,” said I, “what is the matter?” “My poor child,” she said, “I have not sold a farthings-worth to-day, and what we shall do God only knows!” Said I, “Mother, just look at this!” and she did look at it; and she said, “Why John, where did you get that?” “I have been into the library; one gentleman gave me that, another gave me that, and Mr. Purday gave me these two pennies. My mother went upon her knees, clasped me around the neck, lifted up her eyes, thanked God, and then gave me a halfpenny all to myself! And what do you suppose I did with it? I went out and changed it into two farthings, and I never enjoyed money as much as that all the days of my life. (J. B. Gough.)

A widow’s trust in God

M. Poinsot, the devoted Protestant Scripture-reader at Charleroi, has been much blessed in his arduous and heroic work for Christ. He says in his journal--“I visited a poor woman of seventy-six years of age, alone, poor, and ill. I said to her, ‘The nights must seem very long to you, being always alone?’ ‘If I were alone,’ she replied, ‘I should have been dead long ago, but I have a Friend who never leaves me day nor night; I commune always with Him, and His Word comforts me.’ ‘But,’ I said, ‘if you became worse in the night?’ ‘He would take care of me,’ was the reply; ‘He is the best Doctor in Belgium.’”

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Timothy 5:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https: 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But if any widow have children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

Their own family ... This is not to be restricted to parents only, or even to grandparents. Lenski's comment on the Greek words so translated has the following, "They are used with reference to dutifulness toward God, and toward one's country, or one's family, including parents, grandparents, and other relatives."[6]

For this is acceptable in the sight of God ... Despite the fact of this being stated positively, as an example of what pleases God, the negative is also true, namely, that failure to heed this injunction is not acceptable in the sight of God.


[6] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 656.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But if any widow have children or nephews,.... Such are not widows indeed; they are not desolate, or alone, or without persons to take care of them; their children or nephews should, and not suffer the church to be burdened with them. Wherefore it follows,

let them learn first to show piety at home; which some understand of the widows, who, instead of casting themselves upon the church for a maintenance, or taking upon them the office of a deaconess, to take care of others, should continue in their own families, and bring up their children and nephews in like manner as they have been brought up by their parents, which will be more pleasing and acceptable unto God; but it is better to interpret it of their children; and so the Ethiopic version expresses it, "let the children first learn to do well to their own house", or family. It is the duty of children to take care of their parents in old age, and provide for them, when they cannot for themselves: this is a lesson they ought to learn in the first place, and a duty which they ought principally to observe; they should not suffer them to come to a church for relief, but first take care of them themselves, as long as they are in any capacity to do it; and these should be their first care before any others; so to do is an act of piety, a religious action, a pious one; it is doing according to the will and law of God, and is well pleasing to him:

and to requite their parents; for all the sorrow, pain, trouble, care, and expenses they have been at in bearing and bringing them forth into the world, in taking care of them in their infancy, in bringing them up, giving them an education, providing food and raiment for them, and settling them in the world; wherefore to neglect them in old age, when incapable of providing for themselves, would be base ingratitude; whereas to take care of them is but a requital of them, or a repaying them for former benefits had of them:

for that is good and acceptable before God; it is good in itself, and grateful, and well pleasing in his sight; it is part of the good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God; and which, as other actions done in faith, is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

3 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety 4 at home, and 5 to requite their parents: 6 for that is good and acceptable before God.

(3) Widow's children and nephews must take care of their parents according to their ability. {(4)} The first reason, because that which they bestow upon their parents, they bestow it upon themselves. {(5)} Another, because nature itself teaches us to repay our parents. {(6)} The third: because this duty pleases God.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https: 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

if any widow have children — not “a widow indeed,” as having children who ought to support her.

nephews — rather, as Greek, “descendants,” or “grandchildren” [Hesychius]. “Nephews” in old English meant “grandchildren” [Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, 5.20].

let them — the children and descendants.

learn first — ere it falls to the Church to support them.

to show piety at home — filial piety towards their widowed mother or grandmother, by giving her sustenance. Literally, “to show piety towards their own house.” “Piety is applied to the reverential discharge of filial duties; as the parental relation is the earthly representation of God our heavenly Father‘s relation to us. “Their own” stands in opposition to the Church, in relation to which the widow is comparatively a stranger. She has a claim on her own children, prior to her claim on the Church; let them fulfil this prior claim which she has on them, by sustaining her and not burdening the Church.

parentsGreek, (living) “progenitors,” that is, their mother or grandmother, as the case may be. “Let them learn,” implies that abuses of this kind had crept into the Church, widows claiming Church support though they had children or grandchildren able to support them.

good and — The oldest manuscripts omit. The words are probably inserted by a transcriber from 1 Timothy 2:3.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Grandchildren (εκγοναekgona). Old word from εκγινομαιekginomai here only in N.T.

