2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
I’ve been there. Your child does something so defiant, you honestly don’t know what to do. You try everything you can think of, then find yourself reaching out for tactics you don’t want to use. You think, “I am doing this in love. It is for their own good. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to do this? Why does it feel so awful?! I wish there was another way.”
I’m going to present to you some Biblical evidence that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way…that perhaps there IS another Biblical way to discipline. You may think you’ve heard it all before. But, don’t you owe it to yourself to closely reexamine what the Bible really says? Don’t you owe it to your child to find out if there is, in fact, a better way? And, don’t you owe it your Creator, the Creator of your child, to make sure you’re “rightly dividing” His Word? I am so thankful someone pointed this out to me! I can’t help but share it with others!
You’ve heard that the Bible says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Can you find that chapter & verse? No. It’s simply not in the Bible. This quote comes from a 17th century poem (see footnote A), not the Bible. The Bible verses refering to a rod of discipline are as follows:
Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
The first thing we need to examine is, are we literally obeying the Bible when we spank? No, because the Bible speaks of “beating” a “child” with a “rod”. I’m not suggesting anyone beat their child with a rod to properly obey the Bible! I’m just pointing out that if we really thought these verses should be taken literally, we’d in fact be beating our young children with something like a shepherd’s staff. In which case, they certainly could die, even though Proverbs 23:13 (above) says they would not. Scripture is Truth, and does not lie! Further proof that these beatings are figurative, not literal.
Do we stone adulterers anymore? Do we any longer stone our rebellious adult offspring? No, because we live in the age of GRACE! Praise Jesus, for He made it quite clear how we are to react in these situations! (John 8:3-11, Luke 15:11-32- The Woman Caught in Adultery, and The Prodigal Son.) So, even if we could conclude that the rod verses should be taken exactly literal, we can clearly see they are no longer valid in this age of grace Jesus has made possible!
If these verses aren’t literal, or in line with grace, what do they mean? How are we to apply them?
The word “rod” is used figuratively many times in the Old Testement as a representation of God’s authority over a nation, or of one nation’s authority over another. A literal rod was usually a shepherd’s staff, (used to beat off the enemy- wolves, bears, lions-, not in hitting the sheep), or a septre (staff) carried by a king or head of household to REPRESENT their authority and guidance.
Try replacing the word “rod” in these verses with it’s figurative meaning, the words “authority”, or even “guidance”. To encompass both meanings, we’ll use, “authoritative guidance”.
Next, do these verses certainly apply to a literal child, who is typically the recipient of spankings? Most likely not. The meaning of the word “child” here is simply “offspring”, or sometimes, “young man”. An elderly lady can say she has five children, but we wouldn’t think she means actual young children. We’d know she means “adult children” or “adult offspring”.
The word “beat” here is the same word used in the account of Jonah when the sun “beat” down upon him. (Jonah 4:8) Did the sun reach down & hit Jonah? No! We understand that “beat” here means, “a constant source”. Therefore, we can also replace the word “beat” in the “rod” verses with “a constant source”.
And, so we have:
Pr 13:24 He that spareth his “authoritative guidance” hateth his [adult] son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a “young man”; but the “authoritative guidance” of correction shall drive it far from him.
Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the “young man”; for if thou “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” he shall not die.
Pr 23:14 Thou shalt “apply a constant source” with “authoritative guidance” and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Pr 29:15 “Authoritative guidance”and reproof give wisdom: but a “young man” left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
And, this is exactly how Jews in Old Testement times took these verses
(see footnotes B). They were commands to guide their adult children. And, isn’t that what Proverbs is all about!
Proverbs 1:8-9, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”
It is clear, then, that parents are called to be a constant source of authoritative guidance for their offspring, all throughout their lives! I am not convinced, however, that God has commanded me to discipline my children by hitting.
Since the Bible does not mean we are to discipline children by hitting, how does the Bible say we, as parents, should discipline?
We can find the answer through further examination of these verses. Some other words used in these verses have become synonymous with punishment over the years, when in fact, their simplest definitions are as follows. They are chastening, correction, and reproof.
Chasten: to restrain or subdue. Restrain: to hold back, or keep in check. Subdue: to hold within limits; to quieten (calm).
Correction: something that is substituted or proposed for what is wrong or inaccurate.
Reproof: the act of expressing disapproval.
In it’s simplest form, discipline means that I express my disapproval, calm my child and help him keep within limits, and teach him to substitute a right
for a wrong.
2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
The word, “discipline” comes from the word, “disciple”. Therefore, discipline of children shouldn’t be much different from discipleship of believers! The New Testament is chock full of instruction for disciples! (And, none of these instructions includes hitting disciples.) This should make our search for Biblical answers much easier! Praise God!
A- “Hudibras”, by Samuel Butler, 17th century
Wikepedia: [In his poem, Butler originated the phrase “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” and although the phrase is often taken to be a Biblical injunction about child-rearing, (probably as a corruption of Book of Proverbs 13:24), ….
“Love is a boy by poets stil’d
Then spare the rod and spoil the child” (Part II, Canto I, ll. 839-44).]
B- “The Rod or Shebet: An Indepth Examination”, by Joan Renae, http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/rodstudy.php :
“She had the Hebrew checked by three rabbis who confirmed this interpretation of ‘shebet’.”