Child corporal punishment: Spanking
Part 1 of 2:
What is the "rod" mentioned in Proverbs?
The biblical book of Proverbs, in its original Hebrew, contains five
passages which refer to disciplining children with a "shebet."
The word is usually translated in English as "rod." At first glance,
these passages seem to instruct parents to discipline their children using
violent means -- by physically hitting them with a rod, paddle, belt, or similar
implement. Many of the leading fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian advocacy groups use this
With the gradual abandoning of corporal punishment as a child discipline technique in North America and elsewhere, some Bible-believing Jews and
Christians have been searching for alternative interpretations for these biblical passages.
||Some feel that the real meaning of these passages in Proverbs is the
opposite to their apparent literal interpretation. The verses actually call
on parents to abandon methods of child discipline which involve the
inflicting of pain.
||Others feel that the author(s) of Proverbs did recommend that parents
beat their children into submission with a rod. They argue that these
passages are merely a reflection of an ancient, very violent, society which practiced human slavery, stoned non-virgin brides to death,
tortured prisoners, committed genocide, and
acted in other ways which are considered profoundly
immoral by today's religious and secular standards. Many of the latter
practices have long been abandoned. Thus, they feel that we should reject the
infliction of pain as a child-rearing tool as well.
Interpretation 1: The rod is a wooden stick used to hit a child and generate pain:
Most conservative Christian sources which discuss the "rod" in
Proverbs imply that it is a wooden stick of some sort which a parent, guardian, or teacher should use to hit a
misbehaving child, causing them pain, and thereby discipline them. This can cause a quick change for the better in the child's behavior. However, many child psychologists recommend against this practice because of their perception that disciplining children through pain damages the adult/child relationship and often leads to long-term emotional and addiction problems later when the children reach aduhthood
Robert R. Gillogly, author and Associate Director of of The
Villages, Inc., a youth residential care facility in Topeka, KS. writes:
"The rod in the Old Testament was basically a wooden walking stick, a stout club,
staff, or a tree branch used primarily for defense as in the Twenty-third Psalm,
or for marshalling the sheep, or for thrashing cummin. Other uses of the rod
included a scourge to inflict punishment or to strike a servant or slave (Ex. 21:20). It
was also used as a scepter of authority, the symbol of a king's power, and an
instrument of miracles, such as those performed by Moses and Aaron. But,
essentially, the 'rod of God' (Ex. 4:20; 7:9; 12:19f.) was used for disciplining
people, including children (see Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-11).
Other passages discuss what better means
for controlling the:
"',,, folly ... bound up in the heart of a child'"
than by using the 'shebet' or rod. (Prov. 22:15)
and that the 'rod of discipline' will drive such folly
out of children and make them docile and obedient:
"the rod and reproof gives
wisdom" (Prov. 29:15).1
Betty Miller, referring to Proverbs 22:15 wrote in Bible.com's Daily Devotional:
"...that all children have rebellion in them and when it surfaces,
it is our duty as parents to drive it out of them. We are to do this by
punishing them with a whack on the buttocks with a small reed-like rod.
This rod could be a switch from a fruit tree branch or a willow tree
branch or a small wooden spoon. It is not to be a large heavy rod or
anything that would cause permanent physical damage. The purpose of a
spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual
correction....Parents should not fear that spanking will hurt or cause
them to die, although some scream loud enough that it sounds that way.
On the contrary, it is a kindness to a child, as they will respect
authority, if it is done properly." 2
Dennis Rupert, pastor of New Life Community Church in Stafford, VA, writes:
"Proverbs 23:13-14..... show that the rod WAS for beating. The shepherd
usually used a staff, not a rod, for rescuing, guiding, and creating a
boundary for the sheep. The shepherd used the rod for beating (if not
always sheep, then enemies of the sheep). Both are necessary in the life
of sheep and both are necessary in our lives. Just like Psalm 23:4 says,
'your rod AND your staff, they comfort me'."
"Concerning the word 'beating' (Hebrew naka, 'smite'
in the King James language) ....There is a whole range of meaning for
this Hebrew word (just as in English). The word is used to describe
everything from whipping a donkey, to hitting a rock with a stick, to
killing a man. The entire range involves unpleasant physical affliction,
but not necessarily brutality."
"There are people who see any physical affliction as brutality. I'm
not of that camp and I think that is more the spirit of the age, than
Biblical thinking. Even in the New Testament, God sees the discipline of
parents as a worthy method which 'produces a harvest of righteousness
and peace for those who have been trained by it' (Hebrews 12:7-11)."
GotQuestions.org answers a visitor's question:
" Question: "How should Christians discipline their
children? What does the Bible say?"
Their response was:
"The rod in the Bible is a reed-like stick. Proverbs 23:13-14 does in fact
promote physical discipline:
'Don't fail to correct your children. They
won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from
death' (NLT version).