Let them learn (μαντανετωσανmanthanetōsan). The children and grandchildren of a widow. Present active imperative third person plural of μαντανωmanthanō “Let them keep on learning.”

First (πρωτονprōton). Adverb, first before anything else. No “corban” business here. No acts of “piety” toward God will make up for impiety towards parents.

To shew piety (ευσεβεινeusebein). Present active infinitive with μαντανετωσανmanthanetōsan and old verb, in N.T. only here and Acts 17:23. From ευσεβηςeusebēs (ευ σεβομαιeuτον ιδιον οικονsebomai), pious, dutiful.

Their own family (αμοιβας αποδιδοναιton idion oikon). “Their own household.” Filial piety is primary unless parents interfere with duty to Christ (Luke 14:26).

To requite (αποδιδωμιamoibas apodidonai). Present active infinitive of Αμοιβαςapodidōmi to give back, old and common verb (Romans 2:6), to keep on giving back. αμειβομαιAmoibas (from τοις προγονοιςameibomai to requite like for like) is old and common word, but here only in N.T.

Their parents (προγονοςtois progonois). Dative case of old and common word προγινομαιprogonos (from αποδεκτονproginomai to come before), “ancestor.” In N.T. only here and 2 Timothy 1:3. See note on 1 Timothy 2:3 for “acceptable” (apodekton).

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https: Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Nephews ( ἔκγονα )

N.T.oOften in lxx. Nephews, in the now obsolete sense of grandsons or other lineal descendants. Derived from Lat. nepos. Trench (Select Glossary ) remarks that nephew was undergone exactly the same change of meaning that nepos underwent, which, in the Augustan age, meaning grandson, in the post-Augustan age acquired the signification of nephew in our present acceptation of that word. Chaucer:

“How that my nevew shall my bane be.”

Legend of Good Women, 2659.

'His (Jove's) blind nevew Cupido.”

House of Fame, 67.

Jeremy Taylor: “Nephews are very often liken to their grandfathers than to their fathers.”

Let them learn

The subject is the children and grandchildren. Holtzmann thinks the subject is any widow, used collectively. But the writer is treating of what should be done to the widow, not of what she is to do. The admonition is connected with widows indeed. They, as being utterly bereft, and without natural supporters, are to be cared for by the church; but if they have children or grandchildren, these should assume their maintenance.

First ( πρῶτον )

In the first place: as their first and natural obligation.

To show piety at home ( τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον εὐσεβεῖν )

More correctly, to show piety toward their own family. Piety in the sense of filial respect, though not to the exclusion of the religious sense. The Lat. pietas includes alike love and duty to the gods and to parents. Thus Virgil's familiar designation of Aeneas, “pius Aeneas,” as describing at once his reverence for the gods and his filial devotion. The verb εὐσεβεῖν (only here and Acts 17:23) represents filial respect as an element of godliness ( εὐσέβεια ). For τὸν ἴδιον their own, see on Acts 1:7. It emphasizes their private, personal belonging, and contrasts the assistance given by them with that furnished by the church. It has been suggested that οἶκον household or family may mark the duty as an act of family feeling and honor.

To requite ( ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι )

An entirely unique expression. Ἁμοιβή requitalrecompense is a familiar classical word, used with διδόναι togive, ἀποτιθέναι tolay down, τίνειν topay, ποιεῖσθαι tomake. N.T.oPaul uses instead ἀντιμισθία (Romans 1:27; 2 Corinthians 6:13), or ἀνταπόδομα , (Romans 11:9), or ἀνταπόδοσις (Colossians 3:24). The last two are lxx words.

Their parents ( τοῖς προγόνοις )

N.T.oParents is too limited. The word comprehends mothers and grandmothers and living ancestors generally. The word for parents is γονεῖς , see 2 Timothy 3:2; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 12:14; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20. Πρόγονοι for living ancestors is contrary to usage. One instance is cited from Plato, Laws, xi. 932. The word is probably selected to correspond in form with ἔκγονα childrenGood and acceptable ( καλὸν καὶ ἀποδεκτὸν )

Omit καλὸν καὶ goodand. Ἁπόδεκτος acceptableonly here and 1 Timothy 2:3. See note.

