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
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
"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."
"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
"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
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
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:
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
"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