Twitter icon

Facebook icon

About this site
About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links

Recommended books

Visitors' essays
Our forum
New essays
Other features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
Christian def'n
 Shared beliefs
 Handling change
 Bible topics
 Bible inerrancy
 Bible harmony
 Interpret the Bible
 Beliefs & creeds
 Da Vinci code
 Revelation 666
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing Religions

Non-theistic beliefs

About all religions
Main topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt & security
Confusing terms
End of the World?
True religion?
Seasonal events
Science vs. Religion
More information

Morality & ethics
Absolute truth

Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious freedom
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten Commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Death penalty

Same-sex marriage

Human rights
Gays in the military
Sex & gender
Stem cells
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news



Religious Tolerance logo

Child corporal punishment: Spanking

Part 2 of 2:
What is the "rod" mentioned in Proverbs?

horizontal rule

This topic is continued from the previous essay

horizontal rule

Interpretation 2: The rod is not weapon to inflict pain on a child:


Jay and Jessica Wigley wrote:

"Proverbs is a book of poetry -- figurative language. Considering just that, I'd say that the rod mentioned in Proverbs is a figurative rod, not a literal one."

That is, when Proverbs 22:15 says "The rod and rebuke give wisdom..." it is referring to the "rod of correction," meaning non-violent methods of correction and teaching a child. As proof of her interpretation, she quotes Proverbs 23:13: "...if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die." Over 1,000 children die each year in the U.S. as a result of corporal punishment. If "beatest him with the rod" really means to beat a child with a rod, then the Bible would be lying. But the Bible is the Word of God and does not lie. Thus, the passage must be referring to a non physical correction with a figurative rod. 10


Joanrenae also commented on God's promise in Proverbs 23:13. She notes that Exodus 21:20 discusses a situation in which a man must be punished if he beats his male or female slave that he owns to death with a rod. One can conclude that the rod in Proverbs cannot be the same rod as is mentioned in Exodus. If it were, then the Bible would be lying. She writes that:

"[If Proverbs] were talking about a literal rod here, we would be finding a contradiction because it says he [the child] SHALL NOT die."

She notes that the Hebrew word "shebet" throughout most of the Old Testament refers to God's authority. She continues:

"If you read the 'shebet' passages in Proverbs, you will see that you can always substitute the word 'authority' for 'rod.' If 'rod' can be referring to God's authority or a nation's authority in some of the above verses, then it is referring to a parent's authority in the following verses: You cannot kill someone with your authority. You can be striking (beating) them with your authority by using your authority to discipline (teach, disciple, educate, instruct) and guide them. I hold to the figurative interpretation of this verse.....So many Christians have taken FIVE verses and hung a whole child rearing philosophy on them! Parents are told to use this as a primary form of punishment (what these experts refer to as discipline). Some use the words "punishment" and "discipline" interchangeably when they mean two entirely different things. These people are basing their theology on nothing more than the traditions of men!" 11

horizontal rule

Sponsored link

horizontal rule


Laurie Morgan referred to Proverbs 22:15:

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

She wrote:

"Here, the rod is very clearly a metaphor for correction itself. It is very plain English, but many people still do not understand. Saying the 'rod OF correction' means that it is correction -- being described to be like a rod -- that drives folly from the heart of a child. The 'rod of correction' is like the 'long arm of the law'. Is the law literally a long arm?? No. Is correction literally a rod? No."

She concluded:

"For those who feel nostalgic longing for the 'good old days' where children were quick to obey and parents were strict: please remember, it was that kind of parenting that created the world we live in today. It is time for kinder, gentler, more biblical parenting." 16


Nancy Hastings Sehested was pastor of Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, -- a Southern Baptist congregation. Referring to Proverbs 13:24, she said in a 1995 broadcast:

"When you hear the word from this passage of 'rod,' what do you think of? Perhaps a stick for beating and brutalizing, right? But what happens - what happens when we understand the rod in this Proverb as the same kind of rod and staff that comfort in Psalm 23? 'Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' The rod and staff are the shepherd's tools for comforting the sheep. It is for caring and protecting, never for beating them to death. A good shepherd delights in his flock. The shepherd will go to whatever lengths necessary to provide the finest grazing, the rich pastures and clean water. The shepherd will do whatever is necessary to provide shelter from the storms and protection from enemies and diseases that sheep are susceptible to."

"Jesus said, 'I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep.' This Good Shepherd's rod and staff comfort the sheep. The rod is thrown out on a path to startle the sheep warning them that they are in danger of wandering into an unsafe place. The shepherd uses the rod to drive off coyotes and wolves. Being stubborn creatures, sheep often get themselves into ridiculous dilemmas, like our children. Children are in need of shepherding like sheep so that they don't stray off into paths that will hurt them or destroy them." 17

horizontal rule

Sponsored link:

horizontal rule

Interpretation 3: The rod is definitely a device to inflict pain, but the passages in Proverbs that discuss beating children should be ignored:

Some Christians interpret the Proverbs' passages as referring to a wooden stick used to beat a child. However, they reject the passages as representing very poor advice that dates from a violent period of biblical history.