Before ( ἐνώπιον )

Frequent in N.T., especially Luke and Revelation. It occurs 31 times in the phrases ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ inthe sight of God, and ἐνώπιον κυρίου inthe sight of the Lord. olxx. Comp. ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Θεοῦ before God. Acts 10:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:9, 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Not in Pastorals, and by Paul only 1Thessalonians the difference is trifling. Comp. 1 John 3:19and 1 John 3:22.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https: Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

Let these learn to requite their parents — For all their former care, trouble, and expense.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Let them,--that is, the children or nephews; let them take care of their relative, and not call upon the church.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https: 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4If any widow There are various ways of explaining this passage; and the ambiguity arises from this circumstance, that the latter clause may refer either to widows or to their children. Nor is this consistent with the verb (let them learn) being plural, while Paul spoke of a widow in the singular number; for a change of number is very customary in a general discourse, that is, when the writer speaks of a whole class, and not of an individual. They who think that it relates to widows, are of the opinion that the meaning is, “let them learn, by the pious government of their family, to repay to their successors the education that they received from their ancestors.” This is the explanation given by Chrysostom and some others. But others think that it is more natural to interpret it as relating to children and grandchildren. Accordingly, in their opinion, the Apostle teaches that the mother or grandmother is the person towards whom they should exercise their piety; for nothing is more natural than ( ἀντιπελαργία) the return of filial for parental affection; and it is very unreasonable that it should be excluded from the Church. Before the Church is burdened with them, let them do their duty.

Hereto I have related the opinion of others. But I wish my readers to consider if it would not agree better with the context in this manner: “Let them learn to conduct themselves in a godly manner at home.” As if he had said, that it would be valuable as a preparatory instruction, that they should train themselves to the worship of God, by performing godly offices at home towards their relatives; for nature commands us to love our parents next to God; that this secondary piety leads to the highest piety. And as Paul saw that the very rights of nature were violated under the pretense of religion, (87) in order to correct this fault, he commanded that widows should be trained by domestic apprenticeship to the worship of God.

To shew piety towards their own house Almost all the commentators take the verb εὐσεβεῖν in an active sense, because it is followed by an accusative; but that is not a conclusive argument, for it is customary with the Greek authors to have a preposition understood. And this exposition agrees well with the context, that, by cultivating human piety, they should train themselves in the worship of God; lest a foolish and silly devotion should divest them of human feelings. Again, let widows learn to repay what they owe to their ancestors by educating their own offspring.

For this is good and acceptable before God Not to shew gratitude to our ancestors is universally acknowledged to be monstrous; for that is a lesson taught us by natural reason. And not only is this conviction natural to all, that affection towards our parents is the second degree of piety; but the very storks teach us gratitude by their example; and that is the etymology of the word ἀνιπελαργία (88) But Paul, not satisfied with this, declares that God hath sanctioned it; as if he had said, “There is no reason why any one should think that it has its origin in the opinion of men; but God hath so ordained.”

;">“The stork’s an emblem of true piety,
Because when age has seized and made its dame
Unfit for flight, the grateful young one takes
His mother on his back, provides her food,
Repaying thus her tender care of him
Ere he was fit to fly.” — Beaumont.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘Learn first to shew piety at home.’

1 Timothy 5:4

The test of a man’s piety is to be found in the home. It is a common complaint of to-day that men and women show their Christianity everywhere but at home and among their own people.

I. The claims of home.—The home and home relatives and friends have the first claim upon us. No amount of meeting-going can make up for the neglect of the home. Men and women have been known to look after other people’s children in Sunday-school and elsewhere while their own children are allowed to run wild, and the ground thus lost can never be recovered.

II. Piety at home.—This must be shown in—

(a) Family worship—a practice which unhappily is not as common as it used to be.

(b) A well-ordered life—patient, kind, sympathetic, and forbearing.

(c) A realisation of Christ’s presence. The truly pious person will not be content with sticking up in the living-room a card inscribed ‘Christ is the Head of this house’; he will show by his every word and thought and deed that he realises the guiding, sanctifying presence of the Master in all affairs of home life.

III. The home mission field.—Just as the claims of the home are paramount, so are the claims of our own countrymen to hear and to know the Gospel of God’s love. The needs of the foreign mission field are great, and must not be neglected, but may it never be said of us that we have been so eager to send the Gospel abroad that our own vineyard we have not kept. All home mission agencies need and deserve our warm support. ‘This ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.’