There are also other verses that support physical
correction (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses
the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have to be
productive people and is much easier learned when we are younger.
Children who aren't disciplined grow up rebellious, have no respect for
authority, and as a result obviously won't be readily willing to obey
and follow God." 3
Dave Miller, of Apologetics Press wrote:
"Lest someone get the idea that Solomon used the term 'rod'
figuratively, without intending to leave the impression that parents
should actually strike their children with a rod, he clarified the
'Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him
with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver
his soul from hell'." (Prov.23:13-14)"
Since God would not
approve of child abuse (cf. Colossians 3:21), it follows that whatever
instrument is used for spanking, whether switch, yardstick, paddle,
belt, razor strap, etc., should get the job done without inflicting
inappropriate or unnecessary damage to the child's body." 4
"Tim" at Grace &
Truth Ministries wrote:
"God COMMANDS us to spank with an implement in Proverbs
23:13-14...The promise from God is that if we do 'beat him with a rod'
we will deliver his soul from hell. What a wonderful reward for
obedience to the Lord in this area!...The Bible says use a 'rod',
and God has His reasons for commanding that we use a rod. It is better
to use a rod than one's hand because God says use a rod. You can run to
psychology or to a wrong interpretation of the Scripture, but both paths
are sadly a means of you yourself rebelling against God and His clear
Charles Gleason wrote:
"The most important consideration must be God's point of view, as
revealed in the scriptures. The verses pertaining to the rod of
correction are actually COMMANDS of God, to parents of unruly
children....Even without the biblical endorsement, spanking has a very
established background in the history and tradition of the family unit.
Even many of our young adults of our day, can remember grandmother or
grandfather using some form of 'the rod of correction' upon their
buttocks. (even if their parents did not)....Schoolteachers, guardians,
and even neighbors, thought nothing of paddling a rude or naughty child
in times past. While this non-parental spanking policy may be subject to
many different opinions in our day and time, it was a common sight in
our recent past." 6
the StopTheRod.net web site, Clyde and Twyla Bullock once
manufactured, advertised, and sold "The Rod," shown here, to whip
children. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the rod is a "22-inch,
$5.00 white nylon whipping stick... Named after the biblical 'rod of
correction,' the Rod provides 'a faith-based way to discipline children
... and train them as Christians,' [Twyla] Bullock explains."
The rod's designer, Clyde Bullocks is a Southern Baptist. This design appears to be his interpretation of the "rod"
mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Their advertisement read:
are for cooking. Belts are for holding up pants. Hands are for loving.
RODS are for chastening."
It refers to the rod as "the means
prescribed by God," citing Proverbs 23:13-14:
correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he
shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his
soul from hell." 7,8,9
- Robert R. Gillogly, "Spanking Hurts Everybody," Theology Today, at: http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/
- Betty Miller, "Daily Devotional," Bible.com, at: http://www.bible.com/
- "How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?," GotQuestions.org, at: http://www.gotquestions.org/
- Dave Miller, "Children and the Rod of Correction," ApologeticsPress, at: http://www.apologeticspress.org/
- "Tim," "CHILD TRAINING: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?," Grace & Truth Ministries, at: http://john14-6.org/
- Charles Gleason, "Obey God or man," Christian-Parents.net, at: http://www.christian-parents.net
- "Petition to Governor Henry to stop 'The Rod'," at: http://stoptherod.net/
- Warren Bolton, " 'The Rod' has been spared, but don’t abandon spanking," The State, at: http://www.thestate.com/
- Anna Badkhen, "Christian crusaders go to battle over spanking. Tools of discipline horrify some of faithful," San Francisco
Chronicle, 2005-FEB-06, at: http://sfgate.com/
- Jay and Jessica Wigley, "The Rod," at: http://www.thewigleys.net/
- Joanrenae, "The Rod or Shebet: An indepth [sic] examination," at: http://www.parentingdecisions.com/
- Michael Jost, "Spare the Rod...Spoil the Child," in "Religion and Discipline," at: http://www.stophitting.com/
- Rick Creech, "Should Christian Parents Spank Their Children?, 1stBooks Library.
- Grace P. Chou, "Should I Spank My Child?. One mother's answer to parenting's most controversial question," Christian Parenting
Today, 2003-Summer. Online at: http://www.booksofblessing.com/
- Dennis Rupert, "Was a rod really used for spanking," http://www.new-life.net/
- Laurie Morgan, "Choosing Not to Spank - Part 4: THE PROVERBS," Gentle Christian Mothers, at: http://www.gentlemothering.com/
- Nancy Sehested, "Sparing the Rod: Program 3831," 1995-MAY-14. Transcript at: http://www.csec.org/
Copyright © 2005 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally posted: 2005-JUL-02
Latest update: 2015-DEC-23
Author: B.A. Robinson