The penalty for mocking and scorning one's parents was grim in the Old Testament. It carried the death penalty. The Israelites were careful to bury their dead. A body left unburied for birds to feed upon indicated an ignoble death, such as by violence or execution. Vultures picking an eye out of a dead body is what Agur seemed to be referring to as the end result of dishonoring one's parents; for such a sin leads to other sins, exposing one to all the dangers of an evil life. Implicit in this proverb is the truth that though one may escape the punishment of man for dishonoring one's parents, one will not escape God's.
The Bible stresses that children are to respect their parents. It is so important to God, that He made it one of the Ten Commandments: "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" (Exodus 20:12).
God gave other laws that charged Israel to deal very strongly with rebellious children in the Old Testament. The penalty for striking or cursing one's parents had the same penalty as for adultery or murder; the guilty party was to be stoned to death. "And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. ...And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 21:15,17). It was a serious offense before God. The word for "curseth" in Hebrew is "qalal," meaning "to bring into contempt, curse, despise." Belittling or mocking one's parents is a serious offence to God. Even if there is nothing about them that commands respect, we must refrain from speaking reviling words against them. Children with unholy parents should pray for them and ask God to change them. This is especially important for young people to understand. We are to bless our parents and speak respectfully to them and of them. Praise God, that under the New Testament law, children can find mercy and forgiveness if they have been rebellious to their parents. Spiritually dishonoring parents can result in spiritual blindness and even spiritual death unless rebellious children repent.
The Old Testament law often sounds extreme to our modern ears because our culture is so lenient about rebellion and even glamorizes it. It would help society to better enforce punishment for crimes that are directed against those in positions of authority. These punishments would be an example to cause those bent on evil to fear and respect the laws. It would work for everyone's good, especially the young. Those who honor their parents and elders seldom come to the evil end that Agur depicted.