‘Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.’

1 Timothy 5:24

There are thousands whose lives are their own condemnation. These are they whose sins are ‘open beforehand.’ ‘And some men they follow after’; that is to say, there are men all fair without, but within full of disguised and deadly evil.

I. Beware of sin of all kinds.—Sensuality, excess of meat or drink, deadens the soul, makes it, like the body, heavy and drowsy. It shuts out Jesus from your view. Beware of anger, envy, pride, sloth, a want of love, a peevish tone, an evil eye, an unguarded thought. Beware of inconsistency, of indifference to anything that concerns your precious Saviour. Such things deaden the heart, and raise grave doubts within as to whether He can love such as you.

II. One sin does not come alone.—Soon its train appears, until at length there is nothing outwardly to distinguish you from the inconsistent, ungodly, professing Christian world. The spiritual life is dead. A veil hangs between you and the Saviour. Oh, sad state to fall into!

III. The most powerful intellects of those who live in sin are mysteriously limited in the perception of truth. On the other hand, have we not often seen men of no intellectual power, yet possessing such gifts of wisdom and knowledge, such ripe and fruitful apprehensions of Divine truth, as the most cultivated intellect has never attained to?

IV. Sins which follow after.—Deceive not yourself: ‘they follow after’; stealthily, surely, like shadows, turning where you turn, dwelling where you abide, mysterious, inseparable. Oh, that a word of mine could arrest you, make you hasten to Jesus, to His precious blood for cleansing, pardon, peace! Unconverted one, may the Spirit of God open your eyes! Only He can.

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https: 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

Ver. 4. Let them learn first to show] Such any one is in truth, as he is at home, Psalms 101:2. The hypocrite’s virtues (as that of the Sarmatians) run all outward. Something he seems abroad, but follow him home, and you shall soon see what he is: follow stage players into their attiring house where they disrobe themselves, and then it will appear they are vile varlets. {a} Like unto this apostolic precept, was that of Chile, one of the wise men of Greece, της αυτου οικιας καλως προστατειν to govern honestly a man’s own family. (Laert. in Vita.)

And to requite their parents] {See Trapp on "Matthew 15:4"} The storks feed their dams when old; though the young kites expel their dams, and with their bills and wings beat them out of their nest. Boughs bend toward their root, &c.

{a} A man or lad acting as an attendant or servant; a menial, a groom. Now arch. ŒD

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Timothy 5:4

Piety at Home.

I. The home must be safe. It must be a sanctuary, where there is nothing to hurt or destroy. It is a great and lifelong benefit when life's outset is passed in an atmosphere of truth and openness, and nothing is more disastrous than that system of false threatening and coercion which makes its little victims both incredulous and superstitious, both cowardly and cunning. Be yourself fair, candid, evenly-minded, making it easy to others to tell the truth, listening to both sides of the story, and careful to judge righteous judgment. And keep out all that has the opposite tendency.

II. Make home attractive. The Australian bower-bird has its playing-place, a curious tunnel of twigs adorned with shells and pebbles and glittering potsherds, through which it has unwearied delight with its companions in whisking to and fro. And man himself is a bower-bird; merry movement, gay music, light objects; every child has the love of them—every home should be full of them. He is the good God who gives the gaiety, and he would be a gloomy demon who would drive it away.

III. Make home instructive. Be yourself intelligent; to surrounding minds a kindly, high-toned presence gives something they can grasp and which keeps them from cleaving to the dust.

IV. Make the home a preparation for life, and also a preparation for heaven. The only commodity which we can count on carrying through life is character; and by character we mean all those elements which enter into our moral and spiritual composition—faith in God, reverence, submission to His will, love to Christ, a sweet and gracious disposition, practical beneficence, a readiness for praise and thanksgiving. Keep the home near heaven. Let it face towards the Father's house.

J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 503.

References: 1 Timothy 5:4.—G. D. Macgregor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 198; E. W. Shalders, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 157; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xi., p. 277. 1 Timothy 5:6.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 208; Forsyth and Hamilton, Pulpit Parables, p. 137. 1 Timothy 5:8.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, 2nd series, p. 210. 1 Timothy 5:10.—J. T. Stannard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 154. 1 Timothy 5:17-25.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 47; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 186. 1 Timothy 5:22.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 198.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 5:4. Nephews, Or, grand-children.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https: 1801-1803.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4.] The case of the χήρα who is not ὄντως χήρα, having earthly relations answerable for her support.

