This proverb is one of those that seems a little harsh when you first read it - especially if you've ever been disrespectful to your parents. Your average kid might say, "You mean to say that if I scorn my parents, I'm doomed to have scavenger birds peck my eye out and eat it?" Since we know that not every rebellious child and teenager has had his eyes destroyed by a flock of ravens and eagles - we know that this passage has more to teach us than just a scary warning that probably would not work on kids anyway. But just what is this proverb trying to show us?
The key comes in understanding why a bird - especially a scavenger would have any interest in an animal's eyes. You see both of the birds mentioned in this passage are scavengers. That means that they both eat dead things. But one practice that ravens have as they approach carrion is that they need to be sure it is dead. That can mean the difference in having a meal and being one to the raven. Therefore when a raven suspects an animal to be dead - he goes straight for the eye. The raven lands near the animal and sees if the animal makes any movements. Then when the raven detects that things are clear for the most part - he subjects the animal to the ultimate test as to whether it is alive or dead. He pecks at the animal's eye. If an animal does not move to protect the eye, it is dead. As the raven picks out the eye of the animal - it assures him that the animal is dead. Often early in the meal that follows, a larger predator - which is where the young eagle comes in - will arrive and take over the meal from the raven, who wisely knows when he is outmatched.
Now, let's take what we've learned from nature - and apply it to what is said in this passage. When a young person feels his oats enough to begin mocking his own father and mother it is a very dangerous sign. The reference to the raven and the young eagle is not a direct threat - but rather a reminder. He is spiritually dead. This is not so much a threat of future aviary retribution - but of the spiritual reality of where this young man or woman is. God promises us that the one who honors his mother and father will live long on the earth. Great blessing is in store for the child who learns about respect, honor, and submission in subjection to his parents. These are vital lessons to learn if he or she is going to be successful in life - and after life is over. These come through properly relating to one's parents. If we don't learn them in the home - we will face learning them out in the world where the cost to learn them is far higher than it is with mom and dad.
One last thing that we need to note here is that we are not talking about open rebellion here - but the "eye" that mocks father and mother. This is as much a look as it is an action. I remember my mother telling me not to look at her in that tone of voice. It was a little bit of a joke - but not really. She knew, and so did my father, when my eyes were revealing what was really going on in my heart. The eyes are the window to the soul - and reveal much of what is truly going on in our hearts. Thus we need to be careful to not only watch our words concerning our parents, but also the way our eyes function as well. Quite often we might be obeying in our outward members - but our eyes reveal another story altogether. Remember then, that when the scavengers come looking for the dead - they come looking for those who are dead in their eyes. When a wise man seeks to determine whether someone is spiritually alive or dead - he can learn much in how a person treats their parents.