Susan Lawrence of Arlington, MA, a homeschooling Lutheran mother, was distressed to see an advertisement for a child discipline tool called "The Rod" in a Christian homeschooling magazine. It is pictured above. Interviewed on Beliefnet, she said:

"There are about five verses in Proverbs that do speak of beating your son with a rod, and also in Proverbs they speak of beating fools on the back, and that kind of thing. There's a lot of punishment in the Old Testament. If you read the whole thing, there are floggings and stonings and all kinds of harsh punishments."

When asked about Proverbs 23:13's statement: "...if you beat him with a rod he will not die. Beat him with a rod and you will save him from the grave," Lawrence said:

"It's a lie, because children who are beaten with a rod sometimes do die. Between one and two thousand children die every year in this country from corporal punishment. One hundred forty-two thousand are seriously injured from corporal punishment every year in America, according to the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the New England Journal of Medicine. So it can't be taken literally." 11


Michael Jost writes that a "shebet" can mean a scepter or a staff as in a shepherd's staff. It is a sign of authority and a tool to shepherd the sheep. He writes:

"According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, 'the scepter originated in the idea that the ruler was a shepherd of his people'....[Like shepherds,] As parents we are to guide our children in the wilderness of the modern world. We need to provide them with a set of values and with ways of approaching life that has integrity and respect for others as a cornerstone. We certainly don't do that by beating them. A shepherd who beats his/her sheep, will have no flock. The sheep will run from his/her voice and flee from his/her calling....We parents are the shepherds for our children. By applying the rod of protection, guidance, care, and nurturance, we can guide them into adulthood. But if we spare the rod, children are abandoned to their own devices and limited experiences for guidance. Discipline is about instruction, not beatings. A child cannot listen to someone he/she is afraid of. Lessons cannot be integrated by one who is in shock from having been struck. What they learn is distrust, fear, and violence." 12


Grace Chou studied the passages in Proverbs after receiving a suggestion from her mother to stop spanking her son. She wrote:

"I found the perfect example of grace-filled discipline in Jesus. [Author Rick] Creech notes that, 'Some of the things of the Old Testament were done away with when the New Testament came into place. Take the adulterous woman in John 8:3-11 for example. The law of the Old Testament stated very clearly that if anyone committed adultery, they should be put to death. But Jesus did not allow the men to put her to death. Instead Jesus said to the men, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Jesus did not change the moral principle that was in the law, because he still told the woman, "Go now and leave your life of sin." But Jesus did change the way that the requirement of the law was enforced. Jesus did away with the harsh physical punishment, but he still upheld the moral standard.' I knew it was my job as a parent to do the same." 13,14

horizontal rule


  1. Robert R. Gillogly, "Spanking Hurts Everybody," Theology Today, at:
  2. Betty Miller, "Daily Devotional,", at:
  3. "How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?,", at:
  4. Dave Miller, "Children and the Rod of Correction," ApologeticsPress, at:
  5. "Tim," "CHILD TRAINING: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?," Grace & Truth Ministries, at:
  6. Charles Gleason, "Obey God or man,", at:
  7. "Petition to Governor Henry to stop 'The Rod'," at:
  8. Warren Bolton, " 'The Rod' has been spared, but don’t abandon spanking," The State, at:
  9. Anna Badkhen, "Christian crusaders go to battle over spanking. Tools of discipline horrify some of faithful," San Francisco Chronicle, 2005-FEB-06, at:
  10. Jay and Jessica Wigley, "The Rod," at:
  11. Joanrenae, "The Rod or Shebet: An indepth [sic] examination," at:
  12. Michael Jost, "Spare the Rod...Spoil the Child," in "Religion and Discipline," at:
  13. Rick Creech, "Should Christian Parents Spank Their Children?, 1stBooks Library.
  14. 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:
  15. Dennis Rupert, "Was a rod really used for spanking,"
  16. Laurie Morgan, "Choosing Not to Spank - Part 4: THE PROVERBS," Gentle Christian Mothers, at:
  17. Nancy Sehested, "Sparing the Rod: Program 3831," 1995-MAY-14. Transcript at:

horizontal rule

Site navigation:

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Spanking > here

or: Home page > Christianity > Bible themes > here

horizontal rule

Copyright © 2005 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-JUL-02
Latest update: 2015-DEC-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or to the "spanking menu," or to the "Bible themes & topics menu, or choose:

Custom Search

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

Google Page Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

Sponsored links