ἔκγονα] τέκνα τέκνων, Hesych.; grandchildren: not as E. V. ‘nephews;’ at least, not in its present sense.

μανθανέτωσαν] What is the subject? (1) The ancient Commentators mostly understand αἱ χῆραι, implied in τίς χήρα: so vulg. (discat: also D-lat, 2 cursives have μανθανέτω), Chr. (see below), Thdrt., Œc., Jer., Pel., Ambr., Luth., Calv., Grot., Calov., Huther, al. (2) But some of the ancients took τὰ τέκνα ἢ ἔκγονα as the subject: e.g. Œc. 2, Thl., and so Beza, Wolf, Mosh, Wegscheid: Heydenr., Flatt, Mack, De W., Wiesinger, Ellicott. There is much to be said for both views; and as we advance, we shall give the interpretations on both hypotheses, (1) and (2).

πρῶτον] Either, ‘first of all duties,’ which seems supported by 1 Timothy 5:8 below; or first, before applying to the church for sustenance. These meanings will apply to both the above alternatives: whether we understand the subject to be the widows, or the children and grandchildren.

τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον εὐσεβεῖν] On hypothesis (1),—to behave piously towards, i.e. to rule religiously (Luth.; so vulg.), their own household. This seems somewhat to force εὐσεβεῖν, see below; while the sense of τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον is thus the simple and usual one, as the widow in question would be the head of the household. On hypothesis (2), to behave piously towards, i.e. to honour with the honour which God commands, their own family, i.e. the widowed mother or grandmother who is one of their own family. This sense of εὐσεβής, εὐσέβεια, and εὐσεβέω, is common enough (see especially Palm and Rost’s Lex.): the reference being generally (not always, it is true) to superiors,—those who demand σέβας,—those who stand in the place of God. This sense of τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον is not so usual, but not therefore to be rejected. To dishonour their widowed mother or grandmother, would be to dishonour their own family, in that one of its members who most required respect.

καὶ ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι τοῖς προγόνοις] On hypothesis (1), as Chrys., ἀπῆλθον ἐκεῖνοι· οὐκ ἠδυνήθης αὐτοῖς ἀποδοῦναι τὴν ἀμοιβήν· οὐ γὰρ δὴ καὶ αὐτὴ ἐγέννησας ἐκείνους, οὐδὲ ἀνέθρεψας. ἐν τοῖς ἐκγόνοις αὐτοῦ ἀμείβου· ἀποδίδου τὸ ὀφείλημα διὰ τῶν παιδῶν. But surely it is a very strange way of requiting one’s progenitors for their care of us, to be kind towards our own children: and besides, what would this have to do with the question, whether or not the widow was to be put on the charity roll of the church? But on hypothesis (2), this sentence certainly becomes more clear and natural. Let them, the children or grandchildren, learn first to be piously grateful to (these members of) their own families, and to give back returns (a return in each case) to their progenitors (so called, although living, because, the mother and grandmother having been both mentioned, πρόγονοι was the only word which would include them in one category).

τοῦτο γὰρ …] see ch. 1 Timothy 2:3.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https: 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Timothy 5:4. ΄ανθανέτωσαν, let them learn) i.e. let the sons learn; and rather the grandsons, for in the correlative progenitors ( τοῖς προγόνοις) alone are mentioned. There is an elegant Metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent; the consequent is, that the widows should remain with their relations (viz. their sons or grandchildren).— πρῶτον τὸν ἴδιον, first their own) before they are put into any public office (duty).— οἷκου εὐσεβεῖν, to treat their family with dutiful affection) We have the same word with the accusative, Acts 17:23. The reason (ground) for the dutiful conduct enjoined, is evident from the end of the verse.— ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι τοῖς προγόνοις, to requite their progenitors [parents, Engl. Vers.]) Some think that the duty of widows who have families, is here intended; and Pricæus compares with this passage that of Augustine regarding his mother Monica, She had requited her parents, she had treated her family with pious affection, 1 Timothy 1:9, Confess, 100:9. That saying of the Roman censors in reference to old bachelors is quite in accordance with this: Nature writes in you the law, as of being born, so also of begetting; and your parents, by supporting you, have bound you, if you have any shame, to pay the debt of bringing up grandchildren (for them).—Val. Max., l. 2, c. 4. But the word μανθανέτωσαν, let them learn, and its plural number, shows that the matter under discussion, is the duty of children and grandchildren. Therefore the widow in 1 Timothy 5:5, who has no children, is opposed to the widow who has children, because the former has no one from whom she can receive requital, and she therefore has her hopes placed solely in God.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https: 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

But if any widow have children or nephews: by the widows indeed, mentioned by the apostle, 1 Timothy 5:3, he here showeth that he meant women that not only wanted husbands, but children, or grandchildren or any near kindred that were Christians, and in a capacity to relieve them; but if any widows had any such near relations, the apostle willeth that they should be taught

to shew piety at home; ton idion oikon eusebein, word for word, to worship their own house, or to be religious or godly toward their own house; that is, to show a respect or pagan homage to their own house. For worship is nothing but a respect, honour, or homage paid to another in consideration of his or her excellency and superiority; only the use of this word, which is the Greek word generally used to express religion and godliness by, lets us know that religion and godliness is vainly pretended to any that have of this world’s goods, and relieve not those from whom they are descended, (for the word ekgona signifies persons descended from another, whether in the first generation or not), if they be in want, and stand in need of their assistance.

And to requite their parents: nor is this an act of charity, but justice, a just requital of our parents for their care of us, and pains with us in our education.

For that is good and acceptable before God; and this is good, just, decent, and commanded by God, and acceptable in the sight of God, for the precept:

Honour thy father and mother, is the first commandment with promise, Ephesians 6:2. By the way, that precept is excellently expounded by this text, both as to the act commanded, which this text teacheth is to be extended to maintenance as well as compliments; and as to the object, viz. all those as to whom we are ekgona, descended from, whether immediate parents, yea or no.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Children or nephews; the word translated nephews means descendants, specially grandchildren. If a destitute widow had children or grandchildren who could support her, they were bound to do so, and not let her be a charge on the church. A disposition in children to be kind and attentive to their parents and grandparents, and if need be to support them and keep them from being a public charge, is required by the gospel, and is peculiarly pleasing to God.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Family Bible New Testament". https: American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

4. This verse is parenthetical. If a widow has children or grandchildren, pious care for her needs is their duty.

The nominative to μανθανέτωσαν has been understood variously by commentators; e.g. the Vulgate has discat and Chrysostom makes χῆραι the subject, ‘If any widows have offspring, their first duty is to their own households.’ But this introduces an idea foreign to the context and does not afford a good sense for ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδιδόναι τοῖς προγόνοις; also εὐσεβεῖν is more appropriate of children than of parents. We therefore take τέκνα ἢ ἔκγονα as the subject of μανθανέτωσαν.

ἔκγονα is not found elsewhere in the N.T., nor is ἀμοιβή; but ἔκγονος occurs often in the LXX. (cp. Sirach 40:15) and ἀμοιβή is a common word (though not in LXX. yet in Aq.). πρόγονοι is only found in N.T. here and at 2 Timothy 1:3, but we have it in Sirach 8:5; 2 Maccabees 8:19; 2 Maccabees 11:25, in its usual sense of dead ancestors. Plato, however (Laws XI. 931 E), applies it, as here, to living parents: it is perhaps used by the writer in this verse to balance ἔκγονα. The A.V. nephews now conveys a wrong meaning for ἔκγονα, but in 1611 the word nephew signified grandchild.

πρῶτον. Respect to parents is the first duty of children; if it is in their power they are bound further to requite them (ἀμοιβὰς ἀποδ.) for their care.

τὸν ἵδιον οἶκον εὐσεβεῖν, to shew piety towards their own household. The peculiar obligation of the duty is marked by the use of ἴδιον; the support of widowed parents should not be left to the charity of the Church where the children are old enough to undertake the responsibility. see on 2 Timothy 1:5.

For ἀπόδεκτος see on 1 Timothy 2:3.

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"Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https: 1896.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Children or nephews—Who are able, should show piety enough at home to keep them from burdening the Church.

Nephews—Rather, grandchildren. The apostle’s let them learn, implies that these relatives are members of the Church, and may be by the Church required to do their duty under pain of the penalty implied in 1 Timothy 5:8.

RequiteRecompense returns; so expressed to show that the care for feeble parentage is not a mere benevolence, but a repayment, and so a binding duty.

Their parents—Or, progenitors; including grandparents, or any higher living progenitors in direct line. In countries where women marry in extreme youth, great-grandchildren at sixty are no rare occurrence.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to pay back their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God.’

However, where widows had children or grandchildren it was they who were to ‘honour’ their ageing parent, fulfilling their religious responsibility towards them and paying them back for all the care and love that they had bestowed on them. For this was what was acceptable in the sight of God.

It should be noted here that the Christian had a responsibility towards ageing parents, not only to provide for them but to cherish them. The same responsibility applies today. Our parents have cared for us and looked after us for many years, and if we are Christians we will reciprocate when the time comes, for that is what God expects of us. Compare Mark 7:10-12; Ephesians 6:2)

‘To show piety.’ This is the parallel verb to the noun for godliness. It indicates ‘to fulfil responsibility’, in this case to parents. The same construction as here is found on the lips of Paul in Acts 17:23 where Paul has in mind the fulfilling of man’s responsibility towards God.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https: 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 5:4. The first group thus excluded from those that answer to the name of ‘widow,’ are such as have ‘children or nephews’ (i.e. grandchildren) who are able to support them.

Let them learn. On simply grammatical grounds, the words may refer either to the widows or the children, and each view has found supporters. There can, however, be little or no doubt that the latter is the true reference. ‘Let them show their piety’ not ‘at home,’ but ‘to their own house or family.’ As with the Romans and the Jews, so in some measure even with the Greeks, duty to parents came under the head of piety rather than of legal obligation.

Parents. Strictly speaking, ‘progenitors’ or ‘ancestors,’—the word being chosen in order to include the grandchildren.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https: 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Timothy 5:4. ἔκγονα: offspring ought to be the best rendering of this. It has a wider connotation than children and narrower than descendants.

μανθανέτωσαν: It ought not to be necessary to say that the subject of this verb is τέκνα ἔκγονα, only that Chrys. Theod. Vulg. and (268) agree in referring it to the class χῆραι. (“Requite them in their descendants, repay the debt through the children,” Chrys.; “Discat primum domum suam regere.” See critical note.) Similarly Augustine says of his mother Monica, “Fuerat enim unius viri uxor, mutuam vicem parentibus reddiderat, domum suam pie tractaverat” (Confessiones, ix. 9). This can only be regarded as a curiosity in exegesis.

πρῶτον: The first duty of children is filial piety. οἶκον, which is usually correlative to parents rather than children, is used here “to mark the duty as an act of family feeling and family honour” (De Wette, quoted by Ell.).

εὐσεβεῖν (domum pie tractare, (269)82) with a direct accusative is also found in reff. Ellicott supplies an appropriate illustration from Philo, de Decalogo, § 23, “where storks are similarly said εὐσεβεῖν and γηροτροφεῖν”.

προγόνοις: When the term occurs again, 2 Timothy 1:3, it has its usual meaning forefather. It is usually applied to forbears that are dead. Here it means parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents that are living; and this use of it was probably suggested by ̓́κγονα, a term of equally vague reference. Plato, Laws, xi. p. 932, is quoted for a similar application of the word to the living.

τοῦτο γάρ, κ. τ. λ.: Besides being enjoined in the O.T., our Lord taught the same duty, Mark 7:16-23 = Matthew 15:4-6. See also Ephesians 6:1-2.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https: 1897-1910.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Let her (2) learn first, &c. He gives this as a mark to know if widows deserve to be maintained out of the common stock; if they have been careful of their own family, and to assist their parents, if yet alive. In most Greek copies, and in the Syriac, is read, let them learn; i.e. let the children and grandchildren learn to govern their family, and to assist their parents, whey they are widows; that, as it is said ver. 16. the Church may not be burthened with maintaining them. (Witham) --- Let her render to her children the same good services she has received from her parents, that she may also expect from them what is her due as mother. (Theodoret)



Discat, in moat Greek copies, discant, Greek: manthanetosan. Yet St. John Chrysostom in his commentary, (Greek: log. ig.) expounds it of the widow.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https: 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

“But if any widow has children or grandchildren”: “When the King James Version was translated the word ‘nephews’ meant grandchildren, but that meaning has now become obsolete. The Greek word means ‘sprung from one’, that is, offspring or descendants” (Hiebert p. 92).

“They must first learn”: That is, learn by use and practice. “Present active imperative, ‘let them keep on learning’” (Robertson p. 583). The term “first” indicates, “before anything else is done, first of all” (Thayer p. 555). “In the first place, as their first and natural obligation” (Vincent p. 258).

“To practice piety”: “To be pious, to act reverently towards” (Thayer p. 262). “To show piety towards any to whom dutiful regard is due” (Vine p. 183).

“In regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents”: The words “some return” means, “a requital, recompense” (Vine p. 285). “Make a return to those who brought them up” (Arndt p. 46). “Younger family members are to show some appreciation for the sacrifice and care that their parents and grandparents extended to them. Hendriksen calls attention to an old Dutch proverb which indicates it frequently seems easier for one poor father to bring up ten children than for ten rich children to provide for one poor father” (Reese p. 221). “The children owe their parents a great debt which they can never fully repay for all the love, patience, and self-sacrificing care bestowed upon them during their infancy and childhood” (Hiebert p. 92). Every child should look forward to the day when they can repay their parents.

“For this is acceptable in the sight of God”: (Mark 7:9-12; John 19:26-27). In contrast, being disrespectful of our parents is not pleasing to God (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2). Various writers have noted that in the ancient world and even in the modern world, the vice of abandoning old and infirm parents was common.

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https: 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

if. App-118.2. a.

any. App-123.

children. App-108.

nephews = grandchildren or other descendants. Greek. ekgonos. Only here. Shakespeare in Othello uses the word nephews for grandchildren,

show piety at home = treat reverently (Greek. eusebeo. Only here and Acts 17:23) their own household.

requite = return recompenses (Greek. amoibe. Only here) to.

parents. Greek. progonos. Only here and a Tim. 1 Timothy 1:3.

acceptable. Greek. apodektos. Only here and 1 Timothy 2:3.

before = in the sight of.

God. App-98.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https: 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

If any widow - not "a widow indeed," as having children who ought to support her.

Nephews , [ ekgona (Greek #1549)] - 'descendants,' or 'grandchildren.' Nephews in old English meant grandchildren (Hooker, 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' 5: 20).

Let them - the children and descendants.

Learn first - before calling the church to support them.

To show piety at home - by sustaining their widowed mother or grandmother. [ Ton (Greek #3588) idion (Greek #2398) oikon (Greek #3624) ' ... toward their own house.'] "Piety means reverential dutifulness; the parental relation representing our heavenly Fathers relation to us. 'Their own' is opposed to the church, to which the widow is comparatively a stranger. She has a claim on her own, prior to her claim on the church; let them fulfill this prior claim by sustaining her, and not burdening the church.

Parents , [ progonois (Greek #4269)] - (living) 'progenitors;' i:e., their mother or grandmother. "Let them learn" implies that some widows had claimed church support, though having children or grandchildren able to support them.

Good and 'Aleph (') A C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit: probably inserted from 1 Timothy 2:3.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https: 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents (or, nephews).—The Greek word here should be rendered grandchildren; the original meaning of “nephew” (nepotes) has disappeared. Here a warning against allowing the Church to be burdened with a burden which others ought to bear is given, in the form of a pressing reminder to the children or grandchildren of the destitute and desolate widow. It is a solemn and imperative duty for the children to afford all needful succour—a duty not to be evaded by any bearing the Christian name.

For that is good and acceptable before God.—An especial blessing is promised to those who really carry out this too often forgotten duty. (See Ephesians 6:2-3; and also comp. Mark 7:10-11.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https: 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
Judges 12:14; *marg:; Job 18:19; Isaiah 14:22
1 Samuel 22:3,4; Proverbs 31:28; Luke 2:51; John 19:26,27
or, kindness.
Matthew 15:4-6; Mark 7:11-13
to requite
Genesis 45:10,11; 47:12,28; Ruth 2:2,18; Ephesians 6:1-3

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:

The Bible Study New Testament

Children or grandchildren. In normal family relationships, it is the Lord's will that children and grandchildren take care of their parents and grandparents. See 1 Timothy 5:8.

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https: College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

1 Timothy 5:4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

"piety" is translated worship in Acts 17:23. The Englishman"s concordance states that the literal translation of the word in the Timothy text would be, "to care piously for their own house."

"Requite" is translated shalt perform, shall reward, will pay, shall render, yielded, to give and others. It seems to have the idea of children giving back, as in giving back what they have been given in their lives with their family.

In short the Godly thing to do if you have a widow in your family that is in the need of help, is take her in and show her the proper hospitality and care for her as she cared for you.

This concept is not widely held in our own society. We tend to say to our old folks, "get lost." This is not to say that care homes etc. are wrong for they are not. In many cases the people need the care that only a care home can offer.

If on the other hand the widow is not in need of that care, but is not able to be in her own surroundings then your place may well be the place where she belongs.

Those dear old mothers took care of us when we needed help, and we should in turn help them when they are in need of help.


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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https:

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